This page provides a tutorial on using the Phoenix Particle Texture to shade a particle simulation with Chaos Phoenix in 3ds Max.


This is an Intermediate Level tutorial. Even though no previous knowledge of Phoenix is required to follow along, re-purposing the setup shown here to another shot may require a deeper understanding of the host platform's tools, and some modifications of the simulation settings.

Requires Phoenix 3.11.00 Official Release and V-Ray Next Official Release for 3ds Max 2015 at least. You can download official Phoenix and V-Ray from If you notice a major difference between the results shown here and the behavior of your setup, please reach us using the Support Form.

The instructions on this page guide you through the process of using the Phoenix Particle Texture  to shade a particle simulation with Phoenix in 3ds Max.

The Download button below provides you with an archive containing the scene file.


Download Project Files


Units Setup

Scale is crucial for the behavior of any simulation. The real-world size of the Simulator in units is important for the simulation dynamics. Large-scale simulations appear to move more slowly, while mid-to-small scale simulations have lots of vigorous movement. When you create your Simulator, you must check the Grid rollout where the real-world extents of the Simulator are shown. If the size of the Simulator in the scene cannot be changed, you can cheat the solver into working as if the scale is larger or smaller by changing the Scene Scale option in the Grid rollout.

The Phoenix solver is not affected by how you choose to view the Display Unit Scale - it is just a matter of convenience.

Go to Customize → Units Setup and set Display Unit Scale to Metric Centimeters.

Also, set the System Units such that 1 Unit equals 1 Centimeter.


Scene Layout

The final scene consists of the following elements:

  1. A Torus used as the source geometry for Liquid particles. An animated Noise modifier is applied to the torus to break-up the motion of the liquid and produce interesting swirls.
  2. A Phoenix Liquid Source with the Torus in its Emitter Nodes list. The Source is in Volume Brush mode and is animated from 100% at frame 13 to 0% at frame 14.
  3. A Phoenix Liquid Simulator with some tweaks in the Grid and Dynamics rollouts.
  4. A Sphere set to Non-solid object from the Phoenix Properties and with Clear Inside turned on in order to delete all the particles that get inside of its volume.
  5. A Phoenix Body Force used to attract the liquid particles to the Torus. The Strength is animated from 300 at frame 140 to 100 at frame 145.
  6. A Phoenix Body Force to attract the liquid particles to the Sphere. The Strength is animated from 0 at frame 140 to 800 at frame 145.
  7. A Phoenix Particle Shader used to render the liquid particles.
  8. Standard Physical Camera for rendering.
  9. A V-Ray Sphere Lights for lighting the scene.
  10. A V-Ray Ambient Light for lighting the scene.

Scene Setup

Set the Time Configuration → Animation Length to 250 so that the Timeline goes from 0 to 250.



Create a Standard Primitives → Torus. The torus will be used as the emission for the liquid particles.

Set its Radius 1 to 162 and set the Radius 2 to 15.

Rotate the Torus 90 degrees on the Y axis.

Animate the Y rotation from 0 at frame 0 to 720 at frame 200 and set the keyframes to linear interpolation so that the animation will be constant through the whole range.



Apply a Noise modifier to the torus to give it irregular shape.

Set the Scale to 136. Turn Fractal on.

For the Strength set for X:85 Y:35 Z:28.

Turn on Animate Noise and animate the Phase from 0 at frame 0 to 100 at frame 100.

Using open geometry or geometry with no thickness can give you unpredictable simulation results. Making sure that your geometry is clean is crucial for a smooth workflow. Phoenix (and many simulation packages in general) use a volumetric representation of the emission geometry for the simulation. The process of creating this volumetric representation is called voxelization. The algorithms responsible for voxelizing the geometry can fail when using open (with holes) or planar (no thickness) geometry.



Phoenix Setup

Create a Phoenix Liquid Simulator and set the Grid → Cell Size to 1.25.

Set the Size X / Y / Z to 491 / 142 / 417 respectively.

Set the Scene Scale to 10 - this would make our liquid swirls move a bit slower.



Create a Phoenix Liquid Source and add the torus to the Emitter Nodes list by using the Add button.

Set the Emit mode to Volume Brush (you will be prompted with a message box letting you know that in order for the Volume Brush mode to work you need to set the object to Non-Solid, click on the Make Non-Solid button) and animate the Brush Effect from 100% at frame 13 to 0% at frame 14. Using the Volume Brush mode the volume of the emitter object will be gradually filled with liquid and in this way giving us a lot more particles to work with.

Turn on the RGB channel and plug a 3ds Max Noise texture in the map slot.

For the Noise texture set the Source to Object XYZ and the Noise type to Fractal. Set the High value to 0.57 and the Low value to 0.5. Set the Levels to 6 and the Size to 120.

For the Color #1 of the Noise choose 214, 255, 255 for Hue, Saturation, Value respectively and for Color #2 161, 255, 255 for Hue, Saturation, Value.

Now that all the required elements for a liquid simulation are present ( (1) Emission Geometry, (2) Source and (3) Simulator ), we can run the simulation to see what we've got.



Here's how the simulation looks at the moment. The liquid starts falling down and doesn't stick to the animated Torus geometry.

We need to disable the Gravity and add a Body Force that will pull the liquid towards the Torus.



Phoenix Simulator Setup

Select the Phoenix Simulator and from the Dynamics rollout disable the Gravity checkbox. This way once the liquid is emitted it won't start falling down due to the gravity.

As later we would want to shade our particles based on the liquid channels we need to set those for export to the cache files.

In the Output rollout tick the checkboxes for Velocity and RGB for both the Output Particles and the Output Grid channels.



Adding the Body Forces

Now that our liquid is emitted and is no longer falling down we want it to follow the movement of the animated torus.

