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Neal Hirsig's videos cover single functions by short in-depth videos.
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General Written Info: Material (from Neal Hirsig's Colored Material video)

The process of rendering an image in Blender is similar to the process of taking an image with your digital camera.
The image is a result of the location, number, intensity, angle and color of the light sources, reflecting of the objects you photographed, and focused upon the image plane of your digital camera.
In real-life, objects possess a multitude of reflective characteristics by nature: shiny, opaque, coloured, multicoloured… possess a certain texture or pattern that gives them a certian visual way to feel…
Blender objects by default don't have any of these characteristics, all these attributes that real-life objects have, must be attached to a Blender object by assigning them to a material one by one.
A material in Blender could be thought of as a container, holding a wide range of attributes, which define how the lighting and the camera will interact with the object - and all the characteristics that will be displayed when the object is rendered.

General Introduction Video

Video by superboy

Colored Material

  • Excerpt along video

One of the simplest attributes to attach to a material, is Color

Add a material and name it

  • Select object,
  • press Materials Context buttontab in Properties Panel
  • either add a new material, by pressing on the "New" button
  • or add existing materials by "browse ID Data" dropdown (textured translucent sphere button left of "New")
  • both open a series of panels which contain many of the controls for adjusting the visual characteristics of a material
  • each material is automatically assigned with a name: Material, then Material001, Material002,…
  • -> name materials by your logic to handle them
  • every newly created material will be listed in the"Browse Data ID" dropdown and usable for every other object in this blend.file.
  • Quicktip: Assign an existing material to an object by: drag & drop the material icon left of the name box to the object in the 3D editor window. Thank you Kernon Dillon

Add a color

  • click on the Diffuse color field (by default white, underneath the sphere preview), this opens the Blender color selector
  • either adjust the Red, Green, Blue color sliders (RGB, selected by default of the three options)
  • or click into the colorwheel graphic (RGB button selected by default)
  • or use HSV, the second button option: Hue, Saturation, Value
  • or type in a specific Hex Value

default: material linked to Mesh Data Block -> how to link to object

  • by default the chosen color is linked to the Mesh Object's data block
  • check in Outliner Panel: open selected object (click on plus symbol): open "Mesh" - and see Material assigned to it
  • any object that shares the Mesh Data block (e.g. linked copies) will also share the material
  • it is also possible to link a material to the object itself instead of the object's Mesh Data block
  • to exchange from linking to Data block, to lining to the object itself, remove the material from the selected object by clicking x-button right of the name.
  • select Object from dropdown right of name/new button
  • select material from "browse ID data" dropdown…
  • check in Outliner Panel: material is linked to object, not to the mesh

Preview Panel

  • The Preview Panel shows a sphere by default
  • click any of the icons to the right of it to change the preview (plane, sphere, monkey, hair or sphere with a sky background)

(render scene ;)

Multiple Materials

For general material functions, like naming etc, see video above.

See a QuickTip for "Assigning multiple materials to a single object" on blendercookie (Jonathan Williamson)

  • Excerpt along video
  • You can assign multiple materials to an object by assigning certain materials to specific faces of an object
  • select material
  • press Materials Context buttontab (Sphere with checkerboard in Properties Panel)
  • notice the plus and minus icons to the right of the Material block (upper)
  • (and the plus and x icon to the right of the material ID name block)
  • the plus and minus icon add or remove new material slots = holders for new the materials to be linked to the object's mesh
  • add new slots - click plus symbol
  • each new slot is a copy of the one above
  • with each new slot the number of users of the data is increased (see number in material ID name block under material block, right to name)
  • reduced to 3 slots in video
  • select one of the slots and press the user (number) button:
  • this makes the selected material an independent material with an default name, video does same for second slot:
  • now three independent material slots are available for linking to the selected object
  • alternative way to create independent materials for each slot: before clicking on the new button. click the plus icon e.g three times
  • now select the slot and press the new button
  • all created materials are available via material ID browse data icon
  • if Blender is closed, and the materials are not assigned to an object, they disappear
  • name the created materials (slots) and give them a color (here Red, Blue, Green)
  • In the Outliner Panel you see that all three materials are linked to the mesh
  • only the top material is visible, as it is not translucent and assigned to all faces by default, above the underlying ones
  • tab into Edit Mode of selected object and deselect all vertices
  • 3 new control buttons appear in the Materials Panel (Properties Editor Window) when in Edit Mode: "Assign" "Select" and "Deselect"
  • choose Face select (via Tab + CTRL or menubar)
  • choose the top material (here Red) - and press select: all faces are selected, because red as top material is asigned to all faces by default
  • now select the faces you want to assign a different material to as visible material
  • select the material in the Material Block (here blue)
  • press "Assign" - this assigns the selected material as visible to the selection
  • press "Deselect" button and make new selection
  • choose third material - press assign - this assigns third material to the new selection
  • if you select the materials and press select, only the vertices the material is assigned to are selected

