Using Maps to Enhance a Material

Maps provide images, patterns, color adjustments, and other effects you can apply to the visual/optical components of a material. Without maps, material design in 3ds Max Design is limited. Maps give the Material Editor its full flexibility, and can give you dramatic results.

Spheres with various maps applied to them (as well as a reflection map applied to the surface beneath them)

The simplest use of a map is to assign a pattern to a material's Diffuse color. Diffuse mapping is also known as "texture mapping." It applies an image or pattern to geometry the material is applied to.

WarningWhen you change the shading type of a standard material, you lose the settings (including map assignments) for any parameters that the new shader does not support. If you want to experiment with different shaders for a material with the same general parameters, make a copy of the material before you change its shading type. That way, you can still use the original material if the new shader doesn't give you the effect you want. (To make a copy of a material, Shift+drag the material node in the active View of the Slate Material Editor.)

Example of Using Maps

  1. Start with a plain material.

    Building with default materials

    Node for a single, Standard material

  2. Apply a bitmap to the material’s Diffuse component (texture mapping).

    Planks bitmap for the wall texture

    A Bitmap node added to the active View

    Dragging from the output socket of the Bitmap node creates a wire.

    Dropping the wire on the Diffuse Color input socket applies that map to the material’s diffuse color component.

    (The Slate Material Editor also adds a Controller node for the map’s Amount value.)

  3. Select the walls of the building, then apply the material to the walls.

    Texture applied to the walls, but not aligned properly

  4. If the texture alignment needs adjusting, use a UVW Map modifier.

    Texture map aligned to fit the geometry

  5. Apply a map to the material’s Bump component (bump mapping).

    Bitmap for adding bumps to the plank material

    (This is simply the same image saved as black-and-white.)

    Bump map added to the material tree

    Building with both texture and bump mapping applied to the walls

  6. Increase the Amount of the Bump map to increase the bump map effect.

    Use the Parameter Editor at the right of the window to increase the Bump amount.

    Bump Amount increased to make the walls appear more weathered

Map Terminology

The term "material map" is sometimes used to describe a map assigned in the Slate Material Editor. A material map applies a color or pattern to a surface. “Material map” distinguishes this use from maps used for displacement mapping with the Displace modifier, environment mapping for backgrounds, or projection mapping from lights.

The term "texture map" is sometimes used as well. It is interchangeable with "diffuse map"; that is, with a map that applies colors to geometry, as opposed to a map that create reflections, bumps, and so on.

The names of individual map types describe the pattern or effect they create, such as Checker map, Bitmap, Gradient, Flat Reflection, and so on.

NoteIn some cases the user interface also uses "map" to describe not the map type, but the visual component being mapped. For example, a "diffuse map" means a map of any type applied to a material's diffuse component. This is an ambiguity in the use of "map" that can be a bit confusing when you first encounter it.

Assigning Maps

For a standard material, you can assign maps using the Maps rollout. Click the Map button in line with the name of the visual component you want to map. 3ds Max Design opens the Material/Map Browser. Select the map type (for example, Bitmap) from the list of maps, and then click OK. Double-clicking the map's name in the Browser also assigns the map type.

In the Slate Material Editor you can assign maps by wiring nodes, as shown earlier in this topic.

Many material rollouts have shortcut buttons for assigning a map to some of the material's visual components. These small buttons are equivalent to the buttons in the Maps rollout. Assigning a map to a button in one rollout changes the corresponding button in the other.

Shortcut map button in a material’s Parameters rollout

Each type of map has its own set of parameters and controls. If the map is a Checker map, for example, you can choose the colors of the checkers, and whether a checker color has a map of its own. You can change tiling values to affect the scale of the checkers, adjust noise parameters to make the checkers irregular, and so on.

NoteTo save loading time, if a map with the same name is in two different locations (in two different paths), it is loaded only once. This poses a problem only if your scene includes two maps that have different content but the same name. In this case, only the first map encountered will appear in the scene.

Navigating the Material/Map Tree

When you build a material of any complexity, you are building a material/map tree. The root of the tree is the material itself. The branches or “children” are the maps you have assigned to the material's components. Some maps can themselves contain maps (for example, a map applied to one color of a Checker map), so the tree can be more than two levels deep, and can actually be as deep as you need it to be.