Getting Metal Right for 3D Renders
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Latest comments
by Alexey Garmash
2 hours ago

It's not a talent, it's a dedication and self-motivation alongside with self-discipline.

by seth
3 hours ago

Spain is spelt 'Spane' on the main page description of this article. Interesting read.

Can you please repost the download links? Thank you.

Getting Metal Right for 3D Renders
17 May, 2017
Jonathan Alvizuris showed how he worked with Mental Ray and 3ds Max to build amazing metallic surfaces for his car project.


My name is Jonathan Alvizuris. I am a Vehicle/Game Artist in the making. Guatemalan descent. Born and raised in New Orleans Louisiana and currently living in Arlington Texas. I’m really into vehicles and large scale hard surface art. Super cool stuff out there. I like the challenge of making hard surface shapes and taking the time to put in that extra detail that really sells the piece. I’ve worked on a variety of projects in school like characters and environments but my main passions are Props/Weapons/Vehicles/Mecha. A couple being large scale hard surface vehicles. Like the WW2 Schwerer Gustav, and the V-63 Bomber airship concept based off the work of Peter Sutherland.

I’m currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree for Game Art at the Art Institute of Dallas. I’ve always admired game art growing up. 

I had plenty of ideas I would write down or sketch but I always wanted to take that creativity to the next level. I wouldn’t say I had a specific instructor on this project per se but during my time in school Professor Eudy, Jeremiah Bigley and Mark Leon have been a big influence on my learning as well as maintaining the right mindset in terms of producing content and constantly growing.


 As for the model, It took me roughly about a week to build. I studied the reference and went for the most challenging shape first in my eyes and that was the headlight. I started building the headlight shape from a very basic primitive I like to call a quad sphere, and from that shape I began to pull out edges and build the body that way. I of course used some reference. I took a few that I liked with different parts and more interesting shapes like the braces over the tires and the headlights mounted on the sides of the hood rather than the windows. One of which was a blueprint like image showcasing the vehicle’s proportions and dimensions. I mapped that specific image onto a plane and for blocking the silhouette of the car it proved useful to model in front of the image in an orthographic view.

I planned to achieve some personal goals:

  • To get a unique look/style with the lighting
  • Dive into the post process phase
  • Learn different lighting/staging techniques

As for the metal surfaces, there are Mental Ray metallic shaders you can use build off to customize your metals  and create variations with different specular values, mapped reflections, etc. As far as texturing goes for this project, specifically I like to use the term surfacing seeing as a big part of it was building and using procedural methods to surface the vehicle with materials rather than painting in texture detail.  I mainly used a chrome shader as a base with varying specular values and intensities.

As far as the lighting goes I used a total of 5 lights, they all were utilized in different ways and for different purposes. For the main lighting, I like to start with a non-illuminated pitch-black scene. Block in the lighting building base lighting. 

From there you can experiment with mood and atmosphere with varying intensities the light emits and different angles of  lighting. I find that part of the process very enjoyable. First I started doing test renders with a skylight only to see what kind of results I get.

It was at this point I decided to go with a darker, more dramatic look for the mood. Moving on from that I used a Mental Ray photometric lighting system mainly because it uses a physically-based algorithm versus a standard omni/spot/directional light. 

It uses a kelvin scale that measures the heat and intensity of the light with 6500 – 7000 being neutral white lighting and any value below that starts becoming a warmer light and any value above that starts becoming a cooler blue light.

So, I started with 2 photometric lights one in the front and one illuminating the back. Then after that I was thinking of how I could push the lighting to give it sort of a studio look. Always wondered how a lot of vehicle renders out there have those really nice white reflections that seem to flow along the surface of the model.

So, I made 2 planes that I floated over the vehicle at different angles and gave them self-illuminating properties using a Mental Ray shader versus the standard non-physically accurate one.That gave me the option to utilize the kelvin scale and cast reflections on any surface it illuminates. In doing so I essentially created my own lights. Adjusting the horizontal/vertical scale of the planes can give you longer and broader reflections or shorter and thinner reflections.

Now one issue I came across were shadow blemishes and floating white discs all over the render. That was a result of having low samples on the self-illuminating shader. 

Finally, I wanted to add something that would give it more of a unique look so I added in a third photometric light with a very warm orange kelvin value. This time instead of illuminating the diffuse and specular as the initial 2 photometric lights were.I went under the advanced effects tab, unchecked diffuse and left specular on. That way I can control what exactly I want the light to do. Therefore, resulting in the light only casting a specular highlight on the object rather than illuminating it.

Another technique I used was light-linking. In doing so you have the control to decide what exactly you want lit and what not by including and excluding certain objects from the light. Resulting in the light only casting on one object like the sphere you see below and totally negating the additional sphere and background.


As for the post-processing behind this asset I rendered out different passes. Ambient Occlusion and Color masks. For texturing color masks are a good way to break up your materials for texturing and having an organized workflow. For my rendering pipeline, I utilize the color masks to have more control over different parts of the render using the levels/ or curves adjustment layer in Photoshop.

This is to give different parts of the model varying levels of contrast. Resulting in a model with areas that pop and really contrast from each other. 

Jonathan Alvizuris, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Polygrinder Recent comment authors

Really awesome work and the tutorial is fantastic. Thanks for sharing.