Clay wireframe renders with Mental Ray & 3ds Max

I thought I’d outline my process of creating ‘clay’ images for showing WIP (Work In Progress) in forums or blogs. Clays are used because they show the model in a basic form which tends to show lumps and bumps which could otherwise be covered up by texturing or shaders. It also allows your peers to criticise your work easily which will help you develop your models faster and to a better standard. Its really useful to post wire frames too but this is often where people become unstuck. This tutorial tackles clay & wireframe renders in Mental Ray & 3ds Max – I have used 3ds Max 2008 but it should be transferable to other versions.

Clay Wireframe Mix

1) Create a large plane in the top viewport and assign a standard white material to it. My plane was 100m by 100m large. I have also chosen to use an off white/grey colour instead of white but that is down to personal preference.

 Creating a plane

2) Change your background colour to white in the Environment and Effects window.


3) To create the clay material for the car I use a composite material.


The base material should have a white diffuse colour with no specular highlight. The 2nd material should be black diffuse colour but make sure ‘wire’ is ticked in the “shader basic parameters” section at the top. You can change the size of the wire to suit your renders by experimenting with different values in extender parameters section. Apply this material to your object – in my case a half modelled car.


4) Lighting: Insert a skylight anywhere you wish – a skylight is omni directional so it doesn’t matter where you place it in your scene. The skylight will give you soft lighting and a soft shadow underneath your object.


5) Now onto setting up Mental Ray. Firstly select Mental Ray as your chosen renderer.


Secondly enable Final Gather and use the preset Draft. If you have a fast computer then select a higher option if you want but it will slow down your rendering times and after all this is for a Work In Progress image.


6) Choose how you want your image to look! For WIP images I personally believe its important to show your object unsmoothed, so people can critique your wireframe.


Once you’ve done this you can then show a smooth version with or without a wireframe. Using this method you can easily render either of these with just a few tweaks to your settings. To render a smooth version with a smooth wireframe you need to tweak your turbo/mesh smooth settings so that isoline display is ticked and then change the amount of iterations to something suitable. Here’s my settings:



Now after posting your wires, you might want to just show you car smoothed to show off your shapes, using this method all you need to do is turn off the wire frame layer in the composite material by unticking it.



Each type of image has different uses but I normally only use a smooth clay render without a wireframe and a clay render with wireframe without smoothing. These 2 images will demonstrate my model to others fairly well so they can critique my work. As my work develops I will start to add car paint and a studio lighting but I try to refrain from doing this too early as it can be distracting. To get the mixed image at the top of this tutorial all you need to do is blend one smoothed image with a wire image in photoshop.

Clay Wireframe Mix

I hope this tutorial was helpful!

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