3D Water – The Ocean

In this 3ds Max tutorial we’re going to create a 3d water surface that could be a lake, a sea, or an ocean. The 3d water is illuminated with the Daylight system. It might sound complicated but it’s actually pretty simple (at least in 3ds max 2010) since the default settings work so well.

Step 1 Mental Ray Renderer

We’re going to render the 3d ocean 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 ( Rendering > Render Setup… > Common tab > Assign Renderer > Production ).

Step 2 The Basic Geometry for the 3D Water

Create a Plane ( Create panel > Geometry > Standard Primitives > Plane ) in the top viewport . Modify the Plane ( Make a selection > Modify panel ) according to the following parameters :

  • Length: 500
  • Width: 500

Plane object dimensions

Step 3 Camera Above the Water

Create a Target Camera ( Create panel > Cameras > Target ) in the top viewport to the center of the plane. Go to the right viewport and place the camera and the camera target according to picture below.

Placing target camera

Activate the Perspective view and press C in the keyboard to activate the Camera view.

Step 4 Material to the 3D Water Surface

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and create an ocean material:

  1. Click “Get Material” button and select ( doubleclick ) ‘Arch & Design (mi)’ from the list.
  2. Select the ocean plane and assign the material to it.
  3. Select template from the drop-down list: Water, Reflective Surface

Arch & Design Water

Step 5 3ds Max Daylight System

We’re going to illuminate our 3d ocean scene with the Daylight system. Daylight is a system that mimics real world sun. Create the Daylight system ( Create panel > Systems > Daylight ) in the top viewport. A new dialog appears. 3ds Max suggests that you use mr Photographic Exposure Control with EV=15. Just click YES. ( If the dialog doesn’t appear, apply the setting manually (Rendering > Environment… > Exposure Control )). Modify the following parameters of the Daylight:

  • Daylight Parameters
    • Sunlight: mr Sun
    • Skylight: mr Sky(A new dialog appears. 3ds Max suggests that you use mr Physical Sky. Just click YES. If the dialog doesn’t appear, apply the setting manually ( Rendering > Environment… > Common Parameters > Background > Environment Map ))
    • Position: Manual ( this setting allows us to place the sun manually, instead of using real world location and time )
  • Place the daylight so that it shines straight from the top like in picture below.

Daylight system over the 3d sea

Step 6 First Render of the 3D Ocean

We have the ocean and the daylight system so it’s a good idea to check how the rendered image looks like. Your image should look similar to picture below. In the background you see the mr Physical Sky environment map which was added automatically in the previous step. The brown line represents the ground in the background map. Thanks to Metal Ray’s lume shader the plane looks like and 3d ocean already. However, there are some things I’d like to change:

  • Horizon should be lowered to hide the ground
  • Smaller Waves
  • More blue and saturated colors to both ocean and the sky
  • Little brighter image

Standard ocean shader in 3d max

Step 7 The Horizon

The horizon can be lowered in the parameters of the Daylight ( Make a selection > Modify panel ):

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Horizon
      • Height: -0,1 ( you might need higher value. It depends on your camera angle. )

-Calm sea without any land

Step 8 Smaller and Bluer Ocean Waves

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and make the following changes to the ocean material:

  1. Main Material Parameters
    • Change the color to blue ( for example hue: 0,62 )
  2. Special Purpose Maps
    • Click on the (Ocean (lume)) shader and make the following changes:
      • Largest: 2,5
      • Smallest: 0,12( These values change the size of the sea waves )

3d sea

Step 9 Color, Saturation, & Brightness

Color, saturation, and brightness of the image can be adjusted in the parameters of the Daylight:

  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 1,1 ( increases the intensity of the sun )
  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: -0,1 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 1,3 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

( Notice that the default colors were more realistic, these color changes are purely for artistic reasons ; )

Deep blue water

Step 10 Antialiasing of the Ocean Waves

If you look closely you might see minor aliasing problems in the distant waves. To fix this, just increase antialiasing quality by increasing Mental Ray’s sampling values ( Rendering > Render setup… > Renderer > Sampling Quality ):

  • Samples per pixel:
    • Minimum: 4
    • Maximum: 64

Create a Torus Knot ( Create panel > Geometry > Extended Primitives > Torus Knot ) to see how standard objects look in the water. Go to the Modify panel and apply the following parameters:

  • Base Curve
    • Radius: 23
    • Segments: 300
  • Cross Section
    • Radius: 2,5

3d water

And if you feel like it, do some color correction in Photoshop:

  • Brightness: 35
  • Contrast: 25

3d ocean

Now our 3d water is complete. Next we’re going to see what else we can get out of the daylight system.

