on 2 August 2013
The author, Enrico Valenza, is an experienced and professional Blender user so a book by him is certainly worth checking out. The book presents some thirty shaders in a cookbook style and offers many insights in the Cycles rendering system not limited to specific materials. Although a cookbook implies that you can use the recipes as they are presented, the techniques that are offered in the book will get you a lot further than that and will help you develop skills necessary to develop your own materials because of the very detailed way their implementation is described.
thorough, each material is described in step-by-step detail and pretty much every avaible Cycles node is featured somewhere and both node groups and frames are covered as well,
comprehensive, both materials based on textures and materials based on procedural noise are covered and the all important concept of layering increasingly fine detail to get realistic textures is featured quite some times,
interesting, some materials feature mainly as a means to illustrate a concept but many materials are quite good and some are even excellent, my favorites are the sponge texture, the leather texture and the ancient bronze texture.
the introductory chapter on how to set up Cycles and where to find stuff isn't all that clear. This isn't necessarily the author's fault because sometimes the Blender interface can be overwhelming. Maybe this is one of those situations where a video tutorial is useful,
the resolution of the illustrations is way to low (I read the e-book version). If you try to zoom in the lettering of the node labels isn't readable. And yes, high resolution versions of those illustrations are available for download but that detracts from the reading experience a lot.
Nice and thorough book to get you started on creating materials for Cycles.
on 16 November 2014
I wanted a fairly comprehensive guide to get me through the basics of Cycles and get me setup with creating materials and getting fairly good renders (having already used Blender Internal and wanting to improve my own texturising knowledge). I'm halfway through the book at this present time and I have very mixed feelings about it.
On the upper-side, the tutorials themselves are very elaborate once you get past the author's style of language; it does get a little confusing from time to time but for the most part I've managed to get through most of it with a little bit of guess-work here and there. You do get reference Blend files as well for comparison reasons.
On the negative side though, I've found myself blindly following the tutorials without truly understanding what or why I'm doing it. He usually gives a couple of paragraphs at the end of the 'task' but I don't think it's anywhere near elaborate enough to understand what I'm doing or what I've just completed. What this book urgently needs is a guide on exactly why he's using the node(s) in question, what each node does (preferably both in relation to where it is in the node-tree, and how it effects the end result). For example, he'll tell you to add a Fresnel node without telling you what the Fresnel node is for. Certain ones like the mix node, you learn to pick up very quickly because he uses them over and over again, but I've come across some in this book where I've been left scratching my head at exactly what it does. A particular favourite is when he tells you to add a 'mix node' but then changes to 'additive / mix / multiply / etc.' A chart at the start of the book explaining what the purpose of each setting and what it does would have helped here. Some reference photographs might have helped in some places as well, as if to say 'this is the texture I want to recreate in 3D.'
The other negative is like others have mentioned, the black and white colour images. Usually, the tutorials by Packt are very good, but their printed material can really do with some colour images. This particular book could benefit from being printed in colour, and having more screenshots as well, it would minimise the guess-work involved.
I found out after buying the book that there are two extra chapters that you download. I wasn't particularly happy with that. The reason I get the books is because I prefer to have (and keep) a physical copy and I find it much easier to flick through pages than fiddle with computer screens. The two chapters are comparatively short but it was a nuisance nevertheless.
With all of the above said however, I do feel a lot more confident with nodes and Cycles. There's plenty of scope for experimentation, and I do think the book can be used for reference if struggling to create a particular texture. In that sense, it's done its job. I do wish he would've been a bit more elaborate with his explanations though because I don't feel like I've learned as much as I could have.