Working with material the Material Assistants vs the Advanced Material Editor
In Maxwell V3 we introduced the concept of materialTypesor Material Assistants, which use a reduced set of intuitive parameters that greatly simplify and speed up the material creation process. These are the current simplified assistants available:
Opaque (any kind of opaque diffuse or shiny materials such as solid plastics, shiny wooden floors, concrete, etc.)
Transparent (all transparent glass and plastic materials which are not translucent - ie, they do not have subsurface scattering)
Metal (all kinds of metals)
Translucent (all transparent and semi-transparent materials which are translucent - plastics, marble, milk)
Car paint (for creating multilayered paints such as metallic car paint)
Hair (useful for creating materials for different types of hair)
Substance Painter (a super-easy way of feeding your Substance Painter textures and convert them into a matching Maxwell material)
TableBRDF (for loading this type of scanned materials from the MERL (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories)).
XRite AxF (for loading this type of scanned materials
Besides these simplified assistants there are also 3 general material "categories":
Emitter (for creating light-emitting materials and light projectors)
Custom (this simply switches the material editor to the advanced version)
MXM Reference (lets you load an external standalone Maxwell material file (.MXM) - see the Referenced Materials page for details).
It is important to note that these assistants do nothing more than simplifying the UI of material creation, adjusting behind the scenes several parameters in the advanced editor - there is no difference in render quality between using the assistants or custom materials created from scratch using the advanced editor.
Converting a material created using an assistant to the advanced editor
When working with an assistant, you can at any time click the "Convert to Advanced" button to switch the material to the advanced editor - thus revealing the full material editor. Please note that this is a one-way conversion - you can't convert this material back to an assistant. This is because it's impossible to accommodate all the parameters found in the full material editor back to a certain assistant, which only uses a subset of these parameters.
Should I use the assistants or the advanced editor?
Creating materials using the assistants has two great advantages - speed and simplicity. Even if you are already comfortable using the advanced editor, you may find that in many cases you can create materials much faster by starting from an assistant rather than creating it from scratch in the advanced editor. For new users, the advanced editor seems daunting, with too many possibilities and too many parameters interacting. With the assistants, we have tried to give intuitive, common names to the parameters where possible, and we display only the parameters needed for that particular material type.
The assistants have another great benefit for new users - it keeps you from making some mistakes when creating materials that can slow down the render or produce strange results. For example, you may forget you changed some parameters related to transparency in the advanced editor, when in fact you wanted to create an opaque material. If you now apply this material to a wall - strange things will happen
So we strongly recommend to use the assistants if you are new to Maxwell, and also keep in mind it is a starting point for understanding the advanced editor.
The disadvantage of simplicity is that it offers you less flexibility. Even though the assistants will allow you to create well over 90% of commonly used materials, there will be cases where you want a more complex material with several different layers, multiple highlights, more subtle control, etc. So when you start feeling comfortable with Maxwell and the simplified materials, we encourage you to check out the documentation and examples of the advanced editor - you will find that some of the parameters have exactly the same name as in the assistants, which makes the transition easier, while others are based on common naming conventions from the physics of light interaction.