Lighting and Texturing in Maya: 3D Computer Monitor Part 2

This is a follow-up entry to the 3D modeling tutorial of a computer monitor found here. This is going to cover basics of lighting and texturing a scene for a final render in Autodesk Maya 2011.


If your Outliner isn’t up, go to the top menu and navigate Window>Outliner. This will show you all of your scene elements and object groups. It’s also a good way to select objects.

Now let’s open the Hypershade. This is where we’re going to build some textures. Go to Window>Rendering Editors, Hypershade. Now click Phong. This will create a new material in the hypershade. You can name it if you wish. Phongs have a somewhat plastic quality and we’ll end up using this as the main material for the monitor and base.

Ok now that you see the Phong in the Hypershade, double click it. Now you’ll see the phong’s attributes in the attribute editor on the right-hand side of the Maya workspace.

Click on the color swatch to alter the material colors. Choose a near-black dark gray.

In the last tutorial we grouped all the objects we made for the monitor into 1 group. Go to the Outliner and select the group with the monitor parts in them.

With that selected go back into the Hypershade and right-click the black phong material until the menu appears and choose “Assign Material to Selection”.

Now there is a material on the monitor! Time to make a material for the desk. This time create a Blinn. Blinn properties tend to mimic metallic qualities. Double click and change to a gray and you should now have a silver material to assign to the desk.

Now let’s make the screen. Go ahead and create a flat sheet with the Polygon Plane tool.

Click and drag to create an approximate shape flat on the grid floor.

Press “E” to shortcut to the rotate function. And rotate it upwards so the screen is standing upright.

Type in 90 in the screen’s rotation attribute in the first tab in the Attribute Editor. Now it should be rotated to a perfect 90 degrees.

Press “W” for the move function and place it in front of the monitor. “R” to scale it appropriately and right-click the object>Vertex if you want to line them up perfectly in the orthographic viewports.

Now the fun part! Take a screenshot of a website of your choosing and save it as an image file. The following pic is just a small version, so make sure yours is high resolution.

The reason we made a plane and didn’t use the monitor is that we’re going to make an entirely unique material specifically tailored to the screen, or flat plane we just made and lined up. Go to the Hypershade and create a new Blinn. You may want to name it something else as the more materials you make the more confusing it can become. For the color, click on the box on the right of the slider to open a new window. In the new window choose “File”. Now go into the attribute editor and click the folder icon to navigate to your saved screenshot and use that. Now this material should have the screenshot as it’s texture map. Click back on the new blinn in the Hypershade to activate its properties in the Hypershade. Make sure the settings match on the following screenshot. Translucency is the main focal point because it will cause the material to glow.

Go ahead and add this material to the screen. With the screen selected press “6” to see what the material looks like on it. You may notice it’s not perfectly lined. We’re going to have to alter the UV mapping of the plane object. Don’t worry it’s fairly painless.

Top menu>Window>UV Texture Editor.

Go to your plane object, right-click and choose UV. Marquee select all of them.

Go back into the Texture Editor and notice the UVs have lit up. You’ll notice that the plane’s UVs are mapping only have of the texture. This is why the image appears stretched.

Right click inside the actual Texture Editor and choose “UV”. Marquee select the 2 UVs in the middle and press “W” to move them over so the 4 corners cover the entire square texture.

Now for some lighting! In my opinion, lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects in common 3D. It’s what ends up making or breaking a final animation and all too often do I see fairly nice models and textures fall flat due to the complete omission of lighting sensibilities. For this simple scene, we’re going to create 3 lights. This alone will completely transform the mood of the scene. Go to the top menu and choose Create>Lights>Point light. Position it to the rear of monitor and this will serve as a soft back light. Create a Spot Light and rotate it to point towards the front from above. Lastly create an Area Light. This will serve as the monitor acting as an actual light source.

Here are the settings I used for the Point Light as seen in the Attribute Editor.

Settings for the Spot Light…

And settings for the Area Light. You’ll notice I used 1400 for the Depth Map Shadow resolution. I found that anything lower than this shadows can become fairly pixelated. Higher the better of course, but you’re looking at higher render times. Your choice, of course.

One method we’re going to learn today is “light linking.” This allows you to have control over which lights cast on the objects you choose. Go to Window>Relationship Editors>Light Linking>Object-Centric.

This will list all of your objects on the left side of panel, and the lights on the right. By default all lights are casting on all objects.

Click on the monitor group and link it only to the spot light.

Do the same for the screen.

Lastly we’re going to tweak some Render Settings. Click the movie clapper icon with the 2 dots on the side. Change the image size to HD 720 or your personal preference.

Frame the computer how you’d like for it to appear in the render in the perspective view. The perspective camera is the default render view. Click the movie clapper 2 icons left of the render settings icon.

Here’s the completed render! Click for the hi-rez image.

By Mark Rivera

Mark is an animator and ad designer for WebProNews. He has a passion for illustration and 3D art.

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