Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding color and textures, part of 3D and Animation Careers: First Steps.
- To add more realism to a model, you need to add color, texture, and character to the surface. Textures are 2D images that can be placed on the model. They can be created in 2D using any image editing software, such as Photoshop. Textures also can be painted directly on the model if your software supports it. Textures are flat images, but they're applied to a 3D surface. This means that we have to let our 3D software know exactly how to place the texture on the object.
This process is called mapping. In simple situations mapping can be accomplished using projections, much like how a slide projector places an image on a surface. We can go a little further by adding shapes to the projection, such as a cylinder. Projections can be quick way to get a simple scene to look more complex, but there are times when we need to have very precise mapping. This requires that we work with a UV mapping editor. This tool allows artists to map specific parts of the texture to specific parts of the model.
This is detailed work, but the increased level of control allows for perfect texture placement. While textures add color, materials define the character of the surface and how it interacts with light. Materials control such characteristics as glossiness, reflectivity, and transparency. Node-based material editors can go even further by creating complex shader networks. All of these techniques serve one goal, to make the surface of your models look exactly the way that you want.