Layering Materials
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Sept 26th 2013

This tutorial discusses the three main methods for combining materials together. Lets say you want to make rusty metal. The three main ways you could go about doing this are:
Here's an example file,, max 2011 format, that shows these three methods. Check them out, and look below for a more detailed explanation.

Layering Materials in 3D App

This method means you make separate patterns for each material (metalColor, rustColor, metalBump, etc), construct two completely separate materials (metal and rust), and then layer the materials together using a mask. When using this method, you don't paint materials as much as you paint masks to reveal materials.

See the schematic diagram below, green are patterns, blue are materials.

Layering Patterns in 3D App

This technique involves layering patterns together using masks for each attribute of a material, such as color, bump, spec, etc. So you combine metalColor with RustColor using a mask, and then pump that into the final color of your material. Then you do the same for Bump and Spec, using the same mask for all 3 material attributes. You only have 1 material with the layering done at the pattern level.

Layering Patterns In Paint App

This is like Layer Patterns in 3D App, but the layering process happens in a paint program like Photoshop instead of in your 3d app.

So you combine your 3 channels (color, bump, spec) inside your paint app with the same mask for each...

Next you save out the bump, color and spec groups into 3 separate bitmaps, which you then load into your 3d app and plug into a single material.


Which technique or combinations of techniques you use is up to you, I generally prefer Layering Materials together in my 3d app, it may be slower to render, but I feel it more closely follows how real world materials are made, you have pure metal, then a pure rust material appears on top of the metal, but only in certain spots (mask). But there are certainly reasons to use the other 2 methods.

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