When creating photorealistic images and animations, it is necessary not only to create complex shapes, but also to simulate different real world material properties. Realsoft 3D includes powerful tools for this purpose.

Mapping materials to objects using drag and drop methods

The fastest and easiest way to assign a material to a geometric object is to drag and drop. Select the target object and drag a material from the material library, and drop it on the view window. The next example demonstrates this straightforward technique.

1. Select Sphere from the Analytic toolbar and create a sphere by clicking twice on the view window.

2. The sphere tool leaves the newly created object selected. If you were assigning a material to a previously created object, you should select it now. The selected object will be the target of the dropped material.

Sphere selected

3. Go to the second tab of the select window, called Materials. This will display the contents of the current material library.

4. Move the mouse on top of the material 'wood', press the left mouse button down, then while holding the button down, move the mouse over the view window. Release the left mouse button there. In other words, drag&drop the wood material onto the view window.

That's it. Note that the position on the view window where you release the left mouse button does not matter. It does not select the target object, because this would be too inaccurate.

The material tab of the select window

Switch back to the object hierarchy section of the select window. It should now show you an object named 'Sphere+wood'. Open the sub hierarchy of that level by clicking the small '+' box at the left side of the level 'Sphere+wood'. The level object consists of two sub objects: the original sphere and wood. In other words, you have a wooden sphere. Realsoft 3D combines shapes and materials using the powerful and intuitive concept of hierarchy. Thanks to this, you can add new parts to the geometry later and they automatically get the right kind of (hierarchically defined) material properties.

The structure of a wooden sphere in the select window
View control bar

The new material link object 'Parallel mapping(wood)' is called the material mapping object. The material to which the mapping refers affects all the objects in the same hierarchy level with the mapping object.

Let's render the sphere to see if the material works:

5. Use the Point light tool of the Light Sources section of the toolbar to insert a light source above the sphere.

6. Click the Render button in the View Control Bar to render the sphere (or use Render/Ray trace from the view's popup menu).

The wooden sphere rendered

Mapping multiple materials to a single object

Attaching any number of materials to a single object is just as easy. For example, to turn the wooden sphere to a shiny grooved wooden sphere:

1. Make sure the 'sphere+wood' level is still selected in the select window's geometry tab. Note that the previous material dropping automatically leaves the hierarchy to the correct state.

2. Drag & drop the 'plastic' material into the view window.

3. Drag & drop the 'brushing' material into the view window.

4. Render the view window.

Grooved shiny wood

The plastic property makes the surface shiny, and brushing adds small irregular grooves to it.

Modifying material properties

Most materials of Realsoft 3D, including wood, plastic and brushing, are not fixed but allow various adjustments. Let's change the shininess of the modelled sphere.

1. Go to the Materials tab of the select window. Click the material plastic with the left mouse button to select it.

2. Select Properties from the select window's popup menu. You can also combine steps 1 and 2 by double clicking the 'plastic' material icon.

3. The property window opens showing the material's properties. There are only two sliders!

Properties of plastic material

4. Decrease the Specular brightness value from 5 to 2 and Specular sharpness from 50 to 10. Close the Property window.

5. Render the view window. The shiny area is now less bright but wider, because the sharpness was reduced. The material combination looks more like varnished wood now.

One might think that the material editor of Realsoft 3D is poor, because there are only two sliders available! The truth is quite the opposite. What we see here is a tailored interface for the plastic material, which is so simple that anybody can change the material right away. Instead of displaying hundreds of confusing buttons and sliders, the program only shows the characteristic properties of each material. Later we will see that there are other, more advanced and powerful levels of control available, which can be adopted step by step as you become familiar with the program.

Modifying mapping objects

The hierarchy of the model is now like this:

As we have demonstrated in this tutorial, Realsoft 3D uses geometric mapping objects in the scene hierarchy to assign materials. One great advantage of this approach is that modifying a material's geometric properties such as position and density becomes very easy and intuitive. Also operations such as duplicating, cutting and pasting materials or combinations of materials to affect new objects can be done efficiently.

Many materials assigned to a sphere

For example, let's try to make the grooving of the wooden surface denser:

1. Select the object 'Parallel Mapping(brushing)' from the Select window.

2. Go to the Transformation tab of the toolbar and activate the Scale tool. This tool is for resizing objects.

3. Press the Shift key (Shift modified produces uniform scaling so that the proportions of the mapping will not change), and click in the middle of the selected parallel mapping object. Then click on the corner of the cube (while still holding shift down) and move the mouse towards where you first clicked. The parallel map shrinks accordingly. When the size has halved, click a third time to finish shrinking it.

