The Infinite Surface Builder Procedural Shader For Cycles

by Nick Sayce Designs in Materials, Shaders, Textures

The Infinite Surface Builder, in short, is the quickest, easiest, most customisable, low memory eating and detailed way to make walls, floors, bricks and tiles, simply by adding the procedural material to a subdivided mesh. Added to that, the controls give you the fun of experimentation to create as many surfaces as you can think of! 


***The demo is recorded with version 1.0, there have been many improvements since the latest version, 2.2, detailed at the bottom of the page.

 

The Infinite Surface Builder is like nothing else on the market; a procedural material that not only builds great looking brick and tiled walls, but with the huge amount of customisation available, can also build as many surfaces as you can think of. If it's purely a wall builder you're looking for, please take a look at one of my other shaders, The Infinite Wall Builder as it's specifically designed for that exact purpose and has more specific controls. But if you're looking for a hugely capable brick and tiled wall builder with the option for infinite experimentation to create your own procedural materials as well, then this is for you! It's built for Cycles, not Eevee as the latter can't deal with such a complex node setup. It was initially built for procedural brick walls as I found using 4K RGB textures were using far too much memory and didn't scale well without repetition. This meant my scenes needed sacrifices, not as many textures as I'd like or lower subdivisions across the board; not with the Infinite Surface Builder. In most cases, the ISB will use 2/3 less memory because it's using the nodes that ship with Blender and uses mathematics instead of set colour data from RGB images. This means you've got more memory spare for more complexity within your scene without sacrifice. As you'll see from the images, using the ISB controls, a huge number of surfaces can be created. Of course there are limitations and I couldn't possibly know how many materials can be created because of the amount of customisation options. You can also drop in your own custom textures and use the ISB options on top for even more customisation. Any texture you build with the ISB will be completely seamless and will scale without repetition infinitely.



The above image of a corroded brick wall and its scale variations was created by the ISB and the below image is using the ISB controls to mimic a 4K RGB texture.



CREATE OTHER SURFACES

It's not just brick, rock and tiled surfaces you can create, with all of the settings, sliders and customisation options available many more surfaces can be created. Here's a few I could think of, more materials are in the gallery above and I have no doubt that many, many more can be created with the ISB!


PLUG IN YOUR OWN RGB TEXTURES

As mentioned, you can also plug in your own RGB textures and use the ISB options on top as exampled in the lower image where the brick colours and bump have been replaced with a rock texture with all its maps. 


THE CONTROLS


The Infinite Surface Builder controls are located in the Blender's shader editor. Drop the shader onto your mesh and head over to the shader editor to make your changes, they're very simple to use. Everything is clearly labelled and the 11 part tutorial series covers everything, along with a pdf manual with many visual examples; the link for the tutorials is below, though they're also a great way to see what the ISB does in detail! There's no reason why you can't just put the material on, put in some random numbers and shift a few sliders and you'll have a custom surface!


THE TUTORIALS

Below is the link for the tutorial playlist where I take you through all of the controls step-by-step. Coupled with the in-depth manual with many visual examples, you'll find the ISB very easy to get to grips with. As with everything, it takes practice to learn your way around, but give it a couple of hours, you probably won't need the manual anymore!


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_8QZ-hJT-uJe1JfBnCHGT5883ARxjLad 


The Infinite Surface Builder v2.0 update!

Hi all!

Apologies for the delay, I've done this as quickly as possible and it's finally finished. The latest version of The ISB is now available in the download section, version 2.0. This is what's changed.

