Maxwell's approach to rendering

Render of Stack! Studios


While Maxwell Render is uncomplicated and straightforward, it does make use of some concepts and functions that may be new or different to you. They account for Maxwell Render’s superb quality and realism. It is important to understand these concepts and how they differ from more commonly used notions before you start working with Maxwell Render. Note that these functions are explained in further detail later on in the manual.

Lighting in Maxwell Render

Light sources in Maxwell Render™ are defined by spectral characteristics and a light source usually possesses a lot of information about the intensity of emission at any of the possible wave lengths.
Maxwell Render does not use abstract lights typically used in traditional 3D applications (distant, point, omni, spotlights). Instead, Maxwell Render uses actual geometry with emitting materials. This approach to simulate lights emulates what happens in the real world and mimics real-world lights, producing a high degree of realism, outputting smooth shadows, providing a natural light distribution in your scene, and increasing the overall quality of your image. Maxwell Render can handle large numbers of lights in a scene without the performance loss sometimes experienced in other applications.
Lights in Maxwell Render™ are created applying an emitter material to an object. You can adjust the color and intensity of the emitter using everyday terms like watts or efficacy, or you can look into more advanced definitions using lumens, lux, Kelvin degrees, and RGB. If you are new to Maxwell Render, it is best to start by selecting an emitter from the Presets dropdown.


Maxwell Render provides a complete Physical Sky system with a sophisticated atmosphere model that reproduces skylight conditions at different hours, dates, and locations. The Physical Sky system is a simple way to obtain extremely accurate lighting in your scenes.
The atmosphere parameters allow users to customize the look of the sky and the resulting light in the scene, ranging from common Earth values to exaggerated fantasy skies. Users can also create presets of the sky settings to quickly load a new sky or share their presets with other users. It’s also possible to save the current sky as an HDR image.

Efficient and Interactive workflow

MultiLight™ and Maxwell FIRE - two key technologies inside Maxwell Render which allow you to work more efficiently and interactively.


Change emitter intensity/color and overall image brightness (exposure) interactively. Multilight enables you to adjust the intensity and color of all the individual or grouped lights in your scene during or after the rendering process to get the results you are looking for. It is possible to get infinite lighting variations from the lights in your scene - from one single render. With most conventional rendering engines, if you want to adjust the strength and/or color of each emitter in your scene you have to re-render, and re-render for every variation you want to see. Multilight can save you an enormous amount of time for getting the lighting just right.

Maxwell Fire

Maxwell Render includes a truly interactive render preview (which stands for Fast Interactive Rendering), which allows you to preview your scene in a fully interactive window (in Studio and in those plug-ins where Maxwell Fire is available), displaying a great quality preview render of your scene in seconds. This makes it much faster and easier to adjust your materials, adjust the environment conditions, set up the camera parameters or your emitter’s intensity and color, and see the results in real time. Again, Maxwell Render is a huge time saver in your pipeline.


For more info about Maxwell Fire, see Maxwell Fire - Fast Interactive Rendering


Cameras in Maxwell Render™ operate completely different from those in other render engines. Traditionally, most render engines use a pinhole camera. This type of camera simulates a tiny hole that allows light rays coming from the scene to reach the viewing surface. Instead, Maxwell Render™ simulates a real camera with the associated lens set, diaphragm aperture, diaphragm blades and various other settings. By using this type of camera model Maxwell Render™ can automatically simulate depth of field or aperture diffraction.

Along similar lines, motion blur in Maxwell Render™ is not produced as a post-process. Maxwell Render™ considers the moving objects to have random positions along their trajectories during the camera shutter speed time. This creates a natural and realistic motion blur. Maxwell Render’s SimuLens™ system allows you to simulate the shape of the diaphragm, creating realistic lens diffraction effects. It is also possible to simulate the scattering of light inside a lens system, an effect typically called “bloom”.


Maxwell Render™ materials – called MXM – are defined in a physically correct manner by their BSDF functions (Bidirectional Scattering Distribution Function), making it possible to build up different layers of materials in the same object, like other BSDF or SSS (Sub Surface Scattering) effects. Thin coatings are also available for very subtle and realistic effects such as thin film interference effects for the multicolored look of a thin layer of oil in water, or soap bubbles. Maxwell Render™ materials are not only physically correct but also very flexible and versatile. Bump/Normal Mapping, Displacement, Dispersion of light and Emitting properties are other characteristics available in the Maxwell material system.

With Maxwell Render 2 and its new stacked layers system, it is possible to create sophisticated materials easily. Materials can now be stacked in a layered way, so you can mimic many surfaces that are composed of different materials one over another.

Maxwell materials are based on physical properties and therefore very easy to use once understood properly. To help users to understand and use the Maxwell materials, we have created the MXM Gallery webpage, were you can freely download thousands of photorealistic materials ready to use in your own projects. We also provide Wizards to guide the user in material creation.

Learning curve

Maxwell Render™ is based on how light interacts with objects and materials in the real world, so the concepts behind it are easy and intuitive to learn. You don’t have to learn many parameters with strange terminology that have no equivalent in the real world - you work more like a photographer. You set up your lights using real world values, you adjust the camera using real camera parameters and let Maxwell Render handle the rest. This intuitive workflow is also flexible enough to allow for in-depth technical experiments, reviews or renders, if that is what you’re looking for.


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