CAP 161 - Digital Imaging for Animation

Lesson 6 -3DS Max: Textures


This lesson covers material in chapter 3 of the 3DS Max text. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. The 3DS Max Material Editor
  2. Creating materials from maps and textures
  3. Modeling objects and adding materials

Books about 3DS Max use several terms that sound like synonyms, but the terms are used to mean rather different things.

  • map - an image file that can be applied to any of several attributes of a material, such as a diffuse map, a specular map, or a normal map
  • texture - an image file that is meant to look like the surface of a real world object; sometimes the words texture and map are use interchangeably
  • material - a combination of any number of maps and textures that can be applied to objects or subobjects in a scene; typically components are combined in the Material Editor to create a material

Exercise: copying a model

To attempt a demonstration of some features from the chapter, first we need to learn another technique:

  1. Start a new scene in 3DS Max.

  2. Create a teapot in the Perspective viewport. Do not make it very large, because you will make several copies of it.

  3. Click the Select and Move tool on the toolbar, and select the teapot. Move the teapot to the left rear corner of the construction grid. (See the image on the right.)

  4. Hold down a shift key on the keyboard, and drag the red arrowhead of the move gizmo to the right: notice that the teapot is being copied.

  5. In the Clone Options dialog box that appears, leave Copy selected and set the spinner control to make 2 copies. They will appear in the scene equally spaced apart.

  6. Hold down a control key and click all three teapots. Release the control key and hold down a shift key again. Shift drag on the y-axis to create three more teapots as I have done in the next image.

  7. Save this file for use in the next assignment.


In the next assignment, you will use the material editor to creat and modify several materials, and to apply them to the teapots you created. The Material Editor, like most of the tools in 3DS Max, has many settings. Some basic information about some key features:

  • ambient color - the surface color of an object when it is exposed to indirect light
  • diffuse color - the surface color of an object when it is exposed to direct light
  • specular color - the color of reflections (highlights) on an object

Exercise: shader types

Shaders are little programs that affect how a texture is displayed on screen or rendered to a file.

  1. Open the file you saved from the first exercise. Select the first teapot you made.

  2. Open the Material Editor. An easy way to do this is to press the letter M on the keyboard. You can also click the button on the toolbar for the Material Editor, which is my preferred method.

  3. The Material Editor has a series of sample slots at the top. By default, you will see two rows of three slots. That will be sufficient for now.

    If you do not see this arrangement, find the Mode menu, open it, and select Compact. Better now?
    Select the first sample slot.

  4. You will change the Shader dropdown for this slot to Anisotropic.

    The short explanation is that this means light is reflected from this kind of shader differently on the x and y axes. Modify the color and the Specular Highlight settings for this material until you think the material will work on a teapot, then click the Apply Material button to apply it to the current selection.

    Modify the Specular Highlight values until the material looks interesting, then save the file again. Make a note of the values you used for the material.

  5. Move on to the next teapot, and the next Material Editor sample slot. Make this a Blinn shader type, play with the values again, and save again. Make a note of the values you used. Blinn is a multipurpose shader, useful for most models.

  6. Continue with the next two teapots, using Metal and Multi-layer shaders respectively. Make a note of all settings used. For the Multi-layer shader, you can select two colors that will interact.

  7. Pick two of the remaining shader types for the remaining teapots. Again, modify the settings, colors, etc., and record the values you used. Save the file when done. As I will demonstrate in class, render one frame to see the actual appearance of your shaders. The appearance in the viewport is only an approximation.

Tying things together, you should begin a project assignment that uses techniques from both texts.

  1. Convert box to editable polyIn 3DS Max, begin constructing a scene, by setting a project folder.

    You should have already made a Photoshop texture that is meant to be used on a cube-shaped crate. We will make that crate in class, and you will add your texture to a material, and apply it to the model. Begin by making a cube-shaped box in the Top viewport.

  2. Activate the Modify panel. A box is a fine object, but we need something more flexible. With the box selected,right-click it, and you will see a quad menu appear. It is called a quad menu because it often has four sections, depending on what kind of object was just clicked. In this case, we only see two parts of a quad menu: a display section and a transform section.

    Hover over the Convert To choice at the bottom of the transform section, and select Convert to Editable Poly. (I am just about to do that in the image on the right.)