Step 11 Sunset Render

Let’s explore further the power of the Daylight system. Let’s simulate sunset by placing the sun near the horizon. Now we can actually see the sun and notice how the daylight system changes color and intensity based on the angle of the sun. ( you might want to decrease the sampling values ( Minimum: 1/4 and Maximum: 4 ) temporarily to speed up the rendering ).

Tip: you can see the sun and illumination before rendering the image if you do the following:

  • Activate the camera view and press SHIFT+F3 in keyboard
  • Go to viewport background settings ( Views > Viewport Background > Viewport Background… ) and apply the following settings:
    • Use Environment Background: ON
    • Display Background: ON

Sunset with the default settings

Step 12 Colors of the Sunset

Let’s make the rendering more interesting by changing the colors to more orange. Select the Daylight. go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters:

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: 1,0 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 2,0 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

orange sunset

Step 13 Sun Glare

Next we’re going to add some glare to the sun to make it more interesting. Apply Glare Camera Shader ( Rendering > Render Setup > Renderer > Camera Effects > Camera Shaders > Output > Glare ) Just turn the output shader on, the glare shader should be selected by default.

Glowing sun

Tip: If you’d like to adjust the Glare shader you can just drag and drop it into a material slot in Material Editor ( make sure to select “instance” when asked ) and adjust it there. Make sure to select ‘Instance’ when asked.
Tip: Another way to adjust the sun glare is to drag and drop ‘mr Physical Sky’ ( Rendering > Environment… > Common Parameters > Background > Environment map ) into a material slot in Material Editor and adjust it there. ( Make sure to select ‘Instance’ when asked. )

Step 14 Fog / Haze in the Sea

Let’s add some Fog/Haze to the scene to blend the horizon with the background. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and apply the following settings:

  • mr Sky: Haze Driven (mr Sky)
    • Haze: 2,0 ( adds haze/fog to the scene )
  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Aerial Perspective
      • Visibility Distance: 50 ( makes the haze appear close )
  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 3,0 ( increases the intensity of the sun to shine stronger behind the haze. You might need to use different value depending on the angle of the sun )

Fog in the ocean

Step 15 Color Correction in Photoshop

I’ll do some color correction in Photoshop to make the image more dramatic:

  • Brightness: -10
  • Contrast: 70

water in 3ds max

Step 16 Moonlit 3D Water

The final thing we’re going to try with the 3ds Max Daylight system is a moonlit night scene. We can’t get perfect blue color out of the Daylight system so let’s remove the color from it. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters:

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: 0 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 0 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

Those values are well suited for subtle changes but now we need a radical change so we’re going to change the mr Photographic Exposure Control settings ( Rendering > Exposure Control… > mr Photographic Exposure Control ):

  • Image Control
    • Color Saturation: 1 ( saturation of the colors of the whole image )
    • Whitepoint: 3000 ( color temperature of the light source )
    • Vignetting: 7 ( adds vignetting effect to the image )

Moonlit ocean scene

Step 17 Some Magic Over 3D Sea

Now I’m tempted to add fireworks over the 3d ocean to create some magic to the image but for the sake of the length of this tutorial we’ll settle with some floating light sources. Create a sphere ( Create panel > Standard Primitives > Sphere ), go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters to it:

  • Radius: 0,3

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and create a new material for the sphere:

  1. Click ‘Get Material’ button and select (doubleclick) ‘Arch & Design (mi)’ from the list.
  2. Select the sphere and assign the material to it.
  3. Main Material Parameters
    • Diffuse
      • Color: pure white
  4. Self Illumination (Glow)
    • Self Illumination (Glow): ON
    • Luminance: 1000

We’ll create standard lights so we should change the mr Photographic Exposure Control settings ( Rendering > Environment… > mr Photographic Exposure Control ):

  • Physical Scale: Unitless: 1500

Create a standard Omni light ( Create panel > Lights > Standard > Omni ), go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters to it:

  • Multiplier: 20
  • Decay
    • Type: Inverse Square
    • Start: 10

Place the Omni to the middle of the sphere. Now one light source is ready. Make several copies of it and move them around.

Finally we’re going to create a stronger glare to the moon and the spheres by modifying the glare shader:

  • Drag and drop the Glare shader ( Rendering > Render Setup > Renderer > Camera Effects > Camera Shaders > Output > Glare ) to an empty material slot in the Material Editor ( make sure to select “instance” when asked )
  • In Material Editor, change the Spread value to 4. ( this makes the glare stronger )

Darken the moon to create a little more convincing image. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and decrease the multiplier value of the Daylight system:

  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 1,5

Render the image and you should get something like picture below.

Glowing lights over the water

Step 18 Color Correction in Photoshop

You probably guessed it. I’ll do some color correction in Photoshop to make the image pop:

  • Brightness: 15
  • Contrast: 80
  • Hue: -8

Magical water in 3ds max

And that’s it for today. I hope it helps and you’re able to create something beautiful. Let’s continue in the comments!

