Car Paint Theory…

Want to know how to create a realistic looking car paint that reacts correctly with your lighting environment? I will go through a few tips that will help you achieve the results you crave. A couple of things to consider though:

  1. This will take time and require plenty of test renders
  2. You will need a lot of patience
  3. You will need a lot of reference material
  4. And you will need more reference material
  5. You will also need 3DS Max and VRay and a working knowledge of both

And one extra note, I will not show you my paint material settings as you will not learn how to make them just by me giving them to you.

First off I will show you what you are trying to create. The image below is my paint that I have created. I am pretty satisfied with it.

Now this was the result of a lot of research, both into the construction of real life car paint as well as exact colour that BMW make. Both of these are critical in achieving a realistic looking and performing car paint.

I found out what colour BMW made the E30 M3 in by doing a bit of googling and coming up with this fantastic site. (I am sure there are other sites for whatever car you are making. ) I then chose a colour (Brilliantrot) but then I needed to find the RGB colour of this paint. This required more googling and I came up with this utterly amazing site which has flat colours of all of BMW colours making it easy to get the RGB code by using Photoshop’s colour picker. (Because as you know trying to pick the exact colour off of a photo is really hard because of the reflections)

Now once you have spent hours searching for the colour you want and have the correct RGB code you need to know the make up of the paint.
Now I know that Brilliantrot is flat paint with a single layer of gloss and no metallic layer. This information was from these two sites: This one and this one.

If that means nothing to you then this picture should help you:

In basic terms you can see that a real car has its body made from metal then a layer of a prime over it. Then a layer Colour which contains the metal flakes if it is metallic paint (note in real life there are more than likely more of these layers) Then a layer of clear coat on top. (Again probably more layers in real life).

The paint we will be creating will be made from three layers. The body colour, the metallic layer (if it is metallic) then clear coat. Now if like me you are making flat paint (as in no metallic layer) then you can miss the middle layer out.

Creating the paint you will need to go to the material editor in 3DS Max and create a VRay Blend Material. Your base material will be the colour of the car. This is where you need RGB code from earlier. Type it into the Diffuse editor. Then click on the box to the right of the diffuse and select Falloff and make the two values a little darker and a little lighter than your desired colour. Leave the reflect as default but again add a Falloff to it using black and white and set it to Fresnel on the falloff options. Give the Ref. Glossiness a Falloff map as well using two similar tones of grey. Oh and set the BRDF to Phong. That’s your base layer done!

The coat layers of your VRay Blend Material will be the Metallic layer and the clear coat. In that order!

Metallic layer. Diffuse same as your base. With the same Falloff but on the second colour give it a Speckle Map and change the settings to suit. Give a black and white falloff to the reflection colour the same as on the base layer.

Clear coat. DO NOT MAKE IT TRANSPARENT! The VRay Blend material will take care of that for you. No colour to this layer just reflective. How reflective depends on how you want it.

Play around with the blending colours on the Blend Material to get the effect you want.

End notes:

Sorry I haven’t shared my settings exactly with you but you will not learn anything from me just giving you the settings. I hope you realise the importance of researching how paint work and how it is made up. It all makes a difference in the end. Hopefully this tutorial made a bit of sense to you and will get you on your way to getting the results. A couple of things to remember though:

  • No matter how good your car paint is, it will NEVER hide a badly made model.
  • Decent lighting is always essential to having a decent render and showing off the true magic of VRay Blend Materials.

I hope your results turn out well and if you need any help, leave a comment and I will give you a hand.

Thanks for watching.



9 responses to “Car Paint Theory…

  1. hmm.. I’ll give this a shot too, once I get on my other computer. I’m not running vray with my renders but I’ll try and use the diffuse thing you mentioned here to get that grainy paint thing you told me I needed.

    Any suggestions on how to make renders faster though? XD

  2. Nice job there Dave,

    This is pretty much how I create my shaders, like you said you have to have patience and an understanding of car paints.
    I have learnt this recently when trying to recreate the nissan gtr vspecs flip paint, which dependant on how light shines will change to either dark blackcurrant purple/light purple right through to gold/bronze. On top of all of this a speckle layer is needed to bring the gold/bronze out. A normal map of your flakes can help tremendously so bare that in mind 🙂
    Keep up the good work though bud, and add me on msn when you get it 😉 haha

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  4. Excellent! Just what I was looking for.

    There are many ‘tutorials’ on this topic but this is the first one I’ve seen that makes a connection between real paint process and v-ray rather than just dictating parameter values for a specific situation.

    Thanx a million!

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  6. I spent probably an hour creating my first metallic pain material that looked decent. Started with blend material, but without luck, so I ended up using vray car paint material – as you can see here:

    Not too many settings to tweak and results are good enough.

    For close up shots, this would probably require more elaborate material…

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