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Alpha Mapping in Cycles

In this videotutorial Greg Zaal explains how to use alpha maps in Cycles.

Greg Zaal writes:

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to use an alpha map in cycles to make something transparent in certain parts.

We’ll be making a leaf by creating an alpha map from the original leaf texture to use as a mask between a diffuse shader and a transparent shader.

This tutorial assumes you have some basic knowledge of how to use Blender and cycles.



  1. hi,
    tutorial exelent!

    in Gimp there is a stright way for extrapolate the alpha channel from an image:
    - add layer mask and choose "from alpha channel" in the options
    -copy the mask in a new layer and save it like jpg

    cycles promise very well!

  2. with all the respect to Greg Zaal ,who's a great tutor btw,I have presented the very same technique,one month ago,already,in this  video tutorial >
    as part of a general introduction to Cycles
    I have posted it to this site and (quite paradoxically) it has never been published.
    what can I say?...thank you guys for the  unbiased information you are offering,I'm deeply touched by your free spirit!

      • I can only imagine!...:-)
         it's okay Bart,actually,I'm a big fan of BlenderNation,after all,and ,in addition,I can understand why some names instantly can easily draw your (our) attention to their works.
        It is not by chance,these guys have greatly helped the community,in many cases in the past,they do deserve our attention and respect.

        btw I don't worry about me,actually,please allow me to worry about you guys> if you want to keep it alive you have to know how to keep it unbiased first
        have a nice day...:-)
        Peter Drakulić  

  3. whats with all the "In cycles!" stuff? Does cycles not work with all the built-in buttons/settings like in BI does? BI seems so much more user-friendly. Just turn on a couple checkboxes, drag a slider, load a texture, done.

  4. Thanks for sharing, I was just wondering about alpha mapping via nodes. come the material settings from BI cant just transfer over when switching to cycles?  The internal renderer is less cumbersome to setup, ...but nodes are cooler still.

      • I find it kinda the reverse of the whole 2.5+ UI overhaul, to make things easier, yes, and nodes are more powerful but they have quite a learning curve.
        the new UI was to make Blender easier (and better), Nodes are pretty advanced things, IMO (and i have used them for a couple years, I'm just talking through a newb perspective.) It's a complete 180 from the Easy route.

        • What's great though is that once you learn nodes, many graphic editing programs will make a ton of sense.  It's very similar to many of the features and tools you can find in both Photoshop and GIMP, so learning nodes is a great step into a whole new level of design and image manipulation.  Using Photoshop or GIMP is not user friendly to a complete novice either and it does take a lot of time to learn how to do, but in the end produces drastically better results.

          Plus, Greg and others have been amazing at setting up tutorials to help us sort it all out.  All of this takes time dedication and many many hours of frustration, but I love that nodes has practical application in other areas.  It's honestly the first time I've understood anything in Blender right out of the gate.  I started back when 2.53 was the latest release but 2.49 was the most stable version, so I started with 2.49.  Oh man, learning how to add textures for me was a nightmare!

          The 2.5+ UI was a fabulous redesign and it may take a little bit for Cycles to be a bit more intuitive, but I don't think any of us picked up Blender because it was the easiest to use.  :)

          I hear you though, especially when I remember learning Photoshop for the first time.  It was confusing and frustrating but in the end, ultimately worth it and I can very much say the same thing about Blender.

          • Totally agree that the use of nodes really helps with an understanding of graphic applications in that it breaks down a process into components, and it is easier to fix problems along the way. I'd used adobe illustrator for years (which is a very necessary but deeply horrible programme), and when I first encountered Maya dependency system and then Blender's node system as a different way to manage and view a project, it transformed my understanding and efficiency in illustrator ...if only AI could have a UI revamp like Blender's can dream :)

          • Also an AI user (CS5)... and couldn't agree more!  Interface looks OK, but the basic functions are dreadful for such a mature program. Want an arc from 10* thru 35*? Nope. AI only draws 90* arcs as standard. Worst of all, it doesn't properly understand proper relative path naming, like Blender does. Copy a complete file structure from a C: drive to a G: drive, an AI can't find any of your linked graphics!  But since it's Adobe, they ignore basic usability problems and just add more badly implemented and awkward features like the the perspective grid.

  5. Thanks for the nice tutorial, Greg. and of course, thanks to  Bart for  this great site, I agree,with AKexis,when you get used to the philosophy of nodes,in any kind of sotware, all things have more sense, that a bunch of buttons in the interface, and more options to experiment.

  6. Great tutorial, but what I really need to know is how to replicate the decal texturing method, using Cycles. Using the method in this tutorial, the object (onto which the decal texture is being projected / stuck) naturally ends up with transparent 'holes' in its side wherever the decal texture's PNG has transparent areas!  I tried messing with some different node setups but couldn't figure it out...

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