What is AUTOMAP ?

AUTOMAP is a simple integrated 3Ds Max shader plugin that creates bitmaps for height (bump and displacement), diffuse and reflection layers from a single bitmap.


AUTOMATERIAL is a scripted material plugin that makes material creation very easy. Automaterial uses Automap for bump, displacement, reflection and diffuse layers and is a good and simple start to create materials from bitmaps and tweak them without the need to use Photoshop.

What is it good for ?

If you quickly want to create a material with bump, reflection, displacement and separated diffuse maps and don´t want to spend your valuable time tweaking bitmaps in photoshop, Automaterial and Automap are a quick help. Automaterial works with almost any renderer as it create bitmaps on-the-fly which could also be used later without Automap. So Automap is not only a 3ds max shader plugin, but also a conversion utility for easy extraction of layers from single bitmaps.

Automaterial 1.0.0 user interface and parameters



Automaterial header and source bitmap

The header includes information about the version and three buttons to show the about screen, a window with links to further help and a check update button to check online if a new version of Automaterial is available.

Conversion Mode and Source

Automaterial header and source bitmap

Single Bitmap
When in single bitmap mode, only one bitmap can be selected and converted. After selecting a source bitmap, the converted layers are automatically assigned to the bump, displacement, reflection and diffuse, if selected below.

Batch Folder
When Batch Folder mode is selected, the source button will open a dialog that will allow you to choose a folder. If the folder contains bitmaps, these bitmaps will all be converted according to the settings below.

Source Bitmap / Folder
Depending on selected mode, you can either choose a single bitmap or a folder as source for the conversion.

The “X” will clear the chosen source bitmap / folder.

Conversion Settings and Trigger

Automaterial header and source bitmap

Automap Mode
This drop down menu contains 6 different conversion algorithms, mirrored from Automap. For more information on these algorithms, please see below.

  • Intensity formula
  • Y / L channel
  • Global contrast optimizer
  • R channel
  • G channel
  • B channel

Generate separate diffuse map
If you leave this option on, a separate diffuse map will be generated. The diffuse map will not include specular highlights (which are separated to the specular map), depending on your extraction algorithm that is selected in Automap.

Generate separate specular / reflection map
If you leave this option on, a separate specular map will be generated that is used for reflection.

Generate additional normal map
If you leave this option on, an additional normal map will be saved, which is derived from the height map. The normal map is not used in the material, but is available for further adjustment of the material or for use in game engines.

This button will trigger the extraction and calculation of the layer bitmaps. Depending on the resolution of your source bitmap and the algorithm used in Automap, computation might take a while. As there is no progress bar displaying the progress, you might need to wait a bit until computation is done. You´ll see the updated thumbnails when the extraction is finished.

If BATCH FOLDER is selected, the conversion may take quite a long time, so be patient until the conversion is done. If you want to reassure that Automaterial is still working, please take a look inside of your selected folder where the layers are appearing during the conversion.

Previews and Adjustments

Automaterial Settings

Map Previews and Adjustments
The three previews will display thumbnails of the extracted layer bitmaps. You can adjust the brightness and contrast of each map with the value control parameters below each thumbnail. The view button above each thumbnail will display the original extracted bitmap of each layer, before brightness and contrast adjustments are applied.

This parameter changes the brightness of each layer with a color correction map.

This parameter changes the contrast of each layer with a color correction map.

Invert (height and reflection only)
This button inverts the height and reflection map with a color correction map.

Saturation (diffuse only)
This parameter changes the saturation of the separate diffuse map.

Automap 1.0.4 user interface and parameters

About Header

The header is just informational. It shows the version number, in case you need support, the serial number, your name and company.

Automap Parameters

Source Bitmap
This is where you load the source bitmap that is the base image for extracting further layers.

Bump / Displacement channel

Convert Mode
Automap currently provides six different conversion methods to auto generate a height/gray scale map, these are:

  • Intensity formula
  • Y / L channel
  • Global contrast optimizer
  • R channel
  • G channel
  • B channel

All conversion methods are explained further below.

This invert checkbox will invert the height map, so that high pixels (white) will become dark (low) and dark pixels (low) will become light (high).

This value will change the overall gamma curve of your heigh map.

With the exposure parameter you can change the lightness of your height map to brighter or darker.

This parameter increases or decreases the contrast of the height bitmap.

Additional boost
This checkbox will add additional contrast to the extracted height bitmap.

Clip range min / max
If you want to get rid of certain grey values in your height map, you can clip the values with the min (lower darker grey tones) or max (higher brighter grey tones). The values (pixels) will be clipped at minimum 0.0 (black) and maximum 1.0 (white).

If your height map is to crisp / sharp, you might want to smooth the image to get softer bump or displacement.

Diffuse / Specular channel

Generate separate diffuse map
If enabled, a separate diffuse map (without specular parts) will be generated.

Hole filling: # iterations
As strong specular parts in a bitmap can result in holes within the diffuse map, an algorithm is used to fill these holes. This iterations parameter adjusts the number of times that holes are filled subsequently by the algorithm.

Diffuse separation strength
With separation strength the splitting of specular and diffuse amounts can be adjusted.

  • Weak Separation of specular and diffuse amounts will be weak, resulting in less specular amounts and more original diffuse parts.
  • Medium Average separation of specular and diffuse amounts.
  • Strong Strong separation of specular and diffuse, resulting in more specular amounts and less original diffuse parts.

