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Texture Building
by Vance Kovacs and Vera Milosavich, Black Isle Studios/Interplay

Building Texture Models


General Info

  • To access the properties panel(s) for objects, lights, and cameras, use the control panel which is always at the lower-left of the layout screen (Fig. 1): click the appropriate button [A]; select the specific item from the pop-up list [B] for which to view or edit properties; and click the "Item Properties" button [C] if the properties panel is not already open.

    Fig. 1: Control Panel

  • Specific objects [B] may also be directly selected in the view pane or from the pop-up list in the Properties panel. Items may also be scrolled through using the arrow up/down keys on your keyboard.
  • Use the mouse buttons for changing position and orientation of selected objects, lights, or cameras:
    • RMB to move on the Y axis
    • LMB to move on the X & Z axis
    • RMB to rotate around the Y axis (heading)
    • LMB to rotate around the X & Z axis (pitch & bank)
  • All properties of any surface may be easily copied to another surface by [1] selecting the surface to copy in the Surface Editor panel (ACTIONS tab Surface Editor), [2] typing "C" (copy) on the keyboard, [3] selecting the surface you want to apply these settings to, and [4] typing "V" (paste). Repeat as necessary.
  • For General Property Settings, all settings indicated are variable but underlined settings should not be changed, generally speaking.

Basic Steps

Three main variables determine the quality of your final texture map: [1] quality of the texture model, [2] quality of the color map, and [3] render quality.

  1. Create the basic texture model in LightWave® Modeler.
  2. In a painting program, create general color and bump maps (as needed) for the texture model.
  3. Load the texture model into a LightWave® Layout scene (select ACTIONS tab Add Add Object Load Object. and locate the object/model).
  4. Apply surface textures, colors, etc. (This may also be done within LightWave® Modeler.)
  5. Add and adjust lights and one camera.
  6. Test-render the scene.
  7. Continue making adjustments to lights, surfaces, etc., and doing test-renders until the results are what you want.
  8. Do a final render of the scene to be saved in .tga format.
  9. Using PhotoShop, offset and clean up the final .tga texture as necessary for tiling.


Applying Basic Surface Properties

  1. Open the Surface Editor panel: select ACTIONS tab Surface Editor (Fig. 2).
  2. Select a surface to edit from Surface Name list.
  3. Adjust the various surface properties (except Bump).

Applying Color Maps

  1. Open the Texture Editor-<select Surface Name>-Color panel for the selected surface by clicking the [T] to the right of the Color setting item (Fig. 2 & 3).
  2. If a surface color was specified in the Surface Editor panel, set Layer Opacity to less than 100% or the color will not show (try 75%).
  3. Start with these general settings:
    Projection = Planar
    Image = <select/load a color map>
    Pixel Blending & Texture Antialiasing = <off>
    Texture Axis = Z
    Reference Object = (none)
    World Coordinates = <off>
    Other settings may be ignored for now
  4. Click the Automatic Sizing button to see how it affects your surface (it may stretch it) and Adjust the Scale tab settings (only X & Y) until tiling is acceptable.
  5. After all settings are acceptable, type "C" on the keyboard to copy these settings for transferring to bump map (see next step).
  6. Click the Use Texture button.

Applying Bump Maps

  1. Open the Texture Editor-<select Surface Name>-Bump panel for selected surface by clicking the [T] to the right of the Bump setting item (Fig. 2).
  2. Type "V" on the keyboard to paste all the previously copied color map settings to this panel (Fig. 4). This is important in order to keep the color map and bump map coordinates aligned.
  3. Change only the Image setting in this panel to a coordinating BUMP MAP file.
  4. Other settings may be ignored for now or procedurals may be experimented with (select from Layer Type setting) to further modify the surface.
  5. Click the Use Texture button.

Fig. 2: Surface Editor

Fig. 3: Texture Editor - Color

Fig. 4: Texture Editor - Bump


  • For texture building, spotlights are usually best for most scene lighting requirements.
  • Additional lights may be added by selecting ACTIONS tab Add Add Light Add <select Light Type>
  • A texture map scene generally uses three lighting systems:

1.  Key Light

  • The dominant lighting in a scene.
  • Position this light to the front and above the object.
  • Overshoot the object to avoid a harsh spotlight edge.
  • General Property Settings (Fig. 5):
    • Current Light = <select a light>
    • Light Color = <try soft, warm -- ivory>
    • Light Intensity = 100%
    • Intensity Falloff = Off
    • Affect Diffuse/OpenGL = <both on>
    • Affect Specular/Caustics = <both on>
    • Lens Flare/Volumetric. = <both off>
    • Light Type = Spotlight
      • Cone Angle = 30 degrees
      • Soft Edge Angle = 15 degrees (or about ½ of Cone Angle)
      • Projection Image = (none)
    • Shadow Type = Ray Trace
    • Ignore all other settings

