Some of this may have been mentioned already…I just skimmed all the responses real fast.
You mentioned having trouble getting the shaders to show up correctly. That’s because your normals are wacked out. Select a part you want to fix and go to Edit Polygons > Normals > Set to Face. This will give the polygons a very defined edge, but it will fix the reversed normals (black spots). Afterwards, you should mess around with the Soften/Harden command in the same menu. In fact, mess around with that whole menu - it will be your friend later on.
As for the rig:
1)The root control is labeled as “hip_Ctrl” and there is no hip control that I can see after a few minutes with this rig.
2)The tie control doesn’t really give you any control…it needs to have MUCH more freedom, including the Y and Z axis. Add another section in there so we can get some overlap.
3)The fingers could use more controls. With the way they are currently set, you can do plenty of action animations, but it’s going to hurt when you try acting (using the hands a lot). They could use individual controls for curling each joint, as well as spreading each finger individually.
4)The eyes could use some aim constraint controls
5)I understand this is your first rig so I don’t want to get too complicated, but the legs could use IK/FK switching (may as well go ahead and learn it now). I remember playing with lots of these rigs when I was student and having the hardest time animating some actions because I had to keyframe the IK legs while a character was rolling or flipping or something.
The IK/FK switching will apply to the arms as well when you get to that point.
I hope some of this helps…