204 Responses to 3D Water – The Ocean

  1. aoutt says:

    Wow, this is really awesome!!

  2. Roman says:

    Very nice tutorial, thanks for sharing it. Greetings from Venezuela.

  3. Gabriel says:

    Superb stuff, very useful. Keep ‘em coming!

  4. GUstavo says:

    just like a pro ;)

  5. Elektric says:

    This is awesome… thanks for sharing.
    Do you think this add has been made in a similar way?

  6. Dipayan says:

    Awesome work and concept, i will be dining out on this one for months

  7. HS says:

    awesome, but i don’t get how to make the Sphere glows

  8. Naveen says:

    Phenomenal, was never aware of it. Thanks for sharing such wonderful wealth of information.

  9. heirey says:

    Great!! thanks you very much!!

  10. tonydingo says:

    wow…. cool tutorial! thanks so much!

  11. yoe says:

    two thumbs up………….
    you really made a good help……….

  12. istupidmammal says:

    can’t wait for your next 3ds max 2010 tutorial..ü i’m hands-down for you.. hehe..

  13. Shasith says:

    Can you please tell me what can we use for Exposure Control in 3d max 9, cos i couldn’t find “Photographic Exposure Control” in this version. :(
    I can’t continue without that please help me on this


  14. bromat says:

    Wonderful tutorial. Thank you very much

  15. bromat says:

    would you be kind enough to tell me how you created the moon or sun.

    • polygonblog says:

      The sun disc is built into the mr Physical Sky. You should see the sun when you have created the daylight system and use ‘mr Physical Sky’ as environment map. Just turn your camera or perspective view towards the sun.

      Check ‘Tip’ in step 11 to display the sun (and the lighting solution) in the viewport immediately without having to render.

  16. Shasith says:

    It worked well, thanks a lot, but having a problem with Sun Glare.Can’t get that effect.Do we have click on none button & select something for 3d max 9 users?
    HS also having the same problem I think.

    Please help on this to if you can

    Thanks a lot

    Great Tutorials like them lot \m/

  17. moognix says:

    tanks… awesome

  18. Gustavo says:

    Wow, incredible, awesome tutorial, thanks!

  19. Excellent tutorial! All of your tutorials are very clear and easy to follow, thank you! :)

    As a bonus, do you know how to animate the water? :)

    • polygonblog says:

      The water is actually animated by default. You can control the speed by changing ‘Wave Speed’ in the ocean shader settings. If you’d like to have rolling waves you must activate ‘Directed’ in the ocean shader settings and control the direction of the waves with ‘Direction Angle’.

  20. AJ says:

    Hey there, love the tutorial, though I’m having an issue getting the spheres to glow. I’ve just tried using the architectural method on My Mental Ray Community:


    And that didn’t seem to work either. What do you think could be causing the problem? Everything else turned out fine =D

    (I’m using 2010)

    Many thanks!

    • polygonblog says:

      Please make sure you do these things:

      1. apply arch & design material to the sphere and turn self illumination on, set luminance to unitless and it’s value to 1000.
      2. Change the physical scale in “mr photographic exposure control” to unitless with value 1500.

  21. Chandana says:

    Greetings from Sri Lannka

  22. Ariez says:

    Awesome. I like this kind tutorial, like a pro. Good job bro!I was wondering can you make an underwater tutorial for the next tutorial? I would be pleased if you do. Thanks

  23. Damian says:


    I am doing this scene and I am having some problems with it:

    When I create the Dayligth system, How can I center the Sun to the axis to 90 % (exactly like the example). with the f12 manual writing value command i couldn´t, and with the snap command either.(I have selected the “manual” command like the example!) And for another way: when I had created the Arch & Design Mental material and i select the “water reflective surface”; I enter to the Ocean lume shader link to edit the parametters, but when i go back again to the root route of the material (“Go to the parent”) the template that I had selected has reseted!! I have to select again and I loss the all the lume shader propiertes, color prop., etc!
    Do u know what can it be ?? can you help me??

    Sorry for my english (i dont know if it was Ok), and by the way Excellent tut.!!
    Thx a lot… !!

    • polygonblog says:

      You can just place the sun approximately to the same angle and the result will look the same. However, if you want 90 degree angle, you can achieve that for example by using the Align-tool to align the DaylightAssemblyHead with the Compass.

      Don’t worry about the template. It’s enough to select it at once. It’s just the way it works. As soon as you change the material, it’s not any template anymore but all the material settings are still the same.

  24. Damian says:

    By the way.., I have Max 2010 With the SP1 and the last Hot fix installed.

    Thanks a lot for your time and attention!!

  25. william says:

    woooowww man what a perfect tutorial great we need more like this and thanks a lot for this one

  26. Donald says:

    Yes, I already did it..! but how i can create sun light? please any one help me!?….

