Setting Up Custom Defaults
About this Guide
This guide is all about setting up custom defaults so that every time you open a brand new file, you can very quickly dive in and get to work without having to do the same menial tasks each time.
Part I: Building a custom C4D layout
Part II: Setting up custom Octane presets
Part III: Building a new.c4d file
This guide is also available in 📥 PDF format here.
The new.c4d, tex directory, and custom layout built in this guide can be 📥 downloaded here. Quick installation guide is found in the README file in that location. Octane presets must be rebuilt every time you install a new full version of C4D.
Part I: Custom C4D Layout
Above, we can see the default layout. It’s pretty good for stock C4D, but can be made quite a bit better for us Octaners.
Docking the Live Viewer'
We’re going to be using the Live Viewer a lot, so it makes sense to dock it in the interface. This is done by grabbing the window by the Hamburger menu (three stacked lines in the upper right corner), and dragging it until a light gray preview bar appears where the window can dock. Let go, and it will snap it into place.
In a standard 16x9 or 16x10 setup, docking it to the right of the Perspective viewport is usually pretty good for a versatile 1x1 half render/half viewport type of layout. This is what we’ll use in this guide going forward.
If you mostly work in wide cinematic aspect ratios, placing it above or below the perspective viewport can be a good strategy.
If you have a slower GPU, or are more focused on modeling/layout, and only need to see a small render view, the upper right corner above the object manager can be a good place to stash it.
There’s no reason you can’t build several layouts for different types of projects and load the proper one for each new project either - experiment and see what the best solution for your workflow is.
Customizing the Palettes'
Next up is adding custom buttons, and replacing some of the stock ones. Before doing this, be sure to open the Material Manager palette by clicking the Material Manager icon to the right of the render settings in the upper right area of the interface
Then, go under the Window menu under Customization (or right-click in an empty part of the UI), and choose Customize Palettes.... This will put the interface into customization mode (light gray boxes will appear around everything you can customize), and will also pop up the Command Manager.
Most of the Octane-related commands can be found by typing “Octane” into the Name filter. One notable exception is the HDRI Environment, which needs to be searched for separately by typing “HDRI”.
To add a command/button to the interface, drag it from the command manager into the palette you want it in. To remove a button from the interface, double-click it.
Suggested ones along the right-hand side are:
- HDRI Environment
- Octane Daylight
- Octane Camera
- Octane Area Light
- Octane Targeted Area Light
- C4D Sky
- C4D Camera
- C4D Light
If there are any others that you use a lot (VDB volume, scatter, IES light, Reset Transform, etc.), feel free to drop them in as well.
In the Material Drawer, drop in the Universal Material command next to the eyedropper so new materials can be made quickly.
When you’re finished, just close the Command Manager, and it will get you out of customization mode.
Resizing the Layout
Layouts save the sizing of all the various panels, so shift them around until it seems about right. You’ll probably need to do this quite a bit as you add more stuff, so just save over your custom layout each time you shift things about.
Saving the Layout
When you’re happy with the layout, go to Window>Customization>Save Layout as... and save it in the default location. If you need to reinstall C4D, this is the directory where you’d drop in your layouts if you built them previously and saved them elsewhere.
Make this layout the default when you launch C4D by going to Window>Customization>Save as Startup Layout.
Copy that layout and save it to a location on a cloud storage service so that you can just load it back in if you need to reinstall C4D on a different computer.
Potential Caveat: There have been issues in the past with layouts from prior versions of C4D causing instability (crashing) newer ones and vice versa. To be safe, it’s usually a good idea to rebuild the layout from scratch when a new full version of C4D comes out (as of this writing, R26 is the latest, when R27 comes out, rebuild).
Part II: Setting Custom Octane Presets'
Having a good set of Octane Settings presets for various project types will help the iteration speed of your renders quite a bit. All of the preset management is located in the Presets menu of the Octane settings (gear button on the Live Viewer).
Much of this depends on your working style and computer hardware, but here are two recommended sets to get you started.
PT 256 Lookdev
This set is good for all-purpose lookdev (development of “the look” of your render). It has just enough bounces and GI Clamp to give a good idea of what the render will look like and iterate reasonably fast on most hardware. When it comes time for a final render, up the samples and GI clamp if needed.