  1. The UI has had a complete overhaul and now everything is contained in a much smaller area to greatly reduce the amount of mousing between controls.
  2. There is a huge leap in Shader view performance owing to so many wires and connectors no longer being required. This not only means moving around is quicker, but it also means Cycles should update quicker and slider movements are now smooth rather than disjointed. Assuming you haven't got 15 levels of subdivisions that is!
  3. All of the Effect Switches have been moved close to what they're switching; it didn't make sense to have to edit the shape and then move over to the switches every time you need to make a change.
  4. The Tile Colours now have their own filter controls rather than relying on the same filter controls as the Brick colours. Before the update, to reduce the amount of wiring, I didn't want to add even more controls which is why they shared the filters with the bricks. Now, the movement between the two has gone as the filters are next to the colour ramps. The Dirt Streaks and Dust still use the same filter controls.
  5. All filters are now in their own node groups and are located next to the colour ramp they're affecting. Not only does this mean less mousing around, but you can now TAB between filter controls rather than having to switch to different value inputs for every control. 
  6. Since I finished building the Infinite Wall Builder, I managed to solve a problem I had with the brick building controls of the ISB. The solution is now incorporated into The ISB and it gives you another set of controls for the mortar shape along with the Uneven Brick Edges. Now you can control the distortion using the filter controls contained in the Mortar Shape Filter node group.
  7. I've added Subsurface Scattering controls that's fairly inexcusable of me that they weren't there in the first place! Now, when creating other materials that require it, the controls are located in the Colour Control area. It's very useful for organic surfaces like Human Skin.
  8. I've also added a Dielectric node group and controls which has a Fresnel within. Dieletric is anything that's non-metal; anything that diffuses light. When you're creating materials other than brick or tiled walls, these controls will be very useful as the light will behave more realistically with regards to reflection and roughness. You can thank the Blender Guru for that one!

That's everything for now I believe. I'm planning on adding some extra control for creating metal surfaces, but that will be in another update soon. First, I have about 30 tutorials to re-record so I have a fair bit to do before I can go back and look at them again. I'm also going to make another example material file to replace the one for version 1.0, that'll be in the coming weeks. This is how it looks now;






If you find any problems that I've missed, please let me know and I'll address it as soon as possible.

I hope the improvements will make it easier and more fun for you to use, they have for me!


LATEST IMPROVEMENTS

Hi all,

I've finally finished the manual, it took a while because I wanted to be clear but concise to keep the page numbers down from the original. The manual now reflects exactly what you see when you open the latest version which is now available in the downloads and will replace the last updated v2.0. There's been a few other improvements and fixes;

  1. Tile 1 & 2 Colours were the wrong way around with their filters, this has been corrected.
  2. The Uneven Brick Edges was no longer matching the mortar at higher global scales, this has been fixed.
  3. The Crack Revealed Bump wasn't working as well as I'd liked so I've improved it so the effect is a little clearer. It's intentionally a subtle effect, but it was a little too subtle for my liking.
  4. I've added a Dielectric control section, the details of which are in the manual on Page 11. It's very useful for incorporating realistic organic light behaviour.
  5. I've added Subsurface control to give you better control when creating organic surfaces.
  6. I've corrected any naming errors I came across.


A NEW FEATURE!


Hi Guys,

There's been an effect I've wanted to incorporate since the beginning and I just couldn't get it to work. Finally, I have and it's now in the latest version, 2.1.


It's an effect which creates uneven edges to the tiles. which makes a huge difference to the look of the surface and should open up even more possibilities for creating new surfaces.



As you can see, it changes the tiles dramatically and I'm really happy that this effect is finally in. The Tile Shape and Randomness still function the same, but now there's an added control called Uneven Edges. 0.500 is the recommended maximum, though no one's stopping you from going further!


If I figure out any new effects along the way, I'll incorporate them as soon as possible.

.

Happy building!


LATEST UPDATE 09/08/20

Hi all,

I've just finished building The Infinite Metal Builder and there's some control that I thought would be very useful in the ISB as well so I've slightly changed and added to the Metallic controls.



Instead of the control being a single, cumbersome colour ramp, it's now a simple slider. I've also added an anisotropic slider, I won't go into detail but it's just the way the light interacts with metals; experimentation with this and the new Tangent control is the best way forward so you can see the changes. You can pick X, Y or Z for the tangent, and you can switch the Radial UV to the UV map if you wish.


It's just a little extra control I felt wouldn't be too tough to implement into the ISB, it just makes the metallic easier to use and animate and gives you a bit more infinite.


Any other things I come across on my builds that I feel would be worth putting into the ISB, you can be sure I will.


Hope you're all enjoying using it.