  27. elixir says:

    oh wow, i couldn’t make this work at all :(
    i admit i’m relatively new to 3ds max, but until now i didn’t really have problems with anything i tried.
    i can’t find “mr physical sky” – is that the key to make this tutorial work out in general?

  28. Flo87 says:

    Thank you for this great tutorial, very clear and precise. Please continue sharing your knowledge and experience with us, it’s very beneficial for beginners like me. Thanks again for your efforts.

  29. naveen says:

    Thank you so much :)

  30. Froberry says:

    Thanks!!!! You rock! Keep adding more tutorials, i’ve done them all! You rock so much!

  31. benjiwolff says:

    Hi ! It’s a very good Tutorial :D
    But I have a problem… I can’t see the sun and the Glow on the differents spheres in my render…

  32. santosh says:

    Awesome tutorial

  33. Nacken says:

    your best tutorial.

  34. sergen says:

    hi i have two questions. will be very glad if you may reply

    q1: can you adjust the size of the sun of mr sun (like a big sun during sunset) ?

    q2: is there a way to add stars as an environmental effect (for that moon lit scene)?

    thnx in advance..your tuts rock :)

    • polygonblog says:

      q1: You can change the size of the sun in the mr Physical Sky settings: Go to the Environment settings ( Rendering > Environment…). Drag and drop ‘mr Physical Sky’ from background settings to the material editor ( select ‘instance’ when asked ). Change ‘Scale’, it’s the size of the sun disc.

      q2: I can think of two easy methods for creating the stars:

      1) Create a particle cloud in the background ( Create panel… > Particle Systems > pcloud ). Just use the same material as the spheres in the tutorial. Change the shape of the particles to sphere and adjust the size and count.

      2) Open video post ( Rendering > Video Post… ). Click ‘Add Scene Event’ , select your camera as view and click ‘OK’. Select Camera from the video post queue, click ‘ Add Image Filter Event’, select starfield form the list, and click ok. Click ‘Execute Sequence’ and hit render. If you get an error message about the camera, you must visit the starfield setup (perhaps a bug in 3ds max 2011…not sure). So just double click the Starfield in videopost, click ‘Setup…’, and click ‘OK’. Now it should work. Just click ‘Execute Sequence’ and hit render.

      • sergen says:

        that solutions worked just perfect. thnx so much.

        for the ones who will try starfield as scene event, i got the best results with these settings;

        go to starfield setup and set the star amount to 150000 (it is 15000 as default) and set the size to 1.85, you may also change distribution to logarithmic (looks more realistic). now you have a nice star scene.

        btw i got no error messages (3ds max 2010 sp1), that should be a bug in 2011.

  35. Jecli says:

    is a great tutorial
    may I did not like in the photo but it is a sensational effect
    sorry too weak english xD

  36. Sakis says:

    This is a great tutorial but i do have one question. What is the use of placing omni lights into the spheres? I believe they illuminating and produce highlights in the water just with their self illumination. And if we do place them, shouldn’t we exclude the sphere from casting shadows?
    Thank you for receiving my commend. I’d appreciate if you could answer my question.

    • polygonblog says:

      Very good points Sakis. At the moment there is not much use for the omni lights. In this scene some of them just illuminate the torusknot. But If you had something to illuminate above the water the omni lights could be useful. You are right about the highlights on the water, the omni lights are not needed for those.

      By default, shadow casting is turned off in omni lights but if we wanted to cast shadows with them we should exclude the spheres just like you said. Thanks for your insightful feedback!

  37. dhruv says:

    hey can i make it in 3dmax-9?
    and i cant find “mr Photographic Exposure Control with EV=15″ in max-9, so plz can any one help me in that?

    • vir says:

      hey dhruv..just go in “rendering”
      then select the “exposure control”..
      after that u wil see “conman parameters”
      and below that u wil see again “exposure control” option..
      by default u will see “No exposure control” option just below that…
      click on it..u will find ur “mr Photographic Exposure Control with EV=15″

    • polygonblog says:

      If photographic exposure control is not there in max 9 you could try using ‘Logarithmic Exposure Control’ and setting ‘Brightness to 1.0.

  38. vir says:

    hey how can make sun? do i have to use spheres? i mean i don’t understand your step 11th..what i need to do exactly? plz help

    • polygonblog says:

      Just move the daylight close to the horizon. The sun disc is built into the mr Physical Sky. You should see the sun when you have created the daylight system and use ‘mr Physical Sky’ as environment map.

      Check ‘Tip’ in step 11 to display the sun (and the lighting solution) in the viewport immediately without having to render.

  39. Ahmed says:


    some how the spheres don’t glow o.O

    i re-make it like 3 times step by step

    idk why o.O

    • polygonblog says:

      Please make sure you do these things:
      1. apply arch & design material to the sphere and turn self illumination on, set luminance to unitless and it’s value to 1000.
      2. Change the physical scale in “mr photographic exposure control” to unitless with value 1500.

