When it comes to creating a convincing 3D object, one of the most important things to get right is the material, what the object is made out of. If you have a model of a keyboard you want to make sure that the keys resemble a real keyboard with a shiny plastic material. If you have a car you want to make sure it looks like car paint, if not then it can make your entire object suffer, no matter how well it's modeled.
In this article, we are going to go over some of the basics of material creation in CINEMA 4D and go over the material editor, and some of the things to adjust to create some of the more common materials you may encounter like glass and metal.
There's a lot that goes into creating a specific material for an object. If you're trying to create a copper look you can't just increase the reflectivity because that might make it resemble more of a plastic material rather than metal. If you need to create glass simply applying a basic material and turning up the transparency is not going to give you the results that you want, and will not produce a realistic glass look.
It's good to know exactly what material you want, and it can even be helpful to gather reference for that material. The process of getting the right look for your material often comes down to tweak and test until you get it to where you want it to be.
Depending on your version of CINEMA 4D it may include a large list of material presets ranging from plastics, metals, woods, car paints and a lot more. These can be an excellent starting point, and sometimes the material presets will give you exactly what you need. However, more often than not these presets are very much just a starting point, so it's vital that you know how to create your own materials from scratch so you don't have to rely on these presets.
There are two areas in CINEMA 4D where you can adjust the materials, the Attribute Editor or the Material Editor. At the bottom of the timeline you should see the material manager, this displays any of the shaders you currently have in your scene.
If you select one of these materials all of its properties will be displayed on the right side of the UI in the Attributes panel. Here you can enable different parameters for the material, like Specular, Reflection, Bump, etc. You can do all of the material adjustments in this panel, or open up the Material Editor.
You can create a new material by opening up the Create menu in the material manager where you can create a new basic material, or choose from the list of shaders. Depending on your version of CINEMA 4D you should also have the option to load a material preset. This includes hundreds of CINEMA 4D preset materials, which I talked about previously.
To open up the Material Editor simply double click a swatch in the material manager, this opens up a completely separate window and allows you to adjust your shader. This is essentially the same as tweaking your material in the Attributes panel but displays everything a little more uniformly.
I'm going to be creating the materials for a stopwatch, which will be a glass and a metal material. I've also created a very basic lighting and rendering setup so we can focus specifically on the materials. So right away we know that the front of the stopwatch is going to be made of glass, and everything else is going to be a metal material.
As I mentioned previously it's a good idea to find some reference so you can see what these materials look like in the real world that way you can have something to work off of.
The first thing we are going to tackle is the glass material for the front of the stopwatch. Sure, you could drop in a simple material and turn up the transparency but as you can see, it really doesn't look like glass. Sure, it allows us to see through to the numbers on the watch, but it doesn't look like anything is there.
Instead of using the default material and upping the transparency, we can use a different shader that will get us much closer to that "glass" look. In the materials panel go to Create>Shader>Banji. This will drop in a new Banji material. Just my looking at the swatch you can already see it looks similar to a glass material.
With the new Banji material applied to the glass area of the stopwatch we can run a test render and right away you can see this render is looking much better than the previous. We have a slight shine at the top of the glass, helping to sell the fact that it's actually glass. Before we had a basic material with transparency turned up, and we really couldn't tell if it was glass, or if the object was invisible.
We'll need to make a few adjustments to the material so double click the swatch to open up the material editor. In the render, you can see that it's starting to resemble glass, but we have this slightly murky or foggy look to it, which we don't really want. To adjust this we can go into the Transparency settings of the material and change the Font Opacity to 0% and the Back Opacity to 0% as well.
Now when we run a render we lose that fogginess we had previously and we still have that sheen at the top of the glass, but it's overall more clear. With the glass material set it's now time to create the metal material. Just like before, we can't just apply a basic material and up the reflections, sure, this will get us closer to a metal look, but it will also resemble plastic.
We can start off by creating a default material so go to Create>New Material. Double click the swatch in the material manager to open up the Material Editor. First change the color to a very dark grey and check Reflection and dial the brightness down to around 60%. This gets us close to a metal material but we still need to make a few adjustments.
Open up the Color options by selecting the color tab. Select the arrow next to the Texture option. This will open up a drop down menu with several options. Choose Effects>Lumas. This will apply a Lumas shader which gives us a few more parameters that will allow us to get closer to metal.
Select the grey swatch to open up the options within the Lumas shader.
This will open up the Lumas shader, which gives you a few more specular parameters as well as Anisotropy. We'll want to enable this feature so select the Anisotropy tab and check the Active option and change the Projection to Shrink Wrap. This will add a nice highlight to the material.
When we applied the Lumas shader to our material most of our material's color inherited the Lumas shader parameters, so we'll need to darken it up a bit. Select the Shader tab within the Lumas material and change the color from white to more of grey.
To break things up a bit we can create a plastic material for the small knobs at the end stopwatch. This just adds a little variation to the stopwatch so that not every object has the same metal material. To do this just create a new basic material, and under enable Reflection and change the brightness to around 35% and enable Specular.
With a few adjustments to the Banji shader we were able to create a great looking glass material for the front of the stopwatch, and with some tweaking to the default material we created a polished metal. Depending on the look you're trying to create you can tweak the metal material even more.