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Blender: Intro to Materials

Something we realized is though there are plenty of amazing video blender tutorials all over our site, there wasn’t a clearly defined starting point. As with anything there has to be a beginning or an initial handshake of “Hey, nice to meet you” to really get started on the right foot.

This is why we have created this dedicated “Getting Started with Blender” page to help break the ice and get introductions out of the way.

In this blender video we will cover the basics of materials within Blender.

Craving more Blender?

Finished with the getting started series? Be sure to visit these next Citizen Membership courses

  1. Introduction to Blender
  2. Character Modeling 
  3. Low Poly Asset Creation
  4. Architectural Visualization
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76 Responses to “Blender: Intro to Materials”
  1. Posts: 11
    Spaceplanet says:

    2.Mirrior features.

    Lets take up the basic features of the Materials mirrior options. First check Mirrior to enable it. Nothing seems to have happened but wait.

    2a. Reflectivity.

    Reflectivity states how clear the reflections are. The higher it is the more clear the reflections will be. But when you turn the value to a maximum of 1, the object can’t be seen, only reflections of other objects. This means that if the reflectivity is higher it will compromise on the diffuse! Take note of that. For a reflective looking sphere change the reflectivity to about 0.2 to 0.5 and not to 1!. For just a mirrior image on a plane, add a plane and set its reflectivity to no less than 1! So it depends on what you are making.

    2b. Fresnel and Blend for reflections.

    Fresnel and Blend work here in a similar way as they do in transparency except it removes internal reflections. When reflectivity is used it makes the whole object reflective. To remove internal and ‘middle’ reflections use Fresnel and Blend. The more Fresnel and Blend, the less reflectivity. Exoeriment and remeber Fresnel and Blend are dependent on each other (see my above comment).

    2c. Tinted reflections and fading

    You can colour reflections. Experiment with this. First add some reflectivity and then change the colour below to tint the reflections. If the colour is white, no tinting occurs. More saturation means more tinting!

    Adjust the fading diatnace for fades. Ensure its not too low or too high to get a good fade. Then select material or sky. Selecting Material will cause the reflections to fade into the original material whilst sky will cause it to fade into a preset gradient. Set fade to 0 for nao fading.

    2d. Transparency

    Transparency affects reflectivity. It makes an object less reflective just like in real life. That is why transparent glass in backed with a sheet of highly reflective material in mirriors. I don’t know what “Depth” does here in mirrior though.


  2. Posts: 11
    Spaceplanet says:

    A few advanced features of transparency and mirrior.
    These features are not so important.

    3. IOR of refraction (Transparency)
    IOR stands for Index of Refraction, To enable this go to Raytrace shading and turn down the Alpha. IOR doesn’t work on opaque object because it doesn’t undergo refractions. I don’t really know what this IOR is but what I so know is that it can ge used to make ice and glass in the internal engine. Diffiuse and Specularity colours affect the colour of the specularity of an IOR’ed object in blend. The drawback is that a trnsparent’s IOR objects material it heavily depends on other objects, IOR objects or ground planes. World colours also affect it. If there is nothing but the IOR and world, the IOR won’t work (really frustrating)!

    When the IOR is set to 1, nothing happens. If it is set to something but 1, something can happen to an object.

    4. Blurry reflections (mirrior)

    The Gloss amount determines how defined the reflections are. When it is set to a maximum of 1, the reflections are defined. The less you set that Gloss value, the more blurry will be the reflections. Blurry reflections can heavily increase render times so watch out! For a single simple mesh, it won’t do a huge increase but it will multiply render times of more complex scenes. By the way blurry reflections are usually not of any importantance in a complex scene but should you be using it be cautious. It is best to set Gloss to a value of 1. There is hardly any point if you set the Gloss to 0 or a low value because it is a waste of time. You can try it and check what is in the preview if you don;t believe me. Also if you use blurry reflections ensure the gloss value is more than 0.7.

    5. More features.

    There are some complex but rarely used features for transparency and reflections. I don’t know what they so but they are of hardly any importance so far or so I think.

  3. Posts: 11
    Spaceplanet says:

    5a. Blurry refractions and translucency

    You can turn down the gloss to make blurry refractions as well as reflections. When it is set to 1, refractions are well defined. Reducing it creates blurs in it. See above comment. Reducing gloss can setup some long waits so be careful and don’t set it too low as it won’t be sensible. You need to choose Raytrace transparency for this to work.

    6a. Shading.