4. Render. The grooves are twice as dense.

Shrinking the groove map

Similarly, you can use the rotate tool (or object handles) to change the orientation of the grooves. The same tools, which you use for building your models, can be used for manipulating material patterns and bump maps. Furthermore, you can see the result in a visual form in the view window, without any need to look for material specific 'density' sliders, etc. somewhere. This saves you from having to learn specific material positioning tools.

The drag & drop method presented above provides a very fast way to assign materials to objects. For the materials above, it is the most suitable way. However, sometimes drag&drop does not provide enough control of how the material assignment should take place. For example, if we now want to paint a photograph of a logotype onto the wooden sphere, the program can't know if the logotype should cover the whole surface (wrapped around the sphere), or if it should occupy just a small rectangular area on top of the sphere. In such cases, it is best to use the actual mapping tools included in Realsoft 3D. However, before presenting these tools, let's examine how to create a new material.

Creating a new material

The next task is to add a small logotype on the north pole of the sphere. You can draw the logotype with a paintbrush program, or simply use any example image in the included textures folder. Using a bitmap image for painting surfaces is a very common procedure in 3D graphics. It's usually called 'texture mapping'.

1. Click the right mouse button in the Material tab of the Select window and select New/From Template from the opened pop-up menu. A file browser appears, showing the contents of the Materials folder of the program installation. Go to the Image Maps sub folder and select the item called Color Map. Click Open. A new material is inserted at the bottom of the Select window.

2. If the property window is closed, double click on the newly created material icon to open it. Change the material name from 'Color Map' to 'logo' using the uppermost Name field.

3. The property window shows some texture map specific controls. Click the browse button labeled as '...' beside the File name gadget and find the image (for example, pick the image 'logo' from the textures folder).

4. Set the Preview check box on the material editor. A small view window for previewing the current material appears. You see the result of rendering immediately. In addition, the preview image in the select window is updated. The texture map material is now ready for use, and you can close the property window.

A texture map material

The material collection, which you can see in the Select window, contains frequently needed materials. Some of the materials are ready to use ('Brushsteel' is such a material). Some of the materials define just one basic property, like a color pattern (wood, stripes, circles, checker, marble, granite, etc.), or bumps for the surface (wrinkles, waves, reptile, coral, craters, brushing), or optical properties (plastic, mirror, glass). You can combine these materials to get more interesting ones, just as we did earlier in this example.

In addition to materials of the default library, the materials folder contains many more useful materials, and you can insert these to the current library using the New/From Template tool. Some of the templates are empty skeletons like the color texture above, and you have to fill in the missing information. Others are ready to use.

Finally, the user can create almost any imaginable shading or material effect using VSL, Visual Shading Language. This powerful tool will be explained in detail in more advanced tutorials.

Using the mapping tools

Now we will insert the created texture map material to the scene using the accurate mapping tools:

1. Go to the object hierarchy section of the select window and activate the level 'sphere+wood'

2. Take the top view (e.g. View popup menu/Camera/Top) so that the top half of the sphere is well visible.

3. Go to the material tab of the Select window and click the right mouse button over the logo material - a pop-up menu opens. Select the Map/Parallel menu item. This activates the parallel map tool.

4. Enter two points through the view window to define a rectangle. The logo texture will be placed into this rectangle.

The mapping operation is now ready. Render the view to check the result.

The new texture map inserted

Rotate the camera downward or take the bottom view. Then render again. You should see the same logo image at the bottom of the sphere, but as a mirror image! This is because the parallel mapping works at an infinitely long distance by default. To change this:

1. Go to the Select window's Geometric Objects tab and select the 'Parallel map(logo)' mapping object.

Logo map encloses the top of the sphere

2. Take the front view and move the mapping object upwards using the object handles or the move tool. Move it so that the topmost part of the sphere is inside the mapping box.

3. Open the property window of the mapping object and go to the Spec tab. The property window shows you parallel mapping specific options, like the name of the mapped material.

4. Set the Finite Z option. This instructs the program to project the material only to the depth indicated by the mapping object's shape. Finite X and Finite Y do the same in the width and height directions, but they are not needed this time because the logo texture has a finite size and we did not activate the tiling option.

Now the logo map affects only the upper side of the sphere.

The last steps of this tutorial show you how to get rid of a material mapped to an object. To remove the brushed grooves from the sphere:

5. Go to the Geometric Objects tab of the Select window and select the 'Parallel map(brushing)' object.

6. Press the right mouse button and select Delete from the Select window's popup menu.

[Note] Note
The mapping object contains references to the materials, not the materials themselves. This approach has several advantages. Often you have to adjust the material properties afterwards. It is sufficient to modify the material just once to get the desired change in all objects which are made of the material. Secondly, a material is a large collection of information and therefore this method saves a lot of memory. The third advantage is that the same material can be used in many ways and with different kinds of objects. For example, a material can be wrapped nicely around a sphere using spherical mapping and spread over a flat plane using parallel mapping, without need to modify the material itself.