Base, Glossy and Clearcoat

Because there were some questions about the materials layers, I thought I would make a humble attempt at explaining how I think about the base, glossy and clearcoat layers when I am editing materials in a table.  I will preface this by saying everything I say here is based on my own experience and not based on a proper guide, so please take all this at face value.  I hope that someone who has better and proper technical understanding of this will jump in and correct any of this, or add to this.

My intent, with this, is to try to de-mystify how this works so that every VPX player can edit materials with some confidence to their liking.  I’m not an expert, just a tinkerer, so hopefully I will learn something from this as well.

Ok, so we are going to open up the “table” menu, then the “materials manager”.  There is a lot of stuff in this menu, but for the sake of this discussion I’m only going to talk about the parts circled in this screenshot:

In the area circled in green we have the “base, glossy and clearcoat” buttons.  When we click these buttons it brings up the smaller “color” menu.

We are going to eliminate the element of color for now, by clicking the crosshair, circled in yellow, down to the bottom.  Now we are working only with neutrals.  Finally, the slider, circled in blue, will allow us to select from a range of shades from black to white.

BASE:  I think of this as darkness or lightness of the actual colors of the objects made of the material I am editing.  The easiest example of how to test and experiment with this is the playfield material (usually called “playfield” but the author can name it whatever they like.)  When we select this material, then slide the slider (blue circle) all the way up to white, we can click ok, start up the table and observe our changes on the playfield.  We will see that the colors are all uniformly bright.  Then, we can do the same thing with the slider all the way to black… start the table and look at the changes.

GLOSSY:  I think of glossy as the shaded highlights in the colors of the material.  If we set our playfield base material to white, then we can experiment with the changes that can be made in the highlights by moving the glossy slider from white down to black.  Sometimes it’s easier to see the difference on an object like a model when we change the glossy layer.  You will notice shaded detail areas getting darker.  Transparent ramps are another good one to practice with.  Experiment with this a bit and you will see how it works.

CLEARCOAT:  I think of the clearcoat as a layer of shininess on the outside of a material.  You can control how bright the shininess is by the slider.  You will notice, if you move the brightness all the way up to white on the material of a toy model that it will sometimes get little white dot areas, or artifacts on its surface.  We can fix this by backing off the the brightness a bit.

So, what happens if we put a clearcoat layer on the playfield material, but set it to a low value, such as 10 or 60, or whatever?… basically, we are going to see a very “thin” layer that is dark… not brightly shaded.  This is why we see a layer of “fuzz” or “fog” as it is sometimes referred to on the playfield.  You will get the most clarity in the playfield by disabling the clearcoat layer.  You can do this by lowering the slider all the way to zero.

Of course, after you start experimenting with this, you can also add color into the materials for many different effects.

Please experiment with these to find what settings work best for you.  There are endless ways you can do this, but without trying to trivialize it too much, I often like to set the base high, glossy highlights mid to low to accentuate detail and clearcoat off.  I often turn clearcoat on for things I want to look a bit shinier, and keep the slider mid to high.  Again, this is an extremely basic summary of something that takes some tinkering, and I am not an expert.  I apologize to anyone who has a good technical understanding of the materials editing and invite everyone to join the discussion.  My hope is to get everyone who is new to this a basic starting point.