"Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook" is a book by Colin Lister, an expert in texture and material creation and film making, who uses Blender in his projects. He is also known for the documentation of these features in popular tutorials in the Blender community.
Blender 2.5 is the next generation of Blender that is now ending its beta process and will be soon available as stable, although you can get it now. With the 2.5 version, Blender adds lots of new features that make it a very advanced and complete 3D suite for modeling, animation, texturing and whatever 3D task you want to do. The old criticism against Blender was that the interface was not easy to learn, but since the last versions this has been solved, and now with 2.5, the interface has become very intuitive. No more strange numbers and letters, Blender 2.5 is powerful and easy, intuitive and usable.
The 3D suite used by many professionals in film making, modeling, and animation, is now accessible by hobbyists and novice modelers.
Being free, can you ask for anything more? Yes, you can. You can ask for a quick way to learn to use it. This is when Packt Publishing and their series of books about Blender comes to the rescue.
This time, "Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook" will teach you everything you need to know to create stunning materials with the application, and you will learn the important skills related to materials, textures and shaders. And you will do it through easy recipes, step by step tutorials and downloadable code, as happens with all the books of Packt Publishing. This is really the highway to knowledge on Blender.
The first chapter, " Creating natural materials in Blender" will teach how to make pebble procedural materials, with all the features of these stones: opalescent, with veins and their particular brightness. It will also tell you how to combine 2 materials to make another more complex one.
The following example is to build rocks, and sea rocks, using photos as reference. This is the way the 3D industry works, the usual workflow: use and take lots of reference photos before modeling and creating the materials.
As in other previously reviewed books about Blender, this book takes a practical approach telling you not only how to do things, but also telling you the pro way to work.
It also tells you lots of tricks, like how to use alpha transparency to simulate mesh complexity, and make changes to a procedural material to simulate seasonal change. This way you get a multitude of effects with a same material to get more diversity. Even more, learning how to use the node editor to combine mats, you get lots of different looking surfaces using the pieces you've built before.
The book, in these and all the other chapters, not only explains the recipe but also how the different parameters of the material work and why we are using those settings, how they interact and what they produce. So in addition to making the recipe, you really learn to understand what you do, and stimulate your mind to solve all future problems and challenges you will face.
In "Creating man-made materials", you'll master metals. These materials need to use specular maps to achieve a believable metallic appearance, and also often include scratches, dirt, aging and rust. All these features need to be done with an economy of resources, and this is what you'll learn here: to use good materials instead a complex 3d mesh to achieve the same good appearance with less polygons.
In the chapter "Creating animated materials", we go beyond static textures and mats, and see how to animate a texture over time and control how it moves in an animation sequence. Also other good effects like altering its color and texture over time, and animate transparency to simulate things like for example a burning sheet of paper. You're given other very often used examples, like how to create a TV that plays movie files.
"Managing Blender materials" is a productivity chapter, that is about how to organize textures and materials. This may seem simple at first, but the book goes far beyond that. It will tell how to create a Blender file that works as a template to create new materials easily, so you can open it every time you want to design a material, or set it as default scene, and work faster.
For this default material scene, it says you what are the ideal settings, and how to pre-configure a Blender layout that is optimized for material creation. It prevents you future problems by suggesting naming conventions for better organized mats, how to append materials to another blender file so they load together, or just link them and keep them separate. If you want to distribute your materials, the book also tells how to pack a blender file with its materials from different sources into a single blend file, something fundamental if you want to pass it to someone in another computer, take it to your work or collaborate with someone.
The next 2 chapters, "Creating more difficult man-made materials" and "Creating more difficult natural materials" are chapters to achieve more professional and complex appearance for your objects. They also solve new situations, and concepts like the use of environment maps to simulate reflections on surfaces, and use of raytraced reflections to get them in render time. Raytraced reflections are also used to achieve visual effects like dirt.
It also explains how to create large planes of water using materials applied to a large square surface, with animated waves and also around objects like the sea rocks created in chapter 1.
Another common task, the creation of leaves for vegetation, is explained. And even more, you learn how to change an unique diffuse texture through the use of bump and transparency maps to make the same leaf look like different leaves that don't repeat.
The book even goes beyond its scope in the chapter "UV mapping and sub surface scattering", and is a good way to start unwrapping models and to edit their UV maps.
For those who love photography (a good skill for a 3D modeler), the author explains how to take color, bump and specular maps from photos, and recommendations on how to take the photos of an human model to get a skin that is good for UV mapping a head or body.
Skin shading is a very difficult task in 3D because of the complex shape of organic models, and also because of how light is scattered under the skin surface, that is what makes the skin look like a living thing, not an opaque inorganic object. Here you'll be told all you need to make it, including how to combine sub surface scattering and ambient occlusion to get a good shading of your 3D model.
"Painting and modifying image textures in Blender" is about the post process of rendered images inside Blender using Blender Compositor, to avoid having to render them all again. It also tells more advanced tricks like painting dirt using materials, or make it look like a drawing, and how to create a 3D view of a photo making it look like aged using material adjustments.
The final chapter, "Special effects materials", gives a way of creating smoke, fire, and flames, make things burn, and animate fire and smoke in animated loops. Fire and smoke are effects that may take lots of CPU cycles to be simulated, so the book also tells how to use billboards of flames and smoke to achieve quick renders, a technique often used in games and online 3D to get believable and fast effects.
For all Blender artists, and those who want to start designing materials in a 3D suite, this book is a must-have. By reading through it you can go to a beginner level to an intermediate, quite advanced expert, in a record time. You just need to follow the book, from the beginning to the end, and lots of notions about shaders, materials and textures will be learnt by you with ease, in a natural way.
Get it at Pack Publishing's site: "Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook"
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