Hello fellow Blender users, today I'm going to be reviewing the Cycles Material Vault. I've been waiting for the release of the vault for almost a year now, and it's finally here. Lets dig in to this treasure trove of materials.
The Cycles Material Vault (CMV for short) is a massive collection of both procedural and image based materials for Blender. Or more specifically, for Cycles. CMV was created by Reynante Martinez, a well known Blender artist known for his style and storytelling. In total, there are 110 materials, including anything from concrete to hedgehog hair (yes, i’m serious). Each material is neatly grouped into a single control node with all the options you need to adjust the look of the material for your specific needs.
When you first pay for and download the huge 3GB folder (Payments and Downloads for CMV are hosted by Gumroad), you are presented with three sections, Materials, Guides, and Bonuses. At this point, you can immediately start using the materials by appending what you need from the Materials folder, but I encourage you to check out the bonuses and guides for all the extra goodies. ;-)
To use one of the materials, you must navigate to the CMV .blend file, locate the desired material and append it. It’s a pretty straightforward process. The only problem I’ve experienced is a very slow file browser on slower computers, due to the large size of the CMV .blend. Reynante has mentioned that there will soon be an add-on for CMV. So hopefully that will clear up this issue. As well as make it easier to use the materials without having to navigate the .blend.
Once you have a material in your scene, you can apply it to a mesh. Some materials require UV unwrapping, you can differentiate the ones that need UVs by whether they have a UV suffix of the material name.
You can right out of the box start using the material and start changing settings. You can totally change the look of a material just by changing a few settings on the node. And if you’re not sure what a certain setting does, you can reference the guides folder, which has a neatly written guide for each material. It’s quite extensive.
If you need even more control over how the material looks, you can enter “advanced mode” by pressing tab while selecting the node group in the node editor. And unlike a lot of other materials for sale, the internals of CMV’s materials are very neatly organized. So you can clearly read, and change what you need to.
To finish up, there’s also a nice video explaining how to use CMV in the Guides folder. There is also a text version if you prefer reading.
When you first start using CMV, it’s very clear that the creator has put in a lot of work to making these materials work well in various lighting situations. The creator has mentioned before that he has implemented PBR techniques in order to do so, and it certainly shows. In my tests, I never came across any kind of discrepancy between using different lighting setups.
For most of the materials, there’s not a huge ability to change the look from it’s original state. Sure there’s a few options for tweaking, but for the most part, the materials are meant to be used “as is”. Such as the Car paint material, I tried fitting it with the style of my old Model-T mesh. But it just didn’t fit. The material is meant for a sporty hot rod, which a model-t certainly isn’t. Without changing quite a bit of the inner workings i’d have to find another material to use, that isn’t necessarily a downside, more of a fact.
Overall, I was really impressed by the realism of CMV, the fact that both image and generated textures are used really helps in both the realism and customization at the same time. In the end, I really didn't have any issues with the materials not being “real enough”, but I’ll point out a few materials I found to be not particularly real looking in my opinion. The Cork material seemed a little too dark overall, and from a distance looked very generalized and procedural. The bubble material was much too colorful, it would fit better in a cartoonish render, instead of a photorealistic one. The ground and tarmac materials had too much bump for anything less than actual displacement in my opinion, especially viewing at acute angles. The quartz looks very procedural, due to the complexity of quartz, I think it would have been better as an image based material.
Now that I got the negative stuff out of the way, I’ll point out a few of the favorite materials I used. My number one favorite is the amber. It’s truly fantastic. So realistic and versatile, and planting objects inside of the amber is fun of course. Another favorite of mine is the aluminum foil. It’s incredibly realistic, and just looks great. And lastly, the clay material. The fingerprints add so much and makes me want to feel the clay in my hand and mold it. There’s so many more great materials, but I better stop before everyone stops reading.
The price per material of CMV is about $0.77. Which is far below the current pricing of most materials on the market. But the cost is offset by the fact that you’ll probably never use all 110 materials, given that they are so varying in type. Also, considering that the customization of the materials is more limited than “mega shaders” you may find elsewhere. But even keeping all that in mind, It’s a great deal, especially considering the quality of each material.
The overarching feature of CMV is that it makes it easy to make 3d scenes without spending hours tweaking materials. It speeds up your workflow, and gives you great looking shading if you aren't that great at making materials. So far CMV only has one volume, but as it grows to two or three or even more volumes, it could grow into a collection of every material you'll ever need. The tools like this that appear, the more great art well see from people that otherwise wouldn't have the time, or skill to create. And that's a huge thing for me.
CMV is a truly beautiful collection of materials. You can really tell the creator has put a lot of work into each and every shader.