I'm doing some low-poly/moderate-poly modeling, almost exclusively using simple procedural materials with diffuse color being either a plain color or a result of a simple application of noise/musgrave/voronoi/brick texture nodes.

Almost all scenes I'm trying to render use very simple light setup - essentially a top-down view with Sun and maybe a few supporting light points.

I'm using standard Cycles renderer for semi-realistic renders (think pre-rendered graphics that was wide-spread in computer games circa late 90s / early 2000s).

Is there a good online reference that I can use to increase quality of rendered materials for parameters like subsurface / metallic / specular / roughness / anisotropic / sheen etc? I guess this question is not specific to Blender as the same probably could apply to any other 3d editor. I'm looking for common materials like common flavors of stone, metal - both painted and "raw", wood, dirt, foliage.

Trying to answer this question myself I found that this is normally referred as PBR cheatsheets (links below) but I wonder if a guide or a cheatsheet tailored to Principled BSDF (that have a richer set of settings compared to compared to what you normally see for PBR cheatsheet) could be found somewhere?


  1. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/the-newbies-pbr-cheat-sheet--321163017168365901/ (probably the best reference that I found so far)
  2. https://blenderartists.org/t/is-there-a-material-reference-for-the-principled-bsdf-somewhere/1298127/3
  3. https://80.lv/articles/the-newbies-pbr-cheat-sheet/
  4. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/536632111832260178/
  5. https://floatharr.gumroad.com/l/IwFcz

Edit: here is a link showing search results related to what I'd like to be able to recreate: https://tinyurl.com/y43942bm

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    $\begingroup$ Hi J., asking help finding third-party resources is unfortunately not allowed on the SE platform. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Oct 6, 2023 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I didn't know that. Maybe the question could be reworded as seeking general guidance on how to find these values? I think knowing that would be a very useful knowledge for all new 3d artists. $\endgroup$
    – J. A.
    Oct 6, 2023 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think rewording would make this question very useful. Is there a specific game with the look you're going for? What do you feel like is wrong with your materials currently? The principled shader is designed so that the user doesn't have to think too hard about the settings in order to get a physically accurate material, but a reference for some common materials could be cool to make $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2023 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you're looking for a 'semi-realistic' appearance, then the physical calibration (which you seem to have covered) is correspondingly less important if at all, and the visual style more important? I don't think this question is answerable given the description: 'Late 90's / Early 2000's'. That's an awful lot of stuff. No single reference/recipe-book would help you. Where BSE might be of help, is if you identify a particular look you seek to emulate, or even a specific element of it.I recommend editing to that effect, with illustration. (unless I've misunderstood) $\endgroup$
    – Robin Betts
    Oct 7, 2023 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ Harmony is the most prominent effect of PBR materials. PBR values are, logically, based on physical properties, so they are extremely helpful when it comes to bringing a lot of different materials together in a coherent whole, where they all react to each other the way they could be assumed to do based on the way we (ideally) perceive the world around us. In 'late 90s/early 2000s' graphics, artists obviously used their best judgement and photo references—if the goal was photo-realism—so that's no help when finding PBR references. I guess what you have so far are materials that convey [..] $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Oct 7, 2023 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


Old rendering methods had no PBR, so I would stay away from Principled BSDF.

Shader-wise, I would just use a Diffuse BSDF shader mixed with Glossy BSDF like the old days, maybe use some normal maps or even displacements.

enter image description here

Old games often have either smooth or sharp reflections but no real in-between, they are also often very colored, hence using the color map passed through a custom color ramp in the glossy shader's color is useful to mimic that.

Definitely use low resolution textures (like 128 or 256px² tops), even purposefully save them as ugly-compressed jpegs if you really want to get oldschool looking textures.
In the image texture nodes, disable the pixel interpolation by setting it to Closest:
enter image description here

If you use procedural texture, bake them into low resolution poorly compressed jpegs to get that low quality texture look.

Render-wise, I wouldn't use Cycles to begin with, I would use Eevee instead, as it's way closer to how older render engines worked.

Turn on Screen Space reflections, but not refraction. Use Ambient Occlusion. Lower samples everywhere, lower shadows resolutions.

One big difference between modern methods and now is global illumination. Cycles would bounce light and light up everything everywhere from one light source, Eevee have baked global illumination with light probes. Use none of that. Back in the day, the only way to see anything with shaders was to add another light. If you light up a cube in the void, the only way to also see the part in the shadow is to add another, softer light.

When using Eevee, don't hesitate to write crazy numbers in the Diffuse and Specular settings of lights and tweak shadows per light, just to really fine tune what you want.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much! Example you shared with node setup is great, thanks so much for sharing! $\endgroup$
    – J. A.
    Oct 10, 2023 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Forgot to mention, but these are just examples. If you want to really know how these things are made, the key thing for you is to find reference, and study it. Divide any surface into questions, like "does that surface have reflections? Do they move or are they baked in the texture?" So on... $\endgroup$
    – L0Lock
    Oct 10, 2023 at 14:34

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