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Texture based particle emission
Added on: Mon Dec 16 2002
Page: 2 

One feature that's currently lacking with the straight "out of the box" particel systems in 3dsmax, is texture based particel emission. Plugins such as Thinking Particles and Matterwaves from Cebas cover this, although if you're needing a feature like this without wanting to spend money on purchasing extra plugins, then it can create a bit of a problem.

The idea is that if you wanted to have a black and white or greyscale image which uses the colour values to specify where the particles emit from, you would have to model the geometry and mess with the settings to get this effect, which is always tedious. But if you were able to have an alpha image of text, or even an animated one of a character walking or even just their footsteps, you could use that image source to emit particles from those areas.

There is a cheap way of imitating this feature in 3dsmax, using volume select to do the job for you. The idea is to create your black and white image within Photoshop.

And then load it into the material editor as a diffuse map, then select the object you want to map it onto (I chose a sphere, make sure you bump up the segments of your object so that it has a lot of vertices to select to define the particle shape).
Next apply a UV gizmo to the object. Then apply the material to the object, and click on the blue/white checkered button in the material editor (Show map in viewport) to display the bitmap on your object. Make sure you turn off tile for both U and V in the Material editor and then in sub-object mode in the UV map modifier, you can shift the map around to position it wherever you want, on the object itself.

Apply a volume select modifier on the sphere. The volume select by default isn't doing anything. But if you click on 'vertex' as the selection type, when you go to specify your bitmap, it will select the vertices for you oposed to the whole object. Now go down to the "select by" type down the bottom and choose "texture map" and then drag your diffuse map into the texture map slot.

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