Book Image

Blender 2.6 Cycles: Materials and Textures Cookbook

By : Enrico Valenza, Ton Roosendaal
Book Image

Blender 2.6 Cycles: Materials and Textures Cookbook

By: Enrico Valenza, Ton Roosendaal

Overview of this book

Cycles is Blender's new, powerful rendering engine. Using practical examples, this book will show you how to create a vast array of realistic and stunning materials and texture effects using the Cycles rendering engine. Blender 2.6 Cycles: Materials and Textures Cookbook is a practical journey into the new and exciting Cycles rendering engine for Blender. In this book you will learn how to create a vast array of materials and textures in Cycles, including glass, ice, snow, rock, metal and water. If you want to take your 3D models to the next level, but don't know how, then this cookbook is for you! In this practical cookbook, you will learn how to create stunning materials and textures to really bring your 3D models to life! Diving deep into Cycles you will learn Cycle's node-based material system, how to set-up a 3D scene for rendering, how to create a natural and man-made materials as well as the correct organization and re-use of Cycles materials to save you time and effort. To ensure that your creations look stunning you will learn how illumination works in Cycles, improve the quality of the final render and to avoid the presence of noise and fireflies. Each chapter of Blender 2.6 Cycles: Materials and Textures Cookbook builds on the complexity of the last so that by the end of this book you will know how to create an impressive library of realistic-looking materials and textures.
Table of Contents (13 chapters)
Blender 2.6 Cycles: Materials and Textures Cookbook
About the Author
About the Reviewers


Since the Blender interface and code was totally rewritten from scratch, starting with the 2.5 series and throughout the production of the "Durian" open movie "Sintel", a lot of good things happened to this famous open source 3D modeling and animation suite.

One of them has been the announcement, in April 2011, of Cycles, a new rendering engine developed by Brecht Van Lommel with the goal of modernizing Blender's shading and rendering systems and to be used as alternative to the Blender Internal rendering engine.

Cycles has finally been fully integrated in Blender with the 2.61 release as an add-on, which is a Python script, enabled in the Preferences panel by default: it's enough to set it as the active render engine in the UI's top header.

Just as Blender Internal is a scan-line rendering engine, Cycles is instead a physically based path tracer; this approach permits the simplification of materials' creation, the support for Global Illumination, and in the end much more realism in the results.

But the best Cycles feature is probably the rendering interactivity you have in the 3D viewport. By setting the draw mode of any 3D viewport to Rendered, an interactive rendering starts in the viewport itself and since then the pre-visualization rendering of the scene is continuously updated almost in real time (depending on the power of your graphic card) as a material, a light, an object, or the whole scene gets modified.

Currently, BI is still maintained (even though, no more developed) and there are no real plans to drop it, at least for the moment. It's not clear if in the future Cycles will totally replace BI or if both will be (hopefully) kept as possible choices. What is clear is that presently Cycles is still missing several of the features possible with BI, such as smoke simulations, stress mapping, and others.

This doesn't mean that Cycles is not production-ready; a lot of astonishing images have already been produced, both for testing purposes and for real productions as well. You can find most of them on the BlenderArtist forum (, but it's enough to mention "Tears of Steel", the fifth open movie produced by the Blender Foundation with the codename "Mango": a science fiction short movie entirely rendered in Cycles to accomplish the visual special effects. Well, maybe not entirely but actually at 95 percent: the team still used BI for the unsupported features. In fact, being included in the same software also provided with an integrated compositor, both the Blender Internal and the Cycles render engines can actually be used in tandem to get full use of all the needed features from both of them.

The best of two different worlds.

What this book covers

Chapter 1, Overview of Materials in Cycles, explains the way Cycles materials work, their main characteristics, and how to build a basic Cycles material, add textures, how to use lamps, or light-emitting objects and set the World.

Chapter 2, Managing Cycles Materials, explains how to better manage and organize the Cycles materials to build libraries to link or append the materials from.

Chapter 3, Creating Natural Materials in Cycles, explains the creation process of several types of basic natural materials by using both image textures and procedurals, but mainly dwells on procedurals.

Chapter 4, Creating Man-made Materials in Cycles, explains the creation process of several types of man-made materials by using procedurals textures.

Chapter 5, Creating Complex Natural Materials in Cycles, explains the creation process of more complex natural materials by using both image textures and procedurals, but mainly dwells on procedurals.

Chapter 6, Creating More Complex Man-made Materials, explains the creation process of some more elaborate man-made material by mainly using procedurals textures.

Chapter 7, Creating Organic Materials, explains the creation process of several types of organic shaders, trying to use only procedural textures wherever possible.

Chapter 8, Human Skin Materials and Faking Sub Surface Scattering in Cycles, explains some ways to simulate the Sub Surface Scattering effect in Cycles and teaches how to build simple and layered human skin shaders. This chapter is available as a free download and can be downloaded from

Chapter 9, Special Materials, explains the usage of the Cycles "hair" experimental feature and the creation process of some special effects material. This chapter is available as a free download and can be downloaded from

What you need for this book

The only software strictly needed for following along the recipes of this book is the official 2.66a Blender release, although the just released 2.67 and 2.67a Versions work perfectly fine (but if you use the latter ones, be aware that something in the graphic look of the nodes has changed, especially for node groups. In any case, the working principles are the same). You only need to download it from Any particular texture needed for the exercises in the book is provided as a free download on the Packt Publishing website itself.

Not essential but also handy can be an image editor, in case you want to adapt your own textures to replace the provided ones. I suggest The Gimp, an open source image editor that you can download from Any other software you prefer is perfect anyway.

Who this book is for

This book is aimed mainly at the average – intermediate Blender user who already knows Blender but still hasn't dealt with the new Cycles rendering engine. It's taken for granted that you already know how to move inside the Blender interface and that you already have at least some basic knowledge of the standard Blender material creation interface, although this is actually not strictly necessary.


In this book, you will find a number of styles of text that distinguish between different kinds of information. Here are some examples of these styles, and an explanation of their meaning.

Code words in text, database table names, folder names, filenames, file extensions, pathnames, dummy URLs, user input, and Twitter handles are shown as follows: "Start Blender and open the 1301OS_08_start.blend file, where there is a Suzanne mesh leaning on a plane and two mesh-light planes."

New terms and important words are shown in bold. Words that you see on the screen, in menus or dialog boxes for example, appear in the text like this: "In the Material window switch the Diffuse BSDF shader with a Mix Shader node. In the first Shader slot, select a Diffuse BSDF shader and in the second one a Glossy BSDF shader node."


Warnings or important notes appear in a box like this.


Tips and tricks appear like this.

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