Introduction To Materials

Materials allow you to cover your meshes in color and texture. How a material appears depends on the light or lights used in the scene and how it is set to react .

Reactions to light

There are four possible ways that a material can react to light.

  1. Diffuse - the basic color or texture of the material as viewed under a light;
  2. Specular - the highlight given to the material by a light;
  3. Emissive - the color or texture of the material as if self lit;
  4. Ambient - the color or texture of the material lit by the environmental background lighting.

Diffuse and Specular material require a light source to be created.
Ambient color requires the ambient color of the scene to be set, giving the environmental background lighting.

scene.ambientColor = new BABYLON.Color3(1, 1, 1);

Color

Create a material using

var myMaterial = new BABYLON.StandardMaterial("myMaterial", scene);

Set the material color using one, some or all of diffuseColor, specularColor, emissiveColor and ambientColor. Remember that ambientColor will only apply if the scene ambient color has been set.

var myMaterial = new BABYLON.StandardMaterial("myMaterial", scene);
myMaterial.diffuseColor = new BABYLON.Color3(1, 0, 1);
myMaterial.specularColor = new BABYLON.Color3(0.5, 0.6, 0.87);
myMaterial.emissiveColor = new BABYLON.Color3(1, 1, 1);
myMaterial.ambientColor = new BABYLON.Color3(0.23, 0.98, 0.53);
mesh.material = myMaterial;

Diffuse Color Example

To give an idea on how the material diffuse color reacts to the diffuse light color the following playground example shows how different color materials react to white, red, green and blue diffuse spot lights.

Material Color Reaction to Light Color

This reaction of

  • Yellow Material
  • Purple Material
  • Cyan Material
  • White Material

to white, red, green and blue diffuse spot lights can also be seen in the following image.

Ambient Color Example

In the image below all spheres are lit by the same hemispheric light, with diffuse red and groundColor green. The first sphere has no ambient color, the middle has red ambient color defined on its material and the one on the right has material with green ambient color. The scene ambient color, which must be present, is white.

When a scene ambient color component is set to 0, for example red, then whatever the value for red in the material ambient color it will have no effect.

Use of Ambient Color

Transparent Color Example

Transparency is achieved by setting a materials alpha property from 0 (invisible) to 1 (opaque).

myMaterial.alpha = 0.5;
Material Transparency

Texture

Textures are formed using a saved image.

Create a material using

var myMaterial = new BABYLON.StandardMaterial("myMaterial", scene);

Set the material texture using one, some or all of diffuseTexture, specularTexture, emissiveTexture and ambientTexture. Notice that ambientTexture is applied without the scene ambient color having been set.

var myMaterial = new BABYLON.StandardMaterial("myMaterial", scene);
myMaterial.diffuseTexture = new BABYLON.Texture("PATH TO IMAGE", scene);
myMaterial.specularTexture = new BABYLON.Texture("PATH TO IMAGE", scene);
myMaterial.emissiveTexture = new BABYLON.Texture("PATH TO IMAGE", scene);
myMaterial.ambientTexture = new BABYLON.Texture("PATH TO IMAGE", scene);
mesh.material = myMaterial;

Note: When no normals are specified, Babylon's standard material will compute the normals.

Texture Example

In this image all spheres are lit by the same hemispheric light, with diffuse red and groundColor green. The first sphere has a diffuse texture, the middle an emissive texture and the one on the right has material with red diffuse color and an ambient texture.

Material with Diffuse, Emissive, and Ambient Textures

Transparent Texture Examples

For colors, the transparency is achieved by setting a materials alpha property from 0 (invisible) to 1 (opaque).

myMaterial.alpha = 0.5;
Transparent Texture Example

In addition, the image used for the texture might already have a transparency setting, such as this picture of a dog from wikimedia commons, which has a transparent background;

In this case we set the hasAlpha property of the texture to true.

myMaterial.diffuseTexture.hasAlpha = true;
Transparent Background Example

For the back faces of the cube to be visible through the transparent areas of the front faces we have to deal with back-face culling.

Texture Packer

Some complex scenes will require a large amount of textures for just one material. In this case it can be convenient to package the textures.The advantage of using the texture packer has to be weighed against limitations such as fixed size scaling.

More on creating a texture package

Back-Face Culling

This is a method for efficiently drawing the 2D rendering of the 3D model. Usually there is no need to draw the back face of a cube, or other object, as it will be hidden by the front face. InBabylon.js the default setting is, as you might expect, set to true. In most cases, this is helpful in maintaining the highest possible performance.

Looking at the images below, when the material property backFaceCulling is true you can see that the transparent areas around the dog are still transparent, you can see the background through them. However, you cannot see the images on the back faces as they have been culled (or removed). When backFaceCulling is false the back faces are not removed during rendering so they can be seen through the transparent areas of the front faces.

Back Face Culling TrueBack Face Culling False
Back Face Culling True
Back Face Culling False
Backface Culling Example

WireFrame

You can see a mesh in wireframe mode by using:

materialSphere1.wireframe = true;

Local File Access

An important thing to remember, is that for security reasons, web browsers don't allow local files to be accessed for web pages. This includes any texture files you are using. You can use a local server or an image hosting service that is CORS enabled.