Create a Phoenix Body Force and set the Torus for the Body.

Set the Strength to 300 and animate its value from 300 at frame 140 to 100 at frame 145.



Now the particles are rotating and follow the Torus, but that gets a bit boring after a while so we will create another object to attract the particles and make them disappear.

Create a Standard Primitives → Sphere. Set the Radius to 50.

Right-click with the Sphere selected and from the Chaos Phoenix Properties set it to Non-Solid so that particles can get inside of it.

Then Turn on the Clear Inside option - this way all the particles that get inside of the sphere's volume will be killed.

The only thing left is to add another Body Force that will pull the particles inside of the sphere.

Create a Phoenix Body Force and set the Sphere for the Body. As we don't want this force affecting the simulation from the start we will need to animate its Strength value.

Animate the Strength from 0 at frame 140 to 800 at frame 145.



Here's the result with the both Body Forces affecting the simulation.



Particle Shading

Now that we have the scene setup we need to render it out. By default the Phoenix Liquid Simulator will be rendered as mesh, though in this case we would like to render out the simulation as particles.

Select the Liquid Simulator, right-click and from the Object Properties disable Renderable.

Create a Phoenix Particle Shader and from the Add button select the Simulator and pick the Liquid particle group.

If we hit the render button now you will notice that the render is blank. In order to see something we will need some lights.

Create a V-Ray Ambient Light and then set the Color to 0, 0, 255 Hue, Saturation, Value and the Intensity to 2.



You will notice that the particles look too dense and burn out. In order to bring back some of the detail let's select the Particle Shader and set the Point Alpha to 0.01 and the Shadow Strength to 0.



As we have already simulated the particles' RGB channel - we would want to use that for the color of our particles. In order to do that we would need a way to read this channel and tell the Particle Shader to use it.

Select the Particle Shader, enable the Color Map checkbox and in the map slot plug a Phoenix FD Particle Texture.

From the Particle Texture options click on the button for the Source Particle System and select the Simulator, then pick the Liquid Particle group.

Turn on Color From Particle Channel and select the RGB channel. If we render out the result looks like this.



The particles are shaded by the RGB channel, though the color looks a bit pale. We can fix that by increasing the Color Intensity inside the Phoenix Particle Texture.

Set the Color Intensity to 5 and render again.



Now the particles look much better but still look too ordinary. Let's add some Bloom and Glare from the VFB Settings and spice up those particles.

Open the Bloom/Glare effect options and set the Size to 40, Bloom to 0.20, Intensity to 10 and the Threshold to 0.10.

We're using the updated V-Ray Frame Buffer coming with V-Ray Next for 3ds Max, update 1. You could achieve the same effect using the Exposure controls on the old Frame Buffer in addition to the Bloom effect, or any compositing package such as After Effects or Nuke.



Here's how the result looks in motion.

Particle Shading By Speed

Let's say we want to shade the particle color by speed. How do we do that?

From the Phoenix Particle Texture option set the Color From Particle Channel to use the Velocity channel.

Rendering the result looks like this - not quite what we're after. It currently colors the particles using the velocity vector and the result is similar to what you will see in a 'Normals' render element.



Turn on Remap Color from the Particle Texture options and set the Use Color Component to Length. This way the texture will use the speed of the particles, which is the length of the velocity vector.

Double click on the first color point to set its color and use 0.6, 1, 1 for Hue, Saturation, Value.

Double click on the second color point and set the color to 0.08, 0.734, 1.



Moving the points, we can control how to colors are remapped based on the speed.

In order to figure out what the real velocity range is you can open the Simulation rollout of the Liquid Simulator and inside the Cache File Content check the range values for the Velocity channel. In this case it's from 0 to 279.40.





Move the first color point to position of 86 and the second one to 198. This way the gradient will tighten up and give the result a bit contrasty look. Note that the numbers displayed on the color gradient are the leftmost and rightmost points on the gradient, and not the positions of the color markers.



Here's how the result looks in motion.



Another really cool thing that you can do with this approach is to combine both methods we have shown above.

So you can take the Particle Texture that reads the RGB channel and multiply it by the Particle Texture that reads the Speed of the Particles.

Duplicate the Particle Texture that we used for the Speed example above, set the Color from Particle Channel to RGB and turn off the color remapping.

In order to get a bit different result let's change the Color Remap gradient for the Speed Texture.

Set the first point to 0, 0, 0.1 Hue, Saturation, Value and move its position to 70. This sets the color to a dark gray and when we later multiply this color by the RGB texture some of the color will get through, but with a lower value.

Set the second point to 0, 0, 1 Hue, Saturation, Value and move its position to 100.

Create a V-Ray Comp Texture and connect the Speed and RGB particle textures to it.

Then set the Operator to Multiply and set the V-Ray Comp Texture as a Color map for the Particle Shader.



This way we do get the colors from the RGB channel but the fastest moving particles will be a lot brighter.



Let's modify the overall look and make the particles a bit denser.

Select the Particle Shader and set the Point Alpha to 0.11 - this will bring the particles' opacity back up.

Set the Shadow Strength to 5 - this way we'll get stronger and darker shadows.

Now let's add some more V-Ray Lights.

Select the V-Ray Ambient Light we have already created and disable it.

Create a V-Ray Sphere Light and position it at X: 300, Y: -266, Z: 530. Set its Multiplier to 900.

Create another V-Ray Sphere Light and position it at X: -460, Y: 230, Z: 530. Set its Multiplier to 200.

And this is how the final result looks like.



In addition, you can enable the Exposure and Curve options from the VFB Settings to make the render even more interesting.

Open the Exposure options and set the Exposure to 0.2.

Experiment with the Curve to achieve the desired look.



And here is the final rendered result.

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