The defaults are pretty good, but there are a few key settings to change:
- Kernel: Pathtracing (that gray bar at the top that defaults to “Direct Lighting” is a dropdown)
- Max samples: 256
- GI Clamp: 10
- Leave the rest at default
Camera Imager>Denoiser Tab
- Enable Denoiser: On
PT 1024 Volumes
This set is good when working with volumes. It’s slower than Lookdev, but has enough samples, scattering, and GI clamp so you’ll have a good idea of how your volumes will interact with other objects in the scene.
- Kernel: Pathtracing
- Max samples: 1024
- Scatter depth: 16
- GI Clamp: 100
Camera Imager>Denoiser Tab
- Enable Denoiser: On
- Denoise Volumes: On
Once you’re happy with a set of options, go into the Presets menu in the Octane Settings window and choose Add new preset.
If you want to replace a preset, make the preset you want to replace active FIRST, then make alterations, and then in the Presets menu, choose Replace selected preset. If you make a bunch of edits, then activate the preset, it will overwrite everything you just did.
There’s no concept of exporting presets, so you’ll have to rebuild them with each install. The active set does save with the c4d file, so you could technically build one c4d file for each preset you want to save and when it comes time to do a new C4D install, load each file and save the presets that way, but considering how few settings you probably need to change, it’s easier to just have a list and build them out manually unless you have some highly customized ones.
Global Octane Settings
Anything in the Settings tab is universal - all the settings here are independent of the presets, so you only have to set them once per installation.
Settings>Other>Color GUI type: Change to Cinema4d native if you like C4D’s color picker more than Octane’s default one.
Settings>Env>Default environment color: Change this to black to remove Octane’s default lighting. This is useful for troubleshooting the lights you put in the scene.
The default white environment color can sometimes cause problems with renders where it makes them too bright until you do a full refresh (R button in the Live Viewer) - making it black ensures it’ll never contribute to the scene’s lighting.
Part III: Building a new.c4d File
Now that the layout and Octane presets are squared away, it’s time to build a starter c4d scene that pops up every time you start a new file. Like the layout and settings, this starter scene should contain things that you use on the daily. We’ll give you some ideas here, but we encourage you to update this file as you find little irritations you want to fix or assets you always find yourself using.
Important: What we’re building here is a Cinema 4D file called new.c4d and a /tex directory. This file will eventually live on your hard drive in the Maxon Cinema 4D R(whatever version you’re on)\ directory, but you can’t save it directly there. It needs to be built somewhere else (saved to your Desktop for instance), and then copied in when you’re done.
You can drop a replacement for this file in the Cinema 4D directory without having to restart, and it will immediately update the next time you make a new file.
Incorporating the last two things we did
First off, make sure your custom layout is loaded and active. Then choose your startup Octane preset by making it active. The PT 256 Lookdev preset we built in the previous section is a great all-arounder for a variety of scenes.
C4D Render Settings
Hit Ctl-B to open up the Render Settings, and change the Renderer to Octane Renderer. There’s no need to save the C4D render settings - they’ll carry over with the file.
For a 16x9 monitor with the Octane Live Viewer docked to the right of the viewport, working in a square aspect ratio during lookdev utilizes the space pretty well. Figure out what the resolution of your monitor is, and set the Width and Height to no more than the maximum pixel height of your screen. The lower the resolution, the faster the render will be, so this is also going to depend on your GPU(s).
On a machine with a 34” 3840x2160 monitor and a single NVIDIA 3080 GPU, 1280x1280 seems to be a pretty efficient size. Large enough to see enough detail, but small enough to render most scenes very quickly. If you have a 1080p monitor, 960x960 may be better. If you’re running an ultrawide monitor, you may prefer a wider aspect ratio like 3:2 (1200x800) or 16x9 (1280x720).
Don’t forget to activate the Lock icon in the Octane Live Viewer while you’re testing this. This will show a 100% 1:1 view of the scene without rendering unnecessary pixels outside the boundaries of the render area.
In the Octane Renderer settings, turn on Use denoised beauty pass. If you use C4D’s Picture Viewer to render, this will ensure that the denoised pass is saved.
Adding Starter Objects
Having some starter objects in the scene is a good psychological trick. If you’re fairly new to 3D, or if your brain just hates a blank canvas, having something there can get you past that initial “what do I do now?” freeze up.
Put a sphere in the scene and make the radius 10cm. That’s about the size of a soccer ball (or football for you non-Americans). Give the sphere 100 segments so it looks smooth in the render.
