Structure And Naming Conventions For Materials
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Apr 7th 2014

So how you go about naming and structuring materials is a very personal sort of thing, there's no right or wrong way, but there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to how you decide to approach this problem. In this tutorial I'll explain my preferred way of handling this situation, and in doing so, hopefully it can shed some light on the type of though you need to go through when structuring your own materials in your own unique way.

It's helpful to read my How Do I Shade / Texture Stuff?: Shading Pipeline Overview tutorial before reading the material below.

Structuring Materials And Patterns

First off, a few definitions...
So a material could be metal, rust, dirt, cloth. Materials can also be collections of materials like Dirty Cloth, Rusty Metal, etc.

I tend to structure all of my materials like this...

So, at the right most in the diagram I have a Layered Material (this could be a Blend Material in regular 3dsmax, or a VRayBlendMtl material if using vray). It contains sub materials. For example, with Rusty Metal, I'll have a Metal Material and a Rust Material as submaterials of my final Layered Material (for more information on this technique, please read my Layering Materials lesson.)

Then each of the channels of the material I'll have a map chain. The map chain will tend to contain patterns, each pattern is using some placement method (uvs, XYZ Space, etc), the pattern is then Color Corrected, then they are layered together, the layered result gets color corrected, and then that result is plugged into the channel of the material. Pretty much all materials I make are a variation of this structure, even if the material seems very complex.

Naming Materials And Patterns

So the biggest controversy in naming material nodes is do you use abbreviations or not. The advantage of abbreviating names is it takes up less space, and so they're more easily read in a system where the node name may not have a lot of space.

The disadvantage of abbreviating names is that you may forget what the abbreviations mean. Or, if you hand the file to another artist, they won't understand them.

As an example, say you have a node that is the color of a metal using a brushed metal bitmap pattern that's color corrected. You could name it "MetalColorBrushedMetalPatternColorCorrectedBitmap". That name explains pretty much exactly what this node does, but its so long that it won't fit easily on the screen. You could abbreviate this to something like "cBshMtlTexCC", but then anyone else who saw this node would probably be confused.

So my method is to have some things abbreviated, and some not. Here's the basic pattern for how I name nodes...

Channel + Name + NodeType

So in my example above, my node would be called...

Here are some common names I use for nodes in my materials...

So here's some common node names I use: cTex, cCC, cMix, cVar, oTex, dTex, dMix, dCC, sTex, sMix, sCC

And here's a material example...

Anyways, again, no right and wrong way about doing this stuff, but here's how I name and structure my materials, and hopefully this gets you thinking about the way you choose to do your own.

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