How are some people gods with shading nodes?

Here I am with the principled shader just adding some image maps and sliding around the values.
Other people are using complex shaders involving math nodes and lights paths, etc. How can I be good like them? Are there any specific resources, etc?

Learn vector math and how computer graphics works, that’s about it. The rest is just creative application. One naturally learns it by doing, but it can be accelerated by proper learning materials. For example here’s a really cool video by Zacharias Reinhardt.

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You might need to practice your observational skills. Study shadows and reproduce them? Do you know the basics of shadows? occlusion, hard, soft, bounce light, rim light, color light, etc?

^^ This is how I try and reconstruct materials. Try to understand what is actually going on in a given material then try and map those effects to the various shaders, nodes etc.

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Finally, Light is everything :wink:

With good foundations, comes less and quite simple work.

Vector maths is not required, at least not initially. That would be more useful if we wrote our own shaders - those BSDF thingies with green connections. Those are the guys that actually reacts to light and the only controls we have are what controls are exposed on them.

Learn what light is, both for painting and for rendering. John Carmack has some excellent talks that is well worth the watch. Learn what pathtracing is, and what limitations and possibilities Cycles offer. Read up on rendering tech papers. Although I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand any of the maths, it’s nice to know where we are and what the current challenges are. Without these foundations you’re just adding nodes at random and waiting for happy accidents.

Also, read threads here of course. Regarding youtube tutorials, don’t limit yourself to Blender/Cycles only stuff. Plenty of information can be obtained from other software, even if you can’t do them step by step.

I’m considering doing a series of tutorials myself, but they will be geared mostly towards intermediate users. Unfortunately, I think many tutorials on youtube describes “how to build this or that” without going in-depth in the though process or show references for their decisions, or even add many math nodes in a row without intermediate previews or explanations. If you do youtube tutorials, also ask yourself “how could I do this differently or improve on it?”.

I recommend this one by Bartek Skorupa. Watch it leisurely for the info, don’t try to replicate it as it can be overwhelming.

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Thank you for the recommendation. I watched it and learned some neat thing like the modulo operation to create a interesting repeating pattern

I’m fairly new to Blender. Node editing, so far, is the most complicated part for me. I think you master it with practice, studying references, and problem solving. If you want to create a certain look / material you’ll probably find yourself using the less obvious nodes.

To be great at anything you have to push yourself.

Here is a challenge: Make a plane and use the modulo function when the input is driven by object coordinates - two approaches. You want your modulo version (make a node group from it) to look continuous over 0 - sawtooth pattern shouldn’t change direction.