How to Use Materials

A Geometry (mesh) is just the shape of the object. jMonkeyEngine cannot render a shape without knowing anything about its surface properties. You need to apply a color or texture to the surface of your Geometries to make them visible. In jMonkeyEngine, colors and textures are represented as Material objects. (An alternative would also be to load a model that includes materials generated by a mesh editor, such as Blender.)

  • All Geometries must have Materials that defines color or texture.

  • Each Material is based on a Material Definition file.
    Examples of included Material Definitions: Lighting.j3md, Unshaded.j3md

You want to make the most of your 3D models by specifying good looking material parameters. The developers must be in contact with the graphic designers regarding which of the Material properties they intend to use in their 3D models. You must have an understanding what texture maps are, to be able to use texture-mapped materials.

Don’t forget to add a Light Source to the scene! All Materials (except “Unshaded” ones) are invisible without a light source.

If you want more advanced background info: You can learn more about Material Definitions in general here. You can find the full list of Material Parameters in the Material Definitions Properties overview. The following sections introduce you to the most commonly used cases. You typically initialize Material objects in the simpleInitApp() method, and configure them using the setters described here. Then load the Materials using myGeometry.setMaterial(mat).

Code Sample

The following samples assume that you loaded a Geometry called myGeometry, and want to assign a material to it.

This example creates a simple unshaded blue material: Use it for abstract objects that need no illumination/shading, e.g. sky, GUI and billboard nodes, tiles/cards, or toons.

Spatial myGeometry = assetManager.loadModel("Models/Teapot/Teapot.j3o");
Material mat = new Material(assetManager,  // Create new material and...
    "Common/MatDefs/Misc/Unshaded.j3md");  // ... specify .j3md file to use (unshaded).
mat.setColor("Color", ColorRGBA.Blue);     // Set some parameters, e.g. blue.
myGeometry.setMaterial(mat);               // Use new material on this Geometry.

This example creates a Phong-illuminated blue material. Use it for illuminated, naturalistic objects, such as characters, buildings, terrains, vehicles. Needs a light source, otherwise it will be invisible.

Spatial myGeometry = assetManager.loadModel("Models/Teapot/Teapot.j3o");
Material mat = new Material(assetManager,  // Create new material and...
    "Common/MatDefs/Light/Lighting.j3md"); // ... specify .j3md file to use (illuminated).
mat.setBoolean("UseMaterialColors",true);  // Set some parameters, e.g. blue.
mat.setColor("Ambient", ColorRGBA.Blue);   // ... color of this object
mat.setColor("Diffuse", ColorRGBA.Blue);   // ... color of light being reflected
myGeometry.setMaterial(mat);               // Use new material on this Geometry.

Do you reuse Materials? You can store Material properties in a .j3m file and load all properties in one line using

myGeometry.setMaterial( assetManager.loadMaterial("Materials/myMaterial.j3m"));

Colored or Textured

Every Material must have at least Material Colors or Textures. Some optional material features also require a combination of both.


To give an unshaded material a color:

  • Specify the color property

    mat.setColor("Color", ColorRGBA.Blue); // with Unshaded.j3md

To give an Phong-illuminated material a color:

  1. Activate material colors:

    mat.setBoolean("UseMaterialColors",true); // with Lighting.j3md
  2. Specify at least Diffuse and Ambient colors. Set both to the same color in the standard case.

    mat.setColor("Diffuse", ColorRGBA.Blue ); // with Lighting.j3md
    mat.setColor("Ambient", ColorRGBA.Blue ); // with Lighting.j3md


To give an unshaded material a texture:

  • Specify at least a ColorMap:

    mat.setTexture("ColorMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/monkey.png")); // with Unshaded.j3md

To give a Phong-illuminated material a texture:

  • Specify at least the DiffuseMap texture:

    mat.setTexture("DiffuseMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/wood_diffuse.png")); // with Lighting.j3md

It can happen that you load textures at different scales, for example, your blades of grass may look as big as twigs, or your spaceship’s heat tiles may look like small bathroom tiles. Then you need to adjust the texture scale, either bigger (> 1.0f) or smaller (< 1.0f).

geometry.scaleTextureCoordinates(new Vector2f(0.5f, 0.5f));

All other Texture Maps or Material settings are optional. If used skillfully, they make your model look really spiffy.

(Optional) Bumpy

A NormalMap (also called BumpMap) is an extra colored texture that describes the fine bumpy details of the Material surface. E.g. fine cracks, pores, creases, notches. Using a BumpMap is more efficient than trying to shape the mesh to be bumpy.

To add a BumpMap (this only makes sense for illuminated Materials):

  1. Generate normal vectors information for the Mesh (not for the Geometry!) using com.jme3.util.TangentBinormalGenerator.

