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11 Most Used Mapping Channels in 3ds Max – Part 2

Published on 29 March 2024


The texture mapping channels in 3ds max are some of the most used features during material creation for any object surface.

In real world, the object surfaces are hardly perfect. To add realism to the surface look and finish, you have to take aid of different texture mapping channels in 3ds Max while creating its material.

You have already seen a few mapping techniques for material creation in the first part of this series. In this piece we’ll take over from we have left in the previous post, right after Diffuse, Bump and Specular color mapping techniques.

You have also seen what does a procedural map do in terms of tweaking the texture patterns that help attain the look and finish of the surface that you’re likely to produce.

Each of the texture mapping channels in 3ds Max has different and unique function in terms of creating the patterns over the object surface. As you know, the mapping branches or channels, as the values of the variables in a programming language, call for the bitmaps as their values to produce the desired effect onto the surface for texture.

You may have to use one or multiple texture mapping channels to get to the resultant that you dearly like to render. With the mapping techniques for material building such as Diffuse, Bump and the Specular Color in our mind, let’s proceed to the other map branches commonly used in 3ds Max.

1. Opacity Map & its use in texture mapping channels in 3ds Max

The opacity maps are the grey scale images that determine the amount of opacity of an object surface, when mapped for texturing. In this case, the lighter areas of a bitmap or the procedural map that you selected as the Opacity map yield an opaque surface. The darker areas render transparency of the surface.

Any shade of grey in between results in a semi-transparent surface for the geometry. Here is another piece of simple geometry.

It’ a cuboid or an object with rectangular shape and volume. It has all length, width and height. We will apply an Opacity Map over its surface to see how does this affect the material. I have already created the diffuse color for it and changed the Specular Highlights parameters a little to make it shining.

Although, not much relevant, I would like to point out that I used the Turbosmooth modifier to make edge look much more shining. It doesn’t have a direct bearing in texture mapping in 3ds max, but it makes the smoothed edge reflect lights better.

Just in case you’re not familiar with how to add a bitmap for texture mapping in 3ds max while using the Slate Material Editor, here is the trick. Just click on the empty space and right click to get to the materials or maps dialogue box. Go to the Map section and browse to find the types of maps used in 3ds max to select map. In this case, we’re going to select the Bitmap.

But you have some more steps to perform over the object before you apply the Opacity map.

Prepare the object before using the Opacity Texture Mapping Channels in 3ds Max

As we know, the opacity map affect the surface material in terms of the grey scale in the bitmap used as the map, we need to have a plane beneath the cuboid to make the effect more evident.

See here is a plane with a bitmap with a leather texture. I have added this to the Diffuse color texture mapping channels to create the material of the plane.

I have also shared the Bitmap properties separately, within the white box, to show that I have turned on the checkbox beside the Show Real World Scale and assigned 0.001 m for both Width and Height.

Keeping a close watch on this Real World Scale Size is important while adding a bitmap for texture mapping in 3ds Max. But this time another thing you can see. The material of the cuboid is showing little bit of transparency and we see the plane with the texture map applied though the surfaces of the cuboid.

Now, this is not something that we want and you need to get rid of this. Or in plain language you have to make the cuboid completely opaque. The procedures you undergo during or before using texture mapping channels in 3ds max often appear tricky and you may have to play around to get to the desired point. Let’s see how could we do this. It’s pretty simple.

  1. Double click on Material
  2. Check on 2 sided in the Shader Basic Parameters
  3. Reassign the material to the cuboid
  4. Get rid of the translucency

Now you have the cuboid, fully opaque, sitting on the plane. Now the stage is perfectly set for using the Opacity Map.

Apply Opacity Map – Texture Mapping in 3ds Max

The screenshot is pretty self explanatory. I have picked up this bitmap due to its intense black and white levels, instead of one with a grey shade that produces translucency. We’ll come to that in a few moments. But let’s examine this first.

Here is how it works. Any black area in the Opacity Map becomes completely transparent and any white area renders totally opaque. Again, you can tweak the projection of opacity mapping techniques for material building in 3ds max from the mapping branch parameters. Let’s just turn off that ‘2 sided’ option in the Diffuse Color (double click on the material dialogue box) parameters.

So, what happens is when you check on the 2 sided option both side of the surface, interior and exterior, become visible (see the previous image). When you turn the 2-sided option off, it only shows off the exterior or outer surface normals as you can see in the above image.

You get the idea how an opacity map with back and white image works. It creates total transparent or opaque surface. But what happens when you use a greyed image of the shades in between! Let’s now find that.

How to create translucency with Opacity Mapping techniques for material building in 3ds max?

