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Free Vray Tutorial - Create basic Vray materials

Please don't translate or copy these tutorials elsewhere. I don't like the tutorials to float around in 10 different versions and places on the net. Feel free to link to this page of course! (see also Terms of Use)

Before you start

This tutorial was created with Vray version 1.5, but all settings are still the same or very similar in version 2.0. Please do not email me with questions about this tutorial if you are using a Vray version prior to V-ray 1.5, since the answer to your question is most likely that you're using a older version.

First learn 3D Studio Max, then start with Vray. It is an extension to 3DS Max, not a replacement! For example things like the material editor, creating and manipulating objects, modifiers etc should all be familiar before trying to learn Vray.

Startup settings

It is important that you start the tutorial with exactly the same settings as I do. Click the screenshots to view all the startup settings. These settings also use the Vray frame buffer, the adaptive DMC image sampler, no GI etc...

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

We also use the gamma 2.2 setup so change your max preferences like in this screenshot.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Create a simple scene

Simply create a cylinder with a teapot on top.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Load a vray material

Open the material editor, and in the first slot load a Vraymtl. Assign it to the cylinder and the teapot, you'll see the color change in the viewport.

Hit render, a nice grey cylinder & teapot appear!

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Diffuse color

In the material editor you can see all the basic Vray material properties.

The first one is also the easiest: diffuse color. This is simply the base color of your material.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Duplicate the grey material and rename it 'teapot'.

To change the diffuse color, click on the color swatch next to it and choose a color, for example a deep red. Assign the teapot material to the teapot in the scene.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

If you render, the teapot should now be red.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Reflection color

The next parameter is the reflection color. In some 3D programs you probably only had a slider for reflection strength, well this is the same but it uses color values to set the reflection strength.

Black means zero reflection, white means 100% reflection (mirror). If you choose white for reflection, the diffuse color will completely disappear, since the material is now 100% reflective.

For now, choose a medium grey and hit render. You'll see that the teapot becomes reflective: it is reflecting the black environment and the grey cylinder (and itself of course - note the teapot's handle is reflecting in its body).

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Reflections and environment

As you can see, the reflections look a bit dull. If you want nice reflections, you need something in your scene to reflect in the object. Instead of building a complete environment, there is a much easier way: hdri environment maps.

Go to an empty slot in the material editor and click the 'get material button'. In the material/map browser, scroll down and double click on the VrayHDRI map. Now in the HDRI map settings, click the browse button and choose a hdri map. I selected one from the 3ds max maps folder: C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 9\maps\HDRs\KC_outside_hi.hdr

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

You can also find a lot of high quality maps here!

Or free hdri maps here!

This map is in the 'spherical environment' format so you'll have to select this in the VrayHDRI settings (see screenshot). Leave everything else as is.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Now we have to assign the map to the environment of the scene. I will not use the Max environment, because Vray has its own environment options. Use the max environment only if you want your map to also show up in the background of your rendering.

Go to the Vray environment rollout, turn on 'reflection/refraction environment override' and drag the hdri map from the material editor onto the map slot.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Reflection and Fresnel

So we loaded a hdri map in the vray reflection environment slot. Hit render and look at the result. The reflections look very strong! Actually the material didn't become more reflective, it just got a complete environment to reflect so the reflections are simply more prominent now!

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Our material has a medium grey reflection color, which means about 50% reflection strength, this is actually a lot.

But next to the reflection color is a small checkbox: "Fresnel reflections". This is a very important feature. Check it and render again: the reflections look a lot less strong now.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Then change the reflection color to white and render again. You can see some of the strength coming back now, as we just told vray the material should be more reflective.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

From the vray manual about Fresnel:
Checking this option makes the reflection strength dependent on the viewing angle of the surface. Some materials in nature (glass etc) reflect light in this manner. Note that the Fresnel effect depends on the index of refraction as well.

So on a round object, the reflections will appear stronger on the sides than in the middle of the object.

The manual already states that the Fresnel option depends on the Index Of Refraction of the material. IOR is a property in the refraction options, but as you can see in the reflection options, there is a property called Fresnel IOR which is dimmed. Next to the Fresnel checkbox, there is a small 'L' which is a Link button. When it is pressed, the Fresnel IOR is linked to the Refraction IOR. This is the default behavior and also physically correct. When you unpress it, you can change the fresnel IOR independently from the refraction IOR.

For now, unpress it and change the Fresnel IOR to 1.3.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Render again, and notice the reflections now: it is very clear that the center of the object is less reflective than the sides. This is what fresnel does. The lower the IOR, the more pronounced this effect is. When you enter 1.0, all reflections will be gone... When you enter for example 16, you will get an almost mirror like surface.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

It is a good habit to always use fresnel on any reflective material, and simply change the reflection color and fresnel IOR to your needs.

Experiment yourself with reflection color, fresnel IOR and diffuse color to see the effects on the material.

 

Refraction color

First delete the teapot and create some other objects. I made a sphere and a torus knot with some lumps in it.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Adjust the material like in the screenshot: a red diffuse and a middle grey refraction color. All the reflection parameters are back to default, so no reflections.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Render the image and you'll see that the objects are half transparent. The red diffuse color is still partially visible.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Refraction

A better way to color refractions is by using a tinted refraction color and a black diffuse. Black diffuse means that you turn off the diffuse component, so in our refraction case, the color of the material will be determined by the refraction color only.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

The result is the image below. As you can see, the refractions are all tinted red now (look at the bottom of the sphere compared to the previous image).

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Refraction glossiness

There is also a glossiness parameter for refraction. This will blur the refractions. I added some reflections again with fresnel to make the material more realistic (see screenshot).

Play around with refraction color (darker, lighter, more saturated,...) and the glossiness parameter to test different effects.

The subdivs control the quality of the blurry refractions. Note that blurry refractions are quite slow to render.

There are many other refraction parameters, but for now this is enough to explain. With basic diffuse, reflect and refract settings you can create already a lot of materials.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials
Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Refraction IOR

The IOR is Index of Refraction. It is a material property that changes the way light travels trough transparent objects. Light hits a surface and will bend off under a certain angle. It travels trough the object and when leaving it, it will bend again. The IOR makes objects under water appear closer or in another position than they actually are.

The first image is with IOR lowered to 1.1. As you can see, the objects bends the light less so you can almost see right trough it.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

The second image has IOR=2.2. Now there is a lot more refraction going on!

Also note that the reflections change drastically, because the fresnel IOR (in reflections) is linked to the refraction IOR. So increasing the refraction IOR will also increase the fresnel IOR, resulting in stronger reflections.

Free Vray 2.0 Tutorial - The basics of creating Vray materials

Conclusion

That's it for this very basic Vray material tutorial.

With these parameters:

  • diffuse
  • reflection color
  • fresnel
  • refraction color + glossiness
  • refraction IOR

You can already create many of some commonly used materials:

  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Transparent plastics
  • Metals: alloy, copper, chrome, steel, ...
Back to Vray tutorials page

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