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ZBrush paints color on models using a technology called polypainting. This means that every polygon of the model can be given a different color. However, most 3D applications, from games to films, use a technology called texture mapping. This means that all color information is stored in a 2D image file that gets wrapped around a 3D model. It's just like a map of the Earth, where a flat image represents the surface of a three-dimensional object. And like a map of the Earth, there are many different ways to cut it up and flatten it out.
The way that a 3D object is flattened into a 2D space is called UV mapping. UV is just a coordinate system like latitude and longitude, or X and Y. Software like ZBrush uses the letters U and V for texture mapping because X and Y, along with Z, are already used for a 3D space. Let's take a look at what a texture map actually looks like. I am just going to open up the exercise file for this movie, and let's close down the Light Box.
I also want to go up to the highest subdivision level, so we can see all of our detail. I'll explain what I'm doing in a later movie, but for just right now I just want to show you how all of the color information from this model has been cut up and stored in UV space in a texture map. So the exact positions of all these different objects, like the pants and the body and the head and everything, could be arranged totally different. And that's the UV space. The texture map is the actual color information that goes on that space.
It's a very critical difference I just really want to make clear. Now let's expand the UV Map sub-palette. There are lots of controls in here, but the only thing you really need to use is the UV Map Size. You can click one of these preset sizes or type in a custom size. The size you choose is up to you, really. I mean it depends on your needs. A higher-resolution map will contain more detail, but it may take up more memory.
The default of 2048 is usually a good middle ground. Texture maps are always made square in ZBrush. The number refers to how many pixels wide and tall it will be. Be aware that changing this number doesn't affect any maps that have already been made, but any new maps will use these settings when they're made. Understanding UV maps is critical when color or texture detail is exported to other programs. If a model is saved or exported, the UV maps are automatically included in the file.
However, texture maps, meaning any color information that has been painted onto the maps, has to be exported separately.
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