2.  Fill Light

  • The light that will simulate core shadows, which, in real-life, are caused by light reflected from adjacent surfaces.
  • Position this light from below and to the front of the object.
  • Overshoot the object, as with key light.
  • General Property Settings:
    • Current Light = <select a light>
    • Light Color = < try muted, cool -- medium blue>
    • Light Intensity = 50% (or about half of key light)
    • All other settings are same as Key Light

3.  Ambient Light

  • The general lighting in a scene.
  • It has its own settings panel -- click the "Global Illumination" button in the Light Properties panel (Fig. 5) of any light to access the settings.
  • General Property Settings (Fig. 6):
    • Ambient Color = < try saturated, warm -- reddish orange>
    • Ambient Intensity = 5% (anything less than 10%)
    • Ignore all other settings

Fig. 5: Light Properties

Fig. 6: Global Illumination


Preliminary Setup

Use the following General Property Settings for your camera in a texture map scene (Fig. 7):

  • Current Camera = <select a camera> (there is no need for multiple cameras when building texture maps)
  • Resolution = Custom (ignore; this word automatically appears when Width & Height are modified)
  • Resolution Multiplier = 100%
  • Width = 512 (preferred setting; keep square, i.e., same as Height, below)
  • Height = 512 (preferred setting; keep square, i.e., same as Width, above)
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio = 1.0
  • Limited Region = <off>
  • Zoom Factor (selected from pop-up - do not use other items from list) = 50.0
  • Aperture Height = 65 (or use default)
  • Antialiasing = Off (for quick renders) or Low (for final renders)
  • Soft Filter = <off>
  • Adaptive Sampling = <on>
  • Threshold = 0.1
  • Ignore all other settings

Adjust placement of the camera 'view finder' by getting inside the camera (5 on number pad) and aligning the dotted vertical lines with the finished edges of your texture object.

After your surfaces, cameras, and lights are properly set, you may do intermediate and/or final test rendering of the scene.

Fig. 7: Camera Properties


Option Settings

Select ACTIONS tab > Render > Render Options and use the following settings (Fig. 8a):

  • Render First Frame/Last Frame/Frame Step = all 1
  • Auto Frame Advance = <off>
  • Frame End Beep = <either>
  • Show Rendering in Progress = <either> (<off> gives quicker renders)
  • Render Display = Image Viewer
  • Enable VIPER = <either> (See "Rendering Methods")
  • Rendering tab
    • Render Mode = Realistic
    • Ray Trace Shadows = <on>
    • Ray Trace Reflections and Refractions = <off if not specified in the Surface Editor >
    • Extra Ray Trace Optimization = <off>
    • Ray Recursion Limit = 16
  • Output Files tab (Fig. 8b)
    • Save RGB = <on>
    • Type = Targa Format (.tga)
    • RGB Files = <click and type a file name>
    • Output Filename Format = Name0001.xxx
  • Ignore all other Render Options settings

Rendering Methods

There are 3 rendering methods:

  1. Render Current Frame (F-9 on keyboard or ACTIONS tab Render Render Current Frame), for quick renders. Be sure that Antialiasing in the Camera Properties panel is set to OFF. Quick rendering takes around a minute.
  2. Render Scene (F-10 on keyboard or ACTIONS tab Render Render Scene), for final renders. Be sure that Antialiasing in the Camera Properties panel is set to LOW. Final rendering takes around five minutes.
  3. VIPER, for almost real-time rendering of surfaces. To activate VIPER.
    1. Set the Enable VIPER setting in the Render Options panel (Fig. 9)) to ON
    2. Click the VIPER button in the Surface Editor panel (Fig. 2)
    3. Run an initial quick-render of the scene (F-9 on keyboard)
    4. Click the Render button in the VIPER panel

Now each time you make a change to the scene, the VIPER panel will update to reflect it. (Viper will not represent all rendered elements, such as cast shadows, reflections, etc.)

Fig. 8a: Render Options

Fig. 9: VIPER

Fig. 8b: Output Files

Building Texture Models

Basics Points

  • Don't hesitate to use reference material.
  • The goal to building textures in 3D is to make them look like they weren't built in 3D.
  • Texture models need not be built clean nor single mesh since they will merely be photographed. They only need to look good.
  • Begin by setting up a simple 2-D background template at the proportions of your final texture tile as a guide.  For tiling textures, this will normally be a perfect square.
  • For texture building, you will be building primarily in the "Z" window.

