Pbr Advanced

by 3D BlueHat in Surfacing

PBR Advanced 3.0

(By: 3D BlueHat)

The All-In-One material shading system that offers more!

Now PBR Advanced comes with it's own addon!

(More info at the bottom of this page.)

*** I am currently making some major UPDATES to this product in preparation for Blender version 4.2. ***

Save time making gorgeous realistic materials.

    PBR Advanced is an all-in-one material shader, that was originally designed to be used in place of the Principled BSDF in Blender.

    When I first created PBR Advanced (PBRA for short), it started out as a personal project of mine in an attempt to study and recreate the principled shader from scratch in the shader editor, including every aspect and feature that the principled shader consisted of. This led me to discover it’s limitations, bugs, and missing features that I considered to be commonly needed as a 3D artist.

    With version 1, I had a complete replacement for the principled shader. Using as much knowledge as I had at the time, it could do anything that the principled shader could do and then some. It allowed more control over materials than the principled shader and included some of the features that I normally had to build separate node trees for.

    Ideally, all I wanted to have to do for any material is just use my shader, plug in a material map or two, decide basic things like roughness and be done so that I could move on to whatever was next in my scene. I wanted fast results that were as realistic as possible.

    I found myself spending a less time building materials with pleasing results. And with the added features, additional control over materials, fixes for common problems with the principled shader, and how I was starting to get more natural looking results, that’s when I decided to make it a product available for other artists.

    With version 2, I found a way to get better looking and seemingly more realistic results for glass type materials. I had also made some changes to translucent materials and also added a new clearcoat system. I was always looking for ways to make any improvements or add features that could be useful. I also created an addon to go along with PBRA to be able to convert all of the principled and glass bsdf shaders in a scene or for selected objects, without having to manually replace them each one by one. And I have to say, that has literally saved me days and in some cases weeks of sorting through everything in scenes that were not originally made using PBRA for any of the materials and having to drag my shader into each of them, then adjust all the settings to match.

Version 3.0

    Now, with PBR Advanced 3.0, the results are better than ever. Built with Blender 4.0, the new node panels have allowed me to fully organize every feature according to the type of material settings you need. Previously, with all of the settings and more being added over time, the PBRA node group was becoming larger and more bulky. No one wants to always have to scroll up and down scanning with their eyes through countless settings to find what they’re looking for when they need to change a particular setting for a material.

With Blender 4.0, that problem has been solved. And when working in the shader editor, now you can collapse the unused panels to save space in your node tree setups. PBRA material panels are closed by default with the exception of the “Base” settings, which are used by almost all materials, and the vector inputs (for connecting bump maps, normal maps, etc..). That way, you can just focus on the settings that you need for each material.

    I also updated the python code for the included addon so that when converting materials to PBRA, all of the settings get transferred properly with the new node panels feature of Blender 4.0.

    I also highly recommend using the new AGX view transformation found in Blender’s color management settings. It has some advantages over Filmic. And in my opinion is currently the best one to use.

    PBRA 3.0 was built with a modular design. This was to allow you to use individual parts of it in your own node groups as well as to make it easier for me to make future improvements.

( In addition to the main PBRA 3.0 node group, all of the above node groups are included.)

Important note: Modifying these node groups can break PBRA, because they are at it’s core.

Getting Started

Let’s take a look at PBR Advanced.

( Panels Collapsed)


(Panels Expanded)

As you can see, the new node panels

feature in Blender 4.0 is a life saver.

Especially considering how many

features and settings are included in

PBR Advanced.

It is a very complex shading system, yet

having drop down panels makes it much

easier to use and very organized.

    As you can see, PBR Advanced allows you to not only

create more types of materials than the principled shader, but also to have more control over each.

    PBR Advanced also has some built-in features that the

principled shader does not have. Such as:

  • Silk

  • Velvet

  • Glossy (Non-metallic)

  • Translucency

  • Non-Refractive Transmission (Only reflection)

  • Dispersion

  • Volume Absorption (For physically based colored glass)

  • Advanced Coat System

  • Additional Emission Settings

  • Angular Roughness

  • Backface Culling (And More)

    If you are new to Blender, inexperienced with the use of the Principled BSDF shader, or are unfamiliar with any of the terms or features mentioned here, there is an abundant amount of free video tutorials, tips, tricks, and information available on the internet as well as reference manuals and other documentation provided by blender.org.

