Arnold for 3ds max – Render objects as volumes (volume shading)

3ds max 2019 | Arnold 5

In-order for objects in 3ds max to be rendered as volumes with Arnold, the object mesh has to be converted to a volume, and a Standard Volume material assigned to the object:

  1. Add an Arnold Properties modifier to the object.
  2. Under Volume set the Step Size to a value higher than 0.0.
  3. Assign a Standard Volume material to the object and set it’s parameters to design the volumetric effect:


* Note that both Density and Depth control the transparency or ‘thickness’ of the volume. (lower Depth setting creates a thicker volume)
* When Scattering is set to 0.0 the volume will have only a absorption effect




In this example an Arnold Noise map is connected to the Standard Volume‘s Density parameter:
* Note that the Scale values must be set correctly in order to actually get a ‘cloudy’ effect.
* Note that the noise color values are now controlling the Density of the volume.


Arnold for 3ds max God Rays


Arnold for 3ds max – Volumetric Fog and ‘God Rays’

3ds max 2019 | Arnold 5


Adding a ‘Volume Light’ effect in Arnold for 3ds max is fairly simple:

  1. In the Render Setup windows > Arnold Renderer tab, under Environment, Background & Atmosphere:
  2. Click the Scene Atmosphere material slot, add an Arnold Atmosphere Volume material to it,
    And drag it as an instance to the Material Editor to edit it’s parameters.
  3. Set the Density to a higher than 0.0 value, so the material will have an effect.
  4. You’ll probably need to significantly raise the number of samples in the Atmosphere Volume material, and also the number of Volume samples in the light settings in order to get a clean render.


Arnold for 3ds max Volume Shading

3ds max Island / Seashore opacity underwater tip

3ds max 2016

When creating a surface submerged in sea water,
Theoretically, it’s the Volume Absorption or ‘Fog‘ of the water shader that should do cause the surface to disappear under water.
But in many cases that doesn’t work well because we don’t actually model enough extended surface under the water for it to completely disappear without seeing the surfaces geometric edges that spoil the result.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use a Gradient Ramp map in the surface’s Opacity channel to make it gradually disappear before the geometry ends.

This can be done in most  3d software and render engines, I’m demonstrating it here using 3ds max and V-Ray:



Cycles – Nested Refractive Volumes

Blender 2.79 | Cycles Renderer

When it comes to rendering nested refractive volumes, like a glass containing a beverage, the way to set it up in Cycles is common to many modern ray-tracers.
The touching bodies of refractive material like glass and liquid must overlap each other slightly so that rays being traced “meet” the right surface without having surfaces touching and causing “Z fighting” artifacts.


When the render includes volumetric shading, like Volume Absorption (sometimes referred to as “fog”), the meshes must be set-up in a certain way for Cycles to interpret the volumes properly.

Intersecting volumes like a beverage glass and liquid must be separate objects to be rendered correctly. When joined into one mesh the renderer doesn’t treat the different volumes separately even though they have different shaders.
And the result is that the volume (depth) of the inner volume is calculated as just the depth on the intersection (the overlap) of the volumes.
In this example the wine can’t be rendered correctly when the glass and liquid meshes are joined.
The wine liquid doesn’t get it’s deep color because the renderer “thinks” it’s very thin.


When the meshes are separated the renderer interprets the wines volume correctly and the Volume Absorption shader produces the right color:


Setting up cavities within a volume like air bubbles, is similar to many other modern ray-tracers. You just have to create inner meshes that have flipped normals facing inwards, so air bubbles within the wine don’t need to have “air” material, they have the same wine shader, but have their faces flipped.

Note that in this case, it’s the other way around from the previous example.
If the bubble meshes are separate from the liquid mesh the renderer doesn’t interpret them as holes in the liquid volume, and produces an incorrect result:


When the bubble meshes are joined to the liquid mesh, the volume is interpreted correctly:


In short:
For these refractive volumetric effects to be rendered correctly in Cycles,
Surfaces of the same material volume must be joined to one mesh, and separated from meshes belonging to different material volumes.
* This may sound trivial, but it’s not. there are rendering systems in which only the surface shader determines volume interpretation and that has advantages like the convenience to aninate bubbles as separate objects from the liquid itself or the ability to join a glass bottle with the liquid into one mesh model.

Arnold for Maya – Transmission Scattering (Ray Traced SSS)

Maya 2018 | Arnold 5


The Arnold Standard Surface Shader’s Transmission Scattering options can be used for simulating highly realistic volumetrically ray-traced sub-surface-scattering suitable for materials like wax, soap, milk etc.

While the Transmission Depth attribute controls volumetric light absorption within the object (fog), the Scatter attribute controls what percentage of the light will be scattered instead of absorbed, effectively creating the murky effect of semi-transparent materials.

Note that for the scattering effect to work Scatter must have a dominant percentage value, and the Depth attribute must generally be much lower (shallower) than what would create coloring without scattering, otherwise the object will continue to look transparent and lacking the internal substance that we want to simulate.

Also note that the Opaque attribute must be unchecked in the Arnold attributes of the object’s shape node for the light to be able to pass into the mesh and illuminate the volume.
*This is actually a “cheat”, because physical semi-transparency has to be simulated by indirect light calculation or caustics, but for dense volumes like wax it’s very effective and the loss of realism is insignificant.



You can simulate the effect more accurately by rendering caustics,
In that case the Opaque attribute in the Arnold attributes of the object’s shape node must be checked and more steps must be taken allow refractive caustics to be ray-traced.

Note that simulating the effect using caustics will be very demanding in Transmission samples and Ray Depth.