Maya tutorial: Create Incredible 3D Renders using this Free Maya Plugin

ProRender is fast and creates amazing 3D renders – and did we mention it’s free.

This free Maya plugin creates renders of exceptional quality – and you can download it for free now.

Finding the ultimate render engine is something that many artists try to do - but it always feels like a compromise has to be made. You can have speed, accuracy or a shallow learning curve. Finding a solution that covers all three is rare – but here’s one that achieves the triple.

AMD’s Radeon ProRender is a rendering engine for Maya, 3ds Max, Rhino, SolidWorks and (soon) Cinema 4D that offers both live viewport material preview and final production renderers. And it works even if you have a non-AMD graphics card or chip.

Not only do you get the capabilities of one-click GI based on native lights, IBL or any combo - but it’s built to use the best of any given system, whether the CPU(s) or GPU(s). What’s more it caters to the forward thinking artist with support for VR renders of various kinds.

What really shines though is the efficiency. It’s fast and scales nicely with your hardware but it’s incredibly easy to get to grips with. Often you can achieve what you need in two or three clicks, with production ready results.

Read on to see it in action and learn how to texture, edit, light and then render a scene in just a few simple steps, then get it for yourself and try it. If you need any more motivation there’s also the fact that it’s free. Not limited to 30 days, or output size. Actually free. Consider it an extra Christmas present from AMD to you.


Before we do anything, download and install the ProRender plugin for Maya.

Then lets open a scene. It doesn’t matter where your scene comes from; either native Maya file or imported as OBJs or FBX. What is important is to strip out any lights or environments, so you can start fresh with Radeon ProRender.


Let’s start by changing our layout to Rendering and moving to the ProRender shelf.

Click the cog icon to access the settings. These are simple and intuitive, even if you are new to Maya. Scroll to the Quality settings and set the Viewport to Low and Production to High. This gives the best balance between fast work and best final renders (it's also accessible from the shelf).


Now let’s get some light in the scene, so we can make the most of ProRender’s speed. On the shelf click the IBL icon, which adds a sphere to the scene. Feel free to move this to one side, if it obstructs the view


You will see that a material has been created for the sphere, ready for your environment image, so click the file button in the attributes editor, then navigate to your preferred HDRI or EXR.

Note the intensity slider. For my image I’m going to increase this to 15.


In your viewport's Renderer menu, swap from Viewport 2.0 to Radeon ProRender. You should now be presented with a lit, physically accurate viewport - not only beautiful but fast and accurate too. If your image is too bright or dark simply adjust the IBL intensity slider.


One of the benefits of ProRender is the material system, so let’s start by opening the material library by clicking the icon with four coloured spheres. The library browser has panels for categories, materials, preview and info - all particularly intuitive.


The browser that pops up is one of the nicest parts of ProRender. This offers categorised materials for most uses, which can be imported into your scene - and edited to adapt them to your needs.


Let’s start off with a wooden floor. Locate it in the browser then click the Import button above its large review. Open the Hypershade window to see the node tree and just how much time has been saved setting things up.


To apply this to the floor middle click the blue output node until your cursor shows a + sign, then drag and drop onto the floor in your viewport.

Wait for ProRender to swiftly do its thing and you will now see the floor material applied and looking as expected.


Repeat this process, applying all the materials you need to the various objects in your scene. Leave any light emitting objects for now, as we can work in different ways for them, which we will look at next.


If you want to see previews in the Hypershade, after importing multiple PR materials from the library you can do so. Click on the output node in the hierarchy, then open the dropdown above the preview window and select Radeon ProRender, to see it with a generic lighting setup.


While the presets from the library are all very useable and look great, there will be times when you need more control - and ProRender offers precisely that, with full support for material editing.

Let’s look at the sofa in this scene. It looks nice but I’d rather it was less glossy, which is an easy edit. First, select it in the scene or outliner.


Above the graph view of Hypershade click the icon of a blue circle connecting two nodes. This graphs just materials applied to the sofa, making for a clean view.

You can now adjust your material as needed, in my case by adding some roughness to the leather to dull the gloss


Adding lights is a simple job with ProRender. It support's Maya native lights for extra efficiency - but you can add a proper emissive material to any selection by clicking the sun icon on the ProRender shelf.

For my example, I selected the inner eye of the robot, then clicked on the icon.


It’s just as easy to edit the material too. Open the Hypershade and it should be there in the graph. Just adjust any attributes you need and done.

Creating and editing physically based materials with PR is a doddle and they look fantastic, with no need to mess about with render settings, like GI and filters.


So far we have only looked at the live viewport but things stay equally simple once you are ready for your final render.

Open the settings via the cog icon on the shelf and in globals you can set resolution and aspect etc, then close it down and all that is left is to hit the ‘Start’ button. The renderer is fast and the final clean, beauty pass is physically accurate and ready for use.

Learn more about AMD’s Radeon ProRender.