    If you are familiar with how to use the Principled BSDF shader, then you will have no difficulty using PBR Advanced. You will find all of the same settings that the Principled shader has, plus the additional features.

    However you will notice that when using PBR Advanced the results will be slightly different.

Let me explain:

    PBR Advanced 3.0 was built in a way that considers approximations of some of the physical properties of materials that the Principled shader does not address. Such as:

  • The absorption coefficient of the fresnel curve when dealing with both dielectrics as well as metallics.

  • Automatic specular intensity considerations according to the roughness of the surface of a material.

  • Perceived angular roughness.

  • How porous the surface of an object is at a micro scale, which can alter the amount of diffused light scattering at the surface. In PBRA this is located under the diffuse settings and known as surface density. (This is usually best used subtly between 0.25-0.5. Most surfaces tend to look a little more naturally toned when set to about 0.25, but very high values can be useful for some materials.

  • Coat depth and color. (Can also be useful for tinted windows.)

  • The separation of the color of a transmissive material and it’s specular color for independent control. (Useful for some liquids and other materials.)

  • The way light passes through glass effects the shadow cast by the object, and will not be opaque the way it tends to be with the glass or principled shaders. (This can not only help with the realism of the shadows, but also eliminate the need to create a separate glass shader when rendering interior scenes to allow more light through the windows.)

Why not have a glass shader that just always works how you need it to.”

Note: The “Shadow Tint” feature of PBRA was developed after trying to render a scene of a fish tank and noticing that everything in the tank as well as everything in the water was very dark and unrealistic using the principled or glass shaders. (In real life, glass allows about 90% or more of light to pass through it.)

(Updated: I have made some adjustments to the Shadow Tint feature)

    Now more light passes through glass for better interior scenes.
This uses a similar method to how architectural glass is commonly used, however it is dependent on the color of the glass.

    If the base color of the glass material has a color, the shadows will take on that color.
    If the base color is white, however there is virtually no shadows, except when very close to another object.
    In theory, if the glass is pure white with a value of 1.0, then since it is 100% pure clear glass with nothing to alter the light that passes through, there will be little to no shadow.
    If it has a color (even if it is white, but has a slightly reduced value), then whatever is causing the coloration, whether it be pigmentation, volume, etc., then that will have an effect on the light that is passed through.
    If you use a volume to give the glass a color (the physically correct way), then the volume settings will effect the shadows as usual.
    I have also considered the internal roughness of the glass material.  So, if the internal roughness is at 0.0, the shadow will not be effected, however the higher the internal roughness, the more the shadow will be present as the internal roughness prevents some of the light to pass through. (As with glass in physical reality.)

    You may also notice that metal looks a bit more… well… metal. This is because I implemented a unique method that produces more realistic results. 

    And by the way, for those of you who are aware of the issue in Blender with IOR values that are less than 1.0 (such as gold at .47), I made a little work-around for that so that when you enter an IOR of less than 1.0, the results are believable. It actually just adds the inverse of any IOR less than 1.0 to 1.0. So for example 0.47 becomes 1.47. I know it’s actually more complicated than that because of the imaginary part of the fresnel formula, but it gives very believable results. Considering most people don’t even really bother with IOR when it comes to metallics in Blender, at least with this method the IOR is usable and does give the look of slightly different metals when IOR values are used, which can give more variation in scenes for added realism.

With all that said, I will be working on a more in-depth manual for PBR Advanced.

    For now this will serve as a basic guide for your understanding of what PBR Advanced is and the direction it is heading. While I am working on the more in-depth manual, if you have any questions, after purchasing PBR Advanced, I will be happy to hear from you and will respond as soon as possible. I work alone on this product as much as time permits, so if you email me, please be patient, if you don’t hear back from me right away.


    From your blender scene, simply append the “PBRA 3.0 Package” node group from the included blend file. (I personally have the package node group saved in my Blender defaults, so that the PBRA node groups are always present when creating a new blender scene.)

    Additionally, the PBR Advanced addon installs like any other Blender addon and must be enabled.

(Note: The PBR Advanced addon only converts materials if the PBRA 3.0 node group is already in your blend file. If PBRA 3.0 is in the blend file, the addon’s UI will display “PBRA Ready”. If not it will display “PBRA Not Found”.)

Additional Included Products

PBR Advanced also includes my ColorRange product, as well as an updated and advanced version of my PBRA Car Paint product.

ColorRange - Click HERE for more information about this product.