If your diffuse map is to crisp / sharp, you can smooth the image with this parameter.

Generate separate specular map
If enabled, a separate specular map will be generated.

If your specular map is to crisp / sharp, you might want to smooth the image to get softer reflections.

Output selection and previews

Manual channel selection
With this dropdown menu you can select the output of the Automap. You can choose from four sources if they were computed: source map, diffuse map, height map and specular map. When you copy Automap to other layers for bump, displacement, reflection or others you should make sure to make copies and not instances of the map. This way you can select the output layer for each map individually and don´t switch the output of another layer by accident.

Show heightmap
This button opens a preview of the generated height map.

Show diffusemap
This button opens a preview of the generated diffuse map (if available).

Show specularmap
This button opens a preview of the generated specular / reflection map (if available)

Show normalmap
This button opens a preview of the generated normal map (if available)

Automap Channel Select map

Channel Select Map
The channel select map can be used to simplify the process of assigning channels to a material. The Automap Channel Select map should be used in between Automap itself and the material layer (diffuse, bump, reflection, etc.) in order to keep Automap itselfas ONE map and still connect the outputs for height, diffuse, and specular to the correct channels. When using Automap Channel Select in these channels and Automap is used as an instance in each of these Output maps is a copy in itself, the outputs can be changed and loading a new source map will keep these outputs connected. Actually you can now easily create a material and load your source maps one after another to test the results immediately within the material preview or rendering.

Automap GUI

The above screenshot of the slate material editor shows how a material can be set up. The Automap Channel Select maps are individual maps, while the inserted Automap within these maps is only one instance. In order to to this properly, you FIRST need to create the Automap Channel Select maps (as copies) and then instance Automap itself in these maps or connect the output to all of the Automap Channel Select maps.

Conversion Methods

The following examples demonstrate the differences when using different conversion methods. As source bitmaps can be quite different in terms of color intensities, color differences or color values, each method has is advantages or disadvantages. The most recommended method to start with is the Global Contrast Method, but the other methods also might suit well for certain source bitmaps. The following two bitmaps are used to compare the methods:

Source Bitmap 1

Source Bitmap 2


The intensity formula converts a RGB tripplet into a gray scale value using specific weights for each channel and then sum the weighted contribution up to a singular value. The weights are derived via human cognetive science and correspond to the human eye responsiveness towards different colours. The intensity formula is also used in 3dsmax natively when you put any color channel map into a map channel that expects a single value.

Example 1 – Intensity Formula

Example 2 – Intensity Formula

As one can see, the intensity formula does a reasonable job in converting the first source image but it fails to generate any significant height map in the second case, simply because the color intensities of the second image are quite similar.

Method 2: Y/L CHANNEL

The Y/L channel method converts the RGB tripplet into a more convenient colour space that has a dedicated channel to encode the Luminance of the image which directly reflects the intensity of the channel. This method is used for example in Adobe Photoshop to convert a RGB image into a grayscale image. It is very similar to the intensity formula and often provides similar results but in some cases where for example the dominant eye responsive colours are missing, it can produce better results.

Example 1 – Y/L Channel

Example 2 – Y/L Channel


This method is slightly more complex but the results are usually worthwhile to wait for the extra time. Compared to the other two methods which do not take any of the overall context of the image into account but instead treat every pixel isolated. This method tries to optimize the resulting global contrast in the converted image and therefore tries to recover the detail that is represented in the colour information and is often able to recover more of the overall structure of the image.

Example 1 – Global Contrast method

Example 2 – Global Contrast method

As one can see already in the first example a lot more of the fine surface detail can be seen in the bump mapped teapot where these areas appear more flat in the other two method and for the second image it is able to actually generate a proper height map where the other two methods were unable to restore any detail at all.


As mentioned before the last three methods just take an individual color channel as the height map depending on which channel this can result in very good or less good results:

Example 1 – Red Channel

Example 2 – Red Channel

Example 1 – Green Channel

Example 2 – Green Channel

Example 1 – Blue Channel

Example 2 – Blue Channel


[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”nG6_Wuo2nQI&rel=vizpark” width=900 height=560 anchor=”https://www.vizpark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/VP_Automap_installation_thumb.jpg”]

Installation is easy, just start the installer “Automap installer.exe” and select the install location and plugins you want to install. The installer automatically installs all plugins and related files to their selected and default plugin locations.

To use the corona Automaterial, you need to copy the plugin manually to the plugins folder. You´ll find the plugin inside of the Automap installation folder that you can find from the Windows start menu. Navigate to the Windows start menu VIZPARK and choose Automap. Inside this folder you´ll find the plugins folder that contains all original plugins.


Go to the material editor and within a material add a new map and select the “VP Automap” map from the list.
An activation screen will appear and you will be asked to enter your name, company, email and serial number that
you received from VIZPARK. When you have entered everything correctly, click OK and Automap is ready to use.

Technical specification

  • Autodesk 3Ds Max 2010 (32 bit and 64 bit)
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max 2011 (32 bit and 64 bit)
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max 2012 (32 bit and 64 bit)
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max 2013 (32 bit and 64 bit)
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max 2014 (32 bit and 64 bit)
  • Chaosgroup VRay renderer
  • Mental Ray renderer
  • Scanline renderer
  • Corona renderer (beta)

One thought on “AUTOMAP – Reference Guide

  1. Pingback: Automap Beta – VizPark Plugin | Tutos V-Ray et 3dsMax par Matt Guetta

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