Surface, displacement, volumetric materials


Though 3D surfaces in Maya respond to light similarly to those in the real world, there are important differences in the way that surfaces and lights interact in computer graphics software. Material nodes are a type of render node (see Render nodes) that, when applied to an object, let you define how the object’s surface appears when rendered.

See also Surface shading.

In Maya, material nodes define how surfaces react to light. Maya contains several types of material nodes that help you simulate the real-world qualities or behaviors of surfaces to light: Surface material nodes, Volumetric material (atmosphere) nodes, and Displacement material nodes.

In Maya, surface material nodes help you define how surfaces react to light.

You can set a material’s attributes, such as color, specularity, reflectivity, transparency, and surface detail of scene elements to create a wide variety of realistic images. For a detailed description of Maya’s materials, their attributes, and guidelines on how to change them, see Surface material, Volumetric material (atmosphere), and Displacement material.


When you first create an object, Maya’s assigns a special version of the Lambert material (a surface material) by default.

Surface material

Surface materials represent the types of surfaces onto which you can map textures. Attributes such as shininess, matte, reflectivity, glossiness, and so on, vary among the different types of materials in Maya. For example, if the texture requires a shiny surface, such as chrome, use a Phong material.

For a detailed description of a surface material’s attributes, see About surface materials.

Displacement material

The displacement material lets you use an image to specify surface relief on objects in your scene. To find out more about surface relief, see About surface relief.

Volumetric material (atmosphere)

In the real world, when you photograph an object, it is usually within an atmosphere (air) and is surrounded by other objects (background).

Volumetric materials describe the physical appearance of phenomena which occupy a volume of space (for example, fog, smoke, dust or other fine particles). You can raytrace volumetric materials and produce effects such as displaying light fog through mirror reflections and refractions.

For a description of volumetric materials see About volumetric materials.

To use volumetric materials, see Simulate fog, smoke, or dust.

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