PBR Advanced Car Paint - Click HERE for more information about this product.

Now with the new PBR Advanced Addon!

     Now, PBR Advanced comes with it's own addon for quick conversion of pre-existing materials in one click.  The addon is an additional tool for PBR Advanced that allows you to select as many objects as you want in the 3d viewport and with the press of one button, the addon converts all of the materials of all of the selected objects to the PBR Advanced Shader at once.

     The conversion process involves finding all of the Principled BSDF and Glass BSDF shaders in each material and replacing them with a PBRA 3.0 shader while preserving all applicable input values and links. Optionally, this can also include any Principled BSDF and Glass BSDF shaders that are inside of any node groups being used in the materials as well.

     This addon has saved me a lot of time with converting large numbers of materials in scenes that were originally not using PBRA, and I just had to share this with my customers to show my appreciation and to speed up your workflow when working with older projects or in any situation where this feature can help in any way. I have had to spend soo much time manually swapping out the original principled or glass shaders, copying and pasting input values, transferring the linked inputs, etc., in order to apply my PBR Advanced shader to countless objects. And I thought, "There HAS to be a better way...".  So I made a way, clicked a button... and took a nap... because well, I needed it.

     This is my first addon using python, and I will be continuing to test and experiment with it and possibly add more features in the future.

     It installs the same way as any other Blender addon. Just place the PBR Advanced Addon zip file wherever you want to keep it and in blender go to Edit, Preferences, and click on the Addons tab where you can click the Install button and navigate to where you placed it. After you install it, be sure to Enable it by clicking it's checkbox in the Addons list.

     After enabling the addon, you will find a new tab called "PBR Advanced" in the side menu (press "N") in the 3D view port.

NOTE: You must have the PBRA 3.0 node group in the current blend file to use the addon.  It will detect whether or not it is present and display either "PBRA not found" or "PBRA Ready" status.

     All you have to do is select which objects you want to convert or just press "A" to select everything in the viewport and press the "Convert to PBRA" button. And your done in an instant.

     This alone results in a noticeable difference especially in complex scenes or with high quality meshes with good textures, etc.  From there, you can make any other adjustments to tweak your materials as you wish.

     In my experience, the most common slight adjustment that I make, if any, is roughness or on occasion a slight color adjustment.  This is because the principled shader usually causes the color to seem desaturated due to the way it's specular function works and how it handles reflections, and since the original materials were likely made unknowingly compensating for that, if may look slightly different when using it's "true color" (as I refer to it), especially if the "Surface Density" is increased. 

     (Also the subsurface scattering inputs work slightly differently that the principled shader, so it might be a good idea to just double check materials with subsurface for the desired appearance.)

     NOTE: I have recently implemented the "Surface Density" pre-set to the PBR Advanced addon.  Now before converting your materials with the addon, a new slider can be set to the surface density that you want the converted materials to have for the selected objects.

     Since I have not completed the new User's Guide yet, here is a quick note about what "Surface Density" actually is.

     The Surface Density setting of the PBRA 3.0 uber shader is a feature that I added that has helped me when dealing with materials such as ceramic, painted metal, porcelain, wet surfaces, and a whole host of other materials that have a less porous surface.  It represents how porous the surface is at a micro level.  It works by mixing the diffuse layer of the material with a fully rough glossy bsdf before the specular reflection layer is added, which alters the look of the surface.  With some materials this seems to give more realistic looking results.  This is a per material basis and if the Surface Density is left at 0.0 it does nothing, so this is only optional.

(Scene by: Davide Tirindelli)

     If your scene has multiple objects with materials that can benefit from this feature, now when they are converted to PBR Advanced, you won't have to manually change that value if you already know what you want it to be.

     I am still working on the new in-depth user's guide, but if you have any questions in the mean time, feel free to email me and I will respond to you as soon as I get the chance.

     I've worked very hard on this product and continue to look for ways to improve it however I can to produce gorgeous results with less time and effort while giving more flexibility when it comes to Physically Based Rendering.

(Eventually I will make a video demonstration of both this product, it's features and it's custom addon, whenever time permits.)

Any feedback, whether directly or via the Blender Market is greatly appreciated.

(Oh, and remember to rate my product, so I'll have an excuse to celebrate over tacos!)

- 3D BlueHat -

Published almost 2 years ago
Blender Version 4.1, 4.0
Render Engine Used Cycles, Eevee
License Creative Commons
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