How to breathe life into your materials in Lumion 10.3

Mar 23, 2020 | Rendering Tips

When materials feel real, designs become lively experiences in the mind. Now, in Lumion 10.3, you can import your own displacement maps and give all the materials in your project a persuasive, natural appearance.

When rendering with Lumion, one of its stronger points has always been its wide and impressive collection of high-quality, physically-based rendered (PBR) materials. This collection includes over 1,200+ materials for all types of surfaces, including grasses, rocks, glass, tiles, fabrics, bricks, wood, metal and many others.

Now, with the release of Lumion 10.3 earlier this week, you can heighten the realism, texture and detail of any material throughout your project with the new displacement map import feature. Maybe you’re wondering ‘what exactly is a displacement map and why does it matter?’ Well, hold that thought and read on!

This new feature makes it easy to import a displacement map into a material’s settings. You can create your own displacement maps or download them from a variety of reliable sources (more on this below). After importing the map, simply move the displacement map slider and watch as your project’s materials are brought to life with incredible texture and detail.

Importing and adjusting are all done in Lumion’s signature easy and intuitive way.

By making materials feel real, you can discover endless possibilities for creating atmosphere and emotional involvement in your architectural renderings.

Lumion 10.3 also comes with the new LiveSync for AutoCAD feature and an update to the high-quality preview. While we’ll be writing about the new LiveSync for AutoCAD next week, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the displacement map import feature and show you exactly how it works, and how it can instantly enhance the materials in your renders.

So let’s dive right in!

What are displacement maps in Lumion?

Materials are the cornerstone of many effective renders. They serve as the bridge between a pen-and-paper architectural design and its real-life construction. They not only show what construction materials the project requires, but they also convey the design’s visual aesthetic and style.

Country home rendered in Lumion 10.3. Architectural design by Ten Over Studio.

With beautiful materials, the act of seeing your architectural visualizations becomes the experience of feeling them, heightening emotion while drawing viewers into your designed building or space.

How a material looks in a render, however,  depends on a combination of three types of “maps”. These maps are essentially placed on top of one another and, together, they make the material look like it should.

Lumion applies these maps automatically to many materials, but to truly bring out the lifelike texture, depth and rich detail of your project’s materials, then this is where importing your own displacement maps can come in handy. 

1. Color maps, which give materials their color, pattern and overall ‘look’.

2. Normal maps, which use lighting details to give materials depth, variation and realistic texture.

3. Displacement maps (also known as parallax mapping or virtual displacement mapping), which further enhances the depth of materials by making them look like volumetric, 3D surfaces.

Color maps and normal maps have been around in Lumion for quite some time. You can find them in Lumion’s large content library of built-in materials, and you can even import your own color and normal maps for your custom materials library.

Displacement maps are actually pretty new in Lumion. They first appeared with the release of Lumion 10 in November 2019, and they were applied to 167 materials in Lumion’s built-in materials library. You can locate these materials with the “D” symbol on the thumbnail.

Following the popularity of these maps and a clear request from Lumion’s customers, Lumion 10.3 came out with the import your own displacement map feature. Now, it’s easier than ever for architects, no matter their experience with 3D rendering, to instantly breathe life into all of the materials in their projects.

Where can you find displacement maps for use in Lumion?

Even if you’ve never used a displacement map before, adding them to your Lumion project’s materials is a simple and rewarding experience.

The first step is to create or find a displacement map.

Example of a displacement map showing paving stones.

Displacement maps are essentially high contrast, black-and-white images. The more contrast you have between the black and the white colors, the greater the apparent displacement you have in the rendered material.

Low contrast displacement map (left) vs. high-contrast displacement map (right).

If you’re not sure where to find and download materials (many with displacement maps), you can check out this article from the Knowledge Base: The official Lumion list of texture collections.

The displacement maps shown in this blog post are from CO0 Textures, for example.

How to import the maps in Lumion

Now that you’ve found some displacement maps to instantly enhance your project’s materials, the next step is to import them into Lumion. Fortunately, after the search to find the right textures and material maps, importing the map is the easiest part of the process.

If you’re adding a displacement map to one of Lumion’s built-in materials, locate the material in the content library and apply it to one of your project’s surfaces. Next, double-click on the material thumbnail to open its settings. To the right of the material’s thumbnail, you can find three boxes: the color map, normal map, and displacement map.

Click on the third button to import the displacement map.

Next, locate the displacement map file in your drive and click “open”. The map will be added to the material and a displacement map slider will appear in the material’s settings. By moving this slider up and down, you can then control the level of displacement.

Tell a vivid story about your design with beautiful materials

With the help of the displacement map import feature, you can quickly and easily make all of the materials in your project feel real.

Lumion 10.3 is available as a free update for all Lumion 10 users. If you have Lumion 10, you can update your license by locating the “Getting Started” email in the inbox associated with your license key. You can also access your personal Lumion account and download the latest version from there.

Don’t have Lumion 10? Click here to get one of the fastest and most reliable 3D rendering programs for architects.