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Prevent confusion regarding specular input of Principled Shader
Closed, ArchivedPublic


Blender Version
Affects: 2.79b, 2.8

Short description
The specular input of the Principled Shader causes quite a bit of confusion, and I propose renaming it and/or adding info in the documentation.

Detailed description
During a lengthy exchange between me and the author of a recent commercial Blender addon called Super Texture, it came to light that the addon author had misunderstood the nature of the specular input of the Principled Shader. As a consequence, he had plugged non-PBR specular values into the specular socket in his addon. This mishap happened to him due to the fact that he erroneously transfered his understanding of realtime PBR to Cycles. I should add that I myself did not understand the specular input before the exchange, and only came to understand it after some investigation.

Then, a few days later, I stumbled upon another Blender addon, called Blender Addon PBR. In this one, its author incorrectly assumes that you can simply plug the specular map from a spec/gloss workflow into the specular input of the Principled Shader.

These two occurrences lead me to conclude that the specular input of the Principled Shader is in general quite prone to being misunderstood, either as input for specular maps from older, non-PBR workflows, or as input for specular maps from the spec/gloss PBR workflow.

I therefore propose renaming the socket to "Specular Level" (which is the term used in the Substance tools, see here), and/or to add clarifying information to the Principled Shader page in the Blender documentation, so as to prevent the sort of confusion described above. And yes, I'm aware that the name "Specular" comes from the Disney shader; it's just a rather unfortunate naming choice, IMHO.

Best regards
q:-) <= Quang



Event Timeline

Brecht Van Lommel (brecht) closed this task as Archived.
Brecht Van Lommel (brecht) claimed this task.

It's a good suggestion, but we don't handle this kind of usability suggestion in the bug tracker.

Feel free to contribute improved text for the documentation.

Understood. I've created a post on Right-Click Select: post

As for the documentation, I suggest adding another hint box under the documentation of the Specular value. Here's what I would put in the new hint box:

Do not confuse this value with specular values from non-PBR workflows; these are most likely completely different things.
Furthermore, do not plug specular maps (also known as reflection maps) from the spec/gloss PBR workflow directly into this socket. This socket's value only applies to dielectrics, does not support color data, and has a different range.