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10 top 3D texturing tips

By Poz Watson

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Date Added: 18th February 2014

Tip 4: Overlay details on Normal maps

"You don't need to create all the tiny details in your sculpting software. Many times, especially when texturing cloth or other types of small tileable details, I use Photoshop to add those details. With free software like xNormal (which installs a set of handy filters in Photoshop) you can convert a Bump map into a Normal map (Height2Normals). Then just add this Normal map on a new layer on top of your original Normal map and set the blending mode to Overlay. Change the Fill value percentage to control the intensity of the details.” José Alves da Silva

182_tid_04 JAS NormalMap.jpg

Does the detail need to be on the model, or in the final image?

182_tid_JAS VRayMetal.jpg

Metal can be hard to get right, but it's worth the effort, as José Alves da Silva's work shows © José Alves da Silva

Tip 5: Exporting hair guides from ZBrush into 3ds Max

"You can replicate the hair created in ZBrush with FiberMesh in 3ds Max by exporting the hair curves and using them as guides for the Hair and Fur modifier in 3ds Max. In ZBrush, in the FiberMesh menu, choose Export Curves and save it as an OBJ. In 3ds Max, choose Import from the File menu and choose the OBJ file. In the OBJ Import Options enable Shapes/Lines to be able to import the splines and also enable Import as a single mesh so that all splines are attached together into a single object. Press Import.

"Select the splines object, change the sub-object selection mode to spline and select all splines. The total number of splines shows up in the modifier (at the bottom of the Selection menu). Memorize this number. Apply the Hair and Fur (WSM) modifier to the splines. Set Hair count to the number of splines you have memorized. Disable interpolate. Set Rand. Scale to 0 and in Frizz Parameters set Frizz Root and Frizz Tip values to 0 in order to remove any randomness. Done!” José Alves da Silva

182_tid_05 JAS _Hair.jpg

Hair can be tough, but it can also be manageable

Tip 6: Paint and perfect

"To create textures, I have the BodyPaint exchange plug-in to send the 3D models from 3ds Max to BodyPaint 3D. With this software I can paint and have all the tools needed to create and paint in real-time all the textures such as the Diffuse, Reflection, Bump and Normal map etc. In this way, I can create fine details for the 3D model textures and effects.” Sérgio Merêces

182_tid_06 SM Texturing.jpg
Plug-ins are a great way to manage different textures

Tip 7: Do what you can

"Complex scenes are sometimes composed of hundreds of objects, and the time it takes to make clean UVs and texture every single individual asset would take forever. Because of this, I tend to texture only objects that have high importance in the camera view. If something is in focus and has strong visibility, I will make clean UVs, paint detailed textures in Photoshop and create very detailed materials. For other objects, a combination of tileable textures, procedural noises and variation of textures per object is my way of dealing with complexity. Bercon maps can be great for randomizing textures on objects. Vertex painting in 3ds Max is also a great way to paint dirt maps of objects without the need to have good UVs.” Toni Bratincevic

182_tid_07 TB ProjX_berconmaps_randomcolors.jpg
Texturing your objects to different levels of complexity can be a good approach, particularly if your scene is a complicated one

182_tid_TB dirtmap pic.jpg

Great textures really transform an image © Toni Bratincevic

182_tid_TB Fall_dirtmap.jpg
Applying a Dirt map is something Toni Bratincevic is a pro at doing © Toni Bratincevic

182_tid_TB Consumed_vertexdirt.jpg
VertexPaint is another way to give your images detail and authenticity © Toni Bratincevic

Tip 8: Make light work of lighting

"Without proper materials in place, creating an appealing image will prove extremely difficult and the lighting (which is all about showcasing a character and/or a set) will feel like a drag. Well-built materials and textures will add visual variety to a shot and make lighting feel effortless.” Francesco Giroldini

182_tid_08 FG texturing proper_materials.jpg

Textures are a critical part of your shot, and aid your lighting attempts too

Tip 9: Give it gloss

"Glossy reflections are one of the most computationally expensive and yet indispensable elements to a convincing image and their absence can break an otherwise solid shot.” Francesco Giroldini

182_tid_09 FG texturing glossy_reflections.jpg

Reflections are one of the trickiest things to get right

Tip 10: Get the feel

"When setting up your shaders always balance how diffusive vs reflective a material is. Very diffusive materials are likely to feature very dim and blurry reflections while very reflective materials are likely to not catch or bounce much diffused light.” Francesco Giroldini

182_tid_10 FG texturing-diffusive_vs_reflective.jpg

Thinking about real world examples is always key when it comes to texturing

Take your time

One of the great things about texturing work is that – like modeling – bits and pieces of it can always be re-used in the future. So putting the time and effort in now can really pay off, when you then have a massive bank of textures you can pull from in the future. And, of course, practice makes perfect, so the more you work on these details, the better they'll come out. And when you're done it'll be time to light your scene and show off your handiwork, as our experts reveal their Top 10 lighting tips in our next installment...

"Without proper materials in place, creating an appealing image will prove extremely difficult” Francesco Giroldini

Related links – check out the sites of our top tip artists:
Francesco Giroldini
Carlos Ortega Elizalde
Andrew Hickinbottom
Luca Nemolato
José Alves da Silva
Sérgio Merêces
Toni Bratincevic

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