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'Poser 7 Revealed': Create Simple Materials

In the latest excerpt of Poser 7 Revealed, Kelly L. Murdock explains how to use the Simple Material panel.

All images from Poser 7 Revealed: The e frontier Official Guide by Kelly L. Murdock.

This is the next in a new series of excerpts from the Thomson Course Technology book Poser 7 Revealed: The e frontier Official Guide. In the next few months, VFXWorld readers will develop the skills needed to create, render and animate scenes and projects using the amazing tools offered by Poser 7. We will offer step-by-step tutorials for each task, followed by projects that allow readers to apply each new skill.

What You'll Do

In this lesson, you learn how to create simple materials.

The Simple Material panel of the Shader Window only includes six simple material properties, but you can create an amazing variety of materials from these simple properties.

Changing Color

Directly underneath the Diffuse Color, Highlight, Ambient and Reflection material properties in the Simple Material panel is a color swatch that sets the color for the respective property. You can change the current color by clicking this color swatch and selecting a new color from the pop-up color palette, shown in Figure 1. To open the standard color selector dialog box, click the icon in the upper-right corner of the pop-up color palette.

Adding Texture Maps

The open space underneath the color swatches is to hold a texture map that is loaded from the hard disk. To load a texture map, simply click the open space and the Texture Manager dialog box, shown in Figure 2, opens. This dialog box includes a preview of the selected image, a drop-down list containing recently loaded images and a Browse button where you can locate new images to load. Once a texture map is loaded, you can change its brightness using the Map Strength dial. Each property that can use a texture map has a Map Strength parameter dial. This value sets how strong the texture map is. For example, a Map Strength value of 100 will cause the full texture map to be used and a Map Strength value of 0 will turn off the texture map.

Adding Highlights

Highlights are surface areas where the reflected light is most intense. The color brightness determines the intensity of the highlights and you can also set the size of the highlights using the Highlight Size dial. Smooth shiny surfaces will have smaller, brighter highlights and rougher surfaces will have larger, fuzzier highlights because the reflected light is scattered more. If the Apply Texture to Highlight option is enabled for the Diffuse Color property, the texture map for the Diffuse Color is copied to the Highlight property and only the bright areas of the texture image receive the highlights. Figure 3 shows a material with a highlight.

Quicktip: For realistic scenes, make sure the highlight color is the same as the main light color.

[Figure 1 & 2] Pop-up color palette (left). Texture Manager dialog box (right). 

Using Diffuse and Ambient Colors

The Diffuse Color property sets the surface color of the material, and the Ambient property sets the color of the indirect light in the scene. These two colors are combined when used together. For example, a material with a red Diffuse Color and a blue Ambient color would appear purple.

Quicktip: The Diffuse Color will tint any texture map that is applied to the Diffuse Color property. To avoid tinting the texture map, set the Diffuse Color to white.

[Figure 3 & 4] Material with highlights (left). Choose a reflection type (right). 

Enabling Reflections

You can use reflections to reflect an environment image off the current surface. When you click the texture map area, a selection dialog box, shown in Figure 4, enables you to apply the reflected texture image as a spherical map or a ray-trace reflection. A spherical map reflects the texture image about the selected object as if it were inside a large sphere. A ray-trace reflection uses a special rendering technique to follow each light ray as it bounces about the scene to create perfect reflections. More on ray tracing is covered in Chapter 16, "Rendering Scenes."

Of these two methods, the Spherical Map method renders much quicker, but the Ray Trace Reflection method results in higher quality reflections. You can multiply the reflected image with the Lights and the Object Color by enabling the options under the Reflection texture image. These options will tint the reflected image with the object color and dim the reflected image due to the direct lighting applied to the reflection. Figure 5 shows a rendering of a simple ball object that has a reflected material applied to it.

Note: Reflection maps aren't visible in the Document Window. You can see them only after rendering the scene.

[Figure 5 & 6] Reflective material on a sphere (left). Bump material (right). 

Adding Bump Maps

A bump map texture image adds a relief to the surface of the material. This is accomplished by making the light areas of the bump appear to be raised from the surface and the darker areas to be indented. You can use the Amount dial to set the depth of the bumps. Regardless of the Amount value, bump maps are simulated only on the object's surface without altering the actual geometry. To have a bump map change the object's geometry, you can use a displacement map. Figure 6 shows a simple material with a bump texture applied.

