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Creating a realistic apple using only procedural textures

By Pieter

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a photo realistic apple using only procedural maps. I assume you know max basics and use 3D StudioMax R3.

Procedural maps:

Procedural maps are like bitmaps, except that their data is calculated, not stored on disk. This gives these maps indefinite resolution:

The smoke map has indefinite resolution

Also, most procedurals continue over the entire plane, not repeating once.


Step 1: Modeling the apple

Create a spline as shown. Adjust bezier handles and vertices as needed with Editable Spline.

Make sure the left most vertices are precisely atop each other.

Rename it to ‘Apple’.

Now Lathe this spline

If the apple seems turned inside-out, check or de-check Flip Normals.

A real apple has six or so points at its bottom

Convert it to an editable mesh by right-clicking it and selecting ‘Convert to Editable Mesh’. Select the place where these points have there peak. Turn on soft selction and set the Fallof to 28.345 (or so): Now move these vertices down a bit until you have nice points.

Turn off Sub-Object


Add some Noise to the model, since real-life apples are not symetrical.

Copy all the settings or adjust it until it looks good

Step 2: The Material Editor

Now comes the fun part.

Open the Material Editor.

Select an empty slot and rename it to Totally Apple (or whatever).

Copy these settings:

Click on the button next to the diffuse color swatch. This tells Max you want to have a map as a source of color rather than one solid color. Choose Gradient from the list (not Gradient Ramp).

Copy these settings:

The color for #1 & #3 is: R:221 G:56 B:49

The color for #2 is: R:185 G:212 B:25

In the coordinates rollout, make sure maping is set to Explicit Map Channel and change the W angle to 90. This turns the gradient 90 degrees. Notice there is Noise. This adds irregularity to the apple’s color, as in real life.

Click on Show Map in viewport. This way you will see how it looks in the viewport after you’ve applied it to the apple (don’t do this yet though).

By double clicking on the Material slot and turning off Show End Result you can see what you have so far:

Now we will add speckles:

Replace the red color in Color #1 with a noise map by clicking on None and selecting noise from the list.

You will get the default black and white mix.

Now you’ve all played with the threshold spinner before, but what do they really do?

You can see the High and Low values as markers on a gradient. The gradient is on a line from 1.0 to 0.0. Between the markers there is a transition between the two colors. Before the High marker is solid Color #1. After the Low marker is solid Color #2. When the values come close together, the transition between Color 1 and Color 2 becomes more abrupt. Try that. When these two values are in the high numbers (0.6 and up) there is more #2 than #1. When these two values are in the low numbers (0.4 and down) there is more #1 than #2. If you want to get some more #2 in you map, raise the value of the Low spinner. If you want more #1, lower the value of the High spinner.

Ok, let’s continue.

Make Color #1 R:221 G:56 B:49

Make Color #1 R:212 G:175 B:25

Copy these settings:

Note that the Y tiling is 0.15, not 1.0. This stretches the map out.

You can replace colors with other maps, in theory up to infinite levels, but that is not required for this tutorial.

You map should look like this:

Now go up a level:

Copy the map in Color #1 to Color #3 by dragging from #1 to #3. Select Instance. This will insure that any changes to one get copied to the other.

Replace the color in Color #2 with a noise map. You will get your same black white again.

Copy these settings:

Color #1 R:185 G:212 B:25

Color #2 R:184 G:117 B:57

Your map should look like this:

Go back up to the top.

In the Bump slot in the Maps rollout, set the Amount to 2 and choose speckle.

Copy these settings:

Color #1 R:106 G:106 B:106

Color #2 R:0 G:0 B:0

Now we have our material. We first need to define how our map will be placed on the apple.

Apply a UVW Map modifier to the apple. Choose Spherical and click on the button ‘Fit’.

This way the map will be wrapped around the apple, as if it were a picture on a piece of paper. Because the gradient has the red speckles on both ends, these will nicely match up, when the ‘papers’ ends touch, leaving no seam. Apply the material to the apple.

You should have something like this:

Step 3: Final touches

Make a thin cone, turn it upside down and bend it using a bend modifier. Give it a brown color. This is the stem. Position it where a stem belongs.

Create a plane that’s about twice as wide as it is long. Give it 5 length and 7 width segments.

Make a new material and choose bitmap for the diffuse slot.

Use this bitmap:

Click on Show Map in Viewport

Go back up a level.

Choose bitmap for the opacity slot. Choose this bitmap:

The white will be non-transparent the black will be 100% transparent.

Apply this material to the leaf. You now have a fake leaf. Position the leaf correctly, with the stem in at the apple’s stem. If you want you can bend the leaf a little.

Render your scene.

Mmmmm……….. that looks good, doesn’t it?

Download Apple.max at

If you have any comments, suggestions or problems with this tutorial please contact me.



July 16, 2000