Material/Map Browser
Command entry: Compact Material Editor (Get Material)
Command entry: Compact Material Editor Type button
Command entry: Slate Material Editor Material/Map Browser panel
Command entry:Rendering menu Material/Map Browser
Command entry: Material Editor (either interface) Parameter rollout Click a map button.
Command entry:Rendering menu Environment Environment And Effects dialog Environment panel Common Parameters rollout Background group Environment Map button

The Material/Map Browser lets you choose a material, map, or mental ray shader.

In the Compact Material Editor, a modal version of the Material/Map Browser opens when you click the Type button or any map button. When you click (Get Material), the Compact Material Editor opens a modeless version of the Browser.

In the Slate Material Editor, the Material/Map Browser appears as a panel that by default is always displayed.

Base Materials and Maps

The Slate Material Editor uses “base material” or “base map” to describe the raw types you use to create materials or maps. These are essentially templates: They might have default values that will render, but in general you need to change their settings and map settings to get a good effect.

In the Material/Map Browser, libraries contain materials that you have edited, while groups contain base materials or maps: This includes the default, generic groups Materials and Maps.

When you drag a base material or map from the Browser into the active View, the Slate Material Editor creates a copy of the base material or map. When you drag an edited material or map into the active View, the Slate Material Editor asks whether you want to work on an instance of the material/map, or a copy.

Shortcut “Context” Menu to the Material/Map Browser

When you right-click an empty area of the active View, the Slate Material Editor displays a shortcut menu that lets you choose items in the Browser.

The first section of the menu is a shortcut to the Browser. Choosing a material or map from the menu places a node for that material or m ap in the active View.

You can customize the contents and appearance of this section of the menu by using the Context Menu Options.


Unhide All Children

Unhides all child nodes in the active View.

Hide All Children

Hides all child nodes in the active View.


To get a material from a library:

  1. In the Material/Map Browser, open the Options menu and choose Open Material Library.

    3ds Max opens a file dialog so you can choose the library (MAT file) to open.

    After you choose a library, that library appears in the Material/Map Browser.

  2. Drag the material you want from the library file entry in the Material/Map Browser to the active View (or simply double-click the entry for the material).

To save a material in a library:

  1. In the Material/Map Browser, open the Options menu and choose Open Material Library.

    3ds Max opens a file dialog so you can choose the library (MAT file) where you will save the material.

    After you choose a library, that library appears in the Material/Map Browser.

  2. Also in the Material/Map Browser, drag the material from another group (for example, Scene Materials) to the entry for the library file.

    The material becomes part of the library as well.

  3. In the Material/Map Browser, right-click the library file entry and choose Close Material Library.

    3ds Max asks if you want to save changes to the library. Click Yes.

To create a new library:

To create a custom group:

  1. Open the Material/Map Browser Options menu and choose New Group.

    3ds Max opens a dialog so you can give the new group a name.

  2. Enter a name for the group, then click OK.

    A title bar for the group appears in the Material/Map Browser.

  3. Drag base materials or maps from the Materials group, the Map group, or custom groups, and drop them on the new group.

    The items you drop are added to the group.


The Material/Map Browser contains the following controls:

Material/Map Browser Options button

Click to display the Material/Map Browser Options Menu.

Search by Name

Enter text in this field to search for materials and maps whose name begins with the characters you type. The search is not case-sensitive.

Found materials and maps appear in a list below the search field.

Material/Map List

The main part of the Material/Map Browser dialog is a scrollable list of materials and maps. This list is organized into groups that you can expand or collapse.

Most of the Material/Map Browser interface is simply a list of materials, maps, and controllers, organized by libraries and groups. Each library and group has a title bar with an open/close (+/-) icon that you can use to expand or contract the list. Groups can have subgroups with title bars of their own, and some of these subgroups can have further subgroups.

In the modal version of the Browser, if you are assigning a material type, then only materials appear, and if you are assigning a map, then only maps appear.

ImportantBy default, the Material/Map Browser displays only materials and maps that are compatible with the currently active renderer.

Most of the commands for managing libraries and groups in the Material/Map Browser are found on the right-click menus: See Material/Map Browser Options Menu, Custom Library Options, Autodesk Material Library Options, and Custom Group Options.

Using the Keyboard to Navigate the Material/Map List

You can use a few keyboard shortcuts to navigate the Material/Map List:

Up Arrow and Down Arrow
The arrow keys move through the list, one entry at a time.
Left Arrow and Right Arrow
When you are at an entry that is a group header, Left Arrow collapses the group if the group is open, and Right Arrow expands the group if it is closed.
When you are at a material or map entry, Enter adds an instance of the material or map to the active View, and centers the new node in the View.

When you are at a group header entry, Enter collapses the group if it is open, or expands the group if it is closed.

These shortcuts (aside from collapsing/expanding groups) also work in the Browser's list of search results.

Groups in the Material/Map List

Materials group and Maps group

The groups Materials and Maps show base material and map types that you can use to create new custom materials and maps. These are “base” types: They might have default values, but really they are templates for you to customize.

Controllers group

The Controllers group shows animation controllers that you can use to animate materials.

NoteThe Controllers group appears only in the Browser panel when you use the Slate Material Editor. It does not appear when you use the Browser in other contexts; for example, when you’re using the Compact Material Editor.
Scene Materials group

The Scene Materials group lists materials (and sometimes maps) that are used in the scene. By default, it is always updated so it shows the current scene state.

Custom libraries

You can open and use libraries. There are two ways to do so:

  • Open the Material/Map Browser Options menu, choose Open Material Library, and choose a material library MAT file.
  • Right-click the Material/Map Browser, choose New Material Library, and give the library a name.

The default location for the new library is the \materiallibraries folder in your current project. If you have not set a project folder, it saves the new library in the folder <3ds Max program folder>\materiallibraries.

Custom groups

You can create custom groups; for example, to contain “base” material or map types that you use frequently.

Groups are not saved as independent files, but they are saved with the Slate Material Editor layout. See Custom Configuration Files.

Autodesk Material Library

The Autodesk Material Library is a library of Autodesk Materials that are shared between Autodesk appplications; in particular, AutoCAD, Revit Architecture, and Inventor as well as 3ds Max.

NoteBy default, the Autodesk Material Library does not appear in the Material/Map Browser unless the mental ray renderer or Quicksilver Hardware renderer is active.
Sample slots

The sample slots group is a small version of the sample slots used by the Compact Material Editor. This is a sort of “scratch pad” area where you can work on materials and maps, including materials and maps that are not yet part of the scene.

  • Material/Map Browser Menus

    The Material/Map Browser menus provide most of the options for managing libraries, groups, and the Browser itself.