shiny plastic material


I have been trying to make a shiny plastic material for lego pieces. Mind you this is just a quick scene I did in 5 minutes where I want to focus on the material.

Lighting: Skylight using Lightracer, 2 bounces
2 spotlights (specular only)

Materials: Standard with Raytrace in reflection. I dont have any cards or other objects in the scene. No environment map.

Im not getting that shiny, shiny “techy” plastic look. Any basic tips here??? The lighting doesnt looks too blown out too. What changes to my material and environment would help?



First I would tone the lights down a bit, they look just a little too bright. I usually put my skylight at .5 or .7. In class they suggest having all your ambiant lights add up to a value of 2.

Not sure if you have tried this or not, I’m not the “material king” by any means mind you. Go to your default libray that came with max, click open and choose the “raytrace 1” file in your matlibs folder. It might be matlibs 2, not positive. Turn on the thumbnails and look for the shiny blue, red, orange, and whatever other colors you want. Apply those to your legos and you will probably notice a huge difference. Then it’s simply a matter of looking at those shaders and finding out what yours are alcking.

If that doesn’t help it might just be your model(s). Try putting your shaders on a nice sphere and see what you get. Write back if that doesn’t work or I didn’t make sense.



hey, no that is a great start. the material looks OK. I guess what I need help with is how to setup those bouce cards to get the strong hi-contrast reflections. I am having trouble getting them to be reflected by my objects. I have them set to 100% self illum, white. here is what I have so far…


Yea, give them a white material. You have to change either Output Amount or RGB Level (I always forget which) under output by either adding a white bitmap or an output map.

The trick is to make them overbright so they show up in the reflections.

  • R


Well, that’s a big part of the problem there. Plastic is characterized by having a soft non-colored highlight with a lot of diffuse showing through. Hence, if you don’t have anything in your environment to reflect, you’re not going to get interesting reflections, and it won’t look like plastic.

First off, I suggest making a single lego in the middle of your scene with nothing else, get that looking the way you want, then worry about adding other blocks. Next, start adding planes with a self illuminated material on them to the scene, these will be the reflection cards. If they don’t show up strong enough in the reflection, add an output to their diffuse slot and change the rgb level to a value greater than 1, see

the pottery example is a good starting spot.

As for where to put the cards to get the best effect, that’s a matter of trial and error. No perfect formula, however, one piece of advice is to place them such that they define the shape of the object, as in, you want your object to seem dimensional and 3D, so place the cards such that their reflection helps give the object depth, like for example having one side of the lego have a reflection, and one without a reflection, that will help the lego look like it’s not flat. Also, you may wish the chamfer the edges of your lego, since no real world object is ever perfectly sharp at the edge, this will also give a nice area for reflections to appear, so you can get nice white lines at the chamfered edge.

Lastly, try and find a photo of what you want to do, or even make one with a digital camera and some lego, then analyze that photo, what makes up the scene, then replicate that in 3d. It’s always easier to make something in 3d if you have real world reference.

Good luck.

  • Neil


Thanks so much, Neil (and Rens). Great advice and explanation. here is a progress shot. I still need some more things to reflect, but its a start. I will post the material too if you want to take a look.

Any feedback is much appreciated


here is the material…


I think you’re getting there.

And, somewhat similar to what Neil said, always remember a reflection is as good as what’s being reflected :wink:

How does it look with multiple blocks?

  • Rens


Wow. After reading and doing Neil’s tutorials, I TOTALLY am starting to get the Raytrace Material now (IOR, fresnel, reflection color, environment…etc). I suggest anyone struggling to understand raytracing/reflections…etc check it out.…ome_pottery.htm

Thanks so much, Neil. Awesome explanations…



Thanks, glad you’ve found the tutorials so useful.

  • Neil


This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.