Caution: The Amount value is measured in real-world units based on the type of units set in the Preferences dialog box. If the units are set to meters or feet, this value will be fairly small.

Note: Early versions of Poser applied bump maps using a gradient image format with the .BUM extension. You can use the .BUM files if you add an Image Map node with the .BUM file loaded and connect it to the Gradient attribute. You'll also need to disable the Ignore Shader Trees option in the Poser 4 panel of the Render Settings dialog box.

Using Displacement Maps

You can also enable the Displacement option within the Bump attribute, which applies the texture as a displacement map. A displacement map is different from a bump it that is actually changes the geometry of the object to include the affected bumps. You can see this geometry change along the edges of the object surface, as shown in Figure 7, which shows a positive displacement map on the left and a negative displacement map on the right. Displacement maps are preferred if any shadows cross the mapped object because shadows are accurately displayed for displacement maps. Bump and displacement maps typically are not visible until the scene is rendered. Displacement maps are covered in more detail in Chapter 16, "Rendering Scenes."

[Figure 7 & 8] Positive and negative displacement map (left). Transparent material (right). 

Quicktip: You can set the Amount value to a negative number to make the lighter areas of the bump map indented and the darker areas raised.

Even though the Displacement option is enabled, the displacement map won't be rendered unless the Use Displacement Maps option in the Render Settings dialog box is enabled.

Using Transparency

You can use the Transparency value to make your entire material transparent. Transparency means that you can see through the material, like glass, to the objects behind it. The Edge value sets how transparent the edges of the material are, and the Falloff value causes the areas closer to the edges to become less transparent. You can also select a texture map to define the areas where the material is transparent with light areas being transparent and dark areas, opaque (or nontransparent). Figure 8 shows a transparent material applied to the skin material group of a figure. This creates an eerie invisible man effect. Notice how you can see the interior objects like the eyes and teeth through the semi-transparent skin.

[Figure 9] Simple green materials on a frog figur

Apply Simple Materials

  • 1. Open the Poser Library and locate the Frog figure in the Animals folder.

2. Click on the Material tab to open the Material Room.

3. Click on the frog's skin with the Material Select tool.

The frog's default skin textures are displayed in the Simple material panel.

4. Click on the texture under the Diffuse Color attribute and select the None option from the Texture Manager dialog box. Then click on the Diffuse Color color swatch and choose a green color.

5. Click on the Highlight color and set it to white and set the Highlight Size to 15.

6. Click on the Bump texture and replace it with the Cells.tif texture file or another texture file. Set the Map Strength to 50% and the Amount to 0.007.

7. Select the Eyeball group from the Material List at the top of the Simple panel. Replace the texture with the None option in the Texture Manager and choose a bright yellow color. Then set the Transparency to 25.

8. In the Document Window, click on the Render button to see the resulting materials.

The rendered frog with various simple materials is shown in Figure 9.

9. Select File, Save As and save the file as Green bumpy frog.pz3.

Find out more about how to put the power of Poser 7 to work as you learn how to use the new Talk Designer to automatically sync facial animations to an audio track, combine the power of Poser 7 with other software packages, create new motions using the new animation layers feature and much more. Check back to VFXWorld frequently to read new excerpts.

Poser 7 Revealed: The e frontier Official Guide by Kelly L. Murdock. Boston, MA: Thomson Course Technology, 2007. 592 pages with illustrations. ISBN 13: 978-1-59863-296-5; ISBN 10: 1-59863-296-5 ($29.99).

Kelly L. Murdock has a background in engineering, specializing in computer graphics. He has worked on several large-scale visualization projects, created 3D models for several blockbuster movies and has worked as a freelance 3D artist and designer. Murdock is the author or co-author of several books, including seven editions of the 3ds Max Bible, two editions of the Illustrator Bible, Adobe Creative Suite Bible, Maya 7 Revealed, LightWave 3D 8 Revealed and Poser 6 Revealed. He works with his brother at his co-founded design company, Logical Paradox Design.