  3. subobject iconsAn editable poly object lets us access its parts separately or all together as we choose, in order to change its shape. In this case, we want to work with all six of its polygon surfaces. Look at the Selection rollout on the Modify panel. You will see a series of five red icons. Each one allows us to select a different kind of subobject within the currently selected object.
    • three dots - vertex subobject mode
    • triangle - edge subobject mode
    • kidney-shaped outline - border subobject mode (A border is a set of edges around a hole in your object. You don't have a border at this time.)
    • 2D square - polygon subobject mode (indicated by the green ellipse in the image on the right)
    • 3D cube - element subobject mode (This is useful when your object is made by combining several other objects together. Each of those combined objects is an element.)
  4. Select the red square icon that lets us work with polygon subobjects.

  5. Drag your mouse to marquee select the entire object. All six polygons on its surface should turn red, indicating that they are selected. This works because we did not turn on the Ignore Backfacing feature. Leave it off.

  6. Inset buttonGo back to the Modify panel. Find the Edit Polygons rollout. On it, find the Inset button, but don't click it. Click the small black and gray button just to its right.

    This is the Settings button for the Inset function. Note that most buttons in this section of the Modify panel have settings buttons. Clicking this button will cause a settings caddy for the Inset function to appear in the viewport in which you are working.

  7. The settings caddy has three sections that you will use.

    Inset caddyThe first white oval is a dropdown box. Open it to choose By Polygon. This means that the change we are about to make should be applied to each polygon separately, instead of treating them as a group.

    The second, larger oval is the numeric value for the inset we want to apply to each polygon. Drag its spinner control until you get an inset that looks something like the model Mr. Ahearn had you make a crate texture for. In the image on the right, I have chosen a value that gives me a border like a picture frame around each of the polygons that are being inset. Run the value up and down until you have a number that gives you a visual effect that makes sense to you. I chose 4.075, but another number may look better to you. (Make note of this number. You will need it in a minute.)

    The third section of the caddy to use is the series of three icons. The red X means to forget the whole thing. The plus sign means to make the change, and get ready to make another like it. The check mark means to make the change and to put the caddy away. Click the check mark to complete and end the Inset operation.

  8. Extrude operationWith the six polygons still selected, look at the Edit Polygons rollout again, and this time click the settings button for Extrude.

    Once again, there are three sections of the caddy to use. On the dropdown section, choose By Polygon again.

    On the numeric value section, set the value to a negative number close to the same absolute value as the number you set for the inset. For example, if the inset was 5, set this one to negative 5.

    In the illustration on the right, I chose a negative 4.031. The negative value pushes the polygons into the model. A positive value would have pulled them out from the model.

    Once again, click the check mark to complete and end the operation.

  9. Finally, leave subobject mode by clicking the polygon icon again. That's enough modeling for the moment. Save your file.

  10. Use the File Explorer (Windows Explorer) icon on your computer to find and copy a file. Find the texture you are going to apply to the new crate. Copy it. Navigate to the project folder you are using for 3DS Max. Drill into its sceneassets folder, and the images folder inside that. Paste your texture file in that folder.

  11. Using the Material Editor in 3DS Max, you will create a material based on the texture you just pasted.

    Open the Material Editor. Click an unused sample slot in the Material Editor.

  12. Diffuse map buttonThis sample slot is using a Blinn shader, which is the default. That will be fine. In the Blinn Basic Parameters rollout of the Material Editor, find the nearly invisible dark gray button just to the right of the color swatch for Diffuse color.

    This is the map button for the diffuse aspect of this material. Click this button to begin your search for your texture file.

    On the screen that appears, double-click the word Bitmap, which appears at the top of the list. (In the mind of 3DS Max, any file you want to open to use as a texture is a bitmap.)

    In the Select Bitmap Image File screen that appears, navigate to the folder you saved your texture file in, and select that file. Once it is selected, click the button that says Open. The texture file will be applied to the sample slot.

  13. Two more steps and you are there. Drag the material from the sample slot and drop it on the crate in any viewport. It will not appear there yet because you haven't told it to appear yet.

    Wood texture in viewportLook at your palette of sample slots. Hover over each button on the horizontal toolbar below the slots until you find the one whose balloon help says "Show Shaded Material in Viewport". Click that button.

    The material should now appear, assuming your viewport is set for Shaded or Realistic display. In the image on the right, I have applied a texture I made from a photo I took of an oak floor.

    Do a quick render and show it to me for grading. How? Click the last button on the main toolbar to render. (There is more to it, but that is for next year.)