Let’s take a look at some simple pflow coloring methods.


Here is standard pflow scene. After birth, wind force will drive particles around and Lock/Bond will let them slide on the sphere surface.

download max 2012 scene


Particle age map

Particle age map added to diffuse and opacity channel. There is a nice shift between colors.

Important: for Particle Age to work, particles must have correct life span, best method is to add Delete operator in the same event as Material Dynamic×


Gradient ramp

Similar technique as previous, but colors are made from gradient with mapped particle age map as a source.


Multi materials

This time let’s assign multi/sub materials to particles. It can be done with material static, material dynamic, of material frequency operators. In our situation, we don’t need to make every single particle different, only different trails, so let assign material to root particles.


UVW mapping

Simple, planar mapping. Try with default noise map or more advanced gradient ramp with noise amount.



Falloff map has an ability to blend colors (or maps) depends on distance to any object.


There is also an ability to map entire particle system as any other 3dsmax object. Check out Mapping Object operator.


In next part, I will show some #box3 as well as Krakatoa coloring techniques. Stay tuned…

24 Responses to “Particle colors | part 1”

  1. Adrien, Reply

    Great stuff ! thank you

  2. Felice, Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I have a question though. For multisub material setup, how do you select the root particle for assigning the color? Thanks for your generous help.

    • deko, Reply

      Hi, you don’t need to select anything, just add material operator to event01. Check out screenshot in this post.

  3. Felice, Reply

    Interesting, I just put the material dynamic operator in the global node, and it worked just the same. Thanks for the reply.

  4. Rafael, Reply

    Awesome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. wyx, Reply

    this download max 2012 scene cannot releaseit’s need a code……can you tell me the code?

  6. Anonymous, Reply

    Very Cool!!

  7. Simon, Reply

    Great tips, really useful, thank you so much for sharing the files.

    I hope you’ll do more of these in the future.

  8. ZOEYLOW, Reply

    Thank you sooo much!!! <3 U ! Looking forward to watching your next awesome tutorial!

  9. shaf, Reply

    thank you very much, im very beginner for pflow, yet this tutorial helps me a lot to explore advance features.
    – i have a doubt, if you don’t mind.
    Fallof map have ability to blend colors dependly on distance to any object; i try move the teapot farther and nearer, but i didn’t get what it usage,.

    im sorry if its silly question :(

  10. Rimas, Reply

    Thanks for the tutorial! I always found particles fascinating, but I don’t yet know them well as I’m a 3D modeler, not a vfx artist, so the file provided was a great learning aid when I analysed it bit by bit.
    great looking website too, by the way!

    Linkėjimai iš UK :)

    • deko, Reply

      Hello Rimas,
      glad you liked and welcome to the VFX world. I hope you will find more useful info to help on your path.
      Thank you! Linkėjimai iš Tėvynės :)

  11. James, Reply

    Hi Deko,

    First of all thanks so much for the tut and the max files, My question is on the particle side say if I have a more complex
    object than a sphere how do I make the particles stretch across the object and the spawn last longer.


    • deko, Reply

      Hi James,
      of course you can choose different shape. Just pick your object in Position Object and Lock/Bond operators. And to make particles living longer, look at Delete operator.

  12. Roy, Reply

    Hello, great tutorial, i’m a bit new to pflow. I’m working on a scene using two different objects sources emitting smoke of different colours. I however can’t figure out how to tell pflow to use the colour of the smoke for the particles. Can u help?

    • deko, Reply

      Hi Rob,
      unfortunately, native pflow can’t read fumefx color data, but it’s possible with new Krakatoa or Stoke from Thinkbox software. In next tutorial I will show how to make it.

  13. JDB, Reply

    Hi, stubled across your website looking for a way for stoke to inherit fumefx color channel. If you know how please do tell. Stoke has a field loader utility that will load the fumefx color cache but using that data seems impossible with stoke. Btw you make a beautiful website.

    • deko, Reply

      Hi JDB,
      thank you, website needs some reworking, hopefully, will be better.
      Default Stoke object can inherit fumefx color data pretty easily. But you need have fumefx grid as distribution source. Not sure about Field Loader stuff, will check it.
      Keep ind mind, I have prepared one post about getting fumefx color data, I will investigate more Stoke options and include that information as well. Keep checking, I will anounce any news on Facebook: http://fb.deko.lt
      Thanks for reading!

      • JDB, Reply

        Please do post a simple solution to inherit fumefx color. I found some time and tried the grid with no success which I find weird. I can use krakatoa magma to color the same but magma really falls apart on some of the more simple things. I guess I could use pflow and map the color then use stoke to spawn off the intial birth with the fumefx as velocity in the stoke sim.

  14. Johnny Operator, Reply

    Did not know that glow can work with particles ?! I thought that you need lights to pick in order to apply glow effect…
    Man , you should make some dvds on particles mechanics and stuff.

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