Easy Steps to Create your own Transparent Materials (Sketchup + VRay)

When it comes to creating our own materials, Transparent and Translucent materials used to always elude me; so I end up googling ready-made materials and over crowding my material library with a lot types of materials. After a while, the over crowding got to me, I literally had over 100 Transparent Materials in one folder, and it drove me crazy when I started working on a project and had to try them out one by one to find something that gave me the best and most realistic feel for the type of Object I’m using it on.

A while ago I started my Own Material Library; I would create a standard material, save it, and when needed I would load it and change the Bump and Diffuse to fit what I’m looking for.

All the other properties were variation I saved those materials in. (E.g.: For Wood I have vismats of Satin, Gloss, and Matte saved in one folder, and in another folder I have the Diffuse Textures with their Bumps renamed for easy search. So if I want an Old looking Oak floor I’d load the ‘Matte.vismat’ and then for the Diffuse and Bump I’d load the ‘Old Oak.png’ and ‘Old Oak_Bump.png’.)

When it came to Transparent/Translucent Materials, I created 6 standards and created an IOR chart and a Fog chart to use for future changes (since Bump and Diffuse maps don’t really apply here, unless under special circumstances).

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create each of the 6 Standards I use for Transparent/Translucent materials + If you want a guide on all the types for those materials, stick around till the end of this post!


Creating a basic Glass Material

When I create a material from scratch, I usually just pick any random color from the Sketchup ‘Material’ window, rename it, and then head over to the VRay ‘Material Editor’ to configure it.

Regular Glass is the easiest of them all and acts as the foundation for the rest of the materials; the steps we do here, will be repeated in the other materials’ creation (except the Double Sided).

Glass Material vismat
Try Hash-tagging your materials to find them easily later on, since hashtags go to the top of the Material List.

First, right-click your Glass material in the Material List-Create Layer-Refraction.

Glass Material vismat
‘Transparency’ values work on the grey scale spectrum, with ‘Black’ as completely Opaque and ‘White’ as completely Transparent.

In the Diffuse tab, click on the color picker next to ‘Transparency’ and change it to White.

Glass Material vismat
Click ‘Preview’ as you go to monitor change progress. I do not recommend checking ‘Live Update’; Changes will occur with you not paying attention and you won’t be able to track them, which is very vital for learning to work with ‘Material Editor’.

You’ll notice that your material took on a transparent look with light refracting through it like it should if you’re looking at a glass ball.

Glass Material vismat
Tip: change the ‘Reflection’ value from 1.0 to 0.9 in all your reflective materials if you want to render faster. It’s a tiny change but with noticeable results and it won’t affect the quality of the material.

This is the final step here, Right Click-Create Layer-Reflection.

and now you have a normal Glass material.

I use this on Windows, Tables, or any flat Glass Surfaces.


Creating a Crystal Material

For this material, redo all the steps from above.

Crystal Material vismat
Change the IOR & Subdivision in Refraction

Change the value of the IOR: 2.0 and the Subdivision: 32, this changes how light reacts to/passes through this material.

Due to its appearance, I usually use this material for Dinning ware, Vases, Chandeliers, Jewelry, etc. for a very clean and expensive look.


Creating a Foggy Glass Material

Again, repeat the steps used in creating the glass material (one of the main reasons as to why I use Glass.vismat as my standard material).

Foggy Glass Material
First start with the Refraction tab

Change ‘Subdivision’ to ’32’ the in the ‘Fog’ area, change the color to a soft grey and change the ‘Multiplier’ to ‘0.2’ (You can choose any color you want for this part, just make sure it’s a pastel/soft color and then you can change the intensity of the color through the ‘Multiplier’).

Foggy Glass Material
Next we move to the Diffuse tab

Change the ‘Transparency’ value as you wish (Depending on the design and how you’ll use it, it could be very opaque or very translucent).

Foggy Glass Material
Tip: If you want to control how reflective a surface is, adjust the ‘Highlight’ and ‘Reflect’ values.

Change the ‘Highlight’ and ‘Reflect’ values to 0.8, then click ‘Preview’. All done!

