ABS LEGO plastic brick material in Blender

Glossy ABS LEGO plastic brick material in Blender
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Blender

Blender is great for creating LEGO plastic brick models. Here we show how to create solid glossy plastic material in the Blender Cycles and Eevee render engines.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick and Knob configurations and the Minifigure are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorise, or endorse this website.

Introduction

Being the most popular, LEGO bricks come in various types of plastic mixtures — each giving them a unique surface appearance.

The most common plastic material is the plain, solid glossy appearing material. When looking at a solid plastic brick, it is made from ABS plastic, is completely homogenous in colour, mostly smooth and has a nice shine to it.

Solid LEGO brick
Photo of a solid plastic LEGO brick. Note the homogenous colour and smooth, shining appearance. Image Stilfehler (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Choosing a rendering engine in Blender

The latest version of Blender (3.1.2 (1 April 2022)), has at least two rendering engines, namely Cycles and Eevee — each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Cycles is more comprehensive and will give beautiful results. Eevee is by far the fastest and even capable of real-time rendering, but the quality is often cartoonish and unrealistic for still renders.

Working with materials in Blender

Each object in Blender can have its own material and the same material can be assigned to multiple objects. Both Cycles and Eevee use similar material settings.

New material settings can be duplicated from existing material. After modelling or importing an object (in this case a simple LEGO brick) the object may or may not already have a material assigned to it.

To assign a material to an object in Blender, select the object, go to the Materials tab in the Properties panel and click on the Add new material button.

Adding a new material in Blender
To add a new material to an object, go to the Materials tab (bottom red circle) and then click on the New button (top red circle).

After giving the new material a name, the material properties can be assigned in the Shader Editor. If the object already has a material assigned to it, its properties can also be changed in the Shader Editor.

Blender Shader Editor
Materials can be given a unique name (top red circle). The Shader Editor option is situated under the Editor drop-down menu (bottom red circle) or is available as a Workspace on the top of the viewport.

By default, Blender 2.8 and newer will have Workbench selected as the default ‘render engine’. Either choose the Cycles or Eevee rendering engine. The render engine can be selected from the Render tab in the Properties panel.

Blender render engine selection
The Shader Editor uses nodes as its setup interface. In Blender, the render engine is chosen under the Render tab in the Properties panel. Either Cycles or Eevee can be selected from the drop-down menu.

After the render engine is selected, the correct node setup can be used to create a realistic, glossy solid LEGO plastic brick material.

Creating a solid plastic material using Blender Cycles

After the object has a material assigned to it, it can be tweaked to look like the material it needs to be. For a quick reference, here is the node setup I use for a realistic-looking solid plastic brick material using Cycles:

Blender glossy plastic node setup in Cycles
Blender glossy plastic node setup in Cycles. In this setup, the Fresbek node was not used.

In this node setup, a Diffuse BSDF and Glossy BSDF node are mixed using a Mix Shader. All three nodes are available from the Shaders section.

The final colour of the plastic brick is selected by using the Color setting in the Diffuse BSDF node. The Glossy node’s Color setting needs to be completely white and the Roughness needs to be set to 0.050.

The factor of the Mix Shader is either set to 0.050 or by using a Fresnel node set to the estimated index of refraction (IOR) of ABS plastic.

The average setting of 1.460 to 1.600 works well most of the time. The outcome is sometimes dependent on the light settings and the angle of the camera. To be a little more accurate, the following IOR can also be used:

  • 1.6136 for red
  • 1.5959 for green
  • 1.5862 for blue

To see the material effect in the Viewport, make sure to change the Viewport Shading from Look Dev to Rendered.

Duplicating materials for different colours

After the first solid glossy plastic brick colour has been set, it is easy to duplicate the material and simply change the name and Diffuse Colour setting.

A material can be duplicated by clicking on the New Material icon. The material name and Diffuse Color setting can be changed as desired.

By changing the material Link from Data to Object, linked objects can be assigned different materials.

Blender object link

The created materials can now be used on new objects by choosing them from the material drop-down list. Materials that are assigned to objects will be saved with the .blend file, but unused materials will be removed if the file is reopened.

Creating a solid plastic material in Blender Eevee

Although Cycles will create a much more realistic render, Eevee will render much faster. To create a solid plastic brick material using Eevee, only the Principled BSDF node is required.

This node will control the roughness, specular and index of refraction (IOR) of the material. For a quick reference, here is the node setup for a realistic-looking solid plastic brick material using Eevee:Blender plastic node Eevee

As with Cycles, the Base Color will set the main colour of the brick.

Although these settings will vary on your specific scene, the Specular value generally needs to be quite high (close to a value of 1.0) and the Roughness needs to be decreased to about 0.0.

The realism of Eevee renders will be much dependent on the Render settings, which do not fall within the scope of this post.

Interestingly, by using this node setup and changing the render engine back to Cycles, a very realistic effect can also be obtained.

Conclusion

This post showed how to create a glossy ABS plastic brick material in Blender using the Cycles render engine and Eevee render engine. A glossy ABS plastic brick material can be used to model solid coloured LEGO bricks.

About the author
Renier busies himself with improving his English writing, creative web design and his websites, photoshopping, micro-electronics, multiple genres of music, superhero movies and badass series.
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