Rendering objects in a solid/wire mix

In this tutorial you will learn how to render an object to an image with both the solid and the wireframe render, without using PhotoShop or anything else than 3D Studio Max. Key terms include wire, Opacity map, Push modifier and Lattice modifier. This tutorial is aimed at the beginner, but should be interesting for the more advanced 3D artists as well. Although this tutorial is based on 3D Studio Max, the same techniques apply to many other 3D products.
Note: Click on the thumbnail in each step for a larger screenshot that includes the viewports and the relevant portion of the user interface.

Step 1

This is not a modeling tutorial, so you need to add an object to your scene yourself. This can be anything from simple sphere to a detailed character.

For good results, the model needs to be textured or have some basic material(s) assigned to it.

Step 2

Select the object and press CTRL-V to clone it. In the Clone Options dialog, select Copy, change the name to Clone, and press OK.

(You won’t be able to see the clone yet.)


Step 3

Select the clone (this happens automatically when you clone an object), and add a Push modifier with a Push Value of 0.30 (or more, or less, depending on the geometry of the model, you should fine tune this setting in step 7).


Step 4

This step is optional. If you use an object with a MeshSmooth modifier, or if the model is an Editable Poly with NURMS Subdivision enabled, lower down the Iterations value.

For example, if the original object has an Iterations value of 1, set the Iterations value of the clone to 0.

Step 5

Press the M key to open the Material Editor (or select Material Editor from the Rendering menu), select an available slot and rename the material to Wire.Change the Diffuse color to the color you want to use for the wire frame.

Drag the material to the outer object in the scene to assign it, or click the Assign Material to Selection button while the outer object is selected.

Step 6

Enable the Wire option for the material as shown in the screen shot. Scroll down a bit in the Material Editor and open the Extended parameters roll-out.

Change the wireframe thickness to 0.3 (try other values after rendering to check which works best for your model).


Step 7
Now press F9 or F10 to render and check out the results.

If the wireframe goes inside the solid model on certain spots, you should increase the Push value of the Push modifier on the clone. If there is (too much) space between the solid and the wireframe model, decrease the Push value.

Step 8

This is another optional step for those using a smoothed model. If the clone has less Iterations it might not follow the solid model close enough to look good. You can solve this, for most models, by adding a Relax modifier to the clone. You will probably have to increase the Push value a bit more if you do use a Relax modifier.

Step 9

You probably noticed examples on the web of objects rendered solid with only a portion of the wireframe fading away. This can be done within 3D Studio Max, without using an image editor.

Select the Wire material in the Material Editor, and click the empty square button after Opacity. Select Gradient from the list and click OK.

Step 10

The Opacity map needs a black (transparent) and a white portion (visible). Gray will result in semi-transparent. Instead of using a Gradient map, you can also use a Checker, Falloff, or any other kind of map/texture that has black and white parts. Set the 2nd color of the Gradient map to nearly black.Render again (F9 or F10) and notice part of the wireframe fading away. (You may need to change the settings of the opacity map, ie. tiling or rotating it.)

I also included a second render in the screenshot with a tiled Checker map as the Opacity map.

Step 11

Now let’s use a whole different approach to create a wireframe-like object: the Lattice modifier.First select the Wire material in the Material Editor and disable the Wire option. Remove the Opacity map (by dragging an empty map to it).

Select the clone object and apply a Lattice modifier with the values as displayed in the screenshot (or values that apply better to your model).

Step 12

Render again and check out the results.

You may need to increase the Push Value of the Push modifier to get the balls at the junctions to lean on the inner original model.


Step 13

Instead of showing the both edges and the balls, you can also choose to display only the balls at the junctions by selecting the Joints Only from Vertices option in the Lattice modifier settings, or show only the edges by selecting the Struts Only from Edges option in the Lattice modifier settings


Step 14

You can use the same Opactiy map method as we used earlier to make the wireframe fade away.


This concludes this tutorial. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that it contributed something to your skills and knowledge.

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One Response to Rendering objects in a solid/wire mix

  1. Pingback: rendering as a wireframe - 3D-Palace Community Forums

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