  2. Specify the NormalMap texture for the Material.

    mat.setTexture("NormalMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/wood_normal.png")); // with Lighting.j3md

(Optional) Shiny

To activate Shininess (this only makes sense for illuminated Materials):

  1. Specify the Shininess intensity the Material.
    Shininess is a float value between 1 (rough surface with blurry shininess) and 128 (very smooth surface with focused shininess)

    mat.setFloat("Shininess", 5f);
  2. Activate material colors:

  3. Specify the Specular and Diffuse colors of the shiny spot.
    Typically you set Specular to the ColorRGBA value of the light source, often RGBA.White.

  4. (Optional) Specify a SpecularMap texture.
    You optionally hand-draw this grayscale texture to outline in detail where the surface should be more shiny (whiter grays) and where less (blacker grays). If you don’t supply a SpecularMap, the whole material is shiny everywhere.

    mat.setTexture("SpecularMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/metal_spec.png")); // with Lighting.j3md

To deactivate shininess

  • Set the Specular color to ColorRGBA.Black. Do not just set Shininess to 0.


(Optional) Glow

To activate glow:

  1. Add one BloomFilter PostProcessor in your simpleInitApp() method (only once, it is used by all glowing objects).

    FilterPostProcessor fpp=new FilterPostProcessor(assetManager);
    BloomFilter bloom = new BloomFilter(BloomFilter.GlowMode.Objects);
  2. Specify a Glow color.
    A ColorRGBA value of your choice, e.g. choose a warm or cold color for different effects, or white for a neutral glow.

  3. (Optional) Specify a GlowMap texture.
    This texture outlines in detail where the DiffuseMap texture glows. If you don’t supply a GlowMap, the whole material glows everywhere.

    mat.setTexture("GlowMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/alien_glow.png"));

To deactivate glow:

  • Set the Glow color to ColorRGBA.Black.

    mat.setColor("GlowColor", ColorRGBA.Black);

Learn more about Bloom and Glow.

(Optional) Transparent

Most Material Definitions support an alpha channel to make a model opaque, translucent, or transparent.

  • Alpha=1.0f makes the color opaque (default),

  • Alpha=0.0f make the color fully transparent

  • Alpha between 0f and 1f makes the color more or less translucent.

To make a Geometry transparent or translucent:

  1. Specify which areas you want to be transparent or translucent by specifying the alpha channel:

    • (For colored Materials) In any RGBA color, the first three are Red-Green-Blue, and the last float is the Alpha channel. For example, to replace ColorRGBA.Red with a translucent red:

      mat.setColor("Color", new ColorRGBA(1,0,0,0.5f));
    • (For textured Materials) Supply an AlphaMap that outlines which areas are transparent.

      mat.setTexture("AlphaMap", assetManager.loadTexture("Textures/window_alpha.png"));
    • (For textured Materials) If the DiffuseMap has an alpha channel, use:

  2. Specify BlendMode Alpha for the Material.

  3. Put the Geometry (not the Material!) in the appropriate render queue bucket.

    • Objects in the translucent bucket (e.g. particles) are not affected by SceneProcessors (e.g. shadows).

    • Objects in the transparent bucket (e.g. foliage) are affected by SceneProcessors (e.g. shadows).

  4. (Optional) Specify other material settings.

Standard Material Transparency Description Example


This is the default, no transparency.

Use for all opaque objects like walls, floors, people…


Interpolates the background pixel with the current pixel by using the current pixel’s alpha.

This is the most commonly used BlendMode for transparency and translucency: Frosted window panes, ice, glass, alpha-blended vegetation textures…


Disables writing of the pixel’s depth value to the depth buffer.

Deactivate this on Materials if you expect two or more transparent/translucent objects to be obscuring one another, but you want to see through both.


Enables Alpha Testing and uses an AlphaDiscardThreshold as alpha fall-off value. This means that gradients in the AlphaMap are no longer interpreted as soft translucency, but parts of the texture become either fully opaque or fully transparent. Only pixels above the alpha threshold (e.g. 0.5f) are rendered.

Activate Alpha Testing for (partially) transparent objects such as foliage, hair, etc.
Deactivate Alpha Testing for gradually translucent objects, such as colored glass, smoked glass, ghosts.

It is possible to load a DiffuseMap texture that has an Alpha channel, and combine it with an underlying Material Color.


The Material Color bleeds through the transparent areas of the top-layer DiffuseMap texture. In this case you do not need BlendMode Alpha – because it’s not the whole Material that is transparent, but only one of the texture layers. You use this bleed-through effect, for example, to generate differently colored uniforms, animals, or plants, where each Material uses the same “template” DiffuseMap texture but combines it with a different color.

(Optional) Wireframe

Additionally to the above settings, you can switch off and on a wireframe rendering of the mesh. Since a wireframe has no faces, this temporarily disables the other Texture Maps.

Material Property Description Example


Switch to showing the (textured) Material in wireframe mode. The wireframe optionally uses the Material’s Color value.

Use wireframes to debug meshes, or for a “matrix” or “holodeck” effect.


When in wireframe mode, sets the line width of the mesh.