We got our original cuboid back for texture mapping. This time we’ll create translucency using the bitmap shown in the bottom left of the above image. Since, the grey patches are no complete black or white, they won’t produce an absolute transparent or opaque surface.

Instead, they will create a semi-transparent surface or translucent material. Let’s apply. Just attach the bitmap to the opacity mapping channel of the material tree and render.

I have not checked on 2-sided option here to make it look less clumsy and for a better understanding. Any surface material that calls for transparency need texture mapping through Opacity Maps in 3ds Max. A excellent instance for this would be glass vessel. Let’s check how that comes out.

Use Opacity Map to create Glass surface in 3ds max

This time I have created a teapot, removed the plane and brought in a bitmap of uniform grey scale value. The idea is to get rid of any variation in translucency as the normal glass surface doesn’t usually have any such variation.

Don’t forget to check on the 2-sided option this time. It will help you get a glass like surface through these opacity mapping techniques for material building in 3ds max. Else, you won’t be able to see through the inside of the teapot.

Remember, the effect of the opacity map is just an illusion. In no way, it changes the geometry of the object. But you can affect the map influence using the amount spinner in map branches. Let’s crank it down to 50 and see what happens.

I have changed the diffuse color a bit. The effect of the Opacity Map becomes less evident due to cranking down the spinner, which is obvious. You can see that there is a subtle change in the map influence. This change takes place due to the projection of surface normals during rendering. As we know the surface geometry doesn’t get affected in any way.

In the above image, I have reduced the opacity value in the Self-illumination segment of the Blinn basic parameters, which further diminished the map influence. All these fine changes are required at the different stages of the texture mapping in 3ds max while bringing in realism to the surface.

There are plenty of ways to create a glass surface in 3ds Max and using opacity map is just one of them.

There is also a control over the level of transparency. Sometime, let’s say a glass for drinking water, is more transparent toward its center. So, there is even a direction in the level of transparency or opacity from more to less or vice versa.

How to affect the Level of transparency?

You often see a glass vessel more transparent in its center while less toward its edge. This directional property you can set at the Extended Parameter roll out . See the screenshot below and find how I have altered the values to make the changes look more evident .

I have cranked Opacity to 100, Map influence Amount to 60. And in the Extended Parameter Roll out, I have set the Fall off to In and assigned a value of 100 to Amount. These changes have made the teapot look more transparent at it center and less at its edge. The image is of low res for fast page loading. If you do it yourself, you would be able to see the difference at once.

You’ll get a reverse effect if you change the Fall off to Out. In this case, the teapot will look less transparent at its center and more toward its edge. This time, with the same settings, I have set the Fall off to Out and it has yielded to a less transparent center and a clearer edge.

Again, the image is low res for fast page loading. Just do it on Max and you’ll see the change.

So these are the key features of Opacity texture mapping channels in 3ds max that help you control the nature of transparency of an object surface. Opacity map is a common types of maps used in 3ds Max for texturing. There are many more to come, so let’s move on.

2. Use of Displacement Map within texture mapping channels in 3ds max

You have already gone through texture mapping using a Bump map that tricks the surface to appear in relief or in recess. Why I said ‘appear’? Because it creates a look of a changed surface geometry, but in actuality it doesn’t.

Bump map doesn’t alter the surface geometry, but a displacement map does. And in this section, I’ll talk about using Displacement mapping techniques for material building in 3ds Max.

A displace map brings more realism to the object surface, but at the same time it requires more time to render. So there are both pros and cons of using a displacement map in 3ds max.

One of the most found areas where we see the use of Displacement map is terrain modelling. There are use of this texture mapping aplenty, in fact. But let’s now decipher this mapping technique one by one. Let’s bring back our bowl and see how it works.

I have changed the color value in the ‘Diffuse’ and removed all the maps we used before. But before we actually apply the map, here are few things you must take note.

You can apply a Displacement map over certain types of objects that you create in 3ds Max. These are Editable meshes, Editable Polies, NURBS models and the Bezier Curves. If you want to apply displacement maps over the Primitives and Compound Objects, you have to use Disp Approx or Displacement Approximation modifier on the object before bringing the displacement map in.

Apply the Displacement Approximation modifier for texture mapping before using the Displacement Map

Let’s select the bowl and apply the Disp Approx modifier from the modifier stack. It would make the object geometry compatible with the use of a Displacement Map. But we have still to do a few things before applying the map. Let’s first examine the map. Like other texture mapping channels in 3ds max, Displacement branch is also sensitive to the grey scale image.

Use Grey Scale image for Displacement Texture mapping & Crank down the Amount Spinner in Mapping Branch

Here is the idea.

