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Material Creation A to Z?

So I am just going to say I suck at making materials and would like to improve. I watch all these videos or look at all these screenshots and I am not entirely lost, but every time I learn something I only realize how much more I do not understand. I just wonder how they toss out these terms so causally and know what comes next. Here is me being sarcastic…

We are just going to plug this in here, multiply it by this, mask out this channel and add it back in then divide it by this scalar and quantum theory this lerp into a fade then bitmap this to a vector of that so I can vertice paint it to tin buck too for a PBR system. Seriously do I to be a math genius to get all this or something, where do people learn all of this and understand it.

What I am really looking for is a industry standard dictionary with all the verb-age and explanation of said. It wouldn’t hurt either if it had a bunch of kind of common tips and tricks of the trade and examples of these verb-ages in use. I look at the materials options in the editor and just kind of feel like a deer in the headlights.

Does anyone else out there understand me?

I understand you. For example, I know what lerp does in blueprint and what fresnel is, but really haven’t quite figured out why I need to interpolate between two values and then stick fresnel into the alpha and the result from that into refraction. It doesn’t really quite compute in my brain.

You can start from here;

It should get easier once you grasp what every node does visually.

And as usual I should have dug into it further before making a post.

Still thanks anyway and I will read it all over.

Okay so I finally just got done reading through the entire thing and playing with pieces of it as I went along. Still doesn’t mean I get it, but I do understand more of it. Its still missing a lot of terms though. Yes this goes through each node and provides an explanation of what the node does. But many of the nodes explanation use terms I still do not follow or understand completely.

Yes when I see the term tessellation which isn’t a node but an effect you want to produce with one I could go look it up and figure out what it is. This isn’t really what I am looking for though. Why, because it doesn’t provide the relationship with other values/Terms and explain its importance or interaction with those other items. Its like when I go reading through the Water Shader projects I see people working on and they are posting these crazy math trig equations and they know how to translate it from that to a shader.

Is there a website that anyone would recommend reading that goes through industry standard A-Z of Material Creation, the Concepts, some of the Math and Terms behind it and most importantly the relationships of said. Does anyone else follow me or is my approach to learning different or something?

Anyhow appreciate your time thanks in advance.

Hey Osias, I’m no material’s expert but I have had some success playing with the material editor and i can understand how it might seem overwhelming to understand what everything does. My first tip to you would be not to loose yourself in the math and instead focus on the basic logic of what you want your material to do or just think about how that material should behave. Let that behavior dictate what you try.

Say you were faced with a problem where you needed to ADD to normal maps together because they each contain a particular bit of information needed for the material. Maybe you feel the desired effect your getting isn’t strong enough and you wish you could MULTIPLY it to make it stronger. More often than not if you just ask yourself what you’d want changed in your material you’ll probably end up mentioning the function you’d need to achieve that effect. Of course some of the more abstract nodes like fresnel for example will probably require some experimentation before you really understand what their there for but in some cases there really is no alternative to experience or time spent with them.

As for some of the terms like “masking, vertex painting, channel, etc…” A lot of that stems from good old image editing and compositing. I wouldn’t say there is a giant list of terminology there but there is enough jargon to make somebody’s head spin if their not used to dealing with that sort of thing. The issue with this is that material creation is sort of an extension to this branch of work, so it’s a little impossible to jump into without having at least some experience with it (I’m refering to image editing). If you want to gain a stronger understanding of how these sort of things work i would suggest some light research into maybe photoshop or compositing in something like after effects, nuke etc… Nothing fancy or requiring months or weeks of learning but just looking for some simple tutorials that will explain some general stuff to you while giving you a real world example of their use. You’ll no doubt run into the plenty of the terms and typically see exactly what they are in the process.

One last thing, try to remember that a lot of the more complex materials you’ll run into like water will be setup fairly differently from person to person because there is no real exact science to achieve the effect your looking for. Most matierals are a result of an artist simply trying to achieve an end result and using a combination of logic and the knowledge they’ve aquired playing with nodes. Much like photoshop or other image editing tools there is usually more than 1 way to achieve a result and because of this you’ll run into wildly different node networks for the same type of material depending on who designs it. I would suggest looking for any tutorial you can relating to materials within UE4 and even if you don’t understand most of what their talking about keep watching, try to digest everything their telling you because you never know when you’ll be either A watching another tutorial or B playing a material yourself and suddenly have an “ah ha!” moment where suddenly a shred of information you had gotten earlier just makes sense suddenly.

Keep diligent and keep playing with materials, it’ll all start to make sense to you the more you experiment!

I am looking for confirmation of what I have learned and or industry standard format.

So I just went through a pretty big ordeal trying to figure out exactly how alpha masks work. I could elaborate on how I was confused but rather provide good information and see if anyone can confirm it.

When working with art assets its best to just use what formats?

While in its Raw Uncompressed Format just use .PSD
While getting ready for UE4 Import just use .TGA

Why these formats, because while in .PSD everything is still workable and not compressed into a single image, TGA supports the alpha channel while other formats will not. I really want to make sure I am clear on this so moving forward I stick with this format, is there any reason to deviate from this method and if so why etc?

Masks in UE4 have nothing to do with masks say something like Photoshop or gimp. Why, because Unreal 4 Masking is handled with the alpha channel from another program like gimp or Photshop.

You do not need a black or white visible component for masking in UE4 since its handled with the alpha channel. All the alpha channel does in gimp or photo is to just not have any data there really at all transparent, so whatever you paste down on top of it will be visible in the mask.

Masking in Photo or Gimp is just to get the image you are going to display correct before you bring it over to UE4. If you want something to not be displayed just don’t add it to the image and alpha channel it through cropping it out etc.

Now there are probably some caveats to the above but that would probably fall under how much opacity something is going to have or translucent its going to be. So Glass or water is still there and still displayed its just translucent or opacity not masked completely.

Am I on the right track would anyone add to this or correct any area?