In this 3ds Max tutorial we’re going to create a simple 3d mountain. The mountain geometry will be created from a simple plane with the displace modifier and it will be textured with a combination of procedural maps. The image will be finalized by strong sidelight and some volumetric clouds. I’m using 3ds Max 2011 but many older versions should work just as well.
We’re going to render the mountain with the Mental Ray. By default 3ds Max uses the Scanline renderer so we have to change that. Change the renderer to the Mental Ray ().
Create a Plane () in the top viewport . Modify the Plane ( ) according to the following parameters :
Add Displace modifier to the Plane () and apply the following parameters:
Open Material Editor (). Drag and drop the Gradient Ramp map from the Displace modifier into a material slot in Material Editor and select ‘instance’ when asked. Apply the following parameters to the Gradient Ramp map:
Finally go to the ‘Output’ section, click ‘Enable Color Map’ and adjust the color map according to the picture below. ()
Tip: To adjust the small details of the mountain you can change the ‘ Phase’ in the Noise settings.
We’re going to create a snowcapped mountain with snow also at the base. The material will be created from scratch and it will use only procedural maps found in 3ds Max. We’ll utilize Gradient Ramp diffuse map to create color variations and Composite bump map to create lots of small scale details. So let’s select an empty material slot and create the material. You can just copy the settings from the picture or read the explanations below the picture.
Flag #2: Color: RGB 180, 180, 180 Position: 15
Flag #3: Color: RGB 100, 100, 100 Position: 22
Flag #4: Color: RGB 100, 100, 100 Position: 39
Flag #5: Color: RGB 180, 180, 180 Position: 49
Flag #6: Color: RGB 180, 180, 180 Position: 100
Gradient Type: Radial
Noise Amount: 0,1
Noise Type: Turbulence
Noise Size: 1
Noise Levels: 10
# Iterations: 20
Color #1: white
Color #2: black
Color #1: white
Color #2: black
Make a test render to see how the 3d mountain looks like with the diffuse and bump maps. At the moment there are several problems with the rendered image:
Next we’re going to fix these issues.
Tip. If you’d like to create vegetation to the base of the mountain you could change the color values of Flags 5 and 6 ( in the Gradient Ramp map) to green.
Soon we’re going to create more serious renders so let’s create a camera. Create a Target camera () in the top viewport and place it according to picture below. Right-click on the Perspective view and press C in the keyboard to change it to the Camera view.
We rely heavily on the bump map so we desperately need more interesting illumination for the mountain. Create ‘mr Area Spot’ () in the top viewport, place it according to picture below, and apply the following settings to it.
Render your mountain to see the effect of the Mental Ray area spotlight.
Now the left side of the mountain is completely black and it fades into the background. Let’s fix that by adding a fill light. Create ‘Omni’ light and place it to the left side of the mountain and apply the following setting to it:
Render a test image to see the effect of the fill light. Move the Omni light if necessary.
Compare this to the render in step 4 to understand the importance of lighting.
Next we’re going to increase the quality of the mountain geometry and adjust the sampling settings to get more polished render. Go to the render setup and increase antialiasing quality by increasing Mental Ray’s sampling values ():
Select the mountain, go to the modify panel, and add TurboSmooth modifier to smooth out the hard edges of the model. Render your mountain to see the effect of these adjustments.
As a final thing we’re going to add some clouds around the mountain to create more depth and better sense of scale. Create four sphere gizmos () in the top viewport. Apply the following settings to the gizmos:
Place the gizmos according to the picture below. SphereGizmo001 is on the left and SphereGizmo004 is on the right.
Let’s go to the atmosphere settings () to add some clouds:
Just hit render and your 3d mountain image is complete. I made some small adjustments in Photoshop:
I hope you enjoyed it! I’d love to hear how the tutorial is working for you!