Artwork by Eugene Riecansky © Pixar

Tutorials | RenderMan Fundamentals

RenderMan Fundamentals

Learn how to get the best out of Pixar’s RenderMan and take your VFX, animation, and motion graphics projects to the next level, in this new series of Official RenderMan Training.

This educational series will not only give you the confidence to apply the practical fundamentals of RenderMan, including materials and lights, but will also approach topics in a creative manner. The aim of this course, presented by award-winning artist and director Eugene Riecansky, is to give your projects extra visual edge and creativity, while inspiring you to become a more creative 3D artist.

RenderMan Overview

  • RenderMan XPU™

    This introduction gives you a glimpse into the forthcoming lessons on the amazing XPU render technology.

  • MaterialX Lama - Layered Materials

    This intro will give you an overview of the forthcoming lessons on Industrial Light & Magic's cutting-edge layered material system.

  • Stylized Looks™

    Learn how to set up RenderMan for Houdini and check if everything is working correctly.

  • OpenColorIO - Aces

    Jump in and explore the basics of the Aces color management suite in RenderMan, and what makes OpenColorIO the new industry color standard.

  • Bump Roughness

    Learn about Pixar's secret sauce for rendering micro surface details.

  • New Patterns

    This intro will give you a glimpse into some exciting forthcoming lessons on Hex Tiling, Phasor Noise, and many other new patterns in RenderMan 24.

  • RenderMan for Blender

    An introduction to the new RenderMan for Blender plugin. Details include rendering to RIS and XPU, the amazing Bump to Roughness node, PBR Metallic Workflow, and much more !

Getting Started with RenderMan

Installation of the Non-Commercial version of RenderMan and getting up to speed with a RenderMan KickStarter, including how to create your own RenderMan shading and lighting libraries with the Preset Browser and using those across your projects, studio, and DCCs.

  • RenderMan Installation & Maya Setup

    This lesson is all about installing the NCR version of RenderMan and getting it up and running inside of Maya.

  • Katana Setup

    Learn how to get up and running with RenderMan inside of Katana.

  • Houdini Setup

    Learn how to set up RenderMan for Houdini and check if everything is working correctly.

  • Understanding the Shelf

    Let’s explore all the options within the RenderMan Shelf inside of Maya.

  • Exploring the RenderMan Menu

    In this lesson, I'll be walking you through the various options within the RenderMan menu.

  • RenderMan Kickstarter

    It's time to get some rendering going with this kickstarter. I’ll take you through the process of starting with a base scene, adding some shaders, dropping in some lights, and introducing you to the preset browser. We’ll finish it off with a final render.

  • Preset Browser pt.1

    In this first lesson, you'll learn the basics of the RenderMan Preset Browser and how to create your own shader libraries to use across multiple projects, share with others, and also across RenderMan DCCs.

  • Preset Browser pt.2

    In this second lesson about the RenderMan Preset Browser, I’ll be demonstrating how to create your own RenderMan shader and lighting libraries.

  • Exploring IT, RenderMan's Image Tool

    Learn how to use RenderMan’s Image Tool, or IT, and fire up your interactive rendering sessions.

  • RenderMan Viewport

    In this lesson, you’ll learn how to get up and running with RenderMan’s interactive viewport within Maya for your look-development work.

  • Using Maya's Renderview

    If you prefer to work within Maya’s RenderView window, then this lesson will get you up and rendering.

Pixar Surface Material

Introduction to Pixar Surface, a comprehensive uber-shader used for all productions at Pixar Animation Studios.

  • Overview

    This lesson will give you a fundamental overview of the amazing Uber shader that ships with RenderMan, PxrSurface

  • Diffuse

    In this lesson, we'll explore how to correctly use the Diffuse lobe within the PxrSurface material and when to linearize your ACEScg or sRGB texture maps.

  • Artistic Specular

    The first of two lessons about the Specular lobes in the PxrSurface. This lesson guides you through how to work in Artistic mode.

  • Physical Specular

    In the second lesson about the Specular lobes in the PxrSurface, we will be taking a look at the Physical mode and how you can use scientific values to create realistic metals.

  • Conductors & Dielectrics

    Understanding the difference between Conductive and Dielectric materials is important in creating beautiful and realistic shaders. This lesson will give you all the fundamentals you need to know to get started.

  • Iridescence

    In this lesson, we'll explore the Iridescence parameter and all the interesting ways you can use it

  • Fabric Velvet & Fuzz

    Learn how to apply realism to your fabrics, plus using Fuzz to add dust and fine powder to your assets.

  • Glass

    In this first Glass lesson, you’ll learn all the fundamental parameters within the Glass lobe.

  • Glow

    This lesson is all about Glow and how you can use it within your scenes.