      • Ahmed says:

        Hi again

        thx for replay

        hmm i did make sure its 100% same as you say

        i removed it and did it again like 4 times

        the light effect on the water is there but the sphere don’t glow :S

  40. Matt says:

    I do not seem to have Arch & Design (mi) on the list, can you help?

    • Aleks says:

      I had same problems with materials, but check if you have assigned renderer to Mental Ray. After assigning, material list should be available.

  41. Awais says:

    in my 3d max there is no option of art and design i m using 3d max 8
    pls help

    • Shreyash says:

      hey awais unfortunately they dont have arch n design in 3ds max 8…but if u wanna create that glowing effect u can do one more thing
      select architectural material in the material editor..set the color to pure white..scroll down..you will see an option call lumnicance cd/m2…change it to 2500 or 3000..the higher the value the more it will glow and emit light..just apply this material to those little spheres…put an imni light in the centre of the sphere and go to modify and give glow effect to that omni light..hope u kno it..!! :D
      Note:You need to switch Final Gather on to achieve a better effect of those little glowing spheres..

  42. Linah says:


  43. soah says:

    Amazing tutorial;) The best 3ds max tutorial I have seen so far :D

  44. Chris says:

    Wow…The first time I have ever followed a tutorial without being lost at one point in time. Extremely well explained and a fabulous result!
    Only thing I don’t like about this tutorial is that there is no name of the author. I want to search you so I can look up more amazing tutorials!

    • Chris says:

      Nevermind that, just realized this was your blog!

      I actually am having a problem though. I thought I had followed step by step but I think I skipped a part. My moon and sun do not appear when I render. I can see the light and where its coming from and how it reflects on the water, but there is no moon or son.

      • polygonblog says:

        Just move the daylight close to the horizon. The sun disc is built into the mr Physical Sky. You should see the sun when you have created the daylight system and use ‘mr Physical Sky’ as environment map.

        Check ‘Tip’ in step 11 to display the sun (and the lighting solution) in the viewport immediately.

  45. Mark says:

    Thank you for this amazing tutorial.
    Too bad not every step can be followed when using 3d max 9.

  46. jimmy says:

    hi.. the tutorial is nice but i am facing problem after step 10,

    plz help me and tell me how to create sun in the scene…..

    • polygonblog says:

      Just move the daylight close to the horizon. The sun disc is built into the mr Physical Sky. You should see the sun when you have created the daylight system and use ‘mr Physical Sky’ as environment map.

  47. Xakier says:

    Oh !!!!!! Great Tut. !!!!
    Thanx A lot for the same !!!!
    Its very Useful for Me !!!
    Thank you very- very Much !!!!

  48. Shreyash says:

    Awwwweeeesome tut bro..!! i was wondering how could i render my exterior bungalow in a night scene..this thing helped me a lot…n awesome tutorial man..ur just amazing at it..ur creativity is one step beyond..thanx a ton..!! :)

  49. bamsamkin says:

    It’s Great!!

  50. Bandar says:

    In a nutshell, you’re great!

  51. Andrew says:

    Absolutely beautiful! And such a good choice to put those glowing orbs in there. My hat is off to you sir.

    Not sure if you’re a redditor or not, but your more than welcome to visit – reddit.com/r/3dsmax

  52. mehdi says:

    thank u for the nice tutorial. goodluck

  53. amir says:

    chapeau bas … amazing work

  54. amir says:

    can u please give me a website where i can learn some beautiful effects and tricks like ur amazing works thnx u …

  55. Leo says:

    Hi all i have 3ds max 2009 and i was wondering how would you do step 12 with Logarithmic Exposure Control

  56. JC says:

    Im sorry, it such a great tutorial, but I’ve got a problem… I can’t find “show background: on ” in the viewport background….I dunno wether because of this….the camera view doesn’t show up the sun and the tone doesn’t change too..it keep stay in the daylight tone, not to the sunset tone at all, may you tell me how to do with this? …..><…..

  57. JC says:

    hm…I really dunno why, yes I’ve turn on the Display Background too, but it doesn’t change anything too…what is shift +f3 for? it seems nothing happen to me…

  58. steph says:

    Ok issue, I’m trying to make my sun sit in the position you have, but I’m not sure how I’m going wrong, I can see the light, but I can’t see the sun itself..

    OH also when I press shift and f3 together – what is it supposed to do as I get nothing.

    I’m using max 2011.

    • polygonblog says:

      I’m not sure what the problem is but I’m guessing your sun isn’t low enough. Try positioning it just above the horizon.

      Shift + F3 turns hardware shading on. It means you can see the preview of the lighting and the sun in real time. You can access this setting with mouse by clicking on ‘Smooth + Highlights’.

