Transparent Blueprints


I wrote this tutorial because I've seen a lot of Blueprint Setup's for 3D Studio Max but not this way and wanted to share my technique. The advantage of using this technique is that you may use the blueprints as a transparent 2D Map where you can specify any colour lines you like.

This will also show some advanced techniques for mapping the materials onto a box rather than using 4 planes like some other tutorials may use.

Part 1 - Photoshop

In this part you will learn how to setup the images using Photoshop to be then used as blueprints with 3D Studio Max.

Photoshop 01

First open your blueprint into Photoshop.

Photoshop 02

Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and cut out all the different objects and paste them as a new workfile. I have labeled each one eg. map_side, map_top, map_front, map_rear.

Photoshop 03

Now you have each view as its own workfile.

Photoshop 04

Using the eraser tool I remove any unwanted areas such as the titles, numbers and lines.

Photoshop 05

Again using Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) remove all the white areas between the edge and the front of the object. Repeat these steps for all other areas eg. Top, Rear and Bottom. This is to remove any random pixels in these areas to be able to execute the next step. 

Photoshop 06

From the file menu select Image > Trim and click ok .

Photoshop 07

As you can see this has trimmed all the areas and left just the object. If skipping step 005 there would still be white areas around the car. This may/may not happen with all blueprints but for this one it did.

Photoshop 08

Repeat the same steps for all maps. Do not worry too much regarding matching sizes as 3D Studio Max will do this part.

Photoshop 09

Now Invert all viewports by clicking Image > Adjustments > Invert (shortcut CTRL + I). You will see white areas where the eraser tool was used to remove the unwanted sections of the image. I changed the Background color to Black to remove these areas.

Photoshop 10

Click Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and change the Contrast to +30 on all maps. This is to blacken the dark areas and lighten the white lines. This option may be tweaked depending on the blueprints you are using.

Photoshop 11

Here are the maps ready to be used in 3D Studio Max or any 3D Application you may be using.

Photoshop 12

Click File > Save As and save each image as a PNG file.

Part 2 - 3dsmax

In this part you will learn how to setup the images in 3D Studio Max to be used as blueprints ready to start modelling.

3dsmax 01

I personally layout my file structure for a new project as show above, this way I can find things easier and and can copy the main folder anywhere and always be able to locate the blueprints/maps within 3D Studio Max.

3dsmax 02

First create a box, it does not matter where or how big. Just create a box.

3dsmax 03

Right click the Select and Move tool to open the Move Transform Type-In and adjust the XYZ all 0.0 This will position the box directly in the centre of the grid in all angles. You can right click the up and down arrows to instantly set each XYZ to 0.0.

3dsmax 04

Open the Material Editor (shortcut M) and click Standard to open the Material/Map Browser. Select Multi/Sub-Object from the menu and click ok.

3dsmax 05

Click Set Number and change to Number of Materials to 4 as we only have 4 maps to work with.

3dsmax 06

Give each Material a name if you like, this makes things easier to locate maps and more professional when working with clients.

3dsmax 07

Click the first Material in the slot and click the empty box next to Opacity to open the Material/Map Browser. Select Bitmap and click ok .

3dsmax 08

Navigate to the folder where you saved your blueprint files and select the map for the slot you have chosen and click OPEN. For myself this was Side.

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This will automatically load the bitmap preferences into the Material Editor. Scroll down to Bitmap Parameters and click the View Image button to display the image. Right click anywhere on the image file to locate the Image properties. You can see the Width and Height of the image which we will use for the Box Parameters. For this section I only used the Height (189) so I adjusted the Box Height to 189.

3dsmax 10

Click Go To Parent and change the Diffuse color to Black (R.G.B = 0.0.0) also click Show Map in Viewport. Depending on personal preference you can set this color to whatever you like, you can adjust this option at anytime.

3dsmax 11

I do the same thing with the Top map as I want to use the Width and Height sizes for the Box Parameters. (208, 457). Now the Box has the correct sizes I need to map the rest of the images.

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Do the same to the remaining view Front, Rear. Obviously you will not need to view the image size and change the Box Parameters with the remaining images. This is what you should have so far.

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In the Modify tab select the Box and Right click to convert to an Editable Poly. From the Editable Poly dropdown select Polygon and select the Top and Front Face as shown above. These are the 2 areas which we do not have Blueprints for.

3dsmax 14

Because we do not have blueprint files for these 2 areas we will delete them. Click delete on your keyboard to remove these 2 selected Polygons.

3dsmax 15

With Polygon still selected select all the remaining faces (shortcut CTRL + A) and under the Edit Polygon rollout click Flip. This will turn the box inside out as shown above.

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With Polygon still selected select only 1 face eg. I selected the side (side map) scroll down to the Polygon Properties and adjust the Set ID to the same as the Material Editor ID. side map is currently set to 1. This is mapping which Image will be displayed on each face on the box.

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Do the same for the other sections such as Top which for me = 2.

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Do the same for the other sections such as Front which for me = 3.

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Do the same for the other sections such as Rear which for me = 4. Now the box is mapped with all the materials in the Material Editor.

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Drag and drop the Blueprints material onto the Box and you can see it is instantly mapped as shown above but appears to be reversed.

3dsmax 21

To reverse the images back to the correct perspective open the Material Editor and adjust the Bitmap Angle to 180 for the V axis. Do this for all 4 maps which will correct the view in the viewport.  

3dsmax 22

Here is the blueprint completely setup which is also transparent so all you are seeing is the wireframe on one side.

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If you would like your blueprint to be visible on both sides you can click the Display tab and unclick Backface Cull. By doing this you can see alot better that the blueprint is transparent. As mentioned in step 010 you can adjust the wireframe lines to whatever color you like by adjusting the Diffuse Colour.

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