Glass, particularly bottles and tableware can be a bit perplexing for beginners. The first inclination is to just lower the opacity but this in itself only allows us to look through the glass. There is no refraction or reflection, so you need to at least add a Reflection map to the Reflection channel.
Using PBR materials makes this easier as the settings on the Metallic and Roughness channels are just as important as the opacity when it comes to dialing in the glass. In combination, these tools can provide a more robust, reflective surface that looks more like glass.
Lighting is also very important as it is easy to have a dull-looking glass if there isn’t much light to work with. Opacity, material, and lighting can take the dullness out of glass and make it look as though it is reacting to the environment around it. While this sounds complicated, in reality, it is not.
Let’s go over a few basic settings to get your glass looking better and serve as a jumping-off point for you to explore settings and discover what suits your needs.
First, we’ll go to the obvious, opacity. Glass doesn’t require opacity as some want an opaque look and you can still get reflection and shininess without it being see-through. On the other hand, you don’t want to be completely see-through it as you need to distinguish the shape of the glass depending on if it is a bottle or drinking glass of some sort.
In the example below I have only used the basics, Traditional shader with no reflection map and basic IBL lighting. Opacity is the same for the liquid contents as the bottles. This can make it look too opaque for liquid. You might be able to reduce this opacity more to see through it, but it will still be dull.
Traditional Shader, No Reflection (Bottles, Glass and their contents)
The next example is the same set-up as above with a stock iClone reflection map and the change is rather drastic. The reflection channel makes a big difference, but the liquid still looks flat and unappealing. Not the stuff of marketing images if you are trying to sell wine so we need to make a change in the Shader from Traditional to Physically Based Rendering (PBR).
Traditional Shader with Reflection Map
You can change the shader for the entire project in the Project tab at the top under Color Management. The default is PBR, but older projects can be the Traditional shader. If you are using the default project workspace, then you are most likely in PBR shader mode already. Make sure to press the PBR setup button below the Mode selection as this will convert everything into the PBR shader.
In PBR shader mode you will see an immediate difference again. Not only does it make the glass look more defined it softens the glare from the scene lighting. Another improvement is the liquid which is see-through and retains the properties that look more like the liquid you would expect in such a container.
PBR Shader, Sharp IBL Lighting
All of these images have the same IBL lighting with identical settings. The previous image has a more defined reflection, not of the environment it is in but rather the environment on the IBL image which in this case is the stock Hall HDR image.
There is a possibility that the HDR image may show up too defined in the reflection. If you are in a small kitchen with a little window, you wouldn’t want the huge window in the HALL image to show as prominently as it does in the above image.
This is simple enough to solve by softening the HDR image with the Adjust Color popup menu. This will wash out the image details while retaining the reflection and lighting. Below is an example of softening the same HDR image as used above.
PBR Shader, Soft IBL Lighting
There may be times you don’t want a low opacity, shiny bottle but in most cases, the final result above is a good start to getting a more realistic-looking glass in iClone 7. From here you tweak it to suit your needs.
Like most things iClone, it’s not rocket science and most new users can achieve good glass results in their first attempt if they follow a few basics.
(The “table” the props are set on is Water 6 in the Content Manager, set to black then reduced in size. It is not glass)
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.