Make An Object Glow In 3ds Max

A 3ds Max object with self-illumination appears to glow.

3ds Max is a software program used for creating and animating virtual 3-D objects. One of Max’s features for making objects appear more realistic is the Material Editor, which lets users assign many different textures and colors to their models. One type of material you can apply is self-illumination. An object to which this material is applied appears to glow. One advantage of producing this effect is the ability to see objects even when they are not illuminated by external lights.


1. Open 3ds Max and click in the “Perspective” viewport, then press “Alt-W” to maximize that viewport.

2. Click the “Create” menu, then the “Shapes” option and then the “Text” option. You’ll create 3-D text with self-illumination that simulates a neon sign. You’ll also create a simple object that’s self-illuminated. You can apply the knowledge you gain from this exercise to make any object in 3ds Max glow.

3. Click anywhere in the viewport to place the text, then type the message you want for the neon sign in the “Text” area of the “Parameters” rollout. This rollout is located in the parameter pane to the right of the viewport drawing area.

4. Click the parameter pane’s “Rendering” rollout, then place checkmarks in both the “Enable in Renderer” and “Enable in Viewport” checkboxes. Place another check in the “Use Viewport setting” checkbox. These actions enable the otherwise flat text to appear 3-D dimensional—an essential quality in simulating neon signs.

5. Click the “Create” menu’s “Box” item to enter box-drawing mode. The box represents a non-text object that you can make glow. You can also import, using the “FIle” menu’s “Import” command, any existing 3ds Max model to apply the glow effect to.

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6. Click and drag in the “Perspective” viewport to grow the box to any size, then release the mouse to complete the box.

7. Click the “Create” menu, then the “Light” submenu. Click that submenu’s “Standard” sub-item, followed by “Omni.” This step lets you place a light in the scene, which you’ll do to create the effect of the glowing neon material.

8. Click anywhere in the “Perspective” viewport to place the light, then draw upward on its “Z” axis to raise it above the objects you created earlier. Press “F9” to render the scene.

9. Click the light, then click the “Modify” button in the parameter pane. Uncheck the “On” checkbox under the “General parameters” rollout. This action turns the light off.

10. Press “F9” to re-render the scene. The scene’s objects will no longer appear. You’ll now make them visible again by adding the glowing (i.e., self-illuminating) material to them.

11. Press “M” to enter the material editor, then click the top arrow of the “self-illumination” slider. Release the mouse when the slider reaches “100,” which is the maximum self-illumination value.

12. Click the first sphere in the material editor’s gallery of spheres (which illustrate materials you can apply to objects). Drag the sphere onto the text and other objects you made or imported in steps four through six. This action assigns the glowing material to those objects.

13. Press “F9” to re-render the scene, which will now show the objects again, even though no external lights illuminate them.

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