Houdini 20.0 Materials

Using materials

How to assign assign materials and use the library of built-in materials.

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Material shaders control how surfaces look when rendered. Materials are digital assets, containing the shader’s definition in VOPs, and a parameter user interface. Users can instantiate multiple copies of a material and use the material’s parameter interface to edit them. For example, you could create two copies of a Brick material asset, and change each copy’s Color parameter to create a red brick and a yellow brick material.

You can create your own material assets using a network of VOP nodes, and promote parameters on the VOP nodes up to create the user interface of the material asset. For information on how to build your own materials using a VOP network, see building materials.

Built-in materials

  • Houdini includes several useful built-in materials on the material palette.

  • The Principled Shader material is a “physically plausible” “über-shader” that lets you create almost any look using a small set of intuitive artistic controls.

  • Specialized materials are available for other types of materials such as Skin and Glass.

  • You can layer existing materials to create more complex looks, for example scratches and rust over a metal base.

  • You can get practically any realistic look using the Principled material or other built-in materials, possibly with layering. However, if you need something non-realistic or custom, you can build your own shader.

  • Mantra ships with two “über-shaders”, Principled Shader and Classic Shader (formerly known as the Mantra Surface shader). We recommend using the Principled Shader unless you need one of the specialized features on the Classic Shader: more control over sub-surface scattering, and/or control over refraction roughness separate from reflection roughness.

How to assign materials

Houdini comes with a wide array of pre-made materials in the material gallery. The material palette lets you assign and customize materials from the gallery.

To...Do this

Create an instance of a material in the gallery

In the material palette pane, drag a material from the gallery sub-pane on the left into the list of scene materials on the right.

To instantiate multiple materials at once, it might be easier to use the Load button:

  1. Select the materials you want to instantiate in the gallery sub-pane.

  2. Click Load.

Assign a material to an object

  • Drag the material from the palette pane onto the object in the viewer pane. (You can drag onto the 3D viewer or the render view)

To assign a material to multiple objects, it might be easier to use the Assign button in the material palette pane:

  1. Select the material in the material palette pane.

  2. Select the object(s) in the viewer.

  3. In the material palette pane, click Assign.

Assign a material to specific primitives (faces) at the geometry level

Use the Material node to assign a material to individual pieces of geometry.

Edit a material’s parameters

Select the material in the material palette pane. The material’s parameter interface appears in the parameter editor.

Edit a material shown in the render view

⌃ Ctrl-click a pixel in the render view to open the parameter interface for the material that shaded that pixel.

Change material parameters on individual objects or primitives

See material overrides.


Using materials

Textures and UVs

Creating materials

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Other renderers