Making Of 'Alley Way'

Hello, my name is Michal Konwicki. In this making of, I'm going to show you, step-by-step, how I applied 3DTotal Textures into my artwork 'Alley Way', as you can see in the final image below.
The programs used in this making of are 3ds Max with Vray render, and Photoshop for texturing and post-processing. Other programs can be used as well.

The Scene

Creating the background, or scenery, for your artwork is the key to a successful piece. The scope of this work is making architectural visualizations in a perfectly clear, detailed method. I always search for inspiration for a new scene by turning to the Internet, books, television and movies. Yet, this time, I already had a clear idea in mind of the final product. I wanted to create a simple outdoor urban scene, old buildings, details such as stairs and doors with nice lighting, good textures and trees, hedges and other plants to add life.


Using 3ds max for modelling, which was not my priority, made the process fairly quick and simple. Many objects are just primitives, like boxes or cylinders, converted to edit poly, sometimes with Turbo Smooth modifier. I have also used splines with Extrude modifier. To avoid sharpness of corners I often chamfer the edges, when modelling buildings. I will describe the process briefly.

The Steps

Typical object in this scene, a step is made of a box with several segments edited in Edit Poly mode with some noise and smoothed with Turbo Smooth modifier. Noise modifier is a fast and simple tool, perfect for adding irregularities to a model.

The Tiles

Tiles on the little roof above the doors were made of cylinders using Edit Poly and Shell Modifier.

The Rails

Being in the background, and thus of less importance, the rail is created out of splines which have been copied several times, with thickness.

The Ground

The ground is just a segmented plane with noise and displacement. I have used VrayDisplacementMod: 3D mapping type with bump map from material in Texmap slot, which will be described later in this article. A have also used Edit Poly modifier to "dig" two holes for catch pits.

The Character

I wanted to have something unique in this scene, to contrast the light, pleasant atmosphere with the hooded, strange-looking person on the stairs. I did not want to spend a lot of time modelling the human, adding details of clothing etc, so I only used tools available in max: biped and reactor. First I placed biped and posed it on stairs, then I modelled a simple cloak with a hood using plane and edit poly. Next I used reactor to drop the cloak on the biped. The rest was easy; a few noise modifiers, moving some vertices, turbo smooth and again noise.

The Grass

A good tool for creating a nice looking grass is VrayFur. Though not very realistic, it is enough for this type of scene. I created three VrayFur objects with the same Source object, of various colours, length, thickness, gravity and distribution, to add some diversity.


Texturing was the most important part in creating this scene. My aim was to create realistic, dirty, old textures whilst retaining the nice and pleasant character of the picture. For the whole scene I used the 3DTotal Textures Collection: Volumes: 1, 2, 3, 5, 12, and 13 in particular.

The texturing process is different for every object and depends on things like size, visibility/exposure of the object in the scene, the type of material etc. However, there are few general steps to follow when texturing objects for scenes like this one. I will try to explain these below:


The first step is to always map your model. Sometimes it is quite boring, but it is crucial for the next process. It is difficult to texture poorly mapped objects, so it can save you time in the future. Unwrap UVW is a great tool when you are familiar with it. It is important to remember that in a static scene a model is only partially visible. So I select invisible polygons and unwrap only those which are important for my picture, it can save a lot of time. Another thing is to place polygons on the texture in the right way in order to simplify texture preparation. I always try to work on parts of polys which are as large as possible, choosing large flat areas to avoid dividing them into small parts. Fewer seams mean easier texturing. I also try to keep the same scale for all polygons on my texture and not waste space. Try to use different methods of mapping; flatten, unfold and all types of normal mapping from Edit UVW menu, and from Map Parameters: planar, cylindrical, spherical, etc.


After unwrapping the model, I often 'bake' to texture something like ambient occlusion. It is useful, especially for old and dirty objects. I use Scaneline renderer with Light Tracer and Skylight light to bake it. First thing is to change the material to standard and set the diffuse colour to light grey, then place Skylight in the scene ant set its colour to white. Turn on Light Tracer and tweak settings to speed up rendering. You do not need to obtain excellent quality because you will mix the texture with others.

This is the first time that you have to think about the size of the texture, which depends on the size of the final rendering and the size of the object in the rendering. You can of course resize the baked texture later, but not too much. A nice thing in 3ds max 8 is rendering UVWs in Edit UVWs. I always render black lines on white background without Seam Edges.

