by: Christina Douk
There are several ways to render out a wireframe to display your work. I will demonstrate a couple of them, but overall the best one for the job is done by using contour rendering.
1. Textured Wireframe
This method is simple and easy, but will only render in rigid mode. To achieve this method, you first need to auto map the UVs, then export a UV snapshot of the model's UV. You will then apply that snapshot as the texture for the object. That's it!
The flaws with this method is that you can see some smudging as well as varying sizes of lines. Because this is automapped, some faces might not have enough UV space for clean line. A higher texture size might solve the problem, but the thickness of the line stays at a standard size.
2. Toon Wireframe
This method is effective as well, but is a lot more complicated than the rest. Toon outlines are probably not the best way to make a wireframe, but it does still work. To create the outline, you need to apply the object with a toon shader outline (Rendering Tab> Toon> Assign Outline> Add new toon outline) then you have to adjust the settings in the attribute editor at the right of the UI to get the look that you want. This method will only work with maya software, so for it to work in mental ray you have to do one more step, which is to convert the toon effect into polygons. Example shown below.
3. Contour Rendering
This has been the most successful method of rendering wireframes so far. To achieve this you first need to adjust the render and shader settings to get what you want. This method is specific to Mental Ray, and it will render actual tessellation, so if you render while in smooth preview it will display the actual geometry in the view, and if you render it in rigid mode, it will render a rigid mesh. You can use your generic Production render settings in Mental Ray. But make sure to set the contour settings below for the method to work.
To change the thickness of the wire, in the material's shading group, adjust the "Width" slider to your liking. The image would resemble something similar to the kettle render on the right in the image above.
*Note: This tutorial was initially made using Maya 2012, all mayas from 2011-2014 should be compatible with this method, but in 2015 you will have to use the legacy render settings. I am not sure if they have fixed this bug yet, but it is a bit of a bother.
If you want to render the wireframe separate from the model, you can easily adjust the transparency slider and the wireframe will render with an alpha. With this, you can apply it to a solid render, or a textured render. Just make sure you render from the same camera.
This method allows you to have more control when compositing the two images together. Yes it adds another render pass, but if you want to adjust the color of the wireframe, or color of the solid render, you can easily adjust it in post with
Contour rendering is my most used method for showing off my 3D models, for me it's an art form of its own. You can see more of my examples with other models I render. Some examples below, and many more in my portfolio.
Please email me if you have any comments or questions.
I hope this gives you some ideas of model layouts, and remember to always have fun with it!
Originally written on January 05, 2012
Last Updated on April 03, 2015