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Material Editor vs Node Editor (Node Based Material Editor)

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

We will try to explain why we should choose Node Editor.

There was a time when the Node Editor did not exist in 3D. Even at that time materials worked as node base under the hood. We had and still have a simple beautiful Material Editor. We have our channels, click the button, specify the tree texture and we have a Diffuse Texture of a tree material. then we just copy Diffuse channel and paste it to Reflection, Roughness, Bump and Displacement. So simple. So easy. When we open the node editor we will see what did we just do. We imported same texture for five times linked five channels. Imagine you have 8K texture. And you need a lot of materials. You will see how challenging it will be for your vram soon!

Instead of that we could just import one texture and link it all the channels not limited by 5. Resource in vram would take only one texture size. Now this part was simply about the resource management.

If we try to create a multi layered Material, now things will start to become a mess. Layer inside layer inside layer inside layer and this is just for one channel, lets say for Diffuse.

And this will go for all channels you need most of the time. Go in, out, in, out you will be lost in no time in Material Editor.

Keep it on with an analogy. Let's assume that we are a DEA agent who chasing a big cartel. What we need to do first is the define the hierarchy and the links between.

We have a corkboard at the wall. So we start with pictures, post-its, notes, colored strings for links. Boss, distributors, low level guys, sicarios all linked and showed in one big board.

Instead of corkboard, try to do it with a notebook. You will write pages of info, links will be in every page. Names and pictures will be in every page. Okay we like writing no problem. But what if a mid-level guy gets replaced? Now we have a big trouble. We need to revisit every page and change every note, name, link, images.

In the corkboard it was just as simple as replacing one picture, one note and one name!

Now the corkboard is literally node editor and the notebook is the Material Editor interface.

Left Material Editor , Right Node Editor. Note : Node Editors added to the Standart Material Editors in time. This is why its called Node--Based Material Editor. At the right hand of Node Editor you can always see the Material Editor too. We need a parameter tab to edit node values...

Lets keep on with Tree Material example. Let's admit it. If we need to work fast and if we find a good tree texture we tend to use this map in every channel. Diffuse, Reflection etc.etc.. While it will not be physically most accurate material, it will be sufficient for our fast work will mostly satisfying on eyes.

After we preview our tree material lets assume we did not exactly like the texture. So we look for another one. After find it. Copy and Paste every single channel. If only we use Node Editor. We could simply replace the image from its container and all done.

Lets add another level on top of it. We liked texture but we didn't like the hue or saturation or exposure of it. What we gonna do is add a Color Correction Map over the bitmap in Material Editor and now we again need to copy and paste this structure to every channel. In Node Editor? Just drop the CC node between texture and channel!

We added CC node in place and this fed all the channels naturally. If we want to change CC values and fine tune, it will instantly reflected to all channels so we can watch how our materials evolves in IPR. In Material Editor, fine tuning is just no go. There is a way of Instancing Maps in Material Editor but even this workaround won't make things much easier like Node Editor.

Until now we tried to show bright side of Node Editor. Now it's time to show its dark side! If we open our perspective we will see that even this side is bright enough:

What a mess! you can right click and open big picture.(Note : Node Editors always and in every software works from left to right with exception of some flowing from top to bottom.)

This table, the dozens of nodes and connections, perhaps hundreds, is extremely daunting at first glance. Many users continue to use the standard Material Editor for this reason.

Now let's do an analysis by specifying some constants here.

1 - No Node Editor you just created will be seen as this complex. We showed simple examples with pictures.

2 - Creating the complexity seen in the picture is as easy as patiently adding the lego pieces one by one to the appropriate places and finally creating a beautiful structure.

3 - We talked about the Notebook/Corkboard analogy. While the complex structure seen above is a single page, the handsome face of the standard Material Editor is just the first page of the notebook. Meaning to create the material above in Material Editor, you have to write pages and pages.

Let's open the pages of a Multi-Color Ceramic material created with the Standard Material Editor:

Here is the monster that lies inside that beauty. Only 4 channels used, 15 different pages that need to be entered and exited repeatedly, over a hundred parameters to be adjusted, and as a result, a multi-colored ceramic material. You can right click and open in a new tab to see it in more detail.

Son olarak Node Editorde standart Materyal Editorde bulunmayan epey kullanışlı birçok operatör, matematiksel fonksiyonlar bulunduğunu belirtelim.

Getting used to Node Editor will give you an important experience and advantage not only in materials, but also in programming, modeling, blueprinting in games (Unreal Engine), simulations (Houdini), Color Grading, FX (DaVinci Resolve), Compositing (Nuke).

Stay safe.

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