You probably will delete this for most of your projects, but it serves to set the scale for the scene in your mind. Creating objects using real-world scale ensures that the materials and lighting work in a physically accurate way in Octane. Very often in C4D it’s easy to make things too large, because the default objects are pretty big. How often do you see a six and a half foot (2 meter) sphere or cylinder around you? By putting a smaller object in the scene and framing it up with the camera, when you go to build a wrench or a doughnut or something, you’ll think about scaling down the new box or torus appropriately before starting to model them.
If you do a lot of larger environmental scenes, it may help to put a default Figure Object in there instead.
If you’re more of a product render person, having a cyc and a pedestal in the scene may be a good time saver too.
Nearly every scene requires a camera. Drop in an Octane Camera (you should have a button for it in your UI now to the left of the Objects Manager).
Select the camera object (not the Octane camera tag) and change the focal length to something you tend to use. 50mm is close to what the human eye sees, so it’s a great all-purpose value. If you do mostly landscapes, you might want 24mm or 35mm. If you do a lot of product renders, you may prefer 85mm or 135mm. Just pick whatever focal length you tend to use, and add that to the name of the camera (i.e. “50mm Camera”).
Click the reticle (little gray icon to the left of the Camera tag that looks like a crosshairs) so that you’re looking through the camera.
Frame up the starter geometry you put in the scene. A good set of coordinates to start with for a 50mm camera and 10cm sphere is: P.X:0, P.Y:10.5, P.Z:-40cm, R.H:0, R.P:-15, R.B:0. This will give you a straight-on view of the sphere, but looking down on it a little. This will make the three point light setup easier to build.
The Octane Camera Tag defaults are usually pretty good in a lot of cases, but if you find yourself turning on Camera Imager or Post Processing most of the time, you can set that up as your default as well.
A nice, neutral studio HDRI is great in a lot of cases for setting up basic lighting. Poly Haven has several of these studios available as CC0 (free to use for any type of work) assets. Studio Small 09 by Sergej Majboroda is a particularly good one. Pick one, download it, and put it in a /tex folder in the same directory as your new.c4d file (that you have been saving regularly, right?).
- Create a new HDRI Environment (which you should have in the UI near the camera).
- Rename it to OctaneSky - HDRI.
- Select the blue environment tag, and click the long ImageTexture button next to where it says “Texture” (do not replace the ImageTexture node - the HDRI goes inside it or else the lighting will be all jacked up - see illustration above).
- Inside the ImageTexture, in the Shader tab, in File, load in the HDRI you downloaded.
Often when doing lookdev, having a clean background is helpful. Create a second HDRI Environment and rename it to OctaneSky - Visible.
- Select the Octane Environment tag, and click the green Texture Environment icon right under “Main” at the top. This will load an RGB Spectrum into the Texture field.
- Click the white square, and pick a different color. A nice, dark 20% gray (H:0, S:0, V:20) is usually a pretty good choice here, but any gray (including black) will work, depending on what you find to not be distracting.
- Change the type dropdown to Visible environment.
Three Point Lighting Setup
If you’re a three point lighting person, getting a basic setup in this file might be a good idea as well.
Very quickly, a three point light setup is often used in product and cinematic layouts. It consists of (crazy enough) three lights. The key light is the main light that illuminates the part of your subject or scene that you want to be the brightest and most apparent. The fill light negates some of the hard shadows of the fill light and brings out some detail in the side of the scene that the fill light leaves dark. The rim light goes around the back and gives a sharp lit edge to the darker side to give a bit of contrast to the subject in the darker areas and help the viewer visually define the silhouette a bit better.
Turn off both viewport and render visibility (turn both traffic lights red) for the OctaneSky - HDRI object for now so it doesn’t add additional light to the scene.
Place a new null in and call it Light Target. Then select it and then create an Octane Targeted Area Light. If the Light Target null is selected, the new Targeted Area Light will automatically link to it.
Now wherever you place the null, the light will shine. Drag the light back away from the sphere, raise it up a bit on Y, and put it to one side (the left or right). Rename this light Key Light, select the Octane Light tag, and bring the power down to 15.
The exact placement of these three lights is not important, since they'll be adjusted with each scene, you just want them roughly in the right spots for a general use case.
Select the Light Target null again, and create another Octane Targeted Area Light. Drag it back from the model and move it to the other side of the model (around 90 degrees or so). Rename this light Fill Light and bring the power down to 5.
Duplicate the Key Light (control-drag it down, or ctl-c, ctl-v). The duplicate will keep the link to the Light Target null. Scale this one down to about half size, and bring it around the back of the model, but closer than the other two lights and above the model so it’s not visible in frame. Rename this light Rim Light.