  • Subsurface Scattering

    This lesson will introduce you to Subsurface Scattering in RenderMan and the various SSS models that ship with PxrSurface. Make sure you follow along with the project file!

  • Layering Materials

    In this lesson, learn the basics of creating sophisticated layered materials with the versatile PxrLayerSurface material system. Make sure you download the Midnight Rebel Maya project to follow along!

Pixar Patterns

Introduction to Pixar Patterns, which allow you to expand photorealism and stylization through the use of procedural nodes and textures.

  • Bump & Normal Mapping

    In this lesson you’ll learn how to correctly use Bump and Normal maps within RenderMan. We’ll look at using the flexible per-lobe bump parameters for added creative possibilities.

  • Bump Roughness

    In this lesson, you'll learn how to harness the amazing power of Pixar's Bump Roughness, which allows users to render micro detail efficiently and automatically.

  • ACES Color Management

    OpenColorIO and the ACES color space are cutting-edge standards for improving every artist’s creative toolset. This lesson demonstrates the visual benefits of ACES and shows you how to get setup and rendering with ACEScg in RenderMan.

  • Material Variation

    In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the incredibly versatile PxrVary node and how you can use it to add randomization to your materials. Download the Houdini file to follow along!

  • Procedural Grime

    In this lesson, learn how to create realistic procedural dirt, dust, and grime using the PxrDirt & PxrCurvature nodes.

  • Procedural Mask Adjustment

    This lesson is all about using the PxrRemap & PxrThreshold nodes to adjust your textures and masks.

  • Tiling Textures

    This lesson will give you the fundamental understanding of how to get beautiful and seamless texture maps on your models by using the PxrRoundCube & PxrMultiTexture nodes.

  • Custom Outputs

    Learn how the PxrTee node is capable of outputting any pattern to an AOV and the advantages it brings to your compositing and look-dev workflow.

MaterialX Lama

Introduction to MaterialX Lama, a production ready material layering system developed by Industrial Light & Magic.

  • Lama Surface

    In this lesson, we'll be taking a first look at the MaterialX Lama Surface node and how it should be used as the base of all your Lama layered materials.

  • Lama Surface - Two sided

    Expanding on the first lesson, we'll learn to create two sided Lama layered materials.

  • Lama Diffuse

    Learn how to use this fundamental building block for Lama material networks.

  • Lama Dielectric

    Create glass, plastics, diamonds, and other materials using Lama Dielectric.

  • Lama Emission

    Learn the basics of using material emission with MaterialX Lama.

  • Lama Sheen

    This lesson will introduce you to the LamaSheen node, typically used to simulate cloth, velvet, or layers of dust.

  • Lama Conductor

    In this lesson you'll learn the fundamentals of the Lama Conductor node and how it can be used to create beautiful and realistic metals.

  • Lama Subsurface Scattering

    In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of the LamaSSS and LamaTriColor nodes for simulating subsurface scattering, an effect needed for candles, chocolate, skin, and other surfaces which scatter light.

  • Lama Layer

    In this lesson you'll learn how to use the Lama Layer node as the building blocks to your Material X Lama materials.

Volumes and Effects

Introduction to Pixar's volume material, which can be used for homogeneous and t volumetric effects.

  • Volumes

    In this first lesson, we'll be exploring the basics of the PxrVolume material and how you can use this Pixar shader to create volumetric fog inside of Houdini.

Coming Soon

Pixar Lights and lighting techniques

Learn the basics of the Pixar Lights and how you can use real world reference to help craft and light your CG shots.  You’ll learn how to wrangle your lights as though they were real, through to creative and inspiring lighting setups.


Learn to treat your CG camera like a real camera, with practical on set examples and how you can apply those within RenderMan and your next project. You’ll learn everything from rendering beautiful DOF through to digital cinematography techniques which will bring your scenes to life.


Being able to deliver your work on time is vital and understanding how RenderMan works is important to being able to render the very best shots you can. Learn the basics of the Render Settings, AOVs, and Sample & Display Filters. We’ll also learn how to harness the power of Denoising and Checkpointing.

Eugene Riecansky

Instagram | Website

About the Author

After 28 years of creating films, motion gfx and CG for brands such as Red Bull, Pixar Animation Studios, Jim Carrey, Massive Attack, Maxon, Vivienne Westwood, The Prodigy & Madonna, Eugene has now turned his focus to inspiring and mentoring like minded creatives by helping them achieve their creative goals & ambitions.

Eugene has worked closely with Pixar Animation Studios to channel his wealth of knowledge in this exciting and inspiring official training series, RenderMan Fundamentals, with the lessons being released in regular installments, so stay tuned for more coming soon!

Pixar Terms of Use

These assets are property of Pixar. By downloading the project files you agree to the terms of use as defined in the EULA for RenderMan Models.

NEWS | RenderMan 26 is here!