Making the scene - from modelling to the final rendering

This tutorial consists of two parts. The first part includes modelling techniques, lighting and camera placement.
The second part presents information on texturing and rendering the scene.

I worked on 3DS MAX Release 4.2, for texturing I used Photoshop.

I started creating the scene by sketching down some ideas.
From all the drawings I picked the best one and went from there.
My next step was to collect all information about my object from the real world.


The first piece I modelled was the "window ledge":
From the 'Standard Primitives' I picked the box. After creating it, I converted the box into an "Editable Poly". In the "Modification"-panel, under "Selection/Face", I select the frontside of my "parapet". Using "MeshSmooth" I subdivide it.

Afterwards I moved some points and edges. Now the box started to look more friendly...


In 'Front View', I selected polygons in the areas where I wanted scratched. I subdivided them once, using "Tessellate", not "MeshSmooth"!

Then I moved some points and edges, as shown on the picture below.

I selected all the edges I needed and chamfered them. Collapsing some points I got rid of those that were not essential for the scratches. After selecting the polygons inside my scratches, I extruded them to just a bit to the inside of the "parapet". - If your scratch doesn't look good, just tessellate the polygons around it.

I repeated all steps of creating 'scratches' until I had a sattisfying result:

Metal rail and Screws

A standard cylinders and two spheres connected, using 'Boolean' operation, became a rail. The screws are just primitive cylinders again, but I changed the amount of sides to six and unchecked the 'Smooth'-option.

The 'Metal plate' was formed out of a plain box,converted into an 'Editable Poly', that and using 'Extrude' and 'MeshSmooth', was brought into shape.

Walls: Plaster and Bricks

For the wall I started with three more standard-boxes. Two of them will simulate plaster, the third one remains unchanged and will later on become my brickwall.
I used Tesselate to increase the amount of points.

Again I had to model scratches - for that I used the same technique I explained earlier.

Some will ask "Why do I have to model them, when a bumpmap will do the same for me?" Well, yes a bumpmap might do for you. But what about the lighting? Modelled scratches will cast shadows and plaste breaks in many ways - no, bump will not do here.

Window Shutter

Like before, I created some boxes, converted them to 'Editable Polies'. Using move edges and points, tessellate and 'MeshSmooth', I created a good looking wooden 'shutter'. It is really important to model all the detail.

You will see this, when we place some lights in our scene.

Window and Window Pane

For the window I used even more primitives (boxes), to create all necessery abjects.
The broken 'window pane' was created using extruded 'shapes'.


Modelling the spiderweb was more tricky: First I drew a shape, then convert the (closed) shape to 'Editable Patch', move some points ... and there it was

Other Objects


I create a standard 'Target Camera', tried to place it like it was on my sketch. In "Render Scene" dialog-box I also modify 'Image Aspect' and 'Resolution'.

Lights and Rendering

I created 3 omni-lights. 2 of them are 'ray traced shadow lights'. (these 2 lights also casts 'soft shadows', which is easy to make. Just modify the 'Bias' , 'Depth' and placement of the light in your scene.
The other one casts 'Shadow Map' shadows.

1st Ray Traced Shadow Light (KEY LIGHT):
Color: (soft orange) - Multipier: 1.5

2nd Soft Shadow Light (Shadow Caster):
Color: (soft yellow) - Multipier: 0.7
Projection: from created MAP

3rd Ray Traced Shadow Light (FILL LIGHT):
Color: (soft blue) - Multipier: 0.65

Some important thing about chose of your light's colours in YOUR scenes:
For real-looking lights try to pick opposite colors from the wheel of colour.

I love this part of CG work - texturing.

Almost everything depends on how good the textures you have are.
And on what you can do with them and your objects. Sometimes when you have a model, with lots of mesh errors, a good texturing can easly mask that.

If I have some extra time, I rather spend it on texturing, than changing the model.

The textures I've used in this scene are from "TOTAL TEXTURES CDs" by 3D Total. In my private collection I have lots of realy good textures that I wanted to use.

But I quickly changed my mind, when I took a closer look at those from 3D Total. They are realy unbelivable. They are HUGE (like a good texture should be). Sometimes when you have to render your scene in very big resolutions (I have to render scenes in 3200x2800 every now and then), a small texture will screw up your scene. Also sharpness of the textures is VERY important.
Especially when you render a scene using extended renderers with high 'sampling' values. Almost every texture on those CDs has its own bump map. It's very usefull, because I don't have to spend my time, on painting them in Photoshop. 'Dirt masks' - I LOVE THEM.
All textures look so real thanks to those 'Dirt Masks'...but enough, lets go back to work.

