Easy tip: getting rid of the "plastic" look

I’m working on a small project and my attempt is to get close to photorealism. This model uses painted PCB material (the stuff that circuit boards is made from), some plastic standoffs and GFK base plate material. At the start of the project I applied some basic mix shaders of diffuse and glossy colors that work quite ok as an indication of material, but I never was too happy with those results.

I’m now refining those materials and see huge improvements just by making better choices between colors of diffuse and the glossy shaders. I have them both set up with a bit of roughness, but in the beginning I made the mistake to get both colors the same RGB values.

At the left you see the effect of similar RGB values for diffuse and glossy (about 0.2 glossiness applied). At the right you see the effect when the intensity (?) of the diffuse is tuned down in relation to the glossiness. This intensity is the white/black slider bar the side of the colors. This allowed me to increase glossiness a bit to allow stronger reflections of this material.

Looks like a great way to improve the realism of materials.

Still wondering whether glossy shouldn’t always be completely white though and tuned down in the mix shader to get better effects.

White glossy works for a lot of materials, but metals, in particular, need a colored glossy. If you set up a metal shader, and change the glossy color, it will look like a different metal.

Indeed, when glossy is set to whiter colors it makes for better realism and good to know that the standard white is usually a good choice. It gets pretty easy once you know what to look for in real life. Now when I see sun reflections I’m already trying to figure out what the color intensity setting would be in blender :).

On that motor controller you can see in the back the material was totally incorrect. I’m now using a glossy setting there with a relatively low value for intensity, slightly above the diffuse color. This gives an interesting rubbery feel to that material which it should have. With the base settings correct, the rest is just figuring out whether specular highlights are needed, bump maps, occlusion and/or decals for damage.

Other things I’m working on are better edges for the mount plates. The bottom mount plate is too black, so that gets a ‘lift’. The edges will now be set to a different material to give it this “cut-out” feeling. The interior certainly looks different from the exterior painted surface. That higher contrast also gives it a better amount of realism.

For the floor I’ve created a separate “pipeline” by reusing the original diffuse texture and desaturating and darkening the color information. This is then mixed in with the diffuse texture result according to a certain decal I downloaded. This gives traces of wear on the otherwise perfect wooden floor, just like you’d see greyish, darker spots of wood in real life where water has been lying around or people stood in front of windows.

Another thing I did is compositing and color grading. The dynamic range of the rendered results is far too great and doesn’t look anything like what a camera could capture. So in color grading I’m reducing this dynamic range by pulling back highlights and putting up shadows, as well as moving the color around ever so slightly to show the yellowish sun, all without disturbing the white balance too much hopefully.