    Emit: Emit indicates how much light is the object going to emit for its self. Putting a high emit value DOES NOT make a lamp out of an object. It lights only that objects materials and textures. Emit values are useful if you want areas normally in shadow to have light or create subtle light just to see a texture applied there. By default emit is set to 0 which has no effect. Experiment by turning it up.

    I really don’t know what the other two sliders do, better ask the experts.

    6b. Shadeless materials.

    Alright know lets investigate on ‘Shadeless.’ This option is sometimes used so its worth knowing it. A shadeless material is NOT affected by light or shadows. Try this: Put 5 lamps and a shadeless object. You’ll just see a shape depending on the camera’s view that has just the diffuse colour chosen. And if you remove all the lamps, the same thing happens. Shadeless object don’t have specularity and are not affected by light and shadows. They also don’t have any. Many other material features are disabled. The diffuse value is disabled but not its colour.

    Shadeless materials are useful in some cases such as a glowing lightsaber blade, aglkowing object, a profile or a one coloured plane for instance. Check it when its helping. For instance an indoor scene, planet or and many things are affected by light. Everything in reality is affected by light and shadows. Shadeless helps to create an ‘effect’ along with compositing and that is why it is useful.

    6c. Ambient usage?
    Learn form tutorials.

    7. Shadows

    Recieving shadows.

    When recieve is on, the object gets shadows from other objects. When its off it won’t recieve shaows from objects.

    Transparent shadows.

    You can use this to prevent shadows from transparent object parts being cast on a material.

  4. Posts: 11
    Spaceplanet says:

    8. Shaders

    So far we have looked in depth about some of the material features. If you are to encounter something unfamiliar in a tutorial, you should be able to find out about that feature in that particular tutorial. Lets look at shaders now. Shaders give diffuse and specularity for a material. There are two kinds in the materials panel : diifuse shaders and specularity shaders. By default you have a Lambertian shader for diffuse and Cook-Torrence for specularity. These are the most commonly used shaders so we will take them up here along with the Minnaert and Oren-Nayar shader.

    8a. Diffuse shaders – Lambert and Minnaert
    The Lambertian, Minnaert and Oyen-Nayar shaders are the easiest to use shaders.

    There are no options for the Lambert shader except for that diffuse bar which indicates how much diffuse colour is put on the material. If you set it to 0, there is just a jet black material. The best idea for a black material is to simply turn the diffuse colour to black. By default the value is 0.8, which is usually used. That is all for this shader.

    The Minnaert shader is like the Lambertian excepting that it has a darkness value. This affects the darkness of the lighted part. When it is set to 1 it works like the Lambertian shader. The minimum value is 0 and maximum value is 2. As you lower the darkness, the material gets brighter and can start it recieve a ‘glow’ around the edges and as it rises dark spots are created on the material.

    The Oren-Nayar shader works like the Minnaert shader excepting that it affects the overall darkness instead of parts. This way, you can darken or lighten the material but only by small amounts. Instead of a darkness slider, it has a roughness slider. The higher you set it, the darker the material. The minimum value is 0 and maximum 3.14. The default value is 0.5 and is not just like the Lambert one.

    Minnaert and Oren-Nayar shaders are useful to give tingles of light or dark to materials.

    Specularity shaders

    The specularity shader slider affects the amount and brightness of specular highlights. This is often changed so you better know about this slider.

    The Cook-Torrence shader has a roughness value which alters the definition and sharpness of specular highlights. More means sharper, less means more blurr. The Phong shader works like this too.

    9. Traceable
    This option is found under ‘Options.’ By default this is on which means that shadows and reflections and all are Raytraced calculated. So if you don’t have any advanced features on a particular material, uncheck Traceable to reduce render times. Good luck.

  5. Posts: 11
    Spaceplanet says:

    Jonathan, I suggest that you make a tutorial on textures as well.

  6. Posts: 1
    Sharon S. says:

    These are amazing tutorials! I haven’t seen a better one even for another program. Thank you so much! You should look into doing tutorials for other programs, as well; you have a fantastic way of teaching and explaining. Thank you!

  7. Posts: 1
    Anthony says:

    I can not see the preview window or any of the other options like specular, shading, diffuse, transparency, or shading. How can I make these available to me?

    • Posts: 490
      Metalix says:

      You may be in cycles mode, switch to blender internal (at the top of the program window) to bring these back.

  8. Posts: 1
    a says:

    I also can’t see a preview, diffuse, etc on the materials pane. I’ve checked all modes at the top (blender render, blender game, cycles render) and none of these change the look of the materials pane. Is this something I need to download??

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