Blender Materials - Shaders

  • Excerpt along video

Shaders are one of the most important set of material controls in Blender
They are a set of software instructions that calculates the rendering effect of the scene as seen through the camera's viewing plane, based on the lighting present in the scene

video settings:

  • blue UVsphere, default camera, default lamp (medium blue material linked to sphere)
  • adjusted interface: split 3Dviewport window and set right one to "UV-Image Editor")
  • set render display (buttontab Render - Properties Panlel, Render Display dropdown ) to "Image Editor", to display render there directly


  • select object and select Materials Context buttontab in Properties Editor Window
  • below the Preview, are Blenders two Shader Controls: Diffuse and Specular- at closer look at the render, you can see the two areas of influence associated with the two controls.
  • Diffuse: controls the general color of the material, based on its relationship to the light source, displaying a smooth falloff from bright to dark, from the point of strongest illumination, to the point of darkest shadow
  • Specular Shader controls the brighter highlights one can see reflected from a glossy surface, mimicking the reflection of the light source itself;

as such Specular reflection is highly dependent on the position of the camera in relation to the light source.


  • Blender provides 5 choices for diffuse shading, see by clicking on the Diffuse Shader Type dropdown (default: Lambert)
  • Fresnel, Minnaert, Toon, OrenNAyar and Lambert

(video turns down Intensity of Specular Shader to focus on Diffuse Shader)

  • Lambert: "all purpose" diffuse shader
  • major control setting, (like for all Diffuse and Specular Shaders): Intensity
  • Intensity: controls brightness of diffused color: the higher, the brighter, simulating more diffused light reflection; the lower the intensity, the darker the color, simulating less diffuse lighting reflection; default: 0.8
  • OrenNayar
  • similar to Lambert, additional control: Roughness (default 0.5)
  • Increasing Roughness scatters the diffused light, making it more even across the non-shadowed areas
  • with Roughness set 0 (zero), the rendering effect is quite the same as Lambert
  • Toon
  • mimicks a cartoon cell type of color with a distinct boundary between light and shadow areas and little gradation in the colored or the shadowed area of the rendering
  • try default setting rendering
  • to additional controls:
  • Size: controls size of the colored area in comparism to the shadowed
  • and Smooth: creates a gradation between the colored and shadow area
  • Minnaert
  • sometimes referred to as "moon shader"
  • contains a darkness control that by default is set to 1 (here similar to Lambert, but:)
  • lowering the darkness increases the brightness of the outline of the rendered object with no regard to the position of the light source
  • set at zero, there appears a bright rim on the sphere
  • increasing the darkness above 1, produces a dark spot in the center of the object, facing the camera
  • video renders with setting at 2
  • Fresnel
  • acts in direct opposition to the light source
  • parts of the object that face the light source are darkened, parts of the object that face away from the light source, are lightened
  • in effect the Fresnel diffuse shader bends the light to the side much like the fresnel lamps
  • two additional controls: Fresnel, and Factor


  • Blender provides 5 choices for specular shading, see by clicking on the Specular Shader Type dropdown (default: CookTorr)
  • In addition to CookTorr, ther is Phong, Blinn, Toon and Wardiso
  • CockTorr specular shader is a very good "all in one" specular shader
  • particular for creating the shiny types of specular reflection for materials like plastic
  • Two controls:
  • Intensity: controls brightness
  • Hardness: increasing makes reflection become more concentrated and hard edged - video: harndess to 300, Intensity to 1)
  • effect is to make object appear more shiny and plastic
  • Color of reflection is also adjustable
  • click on color swatch
  • video: making it cooler, by reducing amount of red
  • Phong
  • good for skin or other organic surfaces

