In this tutorial we’re going to create an abstract background image in 3ds Max. It seems that bokeh backgrounds have been extremely popular during the last few years so we’re going to create one as well. There are many Photoshop tutorials available, but here I’m going to show you how to create bokeh background in 3ds Max. I think 3ds Max is perfect for creating abstract backgrounds because of it’s parametric nature. It’s really easy to change everything with parameters. I’m using 3ds Max 2011, but many older versions should work as well.
Step 1 Scanline Renderer
We’re going to render the bokeh effect with Scanline Renderer. If you are using mental ray renderer you have to change that ( Rendering > Render Setup… > Common tab > Assign Renderer > Production > Default Scanline Renderer ).
Step 2 Particle Cloud
Our abstract background will consist of two elements: particles and background. First, we’ll create the particles. I’m using Particle Cloud, but feel free to use Particle Flow if you want to. I think it’s just a little easier / faster to use Particle Cloud for our purpose here, because we don’t need any of those advanced features that Particle Flow has to offer. So let’s create a particle cloud in the front viewport ( Create panel > Geometry > Particle Systems > PCloud ). Select the particle cloud, go to the modify panel and apply the following settings:
Use total: 500
Particle Timing ( We create all particles between frames -29 and 0 so that they are visible already at frame 0 )
Emit Start: -29
Emit Stop: 0
Display Until: 0
Particle Size: 20
Grow for: 0
Fade for: 0
Seed: 704 ( Feel free to try different numbers here )
Standard Particles: Facing ( flat four sided polygons that will always face the camera )
Create a target camera ( Create panel > Cameras > Target ) in the top viewport. Right-click on the Perspective view and press ‘c’ in the keyboard to change it to a camera view. Position the camera target in to the middle of the particle cloud and the camera itself like in picture below.
Render your scene to make sure you get something like the picture below. I rendered with 700 x 438 px dimensions.
Step 3 The Particle Material
Next we’re going to create the material for the particles. This is the most complicated part of this tutorial, but don’t worry, nothing really hard here. Open Material Editor ( Press ‘m’ in keyboard ) and create the material for the particles:
Select the Particle Cluod and assign the first standard material to it
Face Map: YES ( map in material will be automatically applied to each face of the object )
Diffuse: Light gray ( RGB 230, 230, 230) ( diffuse and ambient are locked by default so both will have this color )
( Click on the color gradient to add a new flag. Right-click on a flag to modify or delete it. )
Now infant particles are darker / more transparent than particles that have some age. The effect of the Particle age map is not drastic but in my opinion necessary to get some variation to the opacity and brightness of individual particles. Render your scene to make sure it looks similar to picture below.
Our abstract bokeh background doesn’t look like much yet.
Step 4 Abstract Background Material
The next step is to create the environment (background) map for our image. Open Material Editor ( Press ‘m’ in keyboard ) and create the environment map:
Select the second material slot
Click on ‘Get Material’ button and select Composite map from the Map list ( Material/Map Browser > Maps > Standard > Composite ). Make sure you select Composite map and not Composite material!
Click ‘Add a new layer’ to add a second layer to the composite map
Add Gradient Ramp map to the first layer of the Composite Map:Coordinates rolloutEnviron: SelectedMapping: Screen
Angle: W: 90
Gradient Ramp Parameters rollout
Flag #1 Color: RGB 139, 84, 5 Position: 0
Flag #2 Color: RGB 255, 229, 192 Position: 100
Add Noise map to the second layer of the Composite Map:Noise Parameters rollout Noise Type: FractalLevels: 10
Color #1: RGB 100, 100, 100
Color #2: RGB 255, 255, 255
In the Composite Map, change the blending mode of the ‘Layer 2’ to ‘Color Burn’
Let’s apply the map to the environment:
Open environment settings ( Rendering > Environment… )
Drag and drop the environment map from the material editor slot to the Environment Map slot. Select ‘Instance’ when asked and click ‘OK’.
Render your scene to see how your abstract background looks.
As you see the environment background brings a lot of life and color to the image. Feel free to change the color in the background map.
Step 5 Depth of Field
As a last thing, we’re going to make the image more interesting by adding real depth of field effect to it. Select the camera and go to the Modify Panel to apply the depth of field effect:
Enable: YES ( Make sure ‘Depth of Field’ is selected in the drop down list )
Depth of Field Parameters
Use Target Distance: YES ( particles near the camera target will appear sharp )
Display Passes: YES
Use Original Location: YES
Total Passes: 100 ( try lower values if it takes a long time to render )
Sample Radius: 30
Sample Bias: 0,5
Render your image to see the difference.
Finally, do some color correction in Photoshop if you like: