Blender 3D News and Training

Blender Giveaway – Cycles Shader : Prime Elements

Posted by Aidy Burrows on Dec 22, 2014

Do you find that you create the same cycles shader setups again and again?

Or perhaps you could do with a resource file to use as a starting point to build up some cool and complex shaders? If so, I’m hoping you’ll find this blend file of some use.

I’ve framed the typical shader creation into 5 prime elements…

  1. Randomizing
  2. Weathering (grunge/ao and worn edges)
  3. Vector Mapping (distorting/blurring)
  4. Reflection
  5. Optimizing


Having it presented open in frames and not hidden into node groups shows the transparency and hopefully helps from an educational point of view. Demonstrating the complexity or lack of complexity at play.

A quick caveat – this isn’t going to deal much with transparency or subsurface materials, this is mostly for surfaces like stone, metal, wood, plastic and so on.



Cycles Shader : Prime Elements

In this video I’ve broken down what’s going on in the file and how to use it.

In an upcoming tutorial we’ll try taking this setup for a test drive so to speak but until then I hope you enjoy the video breakdown of what’s going on here.
If you’re fairly new to cycles I’m hoping this will power you up quickly and give you access to your own useful set of quickstart frames.


Here’s the chapter list of what’s covered…


01:38 Randomizing

03:45 Vector Mapping

05:41 Weathering

12:58 Reflection

16:39 Optimizing



cycles shader all nodes

Here’s a birds eye view of the whole thing. Everything open and transparent so you can see exactly how complicated or uncomplicated it really is.  Below we’ll zoom in on the most significant elements.



cycles shader random

The Object Info node is all you really need here, that’s taking a ‘random’ output which generates a different number for each object between 0 and 1. That’s being added to the x, y and z axes of the vector coordinates.



cycles shader, distortion and blur

Here’s a frame that we went over in more detail in the previous tutorial.



cycles shader worn edges and ao

 Very handy for using as masks for other textures, for example dirt in the crevices where the ao is most prevalent and scratches for those exposed edges. The downside here is that you’ll need to have the right sort of geometry and vertex color sets to make this work. However you could of course bake those out into textures instead and use those for trickier models. 



cycles shader reflection

To control the reflection we’re going to want to add some extra light at glancing edges to help give in this setup more weight to glossiness on those areas.



cycles shader optimize

Thanks go out to the fantastic Kent Trammel for sharing this render speedup. The collapsed light path node is taking out an ‘is camera ray’ output socket. This means if the camera can see it directly then it’ll return a value ‘1’ which means it’ll use the shader that we’ve spent all our energies setting up. If it isn’t, so if it’s a glossy ray for example then it’ll use the holdout shader instead which basically spends 0 render energy and just outputs a black void. However, for very reflective shaders you’ll probably want to swap the holdout for the diffuse shader and set it to a color you’d like to represent as the reflection color. This will dramatically reduce on those fireflies but still get you the sense of color spill you’d expect.


I’ll give an example of this shader setup in use shortly. Please let me know if you develop it further and if you manage to make use of this in your shaders please show me the results!

Until next time! Aidy 🙂

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Comments (7)


I can’t seem to get the file onto blender. When I download it, via Chrome, and go into ‘User Preferences’ to get it from the add-ons section, it doesn’t show up; It’s not under install from file. Help?

Aidy Burrows
Hi Sam! This is a blend file that you can just open in Blender and you’ll be able to take a look at the stone shaders they are using these useful collections of nodes. You can just append it into another blend file too, by going from the file you’re working in and then go File > Append > (navigate to this default shader blend file) > materials > SmoothStone Then you can just select nodes and go ctrl C to copy and then move to wherever and whatever shader you like within your blend file and ctrl V to… Read more »

Thank you Aidy, this is just great


The blend file is the same “cracks with worn edges”

Robin Hahn
Robin Hahn

You are an absolute champion, Aidy – what a treasure trove here, not just to making work easier, but also teaching Cycles for those of us who are a bit thick (well, me, actually)… well done! Thank you!!