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25.04.2009 Category: 3D Tutorials
This tutorial covers the creation of a 3D planet render in 3DS MAX. The texturing of the 3D planet is done with procedural maps only, so no bitmaps are needed. The 3D planet creation process consists of the the following steps:
In picture 1 you see the final 3D planet render. Click on the image to see a larger version at the bottom of this page.
Let's start by creating the planet geometry. Create a sphere (Create > Standard Primitives > Sphere) with the following settings:
You don't necessarily need 100 segments. It depends on what distance you look at the planet. If you need to avoid heavy geometry you might use less segments. The good thing is that you can always change this parameter later.
Picture 2. A simple Sphere object is the geometry for 3D planet render.
The material creation is probably the most important and complicated part of this tutorial. The goal is to create a material that has both large and small details.
Let's apply standard material to the planet:
The planet material is going to utilize bump maps so we should turn SuperSampling on. Simply put, Supersampling is an antialiasing technique that increases the rendering quality. (As a rule of thumb you should turn SuperSampling on at least always when you utilize bump maps, reflection maps, or bitmaps as diffuse maps.) To turn Supersampling on:
(These are settings for high quality supersampling which is very time consuming. If your rendering slows down too much I recommend changing the local supersampler from Adaptive Halton to Max 2.5 Star. Max 2.5 Star is not the best but it's very fast. You could for example use that for now and use Adaptive Halton for the final render.)
Bump maps are a very big part of this material. We are going to create bump details by combining several different procedural maps with the help of a Composite map. There are two reasons why we use several procedural maps (instead of just one):
In picture 3 you see the whole bump map design of this material. You can just copy the settings or read along and take one step at a time to understand the reasoning behind these settings.
Picture 3. The bump map design for the 3D planet material.
First we use a procedural map called Splat to create large craters:
(The composite map itself doesn't have any effect. It's just a container that is able to hold several maps. Inside a composite map, each map behaves as a separate layer. The layers work pretty much like in Photoshop, for example they have opacity settings and they can have masks.)
Render a test image to see the effect of the Splat bump map. The rendering should look like in picture 4.
Picture 4. The effect of Splat as bump map.
Let's add small scale details to the surface. We can do this easily by adding sub-maps to the Splat map:
Now let's make a 3D planet render again to see how the surface looks like. Now the craters are less visible and covered with small scale details (picture 5).
Picture 5. Very small details created with Noise and Speckle maps.
Let's enhance the effect by adding another layer of small scale details:
Render a test image to see the effect (picture 6). Now there are even more small details. Craters are less visible and look more real.
Picture 6. 3D planet render after adding the Speckle bump map.
The purpose of this final layer is to add small mountains to random areas of the surface. Mountains are created with a Noise map and randomness is achieved with Dent map mask.
Now the bump effect is ready. Make a test render to see how it looks like. The rendering should look like picture 7.
Picture 7. Planet render with the final bump map. There are large craters, tiny mountains, and other small details.
Diffuse color is made with two procedural maps inside of a Composite map. In the image below (picture 8) you see the whole diffuse map design. You can just copy the settings or read along to understand the reasoning behind these settings.
Picture 8. Diffuse map design for the 3D planet render.
Let's use Dent map to add some color with random intensity variations:
Now the rendered planet should look like in picture 9. Now there are some color variations but the overall coloring is still too monotonous.
Picture 9. First part of the diffuse map design is Dent.
Let's add some chaos to the coloring by using Masked Perlin Marble. (We use Mask because we want Perlin Marble to appear only in some parts of the surface.)
Render the 3D planet to see the result. The image should look similar to picture 10.
Picture 10. 3D planet render with the final diffuse map.
Next we are going to add some self-illumination to the edges of the planet. Think of it as an atmosphere that picks up reflected light.
Picture 11. Gradient Ramp parameters.
Now there is small rim of light in the edges of the planet (picture 12).
Picture 12. Rim of light is created with a Self-Illumination map.
The illumination is carried out by using three back lights and one fill light (Here you can read more about back, fill, and key lights). First we illuminate the planet from the top left side:
Picture 13. Planet render with a single Omni light.
Next we are going to create two additional Omni lights to illuminate the planet from the top and left sides:
Now the illumination is more interesting.
Picture 14. Planet render with three Omni lights.
Next we create a fill light to see more details in the planet surface:
Move the fourth Omni light until the illumination matches picture 15.
Picture 15. 3D planet render with four Omni lights.
There are many ways (materials, lens effects) to create an atmosphere for a planet but I think the best and easiest to control is to do it with Volume Fog Environment Effect.
Create a gizmo for the fog effect (gizmo is just a container that will hold the fog):
The gizmo should look like in picture 16. It's just a little larger than the planet.
Picture 16. Sphere gizmo around the 3D planet.
Let's add the fog effect to the sphere gizmo:
Render an image to see the result. The image should look like in picture 17. Now the planet is ready. As you probably see there are endless possibilities to create different materials by using composite maps to combine several procedural maps.
If you want to add rings to the planet, read on.
Picture 17. The final 3D planet render.
Planet rings are pretty simple to create:
Picture 18. Gradient Ramp parameters.
In picture 19 you see the final planet render. If you learned how to master composite maps you should be able to create multitude of different materials that work well as 3D planet surfaces.
Picture 19. The final 3D planet render.