Create the general texture pattern

  • Try using the pen tool to create a more natural looking pattern, creating a separate polygon for each of the blocks.
  • It may help to clean up the model at this stage by merging points, tripling all the surfaces, and then merging the same surfaces. 
  • Flip any polygons that are still facing the wrong way.
  • Be sure that elements along the perimeter will tile properly (see figure above).  Duplicating existing blocks from one edge and transferring them to the opposite edge may help simplify this.  Remember that only those areas that appear within the background template area will be part of the "snapshot" of your final rendered texture.   (Additional adjustments can be made when doing the final image clean up in PhotoShop.)

Add dimension to the model

Extrude the blocks to a reasonable depth

Bevel the main surfaces

Bevel the front most surfaces of the stones slightly to create an edge that can catch light.  This will only begin to add further realism to the model.

Tweak the model

Jitter or manually adjust points, especially those at the edges of the bevel, to minimize any unnatural uniformity and give a more "organic" look.

Triple & subdivide

Subdividing will help make the surfaces more irregular.

  • Use Smooth for rough rocks , brick, dirt..etc.
  • Use Metaform for smoother rocks such as pond stones
  • Try a Smoothing Angle of 65°

Continue Tweaking

Think about creating cast shadows. Push and pull the blocks to varying depths on the "Z" axis.  Select a few blocks and "stretch" them along the "Z" axis to change the topology.

Assign surfaces to each individual element

Assign a surface for every different type of material (i.e., brick, stone, grout). If all your blocks are the same material, then create at least 3 to 4 different surfaces of that material and assign them mainly to non-adjacent blocks. This will be explained further.

Create Grout

  • Begin by creating a polygon with a fairly dense mesh that will cover the area to be covered by the grout.
  • Use tools, such as the Magnet, to push and pull the grout.
  • Shape the Magnet tool to get different effects.
  • Also try pulling the grout through the surfaces of some of the blocks to get a "mud covered" look.

Finalize your model

  • Continue to fine-tune the model until you are satisfied. 
  • Load your model into LightWave® Layout and follow the steps previously outlined for mapping surfaces, lighting the scene, setting up the camera, and rendering.
  • Note that if your Modeler file contains multiple layers, each layer will load as a separate object in LightWave® Layout so you may want to first delete any unnecessary layers from the file.


Creating Color Maps

  1. Open Corel Painter.
  2. Create new document of 512 x 512 pixels, or multiples thereof, and click OK.
  3. Select a paper texture surface.
  4. Create a color map/texture.
    1. Keep overall value of the color map in medium range for flexibility in lighting.
    2. Use the Watercolor tools to create under-painting tones.
    3. Use the square chalk tool (Dry Media tools) to pull out more paper texture (remember to dry the watercolor layer if lighter chalk tones need to be seen).
    4. Try using Liquid or F/X tools to distort areas.
    5. Experiment with other tools.
  5. Save the final color map in .tga format.

Fig. 10: Adjust Color [Painter]


Fig. 11: Equalize [Painter]


Fig. 12: Offset [PhotoShop]

Generating Bump Maps

  1. Open Corel Painter.
  2. Open an existing color map file.
  3. Select Effects Tonal Controls Adjust Colors. (Fig. 10)
  4. Drag Saturation level all the way to the left (to remove color information) and click OK.
  5. Select Effects Tonal Controls Equalize. (Fig. 11) and click OK (not necessary to make changes). The image will be black & white with a different contrast level than color map.
  6. Save a copy of this file with "BUMP" appended to the name, also in .tga format (IMPORTANT: keep the original color map file unchanged).

Cleaning Up Final Textures

  1. Open PhotoShop.
  2. Open the final render .tga of your LightWave® texture.
  3. Select Filter Other Offset. (Fig. 12)
  4. Set the Horizontal and/or Vertical pixel offsets (depending upon tiling requirements) to a number that is exactly one-half the pixel dimensions of the current document (i.e., if the document is 512, offset to 256).
  5. Turn on the Wrap Around setting under Undefined Areas and click OK.
  6. Clean up segment divisions with the Cloning tool (alt-click on the area to use for cloning) and other appropriate tools.
  7. When cleanup is complete, check by offsetting the image again (steps #3-5) and continue retouching as needed.
  8. After results are satisfactory, reset the offset parameters (optional).
  9. Save a copy of the final retouched file in .tga format.
  10. Check the overall tiling effect of the texture by applying it to a simple surface in Modeler.


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