Gradient Maps – Helping You See Through 3D Texture Mapping

I’ve been messing around with a lot of texturing techniques for my 3D models lately, and wanted to share a very useful method for enhancing the look of transparencies, translucency, glossiness and reflection. It’s called an “incidence angle gradient.”

To start, apply a black and white gradient to any material slot in your 3D model. The parts that are black in the gradient are going to be a higher value, while the closer to white it is, the less value it has. This allows you to set up a parameter that says that the closer an object’s side is to directly facing the camera, the more transparent or opaque that object becomes. This is very useful for thin plastics, glass, the surface of water, or even human skin (which is slightly transparent as well as translucent.)

Gradients are an extremely useful tool in 3D modeling and texturing, allowing for control over the falloff of transparencies, lighting, decal maps, reflectivity, color maps, and so much more. Have an object that you want to be see through in the middle, but still want an outline so you can tell where that object is? Gradient. Have a plastic object that is thick at the top (so more opaque) and thin at the bottom (more transparent)? Gradient! Let’s give it up for this extremely useful and oft under-appreciated 3D modeling and texturing tool!