3D in Depth: Materials, Pt 2. | 2 | WebReference

3D in Depth: Materials, Pt 2. | 2

3D in Depth: Materials, Pt 2.

Creating Textures with Paint

When it comes to creating textures with paint, I prefer using acrylic paint over oil, mostly because of the drying time involved. As for the manufacturers, I recommend Stevenson, Liquitex, or Golden. Golden acrylics are the most expensive, but their colors contain a lot of pigment, so a little goes a long way.

One of my favorite techniques is to add texture to the paint. This can be done by several methods. One is to simply layer the paint itself, or you can use a variety of materials, such as glass filler, diatomaceous earth (available from a swimming pool supply store) or sand. If you’re using sand, I recommend white sand from a ceramics store. If your sand is gray, such as that from the beach, it will change the color of your paint and could create undesirable results.

Above are a few of samples of Impasto paint technique (a heavy application of paint to a surface). The image on the left was created by adding sand to acrylic paint, while the textures in the middle and right used sand in oil paint. All of these samples were painted on canvas, which can act as a detriment to the texture since the canvas texture is likely to show through the paint. To create a texture that's pure on it's own, apply your paint to a smooth paper or card stock, such as Bainbridge Hot Press Illustration Board.

In 3D, you have a wide variety of options when it comes to creating textures. You can use procedural textures that come with the software (which don’t present tiling problems), you can create them using software such as Corel’s KPT Collection, but other applications such as Painter or Photoshop can be used. If the textures you want aren’t available in software, you can create them using real-life sources or even paint them yourself.

Once you have a real-life texture, you can scan it or photograph it using a digital camera (for this article, all real-life textures were photographed using a Nikon Coolpix 4500). Once you have the texture of your choice, you can retouch them in applications such as Photoshop or Photo-Paint. In addition, you can experiment with layering and blending effects to create customized textures and even paint into existing textures. In 3D, you can manipulate textures even further with additional blending techniques, transparency effects, bump maps, opacity maps, etc.

The Material Editor in 3D Studio Max. In the sample slot on the top left is a mixture of images, one of the Earth and two cloud maps. The mixing curve is also shown. Being able to manipulate/blend textures in this way is a powerful capability in 3D applications.

A Cautionary Note

One thing to be aware of is that not all maps will translate well into tileable textures.

Some, like this manhole grate will need extensive retouching before it can be used effectively.

Others, like this impasto texture (created using oil paint and sand) would probably work best as a texture that would cover an entire surface.

The bottom line is that you’ll probably have to experiment with different textures and techniques to get the desired result. Sometimes you'll get lucky and the texture will be what you want right away. But chances are, your textures will need refinement to give you the desired results. I encourage you to read up on tutorials that discuss textures and how to use them. Several good sources for tutorials and asking questions are 3D Cafe, CG Talk and Highend 3D.


As you can see, there are limitless options for creating textures. All it takes some imagination and awareness of techniques. While these articles by no means give everything you need, they serve as a starting point for your own explorations. Enjoy the journey.


Modern Paint Effects, by Firefly Books. 124 pages. List Price: $19.95
ArtEffects, by Watson-Guptill Publications. 208 pages. List Price: $29.95
The Paint Effects Bible, by Firefly Books. 256 pages. List Price: $29.95
Bjorn Jonsson’s Homepage. For space and planet textures.
USGS US Geological Survey.
Corel Graphics Suite. Graphics software collection of CorelDRAW, Photo-Paint, RAVE, and more.
Corel Painter. Digital Sketching and painting tool.
Corel Bryce. 3D software for creating 3D landscapes and space scenes.
Adobe Photoshop. Industry standard image manipulation software.
Discreet 3D Studio Max. 3D animation software.
Alias Maya. 3D animation software.
CG Talk. Digital Visual Effects Professionals.
3D Café. A source for 3D imagery, tutorials, textures and more.
Highend 3D. 3D Resource and Community web site.
JSC Digital Image Collection. NASA JSC Digital Image Collection.
Deep Paint 3D, by Right Hemisphere.
Digital Texturing and Painting, by New Riders. 352 pages. Price: $38.50
2D Artwork and 3D Modeling for Game Artists, by Premier Press. 720 pages. Price: $47.99.

Created: June 5, 2003
Revised: March 3, 2004

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/column10/1