The white area will be more pronounced for Displacement effect in offsetting the polygons of the geometry and the Black areas will be less influence. Since Displacement Maps hugely influence the change in geometry, it’s always a good idea to start with a minimal iteration like 1 or 2. I have assigned 2 and the picked up the black-and-white stripped Bitmap as our Displacement Map.

Now let’s add this to the Displacement map branch and see what happens.

Apply the grey scale bitmap as the Displacement map for texture mapping in 3ds max

I have tweaked the value a little bit. You can clearly see that I have used the real World Scale for UV sizing and changed the size to 0.25mX 0.25m.

Besides, I have assigned 3 as the Displacement Amount, after a few adjustments. Also, I have assigned 30 for the Specular level and 15 for the Glossiness. You can see how the Map has changed the surface geometry.

You can even the change the surface details using the settings of the Disp Approx or Displacement Modifier. Let’s do that.

Change the settings of Disp approx modifier to modify the surface details

In the Displacement Approx. modifier there is something called Subdivision Presets, By default it remains medium. Change it to low or high to suit your need for modifying the surface details. Thought it’s a quick trick to get the render with a low poly mesh, ideally you should change the polygon at the sub-object level with segments. I don’t find this particular feature helps get the best result.

With Displacement as one of the texture mapping channels in 3ds max, we’ll see one more instance through a simple terrain creation before we move on to other types of texture mapping.

Just to alert you again, don’t forget to crank down the Displacement Amount at the beginning, else you could get your software hung up.

Use Displacement map for creating terrain in 3ds Max

Let’s create a plane. We’ll use this plane for applying displacement map as one of the texture mapping channels in 3ds max to create a terrain. But, first convert this as an editable poly. I have assigned both the length and width segment as 32. Let’s now get something called height map.

Like all grey scale map, we used before, this map is also a grey scale image with black and white areas and with the shades in between.

Let’s first see how does it look like. It’s an image with the most intense white in the middle somewhere, and the most dense black near the edge. The idea here is the white area will be raised and the black area will be in recess. Let’s see the result.

In this case, we’ll not activate the Real World Scale size and instead assign the tiling as 1. With the map amount as 150, I have added the height map to the Displacement Map branch. Don’t forget to apply the Displacement Approximation modifier prior, on top of the editable poly.

You see clearly a terrain in making using this height map as the displacement map. Terrain creation with displacement as one of the texture mapping channels in 3ds max is highly a popular way out among the modellers and texture artists. All you need here is to create a material for a realistic terrain.

Let’s also see how we can achieve that. Just note, you may have to alter some of the value in the map branch (I have made 150) and the bitmap properties to arrive at a desired result. It may take a few attempts. But it’s worth trying indeed.

You see the height map, as most whitened in the middle, has yielded the peak of the mountain at the middle and it has the lowest elevation at the edge of the map, where the value of black is at maximum.

Let’s now use a height map along with a Diffuse and Bump Map to get a realistic terrain. I have got this from a site offering a few height maps and related materials. The screenshot below shows us how to add all these bitmaps in separate mapping branches

for texture mapping. This time, the files are in .EXR and there are a few tweaking before I arrived at this result. You Diffuse, Bump and Height Maps are to be added to the Diffuse, Bump and Displacement channels respectively.

To make the bump effect more pronounced, I have cranked up the Bump Amount to 80, edited the Output Curve of the Diffuse Map to make the highlight more intense. The contrast yielded a greener pasture of the terrain.

And finally the Height map at the Displacement channel. I have again tweaked the Output curve increasing the contrast to make

Displacement of the surface geometry more pronounced. This has resulted in a greater elevation for the mountain peaks.

The contrast in the height map helps attain steeper elevation in a terrain. You can modify the the height map contrast using Adobe Photoshop or the Output Rollout within the Map branch. All texture mapping channels in 3ds max have options for changing the bitmaps highlight-shadow contrast that help bring out intended effects.


Using different texture mapping channels in 3ds max to create realistic surfaces like terrain offers immense opportunities for the modellers and texture artists. I have barely scratched the surface and that has yielded a more or less realistic terrain. You can see use of such terrain number of games and exterior as scene geometry.

Following the Part 1, explaining Diffuse, Noise, Bump and Specular, this piece explains how to use Opacity and Displacement within the texture mapping channels in 3ds max. The features stated above help you get to the core of the texture mapping in 3ds max while creating a realistic surface of the scene geometry.

In the following piece(s), I will cover other texture mapping channels in 3ds Max with the mapping techniques for material building and texturing.

11 Most Used Mapping Channels in 3ds Max – Part 1

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