Adding Fake Shadows In Max

There have always been multiple ways to create shadows for Architectural Visualizations.  You can find tutorials on how to fake a shadow in Photoshop but today I will show you my method for crating simple shadows in 3D Studio Max which has been around for many years.  It may not be physically accurate but it’s quick and adds little to no rendering time.  I use this method because its already setup properly for me and takes just a little tiny tweak from project to project to get something different.

First download a high resolution tree opacity map.  You can easily search for a few online but you want to make sure there are good high quality open areas within the opacity map.  If it’s solid black I would move on to another one.

Add the opacity map to a plane created in max at an appropriate size and  create a material with this opacity map in the opacity map slot. Ignore all other material settings except to change the filtering from Pyramidal to None.  This one setting change saves loads of rendering time on opacity maps.


Insert a vray light or regular light depending on your rendering program used to cast shadows. Once that is adjusted you need to rotate the opacity map plane to as close to perpendicular of the sun angle as possible to limit the shadow distortions.


Through trial and error move the plane and sun to an appropriate position to appear in your scene correctly.  Here is an example of my test scene in top view compared to my camera.


Next you need to disable these fake floating planes from appearing in your Architectural Visualizations in the form of reflections or refractions on any glazing you may have in the scene.  To do this right click on the object and go to its properties and disable those settings.
If you have an appropriate single sun angle everything should be set.  All you would need to do is adjust those settings and you have some quick fake shadows for your scene.