3D Tutorial

3d max tutorials

Second Picture is devoted to original tutorials about 3D graphics, Photoshop, Photography and Web Design.

3D Planet Renders Elsewhere

3D Planet Render

25.04.2009 Category: 3D Tutorials

3D planer render made in 3DS MAX

Picture 1. The final result of the 3D planet render tutorial.

This tutorial covers the creation of a 3D planet render in 3DS MAX. The texturing of the 3D planet is done with procedural maps only, so no bitmaps are needed. The 3D planet creation process consists of the the following steps:

In picture 1 you see the final 3D planet render. Click on the image to see a larger version at the bottom of this page.

3D Planet Geometry

Let's start by creating the planet geometry. Create a sphere (Create > Standard Primitives > Sphere) with the following settings:

You don't necessarily need 100 segments. It depends on what distance you look at the planet. If you need to avoid heavy geometry you might use less segments. The good thing is that you can always change this parameter later.

Sphere in 3D Studio MAX

Picture 2. A simple Sphere object is the geometry for 3D planet render.

Planet Material

The material creation is probably the most important and complicated part of this tutorial. The goal is to create a material that has both large and small details.

Apply a Standard Material to the Planet

Let's apply standard material to the planet:

Super Sampling

The planet material is going to utilize bump maps so we should turn SuperSampling on. Simply put, Supersampling is an antialiasing technique that increases the rendering quality. (As a rule of thumb you should turn SuperSampling on at least always when you utilize bump maps, reflection maps, or bitmaps as diffuse maps.) To turn Supersampling on:

(These are settings for high quality supersampling which is very time consuming. If your rendering slows down too much I recommend changing the local supersampler from Adaptive Halton to Max 2.5 Star. Max 2.5 Star is not the best but it's very fast. You could for example use that for now and use Adaptive Halton for the final render.)

Bump Map

Bump maps are a very big part of this material. We are going to create bump details by combining several different procedural maps with the help of a Composite map. There are two reasons why we use several procedural maps (instead of just one):

In picture 3 you see the whole bump map design of this material. You can just copy the settings or read along and take one step at a time to understand the reasoning behind these settings.

Bump map settings for a planet surface

Picture 3. The bump map design for the 3D planet material.

Large Scale Details with Splat

First we use a procedural map called Splat to create large craters:

(The composite map itself doesn't have any effect. It's just a container that is able to hold several maps. Inside a composite map, each map behaves as a separate layer. The layers work pretty much like in Photoshop, for example they have opacity settings and they can have masks.)

Render a test image to see the effect of the Splat bump map. The rendering should look like in picture 4.

Effect of Splat as bump map

Picture 4. The effect of Splat as bump map.

Small Scale Details with Splat

Let's add small scale details to the surface. We can do this easily by adding sub-maps to the Splat map:

Now let's make a 3D planet render again to see how the surface looks like. Now the craters are less visible and covered with small scale details (picture 5).

Bump map work in progress

Picture 5. Very small details created with Noise and Speckle maps.

Another Layer of Small Scale Details

Let's enhance the effect by adding another layer of small scale details:

Render a test image to see the effect (picture 6). Now there are even more small details. Craters are less visible and look more real.

Composite bump map render

Picture 6. 3D planet render after adding the Speckle bump map.

Third Layer Produces Small Mountains to Some Areas

The purpose of this final layer is to add small mountains to random areas of the surface. Mountains are created with a Noise map and randomness is achieved with Dent map mask.

Now the bump effect is ready. Make a test render to see how it looks like. The rendering should look like picture 7.

Bump mapped 3D planet surface

Picture 7. Planet render with the final bump map. There are large craters, tiny mountains, and other small details.

Diffuse Map

Diffuse color is made with two procedural maps inside of a Composite map. In the image below (picture 8) you see the whole diffuse map design. You can just copy the settings or read along to understand the reasoning behind these settings.

Diffuse map settings

Picture 8. Diffuse map design for the 3D planet render.

Color Variations with Dent

Let's use Dent map to add some color with random intensity variations:

Now the rendered planet should look like in picture 9. Now there are some color variations but the overall coloring is still too monotonous.


Picture 9. First part of the diffuse map design is Dent.

Perlin Marble

Let's add some chaos to the coloring by using Masked Perlin Marble. (We use Mask because we want Perlin Marble to appear only in some parts of the surface.)

Render the 3D planet to see the result. The image should look similar to picture 10.

3D planet model

Picture 10. 3D planet render with the final diffuse map.

Self-Illumination Map

Next we are going to add some self-illumination to the edges of the planet. Think of it as an atmosphere that picks up reflected light.

Settings of gradient ramp bar

Picture 11. Gradient Ramp parameters.

Now there is small rim of light in the edges of the planet (picture 12).

Planet material in 3DS MAX

Picture 12. Rim of light is created with a Self-Illumination map.

Illuminating the 3D Planet

The illumination is carried out by using three back lights and one fill light (Here you can read more about back, fill, and key lights). First we illuminate the planet from the top left side:

Effect of a single Omni light

Picture 13. Planet render with a single Omni light.

Next we are going to create two additional Omni lights to illuminate the planet from the top and left sides:

Now the illumination is more interesting.

Planet illumination in 3D Studio MAX

Picture 14. Planet render with three Omni lights.

Reveal Details with Fill Light

Next we create a fill light to see more details in the planet surface:

Move the fourth Omni light until the illumination matches picture 15.

3D planet rendering

Picture 15. 3D planet render with four Omni lights.

Atmosphere for the 3D Planet

There are many ways (materials, lens effects) to create an atmosphere for a planet but I think the best and easiest to control is to do it with Volume Fog Environment Effect.

Create a gizmo for the fog effect (gizmo is just a container that will hold the fog):

The gizmo should look like in picture 16. It's just a little larger than the planet.

Sphere gizmo for atmospheric effect

Picture 16. Sphere gizmo around the 3D planet.

Volume Fog Environment Effect

Let's add the fog effect to the sphere gizmo:

Render an image to see the result. The image should look like in picture 17. Now the planet is ready. As you probably see there are endless possibilities to create different materials by using composite maps to combine several procedural maps.

If you want to add rings to the planet, read on.

3D planet rendered in 3DS MAX

Picture 17. The final 3D planet render.

Rings for the 3D Planet

Planet rings are pretty simple to create:

Apply a Standard Material to the Planet Rings

The Final 3D Planet Render

In picture 19 you see the final planet render. If you learned how to master composite maps you should be able to create multitude of different materials that work well as 3D planet surfaces.

3D planet render

Picture 19. The final 3D planet render.