General Texturing

When you have rendered wire from Edit UVW you can start texturing. I always start with a simple clear overall texture to prepare the base for further work. Using Total Textures I link diffuse and bump maps, then duplicate them to cover the whole area. It is important to work with diffuse and bump at the same time, on different layers, to make sure that diffuse fits to bump. In this phase I think of my model as a new object. Then I cover the main areas with duplicated textures and proceed to the next step.

Adding Details

I believe this is the most important and creative part of texturing. All the details create history of the objects; adding uniqueness and character to things. There are a lot of methods of adding details and dirt to texture - I will describe some of them. One of them is using something like ambient occlusion as dirtmask. You can add a rendered layer, as I have described above, in multiply and change the opacity or invert colours and use it as a mask for other layers. It is easy and fast, but not a very detailed method. You can also use dirtmaps from 3DTotal Textures, for example from Volume 5. Another way is by painting dirt and other details "by hand", which is the hardest and most time consuming method. I prefer mixing all three, so I use rendered ambient occlusion pass and a lot of dirtmasks with some painting.

Adding bump and other channels (specular etc)

As I have mentioned, I create a base bump map simultaneously with diffuse. However, in many cases bump channel requires more work, especially when creating more complex textures with many masked "base textures", like bricks under old paint layer, dirt, etc. Generally, it is a good idea to recreate the same process for a bump map as for diffuse, but keep in mind that you are building with depth, so bricks should be darker than the paint above them, and the hole in the wall should be darker etc. It is not just doing the same layer order and mask as in diffuse channel, try to include as much information about the "bumpiness" of the object as possible. You do not have to copy all the information from the diffuse channel, just a little dirt, graffiti, etc. Things like that do not affect bumpiness. The same rules apply to other channels, like reflect, glossiness etc. Do not copy bump map or just de-saturate the diffuse channel, but try to make something realistic.

Ok, so enough of the theory, now let us see how it works in practice. These are a few examples of textures from the scene.

Main Building

AO and wire.

Base texture: england003 from Total Textures: Volume 12.

Another base textures: white colour for top and italy007 from Total Textures: Volume 12 for bottom.

Dirt from rendered "ambient occlusion" on multiply mode.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Dirt from mask (Total Textures: Volume 5) and painted dirt.

Bump map.

Right building: from base textures to detailed dirty texture.

Left building: few steps of texturing and adding details.


I use VrayMaterial for all materials I create for scenes that will be rendered with VRay. Most of the materials in this scene have two or three maps; diffuse, bump and sometimes reflect. Only a few of them have reflection and/or glossiness. In most cases if you have well prepared textures (self-made or ready to use sets of textures like 3DTotal Textures with bump maps) you will have good material. Try not to apply glossiness to all materials, because it will increase rendering time too much.

In my scene, the ground is the most interesting material.

As you can see there is Fresnel reflection, in the reflect map slot is the same map as for bump; portugal003 from Total Textures: Volume 13. Also, I used the same map for displacement (VrayDisplacementMod in 3d Mode). In the diffuse slot there are two mixed maps; portugal003 and spain10 (Total Textures volume 13).


There is only one direct light in the scene, but there is an additional light source; skylight with HDRI map of daytime sky with some little clouds. Direct light has light beige colour, shadows are set to VrayShadow with area shadow turned on.


I used VRay for rendering, because it is the engine that I know best. You can see all the settings below. I used indirect illumination with Irradiance map for Primary bounces and Light cache for Secondary bounces. It was my private project, I did not care so much about render times so the Irradiance map and Light cache settings are quite high. A good idea is to save GI maps to files, so that you can stop rendering after GI is calculated and render the picture later using these files. Image sampling was set to Adaptive subdivision with Mitchell-Netravali filter which produces a nice effect. There is the same hdri map in GI Environment (skylight) and Reflection/refraction etc. environment.

Post - Production

When you have rendered the final image you can finish work, but there are still many things you can do to make it better. There are two ways to improve the image after rendering; first is colour, brightness, levels, hue, contrast, correction, etc. and another is painting on the image to add some things. I used both of these methods. Working on layers during post-production is a very good idea because you can modify all effects anytime you want. Here you can see all layers that I added in this process.

I painted a few details on the walls and other objects like cloak and doors and grass.

There are many ways to correct or even change the look of your picture in Photoshop or other software (After Effects, Combustion etc). You can play with levels, brightness, contrast, hue and other effects, the other way is playing with layers, for example try to duplicate your picture to a new layer and change Blending Mode to Hard Light or Overlay - try to blur this layer and play with many Blending Modes. To achieve some dreamy effect duplicate layer, apply some gaussian blur and set the blending mode to overlay.

That's it! I hope you will enjoy and hopefully it helps people out who want to know more on the subject. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me

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