Even after a few years since linear workflow (also known as gamma 2.2 method) first “appeared”, there still is quite a lot of confusion around the subject.
This is caused by the fact that there are several methods to achieve the same result and several tutorials on the internet most of them explaining different workarounds.
In this tutorial I will try to show all the steps that I use for linear workflow (working with 3ds max and vray) and keep things as simple as possible.
Bellow there are 2 images; the first one is rendered without linear workflow while the other one is rendered using this method. Although the second one looks much more natural, due to the even illumination and without color bleed, both of the scenes have exactly the same number of lights with the same light multipliers.
Go to “Customize”, “Preferences” and click the “gamma and lut” tab.
Check “Enable gamma /lut correction”, type 2.2 in the field next to “Gamma”.
Under “Materials and Colors” check both “Affect Color Selectors” and “Affect Material Editor”.
In the material editor, select one of the materials and click on the texture in the diffuse channel. In the Bitmap Parameters rollout, click on the path of the bitmap and in the pop up window, under “Gamma” check override and type 2.2
If you haven’t started the scene from scratch and you are using an older scene, you must repeat the step above for all the textures that you have used.
This is what most people forget to do and as a result they end up with washed out textures.
Believe it or not, you are now ready to render
The only thing that you need to do when the rendering process is ready, is to save the file as an .exr format (you need a 32 bit image, not an 8 image).
If you need to convert it to a jpg, open the exr file in photoshop, click on “image”, “mode” and choose 8bits/channel.
Just out of curiosity, you can try to save the image as a jpg directly from the render. You will end up with a dark rendering. This is because the gamma is not burnt in the image, but with the settings shown in the previous steps, you have set 3ds max to display it correctly.
If for some reason you need to burn the gamma into the image, you need to activate the Vray frame buffer, and under the color mapping options change the gamma from 1 to 2.2
I really don’t recommend doing this tough, because of the loss of quality.
The advantages of working with gamma 2.2 are obvious… less lights are needed to setup a lighting rig for an interior scene, less color bleed, faster rendering times, etc.
I use this for almost every daylight interior scenes; for interiors with night illumination I tend not use it since I find it easier to get more “drama” in the renderings, the old fashion way.