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Creating Realistic Clouds

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Hello everyone!
In this tutorial I will tell you about creating realistic clouds using 3D Max and Afterburn. So, let's start!

1. Open window Particle View (to do this press 6 on your keyboard), create a basic particle system, with next settings: Emit Stop=0, Amount=5 (for the test rendering it would be enough).

2. Select PF Source in viewport, go to Modify panel and change Length, Width and Height to 50, 40 и 15 (those parameters change the size of bounding box).In the field Viewport enter 100, it allow us to see all particles in viewport.
Next open window Environment and effects (press 8 to do that), for the Background color pick a dark-blue color, in Atmosphere rollout press Add and select AfterBurn .

3. Now create Target Spot, in General parameters enable cast shadow(shadow type is AB Ray Trace Shadow).Next change the color of light to yellowish to simulate the sunlight and increase the intensity like in the picture below:

4. Open window Environment and effects and in Atmosphere effects rollout select AfterBurn. Press Show in Viewport to see the particles in viewport. Next press Pick Light and select target spot, that was created earlier. Now our cloud is illuminated and cast shadows. To speed up rendering process change Step Size to 1.5 (this parameter control the smoothness of volume effect, for test rendering 1,5 would be enough). Check Self Shadow, now our cloud cast self Shadows. Change Shadow Opacity to 0.8, it add's more realism to the look of clouds. For Ambient color choose grey-blue color.

In Color Parameters rollout we can change the color of our cloud, I use default settings.

In Particle Shape/Animation Parameters rollout change Sph.Radius to 16 and Squash to 1.2 (this parameter squashes particles) also decrease Regularity to 0.1 .Now it's time to increase count of particles to 15.Change Var to 25 (this parameter control's randomness of particle's size).

In Noise Shape Parameters rollout change noise type to Smoke.

Next in Noise Animation Parameters rollout decrease the Density to 1.0. To add more detail to our clouds change Noise Size and Noise Levels to 10 and 15.

Open Environment and effects window and press button None ,next select sky texture which you like. I use this one:

I duplicate cloud and change some settings to add some difference between those 2 clouds. Next I position them like in the picture below.

To simulate diffuse light I add Omni Light with low intensity and change it's color to light-blue.


In Environment and effects window select  AfterBurn and add both lights and particles systems like we did before. To get a nice smooth result increase StepSize  value to 1.

Now hit render. And here is a final result:

That's it!

Thanks for reading this tutorial I hope it will be useful for you.
If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me:

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
JayC on Fri, 27 January 2017 12:42pm
Hope to try Ozone program
Peter on Wed, 07 November 2012 3:19pm
Thanks for this awesome tutorial, it's great also when u add keystrokes to it coz i'm new to 3ds max and maya 2013,as i wish you complete this work showing us every feature of after burn coz this plugin "rocks !"
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