In this tutorial we are going to create a serene japanese style 3d image in 3ds Max. We’re going to model a shiny dark pebble stones and create a balanced pile out of them. This is a simple tutorial where emphasis is on the lighting and materials. I am using 3ds Max 2011 but several older versions should work as well.
We’re going to render the image with Mental Ray. By default 3ds Max uses the Scanline renderer so we have to change that. Change the renderer to Mental Ray ().
Create five geospheres () in the top viewport. Modify the geospheres ( ) according to the following parameters :
Go to the front viewport and scale the stones () about the Y axis according to the values below. ( ).
You don’t have to create exactly the same kind of stones. Feel free to experiment and to be creative.
Add Noise modifier, one at a time to each stone except the first one (). By right-clicking you can copy and paste modifiers. Apply the following parameters ( ) to the Noise modifiers.
( If you need more segments I suggest you add TurboSmooth above the Noise instead of raising the segments value. This method produces smoother surface. )
Create a pile of stones balancing on top of each other. It’s a typical arrangement of stones seen in many zen-like photos and illustrations. Move and rotate the stones as you see fit.
Next we’re going to create a water surface and some ripples around the pebbles to make the scene more interesting. Create a Plane () in the top viewport . Modify the Plane ( ) according to the following parameters:
Add Edit Poly modifier to the plane () and activate the Polygon sub-object level. Select one polygon approximately in the middle of the plane and delete it ( ). Deactivate the Polygon sub-object level.
Now we’re going to create a dense mesh for the ripple effect. Create another Plane () in the top viewport and apply the following parameters ( ):
Place the new plane into the hole of the large plane. Add TurboSmooth modifier () and then Ripple modifier to it ( ). Go to the modify panel and apply the following parameters to the Ripple modifier:
Tip. If you need more polygons to your object you can just increase the iterations value in the Turbosmooth modifier.
Let’s prepare the scene for rendering:
Hit render () and you should see something like the picture below.
The colors of the objects don’t matter because we’re going to create materials for them.
Press M in keyboard to open Material Editor () and create the material for the stones:
Color #1: black ()
Color #2: dark gray ()
Color #2: black ()
Select a new slot in the Material Editor and create the water material:
Now materials are ready. However, there’s no point in rendering the scene now because everything we have is almost black. Let’s create illumination and environment first.
We’re going to illuminate the scene with the Daylight system and use Mental Ray’s physical sky as environment map. Daylight is a system that mimics a real world sun. Create the Daylight system () 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 ( )). Select the daylight, go to the modify panel, and apply the following parameters:
Place the daylight according to the picture below.
Render your scene to see something like the picture below.
Let’s examine our 3d zen render for a while. There are several problems that need to be addressed.
( Note that these are artistic observations and your taste might be different. Feel free to experiment. )
Select the Daylight, go to the modify panel, and apply the following parameters:
Render the scene to see the effect of these adjustments.
Look closely and you’ll see the color variations in the stones. Smoke map produces the large scale variations and Speckle map produces the small scale variations.
Personally I think that black and white image works better in this case. Let’s go to the mr Photographic Exposure Control settings () to make the image black and white:
Render your scene to see the image in black and white.
If you look closely you’ll see some jagged edges. Let’s adjust the sampling settings to get a more polished render. Go to the render setup and increase antialiasing quality by increasing Mental Ray’s sampling values ():
Render the image and you’re done. That’s it for today. Let’s continue in the comments!