If you find yourself needing individual control over the targeting of each light, duplicate the light target null twice, rename them appropriately, and link them (drag them in) to their respective Target Tags in the Target Object field.
Create a new null and rename it 3 Point Light Setup, and drag all three lights and the Light Target null in there. Now you can choose whether to turn on the Octane Sky - Visible to get a gray background, or just leave it black. You can also decide whether to have the three point light setup on by default or the HDRI. The HDRI is faster, but doesn't allow flexibility of positioning lights. It really depends on what you tend to make as to which one is the right one to have on by default.
It’s useful to have all the lights and cameras in the scene organized in a null which can be collapsed so you have more room in the Object Manager. Create a Null and name it Environment (or Enviro if you want to be super efficient and save five keystrokes).
This null can be recolored by clicking it and choosing the Basic tab in the Attributes manager. Roll down the ICON section, hit the Custom button next to Icon Color and change the color to a yellow or orange or pink or whatever to stand it off from the blueish white of a normal object.
Nest the camera, Octane environments, and lights in the null. Leave the sphere out of it, though - this is just for environmental stuff.
Turn just the top traffic light on the null to red (not visible in the viewport). This will hide all the lights and cameras from the scene by default, which declutters the viewport and stops the background from turning light gray.
Decide whether you’d rather have the three-point light or the HDRI active in every new scene you create, and turn both traffic lights red for the other.
Save the file.
Starter Set of Materials
When you’re first learning how to build materials, it may be difficult to remember which settings to change to get a glass or SSS or other effects. Having a basic set of Universal Materials with different settings will give you quick templates to make this easier.
Recommended set of materials (all Universal Material type)
Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:100, Specular: H/S/V: 0, Float=1, Metallic=0, Coating=1
Albedo: H:0, S:100, V:100, Specular: H/S/V: 0, Float=0, Metallic=0
Basic: BRDF Model=GGX(energy preserving), Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:100, Specular: H/S/V:0, Float=0, Metallic=1
Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Specular: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Metallic=0, Transmission: H:0, S:0, V:100, Transmission Type = Specular, IOR: Dielectric IOR=1.5
Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Specular: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Metallic=0, Transmission: H:0, S:0, V:100, Transmission Type = Specular, IOR: Dielectric IOR=1.512, Dispersion = 0.042
Random Walk SSS
Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Specular: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Metallic=0, Transmission: H:0, S:0, V:100, Transmission Type = Specular, IOR: Dielectric IOR=1.5 Medium: Random Walk Medium
Random Walk Medium node settings: Density=100, Albedo (in the medium, not the material’s albedo): H:180, S:100, V:100, Radius: 5 cm (adjust as needed per model)
Albedo: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Specular: H:0, S:0, V:0, Float=0, Metallic=0, Emission: Blackbody Emission
Blackbody Emission node settings: Surface Brightness: On, Adjust power as needed per scene.
If you find yourself using patterns a lot, make a few materials like that (either with procedural patterns or tiling bitmap patterns stored in the /tex directory). If you like Anisotropy but can’t ever remember how to set that up, create a material like that. This guide can help with more specific materials.
Decluttering the Viewport
The perspective viewport, by default, has a lot of helper overlay stuff in it. Sometimes it's useful (say if you're a serious modeler and rely heavily on the workplane grid, even in the perspective viewport), but sometimes it's nicer to just have a clean, unobstructed viewport to keep the visual noise down. Below are some suggestions for a super clean viewport, but feel free to customize this any way you want.
Make sure the perspective viewport is active.
Hit shift-V to get the Viewport settings up in the Attributes manager and go to the Filter tab.
For a very clean viewport, turn OFF Workplane, World Axis and Horizon.
Then go to the HUD tab if you’re using S26 and turn off “Active Tool” if you don’t want the tool widget thing on the left in the perspective viewport. Turn off “Grid Spacing” to get rid of the grid readout in the bottom right corner.
To get rid of the information overlays in the Live Viewer, just click a few times somewhere in the middle of the Live Viewer until they go away.
Save the final new.c4d file, and move that and the /tex directory into the Maxon Cinema 4D R(whatever version you have) directory on your C drive. (either in Program Files or Applications). Now whenever you launch the app or hit Ctl or Cmd-N, a copy of the new.c4d file will appear with all the materials and settings ready to go.
This should get you on your way toward working with Octane in C4D more efficiently.