Poser Tutorials


Character Creation: Textures and materials

This document covers the material preparation and texturing of a character including: Material Zones and Grouping, Adding Nodes and Image Maps, Normal Maps, and Materials Collections.

If you have not already downloaded the support Runtime for this tutorial, get it here.

There are many different programs that you can use to create your character's texture maps. Such as Photoshop®, Zbrush®, DeepPaint and BodyPaint. For the purpose of this tutorial, Nathan's texture and Normal maps were created in Zbrush then saved out as PNG files. Poser recognized a multitude of image files like .png, .jpg, .bmp and .psd to name a few. However, if you are planning on distributing your Poser files or have limited resources in your computer like memory, cpu speed or hard drive space, it is recommended to use one of the compressed image types like .png or .jpg.

Requirements: Poser Pro is required

Material Zones

The first step will be to set up your material zones. This can be done within your modeling application as you create your model, within your UV mapping application as you create your UV’s, or it can be done from within Poser via the Grouping tool. If you decide to do it within Poser, you would do well to group your model first and then make materials for them. Let’s give it a try.

With the object or figure selected, turn on the Grouping Tool. You’ll see a name for one of the groups at the top of the tool’s window. Click this name and you’ll find a listing of all the available groups in the figure. For the purpose of this example, let’s click on the Hip. The button labeled “Assign Material“, will allow you to create a material for a group. Click the “Assign Material” button.

A dialog box will appear where you can give the new material a name. It’s best to use names that fit the item the material will be applied too. For the hip, since it’s part of the body and the body, with the exception of the head, all share UV space, should have a material assigned to it called “Body”. Nathan already has materials assigned to him, so for now, we’ll assign the hip to a material called “Skin”, just for the sake of the tutorial.

We’ll now want to add other body parts to this material. Select the lThigh group and click the “Assign Material” button again but this time, instead of entering a name for the material, click the button labeled “Materials” and choose “Skin” from the list.

Click OK and the Skin material will now be assigned to both the hip and the lThigh groups. You would then normally continue on this way, creating and assigning materials as needed, making sure to SAVE OFTEN. However, we don’t want to save this, as it’s just an example, so let’s just stop at the hip and lThigh and move on to material attributes, shall we?

Adding Nodes and Image Maps

Click the Material Tab to move to the Material Room. Here, you will be able to alter the parameters of the materials to achieve certain looks for them as well as giving them various attributes. Initially, you’ll be faced with the Simple material editor.

This is where you can make basic changes to the material. At the top of the material editor, you will see two drop down menus. The first is labeled Object and this is where you can choose what Poser file to which you want to apply your materials. The second is labeled Material and this menu allows you to choose which material group you will be editing. There are options for the Diffuse Color, Highlight, Ambient, Reflection, Bump and Transparency. To load a texture into any of these fields, click on the large empty squares below the name of the channel you are affecting. For example, if I wanted to add a color map to the diffuse channel, I would make the Diffuse Color white and then right below the color, I’d click the inside the box. The reason you want the diffuse color set to white is because whatever color you choose there will be blended into the color map, thus affecting the final render. White will have little to no affect. Once you click on the box as described above, you’ll be presented with a dialog box where you can choose your 2D image and load it as a texture. Normally, the texture loaded into the Diffuse Color, is called a Diffuse Map. This map contains all the color information you want to apply to your model.

Let’s say however, you want more control over the way a material renders. To get that control, you’ll need to hit the Advanced tab, doing so will present you with a new window to work in. This window provides a node based system with which you can affect the chosen material. As with the Simple Tab, selecting which object and which material you are working on is easy. To select the object you want to work with, go to the word Object at the top of the window and choose the object you want. To select the material you want to work with, go to the word Material at the top of the window and choose the material you want to adjust from the list. Usually, Poser will have the currently selected figure as your active object and its very first texture selected as the material you‘re working with.

The first thing you may see when working with advanced material settings is that the Advanced window has a smaller window in it labeled "Poser Surface". This window contains the various channels that can be adjusted to affect the material. For now we’ll concern ourselves with the first channel, Diffuse Color. As with the Simple material window, the Diffuse Color channel allows you to assign a 2d texture map to it. This is done by creating and attaching a node to the channel. Nodes are modifiers that, when attached to channels, result in a wide range of effects. You can assign as few or as many nodes as you like or use none at all, it depends on your needs for the image and/or model. Even the Background, Lights and Props can have materials and nodes assigned to them.

To create a node for the image, we want to attach to the Diffuse Color. Right click in an empty location next to the channel listings and choose New Node > 2D Textures > Image_map. (DefuseNode.png) In this case, this will create an empty node called “Image Map” to which you assign an image. Click where it says None next to Image Source on the node. A window will pop up where you can locate the image you want to apply. You can select from the already loaded 2d maps (if you loaded one already) or from your hard drive by clicking Browse. Click Browse and you’ll usually be taken to your Runtime’s texture directory. Do so now and locate Nathan’s folder. Within that folder, locate a texture called “Nathan Body Color” and click it.

