Multi/Sub-Object Material

Command entry: Material/Map Browser Materials Standard Multi/Sub-Object

The Multi/Sub-Object material lets you assign different materials at the sub-object level of your geometry. You create a multi-material, assign it to an object, and then use the Mesh Select modifier to select faces and choose which of the sub-materials in the multi-material are assigned to the selected faces.

Figure mapped using a Multi/Sub-Object material

If the object is an editable mesh or editable poly, you can drag and drop materials to different selections of faces, building a Multi/Sub-Object material on the fly. See Drag and Drop Sub-Object Material Assignment.

You can also create a new Multi/Sub-Object material by dragging to faces selected with the Edit Mesh modifier.

Sub-material IDs do not depend on the order of the list, and you can enter new ID values.

The Material Editor Make Unique function lets you make an instanced sub-material into a unique copy.

At the Multi/Sub-Object material level, the sample slot's sample object shows a patchwork of the sub-materials. When you edit a sub-material, the sample slot display depends on the setting of the Simple Multi Display Below Top Level toggle in the Material Editor Options dialog.

Using Multi/Sub-Object Materials

Here are some usage tips with regards to mesh editing and managing sub-materials.


To create a Multi/Sub-Object material, do one of the following:

The controls for a Multi/Sub-Object material are essentially a list of the sub-materials it contains.

To assign a sub-material, do one of the following:

To make one of the sub-materials a solid color:

To assign one of the sub-materials to a sub-object selection:

  1. Select the object, and assign a Multi/Sub-Object material to it.
  2. On the Modify panel, apply Mesh Select to the object.
  3. Click Sub-Object and choose Face as the sub-object category.
  4. Select the faces to which you will assign a sub-material.
  5. Apply a Material modifier, and set the material ID value to the number of the sub-material you want to assign.

    The viewport updates to show the sub-material assigned to the selected faces.

    The material ID values in the Multi/Sub-Object material and the material ID numbers in the Select Face rollout correspond. If you set the ID to a number that doesn't correspond to a material contained in the Multi/Sub-Object material, the faces render as black.

WarningSome geometric primitives do not use 1 as the default material ID, and some, such as hedra or box, have multiple material IDs by default.
TipYou can also use the Edit Mesh modifier to assign a contained material to selected faces. Apply Edit Mesh to the object, go to the Face sub-object level, and select the faces to assign. Then on the Edit Surface rollout, set the material ID value to the ID of the sub-material. (You can drag and drop a Multi/Sub-Object material to an Edit Mesh modifier as you can to an editable mesh object.)

To add a new sub-material:

To remove a sub-material:

  1. Select the sub-material by clicking its small sample sphere in the Multi/Sub-Object Basic Parameters rollout.

    The small sample sphere is surrounded by a black and white border to show the sub-material is selected.

    If the list of sub-materials is longer than the rollout will hold, you can use the scroll bar at the right to display other parts of the list.

  2. Click Delete.

    The sub-material is removed.

    Deleting a sub-material is an undoable operation.


This field displays the number of sub-materials contained in the Multi/Sub-Object material.
Set Number
Sets the number of sub-materials make up the material. At the Multi/Sub-Object material level, the sample slot's sample object shows a patchwork of the sub-materials. (When you edit a sub-material, the sample slot display depends on the setting of the Simple Multi Display Below Top Level toggle on the Material Editor Options dialog.)

Reducing the number of sub-materials removes sub-materials from the end of the list. You can undo Set Number when you have used it to delete materials.

Click to add a new sub-material to the list. By default, the new sub-material's ID number is one greater than the highest material ID already in use.
Click to delete the currently chosen sub-material from the list. You can undo deleting a sub-material.

[sort list controls]

These buttons appear above three of the columns in the sub-materials list.

Click to sort the list so it begins with the sub-material that has the lowest material ID, and ends with the sub-material that has the highest material ID.
Click to sort the list by the names you have entered in the Name column.
Click to sort the list by the sub-material names that appear on the Sub-Material buttons.

[list of sub-materials]

Each sub-material has a single entry in this list. The rollout displays up to 10 sub-materials at a time. If the Multi/Sub-Object material contains more than 10 sub-materials, you can scroll the list using the scrollbar at the right.

Each sub-material in the list has the following controls:

Small sample sphere
The small sample sphere is a "mini-preview" of the sub-material. Click it to select this sub-material. You must select a sub-material before you delete it.
Shows the ID number assigned to this sub-material. You can edit this field to change the ID number. If you assign two sub-materials the same ID, a warning message appears at the top of the rollout.

When the Multi/Sub-Object material is applied to an object, faces in the object assigned the same material ID number render with this sub-material.

You can click Sort by ID to sort the sub-material list by this value, from lowest to highest.

NoteSometimes the Sub-Material button shows a material number. This is not the sub-material ID.
Lets you enter a custom name for the material. A sub-material name appears in the Name field when you're at the level of the sub-material. It also appears in the Browser and the Navigator.
Sub-Material button
Click the sub-material button to create or edit one of the sub-materials. Each of the sub-materials is a complete material in its own right, with as many maps and levels as you want.

By default, each sub-material is a Standard material with Blinn shading.

Color swatch
Click the color swatch to the right of the Sub-Material button to display the Color Selector and choose a diffuse color for the sub-material.
On/Off toggle
Turns the sub-material on or off. When a sub-material is off, it appears black in the sample slot and on objects in the scene. Default=on.