This is a new feature in Houdini 11. To learn about more new features, see what’s new in Houdini 11.
Materials control the overall look of objects. A material can encompass surface color shading, displacement/bump shading, and volume shading. A material can also generate geometry at render time and apply render properties to the object it is assigned to.
Shaders for Houdini’s mantra renderer are defined in the VEX shading language. It is possible to write VEX code directly using a text editor, but you will probably prefer to create shaders using VOPs. VOPs are nodes representing shading operations which you can wire together in the network editor to create a shading network.
Materials in Houdini 11
Prior to Houdini 11, Materials were subnetworks that contained shaders (SHOPs). As of Houdini 11, Materials are now shaders (SHOPs) which can have multiple output VOPs inside to define different types of shading (color, displacement, etc.). This eliminates a layer of complexity and allows you to easily share code between the different shading types since they are in the same network.
Assigning materials from the gallery
Houdini comes with a wide array of premade materials in the material gallery. The material palette lets you assign and customize materials from the gallery. The material palette pane is in the default pane layout in the bottom right pane, as a tab alongside the network editor.
Creating new materials
See Working with VOPs for how to build a new material.