You will then be returned to the dialog box where you can Browse for images. Only one image can be assigned to a single node, so we won’t want to browse again. Instead, take a look at the two options/settings below the Browse button. This is the Gamma Correction settings. You can choose to allow Poser to decide the gamma correction for you or you can set it manually. In most cases, you’ll want to allow Poser to decide the gamma correction for you but when dealing with Displacement Maps, Normal Maps, and Bump Maps, it’s best to set the gamma correction manually to 1. Using any other number with these types of maps can result in undesirable artifacts. Since this is a Diffuse map, we’ll leave things at the default and hit Ok. That image will now be assigned to that node.

Doing this won’t be enough to have the image appear when rendered, however. We’ll now need to plug that node into one of the channels, in this case, the Diffuse channel. To do so, we’ll click and drag on the plug icon at the upper left corner of the Image Map node and pull it over to the socket icon of the Diffuse Color channel. The Diffuse color should be set to white, if it isn’t already, if it is, you’ll see that the texture now applies itself to the figure correctly.

Congratulations, you’ve applied your first texture! However, this was just a color map and lacks depth. To get depth in the material, we’ll need to add a bump map, normal map or displacement map (or a combination of those).

Normal Maps

For the sake of this tutorial, we’ll apply a Normal Map. Without getting too technical, a Normal Map is a map that works like a bump map but actually affects an objects normals in such a way that the added detail reacts to lighting in the scene. Since the map is an external 2d image, we’ll import it just like we did the Diffuse Map but with one exception, the Gamma Correction for that image must be set to 1. So, browse within Nathan’s texture folder until you see “Nathan Body Normal”. Select this image and set the Gamma Correction manually by clicking the “Custom Gamma Value” option and changing the number there to 1.

Hit OK and drag the plug in the upper left of this image node to the channel labeled, “Gradient Bump”. You’ll usually want to leave the setting for that channel at 1, which means full strength. Below that, there’s another option you’ll need to adjust so that Poser treats the map we just plugged in correctly. This option is labeled, Gradient Mode and it is here that you can choose between, Gradient Map, Normal Map (tangent space), and Normal Map (object space).

As you can see, there are two flavors of Normal Maps, object based (which is better for inanimate objects) and tangent based (which are better for objects that have moving parts). You can tell the difference between the two types of maps by how much blue is in them, tangent based maps will be predominantly blue, while object based maps will be more rainbow in color (leaning often to green). There are various programs available where you can generate a normal map, Zbrush, Mudbox, Silo, etc. For now, we’ll just concern ourselves with what to do with the map we just plugged into the Gradient Bump Channel. In the Gradient Mode option, click the little triangle and choose Normal Map (tangent space).

Now that you’ve done that, you can apply diffuse maps to the other parts of the body. In Nathan’s case, only the body and head have a normal map but depending on the situation, any or all parts of the body could use a normal, or bump, or displacement map it’s all up to you to decide what works best.

In some instances, you may need additional maps like a Specular map (which adjusts how highlights form across a surface), Translucency maps (which determine how much light passes through a surface), Transparency maps (which determines how opaque a surface is), Reflection maps (which determines what gets reflected on a surface), Refraction maps (which determines how much and in what way light gets distorted when passing through a surface). Again, all of this depends on the needs of the object or the scene. Usually, you’ll want to use various channels in conjunction with each other like we did for Nathan.

Material collections

Once you have all your materials set up with texture maps or colors, you can save a single material setting or a complete material collection that can be used over again. What this does is create a file that is written in Poser that will quickly assign all or individual materials to a poser figure or other poser files. To create this file, open your library palette and select Materials from the top menu. Now you can create a folder to store your material collection by clicking on the "Add new category" from the top menu. For the tutorial, a folder called Nathan was created. Open this folder by double clicking on it. To add a material collection to the folder, click on the plus sign at the bottom of the library palette. You will get a dialog box. At the top of the dialog box, type in the name of your material or material collection.

For this tutorial, we will be creating a full material collection for Nathan so, after you have given your name, select Material Collection and click Select Materials. This will open a new window in which you can select which material groups you wish to add to the material collection. For this tutorial, we will leave all the material groups selected.

Click Ok to close out both dialog boxes. Now you have saved a Material Collection to you library that can be used over again. If you only wanted to save a single material group instead of an entire collection, you can select the material group you wish to save by clicking the Material menu at the top and scrolling to the material group you want to save then repeating the same steps above except after giving your material a name select Single Material instead of Material Collection then click ok. This will save just the selected material group to your library.

Once you are done setting up all your materials, you can exit out of the material room by clicking on the Pose tab at the top. This will bring you back to the Pose Room where you can now save your character to the figure library with the textures already applied so the next time you load your figure into the scene it will contain all the material settings.

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