Hirsig says he seew little difference between CookTorr and Blinn, as both offer controls for Intensity and Harness but refers that the Blender Wiki describes Phong as best Material for:
Skin or other organic surfaces

  • Blinn
  • good for ceramic objects
  • adds a third controler:
  • IOR: Index of refraction control,
  • further controls intensity of the highlight
  • video: Intensity 1, HArdness 300, IOR 9 - produces very tight harded specular relfection, similar to some ceramic objects
  • Toon
  • controls specular highlight similar to Toon diffuse shader controls diffuse color, ( often used in combination with it )
  • creates very sharp contrast and an even specular field
  • Wardiso
  • good for metallic objects
  • in addition to Intensity controler
  • Slope controler: somewhat like a Hardness and IOR controler wrapped up in one
  • allows a large amount of control over the intensity, hardness or softness of the specular highlight

*( video: render with Intensity 1, Slope at 0.4, and Slope at 0.1)

video resets Shader to CookTorr with default Intensity of 0.5 and default Hardness of 50:

  • One additional set of shading controls is located in the "Shading" Panel (underneath Specular Panel)
  • Shadeless checkmarked, bypasses diffuse and specular shading and renders full bright ungradiated color only (which seems 2D) - uncheck it
  • Emit controler: Increasing it produces an effect as if the object would emit its own light, which is a good starting point for developing materials which emit their own light.

It takes time, patience and practice to begin to understand the subtle shading control nuances and develop materials.
Best is to learn from others, either by checking materials in the repositories (see on mindmap), or by following tutorials.

Blender Materials - Transparency

  • Excerpt along video

The Blender materials editor contains a number of controls for adjusting the transparency of an object.

video settings for demonstration:

  • blue UVsphere (medium blue material linked to sphere) with a ground plane (to display transparency in the render, with a checktexture assigned),
  • default camera, default lamp and an added Hemi Lamp at a low energy level to fill in some of the shadows)
  • adjusted interface: split 3Dviewport window and set right one to "UV-Image Editor")
  • set render display (buttontab Render - Properties Panlel, Render Display dropdown ) to "Image Editor", to display render there directly


  • Blender has two separate and independent means of creating materials
  • One employs a Z-Transparency control, and one a Raytrace control - one selected deselects the other
  • The Z-Transparency
  • is based on a calculation, derived from a Z-buffer, which informs the rendering engine, which of the objects faces are in front of other faces, based on the position of the camera's viewing point.

(Thus, in the case of the video's sphere, the z-buffer informs the render engine, which of the sphere's faces are in front, and which are in back)

  • checkmark the Transparency checkbox (underneath "Shading Panel" in Materials Panel) to activarte the transparency options
  • select Z-Transparency button
  • decrease the Alpha value in the control underneath (default 1) - with decreasing the object becomes more and more transparent, see in Preview Panel; video: 0.2
  • it is also possible to adjust the Specular transparency by the Specular control (video sets to 0.2 as well)
  • Z-transparency is a quick, light-weight method of achieving a transparency effects -
  • what it does not do, is to provide any type of refraction effect, which is what would happen in real-life situations: as we look through transparent objects like a wine glass, the light is bent, and objects seen through the glass seem somewhat distorted.
  • to reach refraction effects, we need to use:
  • Raytrace Transparency
  • switch to "Raytrace" button in Transparency panel, reveals new set of controls
  • video:
  • Alpha down to zero, Specular slider to 1
  • IOR control adds refraction
  • increase Raytrace IOR (Index Of Refraction) to 1.02 (note that a very little refraction goes a long way)
  • you can see in the Preview Panel the distortion behind the transparent sphere

Depth control:
video switches to a green monkey object on layer 2 for better explanation with more complex object:

  • and creates same settings as where applied to sphere: switch to Raytrace, Alpha to zero, specular to 1, IOR to 1.02
  • when you render the scene, parts of the monkey are not transparent:
  • because the default Depth settings for Ratrayce transparency is set to 2: this means only two overlapping faces of the same object will be transparent:
  • the monkey object is a bit more complex that the sphere: and from this particular vantage point, there are more that two overlapping faces, so that the level of Depth needs to be increased (here to 4, monkey object is now transparent after re-rendering.)
  • it is important to set the Depth settings when using Raytrace transparency, so that all the overlapping faces are transparent
  • Filter control: raising the Filter setting adds back a certain amount of the diffuse color into the transparent material, even though the Alpha is set to zero; (video: 0.6, monkey seems to be of green glass)
  • Gloss amount control: further distorts of clarifies the underlying refraction distrotion: video: 0.8, see in Preview and panel, that the result is a more smoky color glass effect.

As with shaders, it takes time, practice and patience to learn about the nuances - by experimenting on your own, or see what others have done.
Neal Hirsig recommends the Blender Material Repository, find more on the mindmap (Special Topic Resources - Material/Textures..)

Blender Materials - Mirror

  • Excerpt along video

In addition to controlling the Diffuse, Specular and Transparency characteristics of a material, Blender also provides a set of tools for controlling the amount of reflectiveness, or mirror-like qualities an object might possess.

video settings for demonstration:

  • blue upward plane (which will be set transparent with mirror qualities), a smooth red monkey object before it, a green monkey object behind it, all objects placed on a black and white checkered floor
  • default lamp, default camera and an additional low energy Hemi lamp to brighten up the shadows.
  • adjusted interface: split 3Dviewport window and set right one to "UV-Image Editor")
  • set render display (buttontab Render - Properties Panlel, Render Display dropdown ) to "Image Editor", to display render there directly


Mirror controls

  • Select the plane (object)
  • and open Mirror panel controls via -> Material Context buttontab in Properties Editor Window (scroll down, below Transparency panel)
  • checkmark the Mirror checkbox
  • and increase the Reflectivity slider 0.2, light reflectivity, 0.6 blue plane more mirror-like than plane, 1: mirror-like

Mirror + Transparency

  • now add transparency: checkmark Transparency checkbox in panel (above) select (here) Z-transparency: set alpha to 0.5, render:
  • green monkey behind the plane becomes faintly visible behind the plane, which now has **both mirror-reflective and transparency qualities
  • uncheck Mirror and Transparency panel to reset plane to blue plane and make monkey mirror-like:

Colored Mirror

  • select (here :) red monkey, open Materials tab, checkmark Mirror panel and set Reflectivity to 1
  • monkey now reflects grey background, blue plane and checkered ground plane
  • with full reflectivity, the original diffuse color is not displayed anymore, instead full reflectivity of all surrounding objects/colors
  • you can set a color for the mirror quality itself, by clicking on the color field (by default white) - and pick a color from the color selector
  • the monkey/object now still reflects the surroundings, but has a (here:) green cast.

video: recheck Mirror settings (Reflectiveness 1) for plane, which now mirrors the green (mirroring) monkey

Another set of Mirror Controls, are the Fresnel Settings
The Fresnel mirror effect works similar as the Fresnel shaders (see above Diffuse/Specular)

video works on monkey, changes diffuse color (displayed in viewport) from red to blue (which would not be displayed, as Reflectivity is set to 1 - full mirror, and Mirror color to green -

  • sets Fresnel control to 1
  • the render shows the same qualities as before: greenish cast and mirror-like, but the faces of the object that align with the camera view show the selected diffuse color

As with shaders, it takes time, practice and patience to learn about the nuances - by experimenting on your own, or see what others have done.
Neal Hirsig recommends the Blender Material Repository, find more on the mindmap (Special Topic Resources - Material/Textures..)