  59. steph says:

    I’ve managed to see the sun but no matter where I move it it tends to stay in the middle of the sky, I’m not sure if I’m moving it right..

  60. steph says:

    Ah I’ve sorted it, although that was a massive hassle..

  61. CDG says:

    Great Tutorial, taught me lots in a short period of time! Had to figure out how to get the glow working right but managed the same effect. Thank you!

  62. bluerube says:

    I’m stuck on step 8. I don’t see a place to put “Largest: 2,5″ and “Smallest: 0,12″. I do see “Largest: 20.0″ and “Smallest: 1.0″.

    Do you think you can post a picture?

  63. bluerube says:

    Actually, let me mention what I tried:

    Under “Special Purpose Maps”:
    – Clicked on “water, reflective surface (bump) (Ocean)”
    – Under “Ocean parameters” “Largest” is defaulted to 20.0 and “Smallest” is defaulted to “1.0”.
    – Not sure what to do. Tried toying with those values, but the ocean still looks like the picture in Step #7.

    I didn’t see “(Ocean(lume)) shader” under “Special Purpose Maps” in Step #8.

    Not sure if this helps, but I’m using the 2011 version.

    • polygonblog says:

      You are doing the right thing. The word “lume” isn’t there anymore in 3ds Max 2011. Largest and Smallest control the size of the waves. If you change these values you should see a change when you render. Are you sure the material you are adjusting is really applied to object you are rendering?

  64. Mark says:

    Hi There,

    The first time i used this the tutorial the daylight worked.
    Now i wanted to use the daylight again, but the background doesnt work anymore. When i go to views -> viewport background.. i get the following error: No Driver the Handle Given File.

    Any idea?
    When i open up another project with the daylight.. it seems to work fine. (Even though i get the same error message all of the sudden)

    O yeah the background is just black and there’s no sun. But it does cast light on my objects.

  65. Mark says:

    Finally i found out why the background didn’t work. I forgot to use the “Mental Ray” renderer. Apparantly the background doesn’t work with the default scanline renderer.

  66. Amaroc says:

    thanks for best 3d max tutorials and answers!

  67. MystiQ says:

    I have problem with soon too. Can u create simply file with sunlight, mabe i have problem with 3ds program?

  68. NEMO says:

    you are my reason to be able to look at the moon
    well…. it means, b’coz of this tut i am gona make a moonlit night in 3D. till now i was confined in pshop jpegs.
    stupid me.. i never tried once.

    thanx a ton

  69. NEMO says:

    also, ur site looks tasty. like it

  70. Cameron says:

    Great tutorial Very easy and looks great! Im using 3ds max 2010 :)

  71. Jay Giri says:

    Thats very good tutorials, i’m happy to get it. But if can than plz animate it. I’ll be very glad.

  72. Pikachu says:

    I’m unable to make the sphere’s glow… i’m using max 2011. I’ve followed step 13 to the point but teh sphere’s dont glow

    • Pikachu says:

      I solved it…. somehow i wasnt able to get the standard lights working. You can add a free light from photometric lights and it will work

  73. KURT says:


  74. MOSHE says:

    Hey man
    First thing I wanna say is that you have really awesome tutorials, I really learned a lot of them.

    Now to the subject:
    When I try rendering the ocean I can’t see any waves, altough I added the material to the plane. Please help me with that.

  75. Waqas says:

    Its realy awsome…it helps me to improve my skills…thnx

  76. moghadadm says:

    tnks for this site

  77. parse says:

    very very good

  78. Lekhendar varun says:

    Nice tutorial
    I like tutorial

  79. Is this a similar workflow to using Maya 2009? Or does anyone know how to achieve this in Maya?

    Thank you!

  80. fcluk says:

    Awesome tutorial, very well explained, helped me A LOT. i’m creating a night composition for a work and this tutorial fits perfectly, thank you very much!

  81. Jayanthi says:

    g8t nd really amazing
    i really liked it nd helped me 2 learn new toolz..
    nd plz plz give me some website lyk diz tutorialz

  82. Edvvin says:

    What kind of units do you use?, my waves look veery small. Great tutorial though!, thanks

  83. fahed says:

    very nice thx a lot put i have q that was like trouble to me if u c’ld resolve this to me i can’t make that sea foam on beach or behind any ship so if u have any info about this cuz i wanna to make that in video or animation
    very thx anyway

    • polygonblog says:

      I don’t have any experience with that. Maybe it could be done with the DreamScape plugin…

      • Spencer says:

        Vue has a shader-based approach to this problem. Wherever ocean comes close to any objects it just fades in a shader of white, thrashed water.

        There is an actual way of doing this with a plug-in, I just can’t remember the name right now. I remember seeing an add for it on the Vue website somewhere, it is apparently made to integrate with Vue very well.

