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Master water in LightWave

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Date Added: 17th September 2013
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Water is a topic that surfaces on a regular basis. Here, Craig Clark looks at perfecting simple yet good-looking water in LightWave

Tutorial assets

- Water_v001.lwo
- LightwaveWaterPreset


This article looks at creating simple yet attractive water in LightWave. The Internet will readily give up various tutorials for creating and rendering realistic, heaving oceans, but what I am looking at here is simple but effective water which I use when creating cross sections of submerged subjects, such as boats and hydro dams. This water is very quick, but creates a nice, rich effect at the same time.

My Singapore Navy warship rendered in a cross section of water. Clean, clear, and crisp. Great for technical-style renders!

Base geometry

The water we are going to create is of a style you would use in a cross-section illustration. Therefore, as the base geometry, all we need to do is create a box that will encompass or adequately accommodate our main model. Select the top polygon, side polygons, and the bottom polygon in turn, and assign separate surfaces so that we have the surfaces split up for the water surface, the sides, and the bottom.

The basis of the water, consisting of simply a box

Basic surface settings

Basic settings for the water come first. For the color, I chosoe the Bondai Blue from the LW11.6 color picker, but any color you want is fine. I use the same color for the sides too. For the bottom you can go for a river/sea bed color rather than the same blue. I also add turbulence procedural to the bump channel for the water surface.

Basic surface settings for our water

Let's get nodal!

For the main water shading, we will be using the dielectric node, which is used for glass typically, but any material that has transparent properties and an IOR higher than 1. For water, the IOR should be 1.33, but really you can use whatever value gives you the most pleasing result. The most critical parameter for this purpose is absorption. The smaller the number, the less light is absorbed by the water, and so the clearer it becomes. I higher value will make the water appear denser, and therefore show more of the underlying color.

Using the dielectric node to give our water its nice and inviting look!

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Paul Young on Wed, 01 March 2017 2:39pm
Hi Craig - not so much a comment, rather a question. It was good to follow your tutorial about mastering water in Lightwave, as I have a project going which involves a ship on water. However, to continue, I need to set up a way of creating and animating a convincing bow-wave and wash. Any ideas on how best to do this? Any tips would be very much appreciated. Thanks!
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