Blender Materials - Ramps

  • Excerpt along video

Blender provides an alternative method for creating and displaying diffuse and specular colors by means of Ramp controls

video settings for demonstration:

  • a smooth UVspehere with a medium green material assigned, along with a ground plane with a black ans white checkered texture linked to it
  • default lamp, default camera and an additional low energy Hemi lamp to fill in some of the the shadows.
  • adjusted interface: split 3Dviewport window and set right one to "UV-Image Editor")
  • set render display (buttontab Render - Properties Panlel, Render Display dropdown ) to "Image Editor", to display render there directly


  • select the object
  • go to the materials editor
  • notice that a Ramp checkbox is located both in the diffuse and the Specular Shading Panel

Ramp controler, basic excerpt how to manipulate a Ramp :

  • checkmark the Ramp checkbox in the Diffurse Shader Panel
  • this displays a Ramp control which replaces the diffuse color
  • the settings reveal a color band
  • leftclick on the marker on the far left: this indicates, that the color is black, with an Alpha setting at zero = transparent
  • leftclick the marker at the far right: this indicates that the color settings is light cyan (or blue-green) with the Alpha setting at 1, making it completely opaque
  • select the far left marker, set the color to red and set the alpha to 1, making it opaque, in the color selector
  • select the far right maker, set the color to blue and leave the Alpha set to 1
  • now we have an opaque color band with red at the left and blue at the right:
  • the interpolation is set to linear, so the colors blend from blue to red

Input set to "Shader"

  • the Input for the Diffuse Ramp is by default set to "Shader", this means the colorband ramp will remap the current shader color settings, with the colors replaced by the Ramp colors
  • with the lighter diffuse color (lighted area) being replaced by the blue on the right
  • and the darker shadow diffuse color (shadow area) being replaced by the red on the left
  • when you render you see this result: the diffuse shading is replaced by the Ramp colors, the shadow area displays the red, the lighted area the blue, blended
  • see the video to follow more nuances in mixing the Diffuse settings, like switching to Toon Shader:
  • the results are still dependent from the Diffuse Shading settings ( see Color video above) with the underlying shaded colors remapped by the Ramp colors
  • by default the Ramp Blend is set to Mix - this means the transparent parts of the ramp will blend with the underlying material color
  • If the complete Ramp is opaque, the underlying diffuse color is not visible, when you lower the Alpha value of the Ramp marker(s), the original underyling diffuse color will shine through

Another important feature of using the Ramp set to "Shader":

  • is that a Ramp is produced for each light source
  • select the Hemi Lamp, and in the object data editor (lamp tabbutton in ProĆ¼erties Editor winow) , turn of its Specular and diffuse influence:
  • when you re-render the scene, the color ramp on the left side of the sphere is no longer displayed, instead we have the darkened area produced by the single diffuse shader

reselect the sphere and go back to the materials editor,

  • another key aspect for the Input set the Shader: remapping of the diffuse color to the Ramp color band is not affected by the intensity of the light source
  • increase the energy of a lamp
  • the scene gets brighter, but the color Ramp mapping remain the same

Input set to "Energy"

  • maps the color band based on the lamps energy, as it is reflected through the diffuse shader

Input set to "Normal"

  • maps the color band to the objects face normals, in relationship to the camera image plane
  • here the right end of the color ramp is mapped to the objects' faces that are perpendicular to the camera
  • and the left end of the ramp is mapped to the faces that are parallel to the camera

Input set to "Result"

  • here the diffuse mapping is based on the color ramp without any regard for diffuse shadow

Add additional/delete color markers

  • to create a more complex grading than the two color grading from rd to blue demonstrated in the video
  • to add a marker: click on the Add button, or CTRL+leftclick into the colorband itself
  • the new marker automatically takes on the color and Alpha value of that position on the Ramp
  • you can select a color marker by either left clicking it, or selecting it via position selector ( in the center above the ramp)
  • to delete a marker, select it and press the Delete button left besides the postition selector

Interpolation by default set to "Linear"

  • Create a Ramp of three different colored markers, here green added
  • Change the Interpolation setting via dropdown ( right above the Ramp) to

Interpolation set to Constant : no blending.

  • you can form three separate rings of color, by repositioning the markers (rendered as such when Input set to "Result"
  • see a render when you set Ramp Input to "Shader" (from "Result" as last setting here): constant rings, but shader settings applied, try with other Input options.

The combinations allow for a limitless number of surface treatments

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