Thanks go out to Paul Hatton for this 3ds Max and V-Ray tutorial. You can see more of his work at www.cadesignservices.co.uk
In the 3ds Max Material Editor, create your V-Ray material. Note that we’re using the node-based Slate Editor, quite simply because it’s the best. Drag from the diffuse slot and let go. Then navigate to Standard>Bitmap and load your image in. We’re using a Wood bitmap with a grain. This bitmap now forms the base layer of your material. Note that without any reflection or refraction to your material, V-Ray will use 100% of this bitmap. Rendering your material now will result in a very flat outcome.
The wood we want to create is reflective so we need to keep that in mind as we go. We’ll use a Greyscale map to determine the reflection amount and generate this map from the original bitmap. The best way to do this is to insert a standard Color Correction map between your VRayMtl Reflect map slot and your bitmap. Set the Color Correction to Monochrome and adjust the lightness. Closer to white will result in a more reflective surface.
Now our reflection has a blur effect. V-Ray refers to this as glossiness. We will therefore use the same technique as Step 2 to create a greyscale image to determine how glossy the wood is at different points of the surface. Doing this adds in the necessary imperfections to create the realism we are after. Note that the closer to white you go, the more glossy your reflections will be.
The next map we are going to look at is the Bump map. This will add in a depth to our wood because it is not a perfectly flat surface. By using a greyscale version of the original bitmap we can ensure that the Bump map is related to the grain of the wood. Use the same Color Correction map and link it up to your Bump map slot. The closer to white your map is, the deeper the bump effect you will get.
The final detail to put in is the ambient occlusion. This essentially brings out all of the shadow detail that wouldn’t normally get picked up. We can do this quickly and easily using a VRayDirt map. We can insert this between our original bitmap and the Diffuse map slot. Make sure you attach the Unoccluded slot to your bitmap. Inside the VRayDirt parameters you can set the radius of dirt and its occluded colour, as well as other settings.
You will notice that I have kept pretty much everything contained within the Material Editor of 3ds Max. Many artists like to create these individual maps within a photo-editing programme like Photoshop and insert them into 3ds Max that way. However, it’s great how quickly and easily you can create these maps using the colour correction tools. Using 3ds Max also means that you don’t have to store multiple maps for each bitmap image, which greatly speeds up the workflow.