In this 3ds Max tutorial we’re going to create colorful 3d birthday balloons and render them with Mental Ray. This is a fine example of the power of 3ds Max. With just a few standard primitives and modifiers you can get believable results fast. I am using 3ds Max 2010 but this should be doable with many older versions as well.

Step 1 The Basic Geometry for the 3D Balloon

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

  • Radius: 100
  • Segments: 100 ( you might want to increase or decrease this later depending on your needs )

Sphere standrad primitive in 3ds max

Step 2 Make the Sphere Look Like a Balloon

Add FFD 3x3x3 modifier to the sphere ( Make a selection > Modify panel > Modifier List > Object-Space Modifiers > FFD 3x3x3 ) and activate the Control Points sub-object level. Select the bottom middle control point and move it 160 units downwards like in the picture below ( it doesn’t have to be exactly 160 units ). Check both front and left views to make sure you really select the middle control point.

Moldeling a balloon

Step 3 The Knot of the 3D Balloon

Next we’re going to create the balloon knot. Again, we can create it fast by using just standard primitives and a few modifiers. First create a Torus Knot ( Create panel > Geometry > Extended Primitives > Torus Knot ) in the top viewport and apply ( Make a selection > Modify panel ) the following parameters:

  • Base Curve
    • Radius: 1.3
    • Segments: 120
    • P: 3.0
    • Q: 1.5
  • Cross Section
    • Radius: 1.2
    • Sides: 12

Place the knot to the base of the balloon like in picture below.

Balloon knot placement

Step 4

Create Cone and Torus ( Create panel > Geometry > Standard Primitives ) in the top viewport. Use the modify panel ( Make a selection > Modify panel ) to modify them according to the following parameters:

  • Cone
    • Radius 1: 6.0
    • Radius 2: 1.0
    • Height: 8.5
    • Height Segments: 20
    • Cap Segments: 1
    • Sides: 50
  • Torus
    • Radius 1: 6.4
    • Radius 2: 0.8
    • Segments: 50
    • Sides: 40

Place the new objects according to picture below and combine them into a group ( Make a selection > Group > Group ).

Object placement in 3d studio

Step 5 Finalizing the Geometry of the Birthday Balloon

Add Noise modifier ( Make a selection > Modify panel > Modifier List > Object-Space Modifiers > Noise ) to the group you just created and apply the following parameters to it:

  • Noise
    • Scale: 60
    • Fractal: YES
    • Roughness: 0
    • Iterations: 6.0
  • Strength
    • X: 10
    • Y: 10
    • Z: 4

Fix the placement of the group ( in both front and side viewports ) and your model should look like in the picture below. Combine all objects into a group ( Make a selection > Group > Group ). Now the geometry of the birthday balloon is complete.

The effect of the Noise modifier

Step 6 Activate Mental Ray Renderer

Next we’re going to create material for the balloon and render it with Mental Ray. By default 3ds Max uses Scanline renderer so we have to change that. Change the renderer to Mental Ray ( Rendering > Render Setup… > Common tab > Assign Renderer > Production ).

Step 7 Arch & Design Material for the Balloon

Let’s open the Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and create the balloon material :

  1. Select the whole balloon and assign material to it
  2. Material type: Arch & Design
  3. Template from the drop-down list: Translucent Plastic Film, Light
  4. Color: bright red (R0,9 G0,0 B0,0)
  5. Transparency: 0.6
  6. Glossiness: 0.6
  7. Glossy Samples: 32 ( If you need higher quality glossy transparency, you can increase this. However, 32 should be enough for many purposes. )

Arch & Design material settings

Step 8 First Test Render in 3ds Max

Change the background color to white ( Rendering > Environment… > Common Parameters > Background > Color ) and make the first test render. The render should look like picture below. It’s nothing special, but stay tuned. We’ll make it shine really soon!

3d balloon render

Step 9 Window Reflections

Next we’re going to create more interesting reflections. Let’s create geometry and material for window reflections. Create four huge boxes in the top viewport with the following parameters.

  • Length: 2700
  • Width: 2800
  • Height: 1

Combine the boxes into a group named ‘Window reflections’ ( Make a selection > Group > Group ). Assign a new standard material to the group and make the following adjustments to the material:

  • Color: pure white
  • Specular Level: 999

Your boxes should look like in picture below:

boxes in 3d max

Step 10 The Illumination

Create Skylight ( Create panel > Lights > Standard > Skylight ) with the following parameters:

  • Sky Color: pure white

When you work with Skylight you have to turn Final Gather on. In 3ds Max 2010 Final Gather is on by default but in older versions you have to turn it on ( Rendering > Render Setup… > Indirect Illumination > Final Gather > Enable Final Gather ).

Create Omni light ( Create panel > Lights > Standard > Omni ). Adjust the Omni light so that it affects only the Window reflections:

  1. Click ‘Exclude…’ button
  2. Select ‘Include’ in the top of the new dialog
  3. Select ‘Window reflections’ from the list
  4. Click the right arrow in the middle of the dialog
  5. Click ‘OK’

The include parameter makes the Omni light affect only the Window reflections. This way you can adjust the intensity of the reflections by adjusting the Multiplier of the Omni light.

Rotate Window reflections 45 degrees and place the objects according to picture below.

object placement in the front viewport

Step 11 Rendering a Test Image

Render a test image to see if it looks like picture below. If the reflection appears in the wrong location, just move the Window reflections group.

render with window reflections

Step 12 Finalize the 3D Balloon

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

  • Samples per pixel:
    • Minimum: 1
    • Maximum: 16

Render the image again and that’s it for a single 3d balloon. Just make some color correction in Photoshop.

  • Saturation +15
  • Brightness -20
  • Contrast +40

3d balloon clip art image

Step 13 Multiple 3D Balloons

Our transparent and reflective material really shines when multiple balloons are rendered so let’s try that. Make several copies of the balloon material by drag and drop. Just change the name and color of the new materials. Next make many instance copies ( move while pressing shift in keyboard ) of the balloon , apply materials, and move them around. I have 92 balloons in my final scene.

3ds max scene with 92 balloons

Step 14 Rendering 92 Birthday Balloons

Render the final image. The rendering might take some time because of the reflections, blurry transparency, and antialiasing. I bumped up the quality settings and made a very high resolution ( 6000 x 4500 px ) render for a stock agency and it took about a week to render it ; )

party balloons

Step 15 Making the Image Pop !

Do some color correction in Photoshop to make your image pop!

  • Brightness +50
  • Contrast +40

( your final image and color correction needs might be different )

birthday balloons render

I hope you enjoyed this! I’d love to hear how this tutorial is working for you!

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