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An In-Depth Look at UVW Mapping an Object

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Date Added: 22nd June 2009
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Manual Mapping Techniques

To begin, I'm going to reapply "Flatten Mapping" with the settings as shown at the right. This is as good a starting point as any, since I only have to clean up the mapping coordinates I don't like. (Most of the larger chunks should be usable.)

One of the first problem areas on my object is the cockpit - it's curvature is too great for Flatten Mapping to place all of its polygons in the same UVW mapping clump. So what I'm going to do is select all the faces of the cockpit in the perspective viewport, then in the Unwrap UVW modifier rollout, click on "Planar Map".

The result isn't quite ideal - the new mapping coordinates take up almost as much space as all the old ones combined, but it can be easily rotated and scaled back down to something reasonable. I put the scaled coordinates off to the side for now - we'll rearrange everything later.

I've been at it some more, planar mapping continuous chunks of polygons. But now I've reached a point where I've got a lot of polygons surrounding the main body of the ship that planar mapping just isn't ideal for. A cylindrical map would be best. (Obviously this may not apply to your mesh, but I just want to show you the technique.)

I applied a "Mesh Select" modifier, and selected all of the faces that I thought would work well with cylindrical mapping. (Selecting the faces in the Unwrap UVW modifier, unfortunately, doesn't work.)

When I finished selecting faces, I added a "UVW Mapping" modifier. I changed the mapping to "Cylindrical" and hit "Fit". This gave me the results I wanted. I then added another "Mesh Select" modifier, but didn't select any faces. MAX keeps track of which faces you have selected, and we want to be able to work with the entire mesh when we get back into our next Unwrap UVW modifier, not just the ones we cylindrically mapped. That done, I applied another Unwrap UVW modifier.

1337_tid_tut505_c.jpg 1337_tid_tut505_d.jpg
Once again, the mapping coordinates aren't quite ideal, so I need to scale and move them so that they don't overlap. It would also be nice to break this large chunk up a bit. To do this, I selected the faces that I wanted to become a separate element, then clicked on Tools->Break (Ctrl-B). Now I can move those faces off to the side without also stretching the adjacent faces.

I found a couple situations where some faces could be joined easily without overlapping, even though planar mapping wouldn't work quite right. When you apply Flatten Mapping, these usually end up as chunks of one or two polygons just sitting on their own.

You can join these polygons together pretty easily by going into edge mode (make sure "Select Element" isn't checked), then select the common edge on one of the two elements you want to join. Note that the common edge on the other element turns purple.

Clicking on tools->Stitch Selected will connect the elements together (click "ok" on the stitch tool dialog - the default settings are fine.)

I stitched together a few more elements, but there are a few overlapping polygons. A simple solution here is to just weld the vertices together to make one continuous piece. It'll cause a little stretching, but if it's on a small polygon, you'll never notice. To do a target weld, click on Tools->Target Weld, then click and drag a source vertex onto its destination. Much better!

You can see I was able to connect together a nice run of polygons using the stitch tool and target welding.

Using the above methods, I've managed to clump most of my polygons together into nice UVW groupings, and get rid of most of the clusters of only one or two polygons. Now all that's left to do is fit all the mapping clusters back into normal texture space (denoted by the blue square.) Fortunately, Max provides a tool to do this too.

Click on Tools->Pack UVs, and fill in the options as shown. Hit OK! You should get a nice, even distribution of polygons. Of course, you can do it manually by rotating and scaling chunks. This will usually give you better results, but it's much more time consuming. You can also put matched segments on top of each other to conserve texture space.

And that's it! You've seen most of new mapping tools, you've seen how to do a quick job of mapping your object, and you've seen how to do it all manually if you need to. I reccomend using a utility like Texporter to export the mapping coordinates to an image, which you can use as a basis for your texture map.

Just one section left in this tutorial, and that's a bit about a handy utility called Deep Paint 3D. But first I'd like to mention two other useful improvements in Max 5.

First, Max 5 supports nearly all Max 4 plugins. This has its obvious benefits. Second, Max 5 added support for Photoshop's .PSD format, up through Photoshop 7. It also detects when a texture file has changed, and automatically updates the viewport. This makes texture mapping an object a breeze - just load the .PSD file in the material editor, and whenever you change the texture in Photoshop (and save), Max will load it automatically. Now, on to Deep Paint 3D.

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