        – Spencer

  84. Kammeron says:

    Best tutorial ever!

  85. Masterrs says:

    I start my adventure with 3ds max 2011, 4 days ago. I want to say, that U make very good tutorials which are very detailed. For beginners like me it is very important. Not all tutorials which we can find on web are good like yours. I finished this tutorial and I’m happy :D. 3ds Max rulez. Thank You for sharing.

    This is my work without PS.


  86. LC says:

    Hm , I am on step 11 and there is no physical sun for me. The lighting is there, but no sun is showing up in the render. I just see normal sky.

    • polygonblog says:

      Make sure your camera is pointing towards the sun.

      • LC says:

        My camera was pointing at it, and it was in my field of view when I switched the view to my camera. I have tried positioning the camera to point at it from different directions, too.

    • Sunil says:


      Its the same problem I was facing for a little while. If you are moving the skylight, you wouldnot be seeing the sun. But adjusting it near the water body will show up the sun high on the sky. The skylight is not the sun. Rather, the sun in high in the sky and you will have to make the skylight tilted to see the sun on the sky. You would be able to see the sun in the camera view.


  87. fahed says:

    hi thx again but i have another q that there is no mr Photographic Exposure Control in 3dsmax 9 so what i can use instead:
    Automatic Exposure Control or
    Linear Exposure Control or
    Logarithmic Exposure Control or
    Pseudo Color Exposure Control
    thx again

  88. Mathijs says:

    I have no physical sun either. I thinks I got some incorrect settings because I had the sun in previous renders, but I don’t know which settings I have to adapt.

  89. Azhar says:

    Nice Works guys i thank u say about work

  90. JAY GIRI says:

    Nice work, one thing i couldn’t get is sunset render, it didn’t work… is there any other process. plz help me…

  91. Svend says:

    Can it be animated?

  92. Donald says:

    http:Thanks realy amazing tutorial here is final rsult! //www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=190195744330061&set=a.107992679217035.15578.100000189109742&ref=nf

  93. Spy Studios says:

    Hello! I need help. When I applyed the water material to the plane, there were no waves. I did what you said in step 4. Can you help plz!!!! Thanks!

  94. Kam says:

    Hey! Nice Tutorial. But I need help. I did what you said in step 4 but when I rendered it, there were no waves. It doesn’t even look like water.

  95. James says:

    I tried the tutorial and am only having one problem, the glare on my sun is a square. Any suggestions? I’d love to fix this so I can use it as a wallpaper.


    Here’s how it looks

  96. Ajay says:

    Hi, which option should i change/tweak to make small waves in the water..for flowing water effect?

  97. MemoNick says:

    Why isn’t the sun showing? I followed everything.

  98. Bennie says:

    I can’t seem to get the self illumination of the sphere to work. It shows white in the material editor and will take any change I make to the material. It just won’t glow. I did everything step by step. What could I forget?

    • polygonblog says:

      Please check the following:
      – Make sure you added the glare (Step 13 Sun Glare)
      – Check that you applied all the settings in Step 17
      – Make sure you have actually applied the material to the spheres

  99. Hytham says:

    Amazing tutorial :)..but i can’t make the line between ocean and sky more blure..there is sharp line between them !!

  100. Zeni says:

    Thanks a lot. Saved a lot of time. It would have taken long long time for me to reach here.


    PS: Only haze did not work for me. I don’t know why?

  101. Consegui , efeito incrível, obrigado

  102. Eric says:

    I was just wondering how you could add a fire effect with this while the mr photographic exposure control is turned up to 15?

  103. keith D says:

    when i render everything is black, like there is nothing, and i dont know what i could have done wrong, i mean i followed it step by step, thing is when i have the arch& design its just black there is no glossyness like in the pic, what am i doing wrong?

  104. Niall says:

    Here’s my version, made it a bit darker and moodier, grebbled the torus to make a futuristic city, then put a moon infront of the sun to make an eclipse :)


    Thanks so much for this whole site, its excellent :)

  105. Niall says:

    Added a spaceship :)


    Where do you get your ideas for projects from, or is that a stupid question, where does anyone get their inspiration from?

  106. MG154 says:

    Hi, I am also having problems with step 11, in that no sun appears, yet everything I have done is exactly as you have shown, no-one seems to have mentioned how to correct this, can somebody help please?


  107. A super tutorial! Exact and fully informative. Many thanks. CP

  108. Dean A Allan says:

    Have a slight problem ive followed the tutorial step by step and everything worked amazingly except from step 17 for some reason when i render out the scene the material on the spheres (self illumination) dosent render, ive added the white difuse colour and turned on self illumination, when i create the spheres and add the texture in another file it works, i believe i have accidently changed a setting, any1 got any ideas what ive changed? or how to fix this?

