In this tutorial, you will learn five techniques to render the wireframe of an object in 3ds max. We generally need wireframe renders if we want to display the mesh flow / edge flow of our model for show reel stuff or for our website / blog gallery. There are number of ways to do wireframe renders but here I am going to show some of those that can be achieved without using any plugin or scripts or without the involvements of any other software like Photoshop. These are some commonly used wireframe rendering techniques. So, here we go.
Gradient Map technique
Let’s start with Gradient map technique, in this technique, we use gradient map to render the wireframe of the object. I have a low poly model on viewport and you can use any other object to use these techniques.
First of all, we have to prepare a material. So, open up the Material Editor by pressing M key on your keyboard. Select a material slot and inside Shader Basic Parameters rollout; turn on the Face map option. Now, click on Diffuse button and select Gradient Ramp material.
Inside Gradient Ramp Parameters rollout, create a gradient as shown in the image and set the Gradient Type to Box.
Note that the width of the black area is the width of the wireframe of your object and you can change it any time.
Now apply the material to your object and render it and here is your object with wireframe.
Sometimes it looks little dirty as the width of the wire is not evenly rendered at some places so I generally do not use this technique to render wireframes of my models.
Composite Material technique
In this technique, we will use a material called Composite but before using that you have to switch to Mental ray renderer. So, Press F10 key to bring up the Render Setup Dialog. Under Assign Renderer rollout choose Mental ray as the production renderer.
Now, we have to create wireframe material first so press M for Material Editor. Select a material slot then click on Standard button and pick Composite material from the list.
Let’s prepare a base material for our object so go ahead and assign a Standard material to Mat. 1 and change the diffuse color to anything that you like for the base color of your object. Here, I am using white color for my model. Now, click on Go to Parent button to get back to the Composite Basic Parameters.
Now, it’s time to prepare our wireframe material. Under Composite Basic Parameters rollout, click on None button and assign a Standard material to Mat. 2. In Standard material, just turn on the wire option and change the diffuse color to black or any color that you want for your object’s wireframe. You can change the wire size by adjusting the Size parameter which is present under Extended Parameters rollout inside Wire group. Now, apply the material to your model and press render button to render the wireframe.
Note: You can also use any bitmap texture as the base color / map of your object.
Ink ‘n Paint shader technique
In this technique, we will use a shader called Ink ‘n paint to generate wireframe render.
So let’s start, Bring up the Material Editor (M) and select a material slot, then click on standard button and pick Ink ‘n Paint shader. Now apply the material to your object.
By default, Ink ‘n Paint shader has Blue / Cyan colored paint assigned so if you want to choose your own color, you can do it by clicking on a small color box titled Lighted under Paint Controls rollout. I am using white as my object’s base color. To control wireframe width, just adjust the Ink Width inside Ink Controls rollout. You can also change the color of the wireframe through SmGroup color box present in the same rollout.
Now, select your object and apply Smooth modifier to it, then under Parameters rollout just turn on Auto Smooth and Prevent Indirect Smoothing and put the threshold to some minimum value (0.01 is working fine for me). You can use this technique if you want your wireframe to look like a pen drawing or want to give it a 2d look. Hit Render button to check your render.
Note: The problem with this technique is sometimes you will see the triangle strips (a diagonal line through the quad that divides it into two triangles) in the rendered output. To fix this problem just play with threshold value of the Smooth modifier and it will work fine.
Clone method is quick and easy to use. In this technique we generally make two copies of an object and align them top of each other in which one object will work as a wireframe and the other one as base surface.
Let’s prepare the scene first. Go ahead, select your object and shift+drag it or press ctrl+V to make a copy of your object. Inside Clone Options dialog, name your object as Wireframe and make sure that the copy option is checked on.
Now, Bring up the Material Editor (M) and select a material slot then set the diffuse color to whatever you want for the wireframe, I am using black color for wireframe. Make sure that Wire option Under Shader Basic Parameters rollout is turned on. Now, apply this material to your wireframe object.
Now, we have to align our wireframe object to our model. So, select your wireframe object and align it to the model using Align tool (Alt + A). We have one more thing to do before proceeding to render, we have to scale our wireframe object a bit and make it slightly bigger than our model.
The main reason behind scaling our wireframe object is that both our model and the wireframe are of same size and overlapped. This overlapping sometime makes our wireframe object hide behind our main model so; I recommend scaling the wireframe to avoid this problem.
Tip: You can also apply Push modifier to the wireframe object instead of scaling it.
Ok, let’s do it, grab your wireframe object and right click on Select and Uniform Scale Tool to bring up the Transform Type-in dialog (F12) and put in the values that you wish to scale your wireframe. I scale it 0.1 from its original scale.
Now, render it and you’ll see a nice wireframe render of your model similar to mine.
Spline Overlay Technique
This technique is almost similar to the above one. In this technique we use spline as our object’s wireframe.
In order to use this technique, you have to convert your object to Editable poly so, right click then Convert To > Convert to Editable Poly. Now, go to Edge sub-object level by pressing (2) key on your keyboard. Grab all the edges of your object then right-click and click on Create Shape option. In Create Shape dialog, name your curve as “Wireframe” and set the Shape Type to Linear. This will create a spline object from the edge selection of your poly object.
Now, select the spline object and go to Modify panel then under Rendering rollout just turn on Enable in Renderer and Enable in Viewport options. You can adjust the Thickness parameter to increase or decrease the size of your wireframe. For color, I am using another material slot with black diffuse color. Now, align the wireframe to your model and you are done.
Note: Do not convert your wireframe object to Editable Poly and if you do, you will no longer access the thickness parameter as it is available for Editable Spline objects.
That’s all. I hope you find this tutorial useful. If you have any kind of confusion regarding any of the above techniques, you can ask it through comment or contact me via email.