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UV unwrapping is the process of applying an image to a mesh in a very certain or prescribed order according to the faces and it allows you to actually paint on the faces as you would paint with paintbrush. So we are going to open up flowers from Big Buck Bunny and select a flower and navigate our way through the panels to find the Material Shading panel and select the petal color. Go ahead and minimize up the rest of these, so we are not going to focus on them. I'm going to try to focus on the Texture panels here and if you look at the blend inside, you can see that the texture here, which is a color band blend of this brown color, it's applied according to the UV coordinates of the flower.
To see what those UV coordinates are, we need to go ahead and tab into Edit Mode and over here in the UV Image editor, we see the UVs for this particular petal. So we can click on a petal, go into Face Mode and select the linked petals by pressing Ctrl+L after, we select one of the faces of that flower petal and over here, we have the UV layout for this particular petal. So each face in here corresponds to a UV space over here.
This is the way you map a 3 dimensional object to the 2 dimensional image that's loaded up over here or just any kind of 2 dimensional way of really controlling the way and the direction in which a texture is applied to the mesh. So in this case, that brown color band is applied with a certain veining on this vertical orientation of the UV. We call it UV because we didn't want to use X and Y. The U and V coordinates refer to the X and Y axis if you will of the image.
So that each pixel of the image that occurs on this surface of this leaf, maps to some other face of the image or whatever texture is applied. In this case, for this Blend inside, we are using a color ramp blend texture. So these colors are mapped according to the UV to the surface of the petal and that's how Blender knows what color to put where. It's just another mapping technique. So, we are going to go ahead and select all the petals and then we can unwrap them ourselves by pressing U. That brings up the UV calculation method and there is a couple of different UV calculation methods, one is which to just do an unwrap and then it just unwraps all of these and throws them over into this space.
The best way that Blender can figure out and that's called Conformal Mapping and it's actually a very advanced way of figuring out how to take this 3D shape and map it to a 2D space. We can then press A to select all of the UV vertices and then press R to rotate it into whatever orientation. We can also scale and G for grab to move them and orient them however we want to. If we wanted to use an image of a real petal, we could just overlay then load this image in as a background and then Blender could use these UV images to map those colors from the petals of the real flower to the petals of our virtual flower.
The number of UV textures that are applied to any particular mesh is found in the Editing Context on the Mesh panel. There is a list right here of the UV textures. If you only have one UV texture, you don't need to bother typing in the name UV text over here in the materials where you apply it. Just simply clicking UV tells Blender okay, I'm going to go ahead and use that UV texture. So there is only one. Otherwise, to be exactly specific, you would want to type in the name of the texture.
Then you can have multiple mapping coordinates and it gets a little hairy, but for right now, we can just specify that one UV texture is used to map whatever texture is applied to the surface to give the additional coloration. Most often times, UV textures are mapped to color but you can also map them to normal to do that bumping or to specularity to for example if this was the face of a person, then you could map it to specularity and then that would control exactly where all the shiny areas are on somebody's face.
So that's the essentials of UV unwrapping of how a mesh object can be unwrapped onto a flat surface by pressing U in the Edit Mode and then pixels in the UV area are mapped to the mesh surface, so that when you do the image, you get the appropriate mapped image.
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