First off, let me write down a list of UVW-Maps for the objects in my scenes:

I will not write about shaders I have used in scene.
Because everybody has his own methods. For someone using 'Oren-Nayar-blinn' shader for wood is not normal. Or maybe 'Blinn' shader for walls can be much more suitable. If someone is interested
in my own shaders, mail me.

Also, I used Photoshop, on almsot every texture.

Brick Wall

I opened a texture for my brick wall in Photoshop. Also, I've opened some images from the 'Dirt masks' section of the "TOTAL TEXTURES CDs".

First, using the standard 'Brush Tool', I paint some 'green mask', representing some growing...thing. Then I edited one of the 'dirt masks'. First I converted the image, from RGB to Grayscale. Using 'invert' tool (Ctrl-I), I switched the colors, because I need black marks on the wall, not white ones. Now, from 'Select/Color Range/' tool I've selected the part of the the image, where the most beautiful dirt is. I pressed (Ctrl-C) to copy my selection. Lets go back to our 'brick wall' texture. Now paste that selection, as a 'new mask', pressing (Ctrl-V) (a new mask will be created automatically).

In the 'Layers'-toolbar I changed the opacity, from 100% to ...hmmm... less then 50%. I repeated all those steps for all my
"dirt masked"-images.

Then I go back to 3DS MAX, created a proper shader and assigned my new shader to the 'brick wall' object.

For the two 'Plaster' objects, I use exactly the same tools...This is what it looks like


And again I used the same tools, But here I used many more 'dirt masks', perhaps six, all taken from "TOTAL TEXTURES CDs". From just ONE CD !!!

Also, I've made my own 'dirt mask' for the 'parapet' as additional scratches:
Single brush strokes (very small brush size) from top to bottom.
After all that, I saved my 'parapet' texture as a .JPEG image.
Opened it again, converted it from RGB color to Grayscale. And using the "Brightness/ Contrast' tool I quickly make unique 'bump' and 'glossiness' maps.

Metal Elements

Nothing new - all the same. All those metal elements (metal wire, screws, hook, etc.) are very small objects, so I've just resize the 'metal textures' from the CDs.

Treebranch and Leaves

Also from 'TOTAL TEXTURES CDs', I've picked a good looking tree-bark-texture.

Dirtied it a little bit in Photoshop, and using 'Cylindrical Mapping' I applied my shader to the branch-object.
The leaves, only this texture is from my own collection.

I used 4 different maps here. One as Diffuse Map, one as Opacity Map, one as 'Glossiness Map' and a last one as 'Bump Map'
Opacity maps were very welcome here.
Because I don't need to create a very complex mesh. I Created a standard 'planar' object. Assing 'UVW Mapping' modifier. Applied the shader, then converted the object to an 'Editable Patch'.
The I moved some points to make it look like it was a dry and wrinkled leaf.


Let me just say that I used an 'Unwrap UVW'-modifier.

I painted the texture by myself Shader, 'Oren-Nayar-blin', with high bump value.
Also I've used a 'composite' map for the bird's body.
The Bird was just one single object made from standard box...thats it

Metal Can

And again, I used the unbelivable texturecollection from 3DTOTAL.
From the very original 'rusted metal section' I pick one image, and a bump map. Everything is "under your cursor". One click and you've got, all textures you need.
In Photoshop I composed my metal texture with some dirt masks, and my own image. I create a logo for an imaginary company. ("For The Birds") (hmmm???)
Using diferent layers and specially the 'eraser' tool... I made this:


Standard 'Phong' shader plus a 'Noise' map with very small value as the bumpmap.


After applying a proper 'UVW Mapping' to the obiects I opend Photoshop.
In Photoshop I created an image using the standard 'Line Tool'. I simply painted a spider web and convert my image from RGB colours into Grayscale. Also I used the 'Brightness/Contrast' tool to increase a little contrast. Then I saved my first image (black color lines on white background). All I needed was an 'opacity' map. So, I inverted the colours (Ctrl-I) and saved again as my new opacity map-image (white coloured lines on black background).

Metal Elements

Nothing new - all the same.
All those metal elements (metal wire, screws, hook, etc.) are very small objects, so I've just resize the 'metal textures' from the CDs.

Tree Shadow

Once again I used "TOTAL TEXTURES CDs", this time I picked a 'shadow map' texture. Created a standard 'phong' shader, as diffusemap I used my 'shadow map'. I changed the 'Cropping/Placement' like on the picture, and used a low value of 'Blur', because I needed my bitmap to be as sharp as possible.

