PhotoRender Basics (Alibre Design Tips)

1 May, 2008 By: Aaron Arnold

Use textures and lighting to get the most out of your models.

When you're presenting a model to a prospective client, a high-quality rendering of what the finished product will look like can give you a competitive advantage. The actual quality of the design is paramount, of course, but having an appealing representation of your part in action helps your clients visualize what makes your design superior. Alibre PhotoRender allows you to lift your design off the page, so to speak, and make it much more vivid than a simple mechanical drawing. This tutorial will explore ways of using textures and lighting to get the most out of your models.

Step 1: Decide on Context
Probably the most important part of creating an effective rendering of your model is deciding how best to present it. If your model is a drill bit, you will want to give it a realistic texture and place it in an industrial context, for example. It is possible to present your model against an abstract backdrop as shown below, and it may even be desirable if the product is something that does not lend itself well to action shots. Ultimately it is up to you. You can use an image you have on your computer as a background, or use a preset.

An assembly without texturing.

Step 2: Apply Textures
PhotoRender comes with a lot of textures already, but you will probably want to place your logo in the image somewhere, and you might have custom textures you'd rather use. To place your own custom textures, you will need to first apply a texture map. You do this by placing a texture map (available in the Archives tab / Materials / Basic Components / Color) onto the part, and then browsing in the File Name field under the Editors tab for your replacement image. PhotoRender supports JPG, TGA, BMP, TIFF, and LWI image files.

Applying a texture map.

It is important to note that, if the surface you're applying a texture to is not flat or is shaped irregularly, it might require a little tweaking to get the image to line up correctly. Adjust the image under the Current Materials portion of the Editor or the Texture Space tab in the Advanced Editor, which is selectable from the Tools / Editors menu.

Adjusting a texture.

By default, PhotoRender will apply different textures to each part in your assembly, so if you need to apply a single texture to multiple parts, you can speed up the process by linking parts together. To do this, hold down the Ctrl key while selecting the individual parts, and then choose Link Selected Parts from the Edit menu.

Selecting multiple parts.

Background images don't need to be quite as detailed, but as mentioned earlier, it's important to pick backgrounds that will fit with your part. The default backgrounds are located in the Scenery section of the Archives tab, but you can apply your own by dragging the default image from Scenery / Backgrounds / Default and then changing the Background file name in the Editors / Color tab to whatever you'd like.

Adjusting the background texture.

Step 3: Apply Lighting
Once you have your textures taken care of, it's time to apply lighting. In the Archives tab, you will find various lighting schemes under the Light Studios section. Picking the right lighting scheme depends on your needs, but it's safe to assume that some sort of natural lighting would be best, unless you have a real need for spot lighting or another one of the options. If you wish to customize it further, all the details of the light's direction, the shadows, and the light's coloring can be found in the Lighting section once you've dragged your light scheme onto the part.

Adjusting the lighting.

Step 4: Output to a File
Now that you have your part textured against a background with some lighting, it's time to output to a file that can be emailed or placed on a Web site. From the Render menu, select To File/Printer, and pick a format. You will probably want a JPG unless you're planning on doing further editing of the picture in more advanced editing software, so select JPEG in the Output Format dropdown menu. The default resolution for the image is 768 pixels wide by 576 pixels high, and you can change that by selecting Custom in the Resolution dropdown menu and entering a larger resolution such as 1024 by 768 or 1600 by 1200. Finally, type in the path and file name of the resulting picture and hit Render, and you're done.

Calibrating the output.

The finished product.

About the Author: Aaron Arnold

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