Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lightning Bolt Effect 3D MAX

Hi all,
 This is a 3d max particle flow tutorial , i'm going to create lightning bolt effect using 3d max. Lets get started.

Step 1:
First go to particle flow.(Graph Editors----->Particle Flow  or you can press 6). look at the  following picture.

Step 2:
Right Click on the empty space , and  goto "New"----->"Particle system "-----> "Standard flow". Rename basic standard flow, "PF_Source01" to "Lightning Bolt".Change Display type to "Dot".

Step 3:
Goto Birth event , change emit stop time 100 and make sure you click on "rate" radio button , set rate value to 30,000.In order to get better performance ,put a "Cache View port"  operator into "Geometry" field.

Step 4:
Delete  "Rotation " event and "Speed " event. Put "Shape" operator  into global node by dragging "Shape" operator into "Render_Geomatry" field.

Step 5:
Right click on position icon ----> insert---->Position Object 01.Click on the "Add" button ,select geometry which ever you want( in my case its, tesla coil ,which is a simple torus ) .This will act as a originate point  of our particle system.Hit play button , now you can see particles are emitting from our tesla coil.

Step 6:
Next, we need to add some forces. Goto , Create --> Space Warps --> Forces --> Wind  & Drag. Add both forces into perspective view.Select both force icons and change co-ordination  to (0,0,0) as shown

Step 7:
Select Wind force and goto modifiers panel and change the parameters as shown below. Strength - 3.5 ,Turbulence -4 , Frequency - 2.0 , scale - 0.2 .

Step 8 :
Select Drag force and goto modifiers panel and change paramters as shown below.on time - 0 , off time - 150, z axis Strength- 18

Step 9:
You can place your particle source(tesla coil)  where ever you want. In this tutorial i use ( x=0, y= 100 , z= 200).

Step 10:
Then we have to link forces to our particle flow. To do that goto particle view ( press 6 ) , Right click on our Event_01---> Append --> Operator --> Force. Select force operator, on the right panel click on the add button , and select the two forces.

Step 11:

We don't want to remain our particle till the last frame, so append a "Delete " operator into our PF_Flow and change the parameters as shown below. Life span = 7, variation = 0.

Step 12:
Next , we need to create branches from our main Lightning branch, to do that right click on our main event---> Append --> Test --> Spawn.

Step 13 :

Select "Spawn " operator and change the parameters as shown below.

Step 14:

Do a Shift Drag to "Display" Operator and make a copy of  "Display" Operator. Rename this event as "Branch".

Step 15:
Connect "Spawn event and our new Display Operator" .

Step 16:

Add a new "Delete Operator" to out Branch event, set the life span parameter to 1. To give more realstic look we can add second 'Wind" force and link with out "Branch_Event" as we did to our main event.

Step 17 :

Finally we have to add a Glow to our particle flow, to do that right click on our main event and goto properties. Give object ID as 1.

Step 18 :

Goto Rendering Menu --> Effects. Under Effects tab add "Lens Effects".

Step 19:
Under "Lens effects Parameters ", add a "Glow" ( select glow from left panel and click on the right arrow)

Step 20 :

Select "Glow', and then you'll see a new panel called "Glow Element" and change parameters as shown below.

Step 21 :
Under the "Glow Element" window goto "Options tab" , make sure that you have checked "Object ID" radio button. give Object ID value as 1 ( This should be same as the main event object ID)

Step 22 :

Here's the final output.


  1. Great work! Keep it up

  2. not working dumbass

  3. Thanks..Nice tutorial..but I think you have missed explaining some steps..
    How do you get the lightning streaks to be very thin?

  4. Thanks for the tut! To render your streaks thinner, make sure to change your "shape" profile to 2d circle 12 sided and adjust for size accordingly. (This should be found under your "lightning bolt" panel.

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  12. stuck on step 4: Put "Shape" operator into global node by dragging "Shape" operator into "Render_Geomatry" field. The operator does NOT go into the render geometry, and also adds undesired options (3DS MAX 2009).

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  30. Ok, this tutorial seems great and very detailed, however, when I follow it step by step and render, I am just getting a giant series of blocks around my object instead of the bolts. Did I miss something here?

  31. I have no clue how you got to the actual streaks. care to elaborate?

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  43. So can anyone explain why my final render lokks nothing like a lightning bolt? its all 3d cubes?

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  50. OKAY found the solution for the missing step:
    set the PF Source width and length in the emittion section: 0; 0;

  51. How do you get the lines?
    In my 3ds max i only get lots of spheres (single particles).
    There is not one connected line.

    Where is the missing step that changes the single particles into connected lines?

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