Material ID channel tutorial

Having the material ID channel has been an immense help in compositing images in post-process. This is a tool that allows you to mask out a material and replace it with a suitable texture. I thought I would share my steps in making this image using the material ID and Alpha channel.

Step 1. select material ID color. In the material editor, select the material you want to mask, and pick a color other than black. Also, use a color for the diffuse layer that is low saturation, this will be important later.

Step 2. Select the material ID channel in your VFB dialogue. I also have the alpha channel selected since I am putting my own sky behind the image as well.

Step 3. When you render your image, save the image as a “.png”, and you will have three files. Your rgb color map, an alpha map (which is also the transparency in your first png), and a material_id map. (color and material ID shown below:)

Step 4. Open the color and material ID images into your image editor (one that can manipulate and overlap layers or levels) I am using Photoshop, so the rest of this is referencing PS.

Step 5. Select the texture to use as your background and open that in PS as well

Step 6. Arrange the three images so that material ID is on top, then color image is next, and the background is at the bottom of the stack. Make a copy of your color image.

Step 7. Make a selection your material ID color on the first layer by using the “magic wand” tool in PS, set to a tolerance of 5. Then choose the color layer in your layer window and run the following command: Layer -> Layer Mask -> Hide selection.

(If you turn off the copied color layer and material id layer, you will see this:)

Step 8. Make a selection of the black color on the material ID layer. Choose the copy of the color layer in your layer window, then run the following command: Layer -> Layer Mask -> Reveal selection. Next turn off (or delete) your material ID layer. Change the transparency of the copied color layer to “multiply” – this will cover the background with the shadow pattern from the render. If you have a color that is low saturation, the shadows should look fine. If you have a strong saturation, you may need to reduce the saturation on this layer so the colors are more normal. Adjust transparency as needed (mine is at 74%)

Step 9. Create a new layer and airbrush in some shadows under the bushes.

Published by andyorban

Andy Orban is the owner of Orban Design - the premier architectural rendering consultant for Central Virginia. Andy Orban is a licensed Architect in Virginia who specializes in building 3D models and creating high quality renderings. Additional services provided by Orban Design include 2D Illustrations in a variety of styles, photo manipulation, and drafting & design. Go to to learn more about what Orban Design can do for you.

3 replies on “Material ID channel tutorial”

    1. Hey Nomer, good to see you here. Love your blog. You can post any of the text, but I’d like to keep the images here. Thanks,

  1. Andy,
    Our team thinks your tutorial could be valuable to V-Ray for SketchUp users. May we re-post this tutorial on our site? Please contact me at email.

    Thanks 🙂

    Kim Trompeter
    Marketing Manager
    Chaos Group USA (Formerly ASGVIS)

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