    • G Hensley says:

      I too am also having this problem and have gone over every step but I can’t figure out why the material will not work. Please help…

  109. Walker says:

    Great tutorial, it really helped me out! But I have one question, the reflection of the knot goes vertically into the water, as opposed to following the curves of the knot itself. Is there a way to cast a more realistic reflection?

  110. joe says:

    Great tutorial… thanks a lot for your work
    only thing.. i cant make a boat i placed in the ocean look completly black (shaded becouse of the sun) like it looks in yours. any way to set it that you know?
    thanks again

  111. Cidae says:

    Nice tutorial, thanc for this…

    For thos who have problem of sun not showing in the render, you need to position the camera right. Easiest maybe going to perspective view ( P ) and doing test renderings at different perspectives ( say front, left etc ) untill you see the sun. You can then rotate the whole scenery once where sun has been located.


  112. fonz says:

    awesome tutorial, many thanks, you had me going through menus i never knew existed

    thanks again

  113. HASSAN says:

    Great tutorial… thanks a lot

  114. Yamen says:

    I was wondering if you can put some stuff about V ray lighting …and wich is more realistic V ray or Mental ray? ..thanks alot

  115. T. Nguyen says:

    It’s amazing. I foffowed your tutorial step by step and I made it. I hope I’ll learn more from you for the next tutorial. One more time, thank you very much for your time to teach us how to do it.
    Have a nice day

    T. Nguyen

  116. Sessprad says:

    In Step 17 render, the Light spheres are not displayed for me.. Help please.

  117. Aksyonov says:

    Thank you the lesson! Good Work!

  118. Pinakin says:

    Thax for halpfull tut.
    but i fount 1 prob in last step in rendering. i cant make star so pls help me 2 make my dream place with star

  119. fonz says:

    is it possible to hide the sun from the render, but keep the reflection on the waves??


  120. Babette Gonterman says:

    Thankful you did not remain silent … God’s word reigns!

  121. Lizzie says:

    I’ve been looking for this type of information for my research. Thanks

  122. Henock says:

    that’s so nice where can we get other tutorials of you

  123. Xavier Brown says:

    Okay I’m using this tutorial, and I found out one thing. . .
    The sun will not appear in my render scene; I’m trying to figure out what I did wrong, but could someone please help me?
    Thank you!

    • polygonblog says:

      Please make sure your camera is pointing towards the sun.

      • Xavier Brown says:

        I’ve still pondering what I did wrong as I set up my daylight system, mental ray render, but the illumination/sun will not show up.

      • Bogdan says:

        go to the top view, select the sun, select the move tool and drag it in front of the camera view, then test the render, if it still doesn`t show up go to a sode view and drag it down, the point is to drag it to the camera until it appears in your renders. Hope it helps!

  124. Xavier Brown says:

    Yeah, I figured out what I did thank you!

  125. fulcon says:

    in step 6 I render the camera screen….but the result is white pic

  126. fulcon says:

    plz help in step 6, i use 3dsmax 9;

  127. bassmania says:

    My sphere remains black in the depiction why?

  128. rait yuki says:

    this is the best (text and image) tutorial i have ever saw on the net.
    very easy very simple yet very clear and effective.
    thank you very much.

  129. Jay Jay Fraher says:


  130. JustACookie says:

    Best Tutorial out there!! VERY DETAILED AND EASY TO FOLLOW….Thank you so much for taking the time to help others :) God bless you!

  131. Faz says:

    (CLAP)(CLAP)(CLAP)Superb Tut…….

  132. Calvin says:

    The sun doesn’t render :(

    I’ve tried moving the thing all over the place and it doesn’t seem to be it’s placement that is the problem. What else could it be?

  133. Zack says:

    Nice tutorial one of the bests. My only question is: is there a way of making it transparent so we could you it in shallow waters like near the cost with some coral reef ?

  134. Gurpreet Singh says:

    WOW…… awsome tutorial.!
    thank very much :-)

  135. Kingsley says:

    hi Sorry i totally understand all of the 3d max side of things how do i do colour correction in photoshop? doi import the whole scene ? can you please elaborate ?

  136. Livi says:

    How do you get the sun or moon in view, i just cannot find it plz help. Thank you

  137. Adarsh says:

    Great tutorial, best step to start 3dsMax, Thanks a lot :)

  138. Ali Pourahmad says:

    Superb tutorial

  139. B.Mohan says:

    Automatic Exposure Control” is not supported.

  140. RealSpace says:

    You always have such great scenes to learn on. Thanx!

  141. Andrés says:

    Hey, your tutorial is awesome, thank you, really, i wish i could find more tutorials like this. Keep it up!

  142. Vines says:

    great tutorial..with awesome result..thanks

  143. Kingsley says:

    You are a legend, you tutorials reign like a Boss!

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