Window Frame

Nothing special. Simple texture of wood with a coat of white paint...
Also, I used 'bump map' as 'bitmap'. I increased the tiling a little and moved the mapping plane (enter in Sub-Editing
in 'UVW-Mapping' - 'mapping-plane'=GIZMO) just to achive a good looking "dirt and scratch"-placement.

Window Pane

...I think that you will find the most important information in this picture:

Window Shutter

This is the most complex texture (and shader) in the whole scene.
As you can see in the rendered image. This 'window shutter' was built from severalobjects, and each of these objects has its own texture and shader. I used just ONE bitmap - and three or four dirt masks, though.
This is the 'HOT SPOT' in my scene - The central part of my image. Most viewers's eyes start to look at an image from the center. Next, the eyes start to seek some 'hot colors' (like red, orange, yellow). In my image the eyes will find these in the upper right corner, in the birds, and leaves.
Finally our eyes take a global look at the image, then seek contrasts and depth...
This is why I MUST create very real-looking textures ...

This is how I did it...

First I found a good looking texture on the 'TOTAL TEXTURES CDs', and Copied those 2 images, texture and bumpmap, to my HDD. Also I copied several dirt masks (probably five). I used all those dirt masks in the same way I described above (see BRICK WALL or PARAPET section)...
as you can see in this picture, I've select some important things:

When you are placing dirt masks try to place some of them on each 'board' (green colour). Apply some of them more globally, but use different settings for 'layer opacity' (tiny blue coloured arrows).

Using the 'Colour Range' selection method, I selected a piece of another dirt mask, which I then copied into my main texture. (Remember to work on several layers.)

Using the "feather"-Tool, change the selection of the "feather" to 5 pixels (sometimes more, it depends on how big a texture you are working on).

Then using 'Brush Tool' and any colour (in my texture it's dark red), using any brush you like, fill the selection. Next change the 'layer opacity'

...and once your texture looks nice it is time to split those textures into several smaller textures (each new texture on each object).

Save our new texture (do not use .PSD format, because we need this texture, as one single, flat image. We don't need layers anymore). Open it again. Also open the 'Bump map' of our 'Window shutter' texture. We'll use it later. Using 'Rectangular Marquee Tool' select the lowest board. copy it and paste as a new image. The fastest way ro do this, is to use your keyboard.

1. Select your 'board'
2. press Ctrl-C to copy
3. Save your selection (Select\Save Selection\ - remeber to use different selection names)
4. Open a new image, with resolution taken from your selection. Just press (Ctrl-N)
5. press (Ctrl-V) to paste
6. Save our new small 'board' texture
7. Now, open the 'bump map' texture, and load our saved selection. (Select\Load Selection\... remember to pick the proper selection name for each 'board')
8. press (Ctrl-C) to copy the 'bump map' of our new 'board'
9. press (Ctrl-N) for new image
10. press (Ctrl-V) to paste it
11. Save our new small 'bump map' 'board' texture

Now you must repeat all steps from 1 to 10.. for each 'board' from bottom to up.
This is how it looks in my all those 'new board textures'
Now in 3ds max, you must create lots of shaders. One shader for each object.
Remember to use close values for 'bump map' 'specular' 'diffuse' etc.
And now ... press 'RENDER SCENE' button...


There are several different methods to create those objects and textures.
Every method is good, if the final effect is as good as "image" that you have in your head.
But you must know some rules. Efficient work is most important. If you don't have an idea, how to create
something, don't waste the time. Do something else.
Don't think too much, about one thing.
Also I must say that it wouldn't be so easy to create this good looking image, without excellent textures. They are not so easy to come by.
But now, lots of companies offer their texturecollections to Cg Artists.
One of these collections is brought to you by 3D TOTAL.
3 CD's full of lots and lots of textures to use.
When I saw this collection for first time, I just wanted to do some good CG work. But there was one problem.

I had too many ideas!
I'm currently working on 3 other scenes. But now, with those excellent textures, I MUST re-texture them all again...

Somewhere I read this:
CG artist, don't sleep - just rest a little,
CG artist, don't talk to much, just think faster,
CG artist, don't think .... what was I talking about?

OUTTAKES [what funny things happend, during the making of all this]

I spent 3 days from the first sketching to the final rendering !
But writing this tutorial took me 5 days!!! [sic!]

- Good Bless UPS'. They saved my work, all machines and time, twice.

- I changed my final concept. I said "this is gonna be for the last time" - I said this 4 times.

- I prefer tea with rum over coke with rum

- My cat showed me what real scratches look like.