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Five Texture Tips

When it comes to 3D artwork, textures can make or break the realism of the finished product. This article offers five tips for squeezing the most mileage out of your texturing efforts. Although these tips will be relevant no matter what apps are in your toolkit, this article makes special mention of the popular seamless texture editor Genetica

1. When in doubt, add more detail

Our brains are most at ease when they are flooded with more information than they could possibly process. In the natural world materials are covered with folds, cracks, blemishes, and grit. And no matter how close you look, more detail reveals itself all the way down to the microscopic level. Make no mistake, our brains filter most of this information out so that our conscious mind can focus on the important stuff. Nevertheless, experienced texture artists have noticed that our brains expect multiple layers of detail before a material is accepted as realistic--whether or not the conscious observer ends up noticing most of it.

Here's the interesting bit: It often doesn't matter what detail you add. In many cases it's the mere presence of additional detail that increases the feeling of realism. An artist working on a rusty metal texture, for example, can increase realism by carefully layering in photos of wood, rocks, and grounds. As long as the colors of each layer are adjusted appropriately, your brain will usually accept the added detail as proof of realism without questioning the original source.

Layers of detail, such as this peeling effect, are easy to add in Genetica.

While adding more layers in Photoshop will often do the trick, Genetica offers an interesting alternative to this process. Genetica's node-based interface makes it especially easy to experiment with various combinations of detail by retaining each operation as a discreet stage in the process of making the texture. In addition, Genetica contains tools for automatically adding various types of detail that would be hard to produce otherwise.

2. Work in a resolution-independent environment

There's nothing more frustrating than realizing you already made the perfect texture for your image, only to discover that resolution requirements have increased over the past couple years enough to make your original work obsolete. Working in a resolution-independent environment can save you from this headache.

Photoshop artists often guard against ever-inflating resolution requirements by working at resolutions that are much higher than currently needed. Genetica solves the problem in a more resource-friendly manner by describing all aspects of your materials in a sophisticated procedural format. As well as enabling resolution-independence, Genetica's texture format allows a number of edits that would otherwise be impossible, such as the ability to zoom out of a texture and have additional detail automatically added around the edges, or the ability to re-randomize the texture.

Textures in Genetica are inherently resolution-independent.

3. Build a library of reusable texture components

One of the most powerful parts of a texture artist's toolkit is the library of texture components that he has assembled over the years. Traditionally this has meant a collection of photographs of various interesting materials that can be combined in various ways. Genetica takes this a step farther by allowing artists to edit and reuse almost any aspect of a Genetica texture. For example, the ripples used to make a water material can be copied and adjusted to generate a wood grain instead. Or a filter built within Genetica that adds a gritty dust layer to an image can easily be reused to add grime to a number of surfaces.

grime filter
A library of components can speed up your work. Here, Genetica was used to apply the same grime filter to three materials. View

4. Don't wait until later to make your effect maps

If you're working in 3D, creating specialized effect maps for each texture, such as bump and specular maps, is a vital part of squeezing every last bit of realism out of your scene. However, extracting appropriate effect maps after you've already finished and flattened your texture can be exceedingly difficult. Decide ahead of time which effect maps you are likely to need, and create them as you make the texture itself. Genetica can assist in this area by creating effect maps for you automatically.

Genetica will automatically create the effects maps needed for photorealistic results. View

5. Don't start from scratch

Before starting work on a new material, search for previous work that may be of help. Everyday materials such as metal, rock, and wood are common in texturing, making it likely that you'll be able to find something that is similar to what you need. In addition, Genetica comes with over 500 texture presets, each full of components that can be reassembled into new materials.

Free seamless textures

You can can also download free seamless textures from Spiral Graphics' website directly in a procedural form that can be fully customized within Genetica.



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