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Creating Plants in Maya/Mental Ray

Forest Techniques, part One with Alex Alvarez

Sample Clip

In this DVD, Alex thoroughly covers how to create realistic plants using Maya, Paint Effects and Mental Ray. We begin by evaluating the default paint effects library and how to convert the strokes into renderable geometry with mia Materials. Using Physical Sun/Sky, we create more photorealistic renders through the creation of our own materials in a tonemapped workflow circumventing the default shaders created by Paint Effects. Everything necessary to create double sided shaders with realistic glossy reflections and translucency is demonstrated in detail. We look at mapping all relevant paramaters for more believable shaders via diffuse, bump, reflection and translucency, including how to organize UVs into tiles for variety in our leaf textures. We take an in-depth look at creating ivy with Paint Effects and the Ivy Generator tool and incorporate the discussed techniques for plants and ivy into a cliff scene. All relevant Paint Effects settings are then discussed so that we can create our own custom plant library, all of which culminates in a photorealistic forest trail. We create a variety of plants from scratch including ferns, ground cover clover, spider plants and more, demonstrating how to incorporate them into a complex environment.

  • Paint Effects
  • Leaf Shaders with miaMaterial
  • Double Sided Materials
  • Physical Sun/Sky
  • Photographic Camera Exposure
  • Final Gather
  • Randomizing Leaf UVs
  • Ivy Generator
  • Custom Plant Techniques
  • Ferns, Bushes, Ivy, Spider Plants and more
  • Photoshop Compositing Techniques
  1. Paint Effects Introduction
  2. Creating a PFX plant library
  3. Converting to Polygons
  4. miaMaterial & exposure, part 1
  5. miaMaterial & exposure, part 2
  6. Double-Sided materials
  7. Randomizing Leaf Textures
  8. Paint Effects Ivy
  9. Ivy Generator StandAlone
  10. Cliff: Integrating Plants into a Scene
  11. Custom Plants: Bush, part 1
  12. Custom Plants: Bush, part 2
  13. Forest Path Overview
  14. Spider Plants
  15. Leafy Fronds
  16. Ground Cover: Clover
  17. Fern, method A
  18. Fern, method B
  19. Conclusion

  • Product Code: AAL23
  • ISBN: 1-59762-749-6
  • UPC: 805366018139
  • Duration: 565 minutes
  • Formats: DVD-ROM, Digital Download

DVD-ROM Requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 64 MB Video RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • 5 GB of hard disk space
  • 1280 x 1024 display

DVD-ROM and Digital Download Requirements:

Minimum Operating System:

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista®
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • Apple® Mac® OS X 10.2


  • QuickTime Movie Player (Version 7.0 or higher)
  • Acrobat Reader (Version 5.0 or higher)

For more information on DVD and Digital Download policies click here here.

  • Software Used:

  • Autodesk

  • Adobe

Alex Alvarez

Founder, Director The Gnomon Workshop
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex Alvarez is the founder and president of the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, the Gnomon Workshop, Gnomon Gallery, SketchTheatre and Gnomon Studios. Having dedicated the past fifteen years to educating students and professionals around the world, Alex has helped change the face of computer graphics and design education. He has been published in industry magazines, websites and books, plus he has taught workshops at several major trade conferences. He continues to work on personal and professional projects, recently as a creature development artist on Avatar, Star Trek, Green Lantern and Prometheus. Prior to Gnomon, Alex worked for Alias|Wavefront as a consultant and trainer for studios in the Los Angeles area. Alex is an alumnus of the Art Center College of Design and the University of Pennsylvania.

"Whenever I need to breathe life into my characters, Alex Alvarez is where I go. Whether it be to collaborate on concepts with him directly or to watch his DVDs, I am always confident in accessibility to great information. Not only has his technical prowess pulled me out of many holes, but his character sense has given rise to some wonderful moments on some major motion pictures (Avatar and Star Trek). These new DVD's encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how."

- Neville Page
Character/Concept Designer

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