Creating Realistic Cigarette Smoke in 3D Studio Max

By Aziz Khan | 3D Studio Max | Intermediate | Edited by Oman3D

This tutorial shall teach you how to create a realistic looking cigarette smoke that gradually fades out. This tutorial shall teach you one of the many possible that can be used to achieve this result, ours will use the Super Spray particle emitter. This tutorial will not cover the process of modeling and texturing the cigarette object, you can refer to our other tutorials that cover modeling and texturing if you need help. You will have to download the starting scene (compatible with 3DS version 8) to be able to follow this tutorial. This is an intermediate level tutorial, you are expected to know all the basics of 3DS max before attempting this one.

Creating the Smoke

Once you have the scene provided opened, you should have the following objects laid on the scene: an Ashtray, a Cigarette, a Floor, and one Free Spotlight. You can render the perspective viewport to acquire an image similar to the one below.

Cigarette Smoke in 3DS - Start

Our smoke is going to be generated through a Super Spray. We will start off by creating one of these, so go through Create>Geometry and select Particle System from the dropdown menu and then click on Super Spray and place it at the tip of the cigarette on the scene as illustrated below.

Placing the Super Spray on the Scene

Once our particle emitter, the Super Spray, is placed at the proper position we will have to modify its settings. Access the Modify Panel by clicking on the Modify tab and then access the Basic Parameters rollout to input the changes detailed in the image below.

Scroll down the Modify Panel to find the Particle Generation parameters and apply the changes illustrated in the image below. Look then for the Particle Size settings under the same rollout and set it in accordance with the second image below.

Particle Generation ParametersParticle Size

Back to the main Modify Panel, look for the Particle Type rollout and set the Standard Particles to Facing option. This is basically the shape and geometry of the particle, we selected to the Facing option because it supports soft edges material (we are going to talk about this later in the tutorial) and because the facing shape will always 'face' the camera.

Particle Type

Look for the Rotation and Collision rollout set the Spin Time to Zero, the Spin Axis Controls to Direction of Travel/Mblur, and the Stretch value to 100, all as illustrated in the image below.

Rotation and Collision Settings

The final thing to look for in the Modify Panel is the Object Motion Inheritance rollout, once you find it, set the Multiplier to 0.2. You can try playing the animation at this instance to see what you have done so far.

To make the smoke more realistic we will randomize its movement by creating a Drag force. To do so go through Create>Space Wrap>Drag and then position it near the Ashtray.

Drag is a force object type that drags particles into its direction. It is the perfect to simulate wind resistance as it reduces the particles moving speed within a specified range.

Access the Drag Modify Panel and apply the settings illustrated in the image below.

Drag Modify Panel

We will have to bind the Drag force to the Super Spray. In order to do this you will have to access the Status Bar and click on the button highlighted below.

Status Bar - Bind Drag to the Super Spray

We will now impose the effect of the Drag force onto the Super Spray by binding them together. To do this, you will have to click and hold the Drag force and then move it over the Super Spray and release it on it to bind them together.

Bind the Drag with the Super Spray

Adding Wind to the Scene

The wind that we will create shall make our scene look more realistic through its effect on the smoke. To create the wind go through Create>Space Wraps>Wind and place one on the scene. The arrow that appears on the wind object represents its direction, you might need to rotate the wind object to make it blow towards the smoke.

Wind Wind Direction

Access the Wind Modify Panel and apply the settings illustrated in the first image below in the Parameters rollout. Once done with that, you will have to bind the wind to the Super Spray using the same method we described earlier. You can then click on Play to see something similar to the second image below.

Wind Parameters Bind the Wind to the Super Spray

To check if the two objects are bound together, click on the Super Spray and you should see the Drag, wind, and Super Spray bound together in the Modify panel, as illustrated by the image below.

Super Spray bound to the Drag Force

Assigning the Smoke Material

Open the Material Editor (Keyboard shortcut M) to find the following materials, assuming that you have used the file supplemented with this tutorial. Click on an empty slot and apply the settings illustrated in the second image below.

Material Editor

Expand the Maps rollout, change the value for the opacity to 5 and click on the None button. Double click on Gradient in the new window that pops up.

Maps rollout Material Browser - Gradient

Look for the Gradient Parameters and set the Gradient Type to Radial. Once done, go back to the parent material.

Gradient Type Go to Parent

We just created a soft edged texture where the Opacity works as a mask so that the white color is not transparent and the black colour is a 100% transparent.

Soft Edged Texture

You can now assign the material to the Super Spray and render the scene to have the end result of this tutorial.

This concludes our tutorial. I hope that you have learnt how to create a realistic looking smoke. You should experiment with different settings and configurations to make effective scenes for your projects. Please feel free to email me any comments and questions. You can alternatively post at the Oman3D Forum.

- End of Tutorial.