Even though blizzard’s classical ribbons have become extremely popular and they are being used by many modelers, in some cases, regardless the low number of polies, their quality can be really poor, and simply not serve the purpose you seek. Deciding to experiment with blizzard particle emmiters, I have succeeded to come up with a new way of creating ribbons.
In order to be able to complete the tutorial successfully, you will need 3dsmax with Art Tools. I will not teach you here modeling, ribbons, or particles, but just this technique I have come up to, step by step.
2. Setting the particles ready
Go to geometry – Particle Systems. Select BlizPart and create a group of particles.
Having them selected, apply the following settings (blue are fixed values, red vary)
Cone Angle: 0
Particle Options Head
Particles in model space: off
XY Quads: off
The important parameters here are the variable ones. Be very careful how you change them.
I usually keep speed to a small value. I also find the ribbons better when the value is negative. Never give speed a value of 0 because then the ribbon will look flat.
Life also depends a lot on the speed. If you add a longer lifetime, make sure that speed is smaller and vice-versa.
Number of particles/second is also very important. On them depends the number of polies your effect will have. Too many will mean a highpoly model. Too small may make your ribbon look like it has been cut into pieces.
3. Creating the ribbon
If you keep the particles in place you will obtain the head of the ribbon but no tail. In order to give the effect of a ribbon you must move the particles around.
Note: Moving the particles too fast may require more “particles/sec” unless you want to obtain an interrupted ribbon. You can lower in this case polycount by reducing their lifetime.
I have attached two examples comparing the two types of ribbons.
4. Which to choose?
It’s a good question. You can choose any of them, since both will do in most situations. Here are the differences between the two types of ribbons:
Classical ribbons Emitter ribbons
Always uninterrupted Interrupted when moved too fast.
Invisible when staying in place. Head visible when steady.
Excellent for long textures. Excellent for ribbons made out
of smaller pieces.
Lower polycount. Higher polycount.
Stretched texture in some situations. Always good mapping.
I cannot tell you where to use one or another. This is totally up to you and your needs. Experiment with both a little and then decide which one would fit better the model (and the poly limit you can afford).
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, do not hesitate to post them here.