I use this material for glass walls/partitions and to create Stained Glass windows (Change the Fog Color).


Creating a Transparent Plastic/Acrylic Material

This material will look quite similar to the Foggy Glass material (I switch the up sometimes) due to the fact that in a render, there is only so much you can do to vary those up before it gets overwhelming!

After you add the reflection and refraction layers, go to the Refraction tab

Plastic + Acrylic material
IOR is key here!

Change the ‘IOR’ to ‘1.4’, and the ‘Subdivision’ to ’32’.

Plastic + Acrylic material

In the ‘Reflection’ tab, change ‘Highlight’ to 0.8 and ‘Reflect’ to 0.85.

And we’re done here as well!

This material is EPIC for creating Acrylic furniture.


Creating The Water Material

Water material is in high demand, be it a fountain, or a pool, or even a cup of tea! If you don’t get it right, it’ll look solid or glassy.

It’s very simple to create it, you’ll need Reflection and Refraction Layers, first.

water vismat

Water’s IOR is always at 1.33. No matter where it’s used, it’s the same. Change the Subdivision value, too, of course.

water vismat

Activate the Bump map, but only if you want to have some ripples/waves the water’s surface; a still cup with water in it doesn’t need it, but an outdoor pool does.

water vismat

I usually go for the ‘TexWater’, it works beautifully for me! You can choose ‘TexBitmap’ and load your own water bump, just make sure its seamless/tile-able so it doesn’t look weird.

Check the little box with ‘Use 3D Mapping’ and click Ok, and if a new window opens just Click Ok again.Ta DA!

You can up the Bump value to 2.0 if you render and it isn’t ‘rippling’ enough for you.

I don’t recommend more than 2.0, because the water starts looking like there’s an earthquake, but then again it might be my VRay being quirky.

With the Bump map, this material is optimal for big Pools of water, without the Bump map, you can use it for Fish Bowls, Tea cups, and anywhere you need still water, as well as water droplets (Shower, Fountains, Faucets, etc.)


Creating a Double Sided Material

Double sided materials are amazing for when used as a transparent/translucent fabric! the effects are more realistic than if you just tweak the transparency of a normal material.

The steps here are different from from above, but are VERY EASY.

To start off, your object doesn’t need to be painted in the original material/s that you need but make sure it already exists, and then you can add it after you convert it into a Two Sided.

Double Sided material

In your ‘Material Editor’, Right Click ‘Scene materials’ – ‘Create Material’ – ‘Two Sided’.

Now, it’s not THAT easy, two-sided material is not a material until you pick what goes on either side manually (Color or Pattern).

Double Sided material

When you select the ‘Default Material’, which is the Two Sided Material you just created, you’ll see a very simple interface.

Go to ‘Front’ and browse for the material you already chose as your ‘Two Sided’, and then do the same for ‘Back’.

The nifty thing about this is that, you don’t have to choose the same color/pattern for front and back, you can play around and get creative.

Now, the fact that it’s two-sided doesn’t mean that it’s transparent, YET. Go to the color picker in front of ‘Color’ and read the next step carefully.

Double Sided material

In order to make it transparent, you need to play with ‘Val’ value here.

The optimal values are between 220 and 35. That’s it. Any higher and it’ll be too transparent, and any lower it’ll be too opaque and “solid”. I picked 220 to give you an idea of how ‘light’ it looks.

I really recommend using a really good fabric Bump map, it’ll give a realistic feel to it (like it is actual woven fabric).

Creating a Double Sided Material
This one is my favorite to use, you can use it too! (Right click – Save).

Paint your object with this new material and you’re good to go!

220 is the lightest possible shade, and it makes the material very transparent, so I don’t use it much. 35 is the darkest possible shade, and it gives the feel of a heavy screen/fabric so I love using it on Heavy Curtains.


The Results!

Geometric Shapes
Organic Shapes

I really recommend using a good lighting and VRay settings to get the best results.

If you want the model & Material used for this tutorial + a very handy guide on different IOR, Fog, and Double Sided transparency values for different material results, Click below.

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