Complex Hard Surface Game Model, Texuring Workflow...

I’m currently working on a few models for a game and I’m wondering if anyone can prod me in the right direction here. My problem is I’m unsure about the method I’m using to paint my textures. My last model I UV unwrapped all the surfaces by hand and hand painted them in Photoshop, but I’ve come to this new model and its hitting 2.4k Tri’s, so I’m not sure if UV unwrapping it by hand and then painting it may be the best approach, it just seams like such a time wasting process. Is it worth just SmartUV unwrapping the object and then painting it in 3D or is this just not practical for a hard surface object? Could I use procedural textures on the object then bake it out with the SmartUV and tweak and add details that way? I’m really unsure on the best approach to this. Here’s the model with some dirty vertex colors applied:

Any prod in the right direction or advise would be greatly appreciated.


Unwrap it by hand. It would have been better to do this before it got so high poly. You could get the texturing started by adding different material colors to different parts, and after baking you’ll have AO and colored parts - a pretty good start.

Using Smart UV works for some things, but something this complex is best unwrapped by hand.

As for it being a waste of time: This is your art. If you are not interested in spending time making it right, it’s best you spend your time doing something else.

Ah, I’m pleased you replied 3d! Waste of time was probably not the best choice of words, more like “It feels like its getting in the way of actual art production.” You mentioned unwrapping it before it got to such a high poly count, how is this possible? I’m under the impression if I add in extra geometry after the unwrap it breaks and has to be done again. I feel like I’m missing some basic information that’s eluded me.

Demo file in a minute…I’ll edit this post.

The cube on the left has been unwrapped. Select it and press tab to enter edit mode. Notice the uv layout.
The cube in the middle has been subsurfed, but the subsurfing has not been applied. Tab, edit mode. The uv map has not changed? Why? Because the subsurf has not been applied.

The cube on the right (now a sphere) has had subsurf applied. Tab, edit mode, observe the UV layout - it has changed along with the cube. Why? Notice in the subsurf panel the ticked box: “Subdivide UV’s”. You can also re-unwrap the subsurfed model, as it retains it’s seems. Nice feature in Blender. You can duplicate and a new subsurf level (applying it or not). The model will always retain it’s seems.

A more complex object may need a bit of tweaking here and there, but a good rule of thumb is to unwrap the simplest model you can, and add subsurf later.


Subsurf-Demo.blend (233 KB)

Ah I think I get it now, even though I’m not using subsurf (that’s the low poly and I’m not using normal maps.) Could I mark up my seams after I block out the model and just adapt them as I model in details? Making the UV mapping an actual part of the modeling workflow might be a really productive way of doing it.

I tend to unwrap as I go - most mechanical or architectural objects have duplicated objects. Rather than unwrap 10 I don’t know, space ship exhaust pipes :slight_smile: for example, unwrap 1, then duplicate the geometry in edit mode. After you’ve created the ten, you can re-unwrap them all, and they will all unwrap the same, but separated on the UV layout. You will have to adjust them a bit (blender rotates places them on the UV layout based on best fit, not how they will work material).

In general, yes, unwrap as you go.

Thanks for the help 3D, you’re a star. Does this apply with symmetrical/mirror modifier objects too? It would be nice to only unwrap one side.

I assume so, though I have not tried it. I rarely use the mirror modifier.

I don’t you know of any good information resources on UV mapping? It’s one subject I can’t find a lot on. Usually the blender ones tend to be for heads and not hard surface things stuff.

I’ve given some thought to making a tut series on unwrapping various things - you are correct, most, if not all unwrap tuts focus on heads and boxes, and occasionally suzanne the monkey, also a head. Most people can understand the basic of unwrapping after watching a tut, but still not understand how to unwrap specific objects.

I tend to unwrap things into islands that cover areas I want to be seemless, if that makes sense - the whole front of a building, for instance. I wouldn’t want that unwrapped in parts.

Hope that helps.

This was my last attempt, it worked quite well but I’m sure it could have been better and gone a lot smoother. I think your idea of a tutorial on unwrapping a game prop is a great idea, something that has both hard surfaces and some curves would be great. one area I have trouble getting my head around is inset and raised surfaces, in the image in the first post, on top of the ship you can see raised panel sections, ideally I’d just like to mark the seams around that whole top section and flatten it into one island, but when I’ve tried it doesn’t come out right or theres some issue when baking maps, so i separate out the panels and place them else where (this can be seen in the image above.)


Check your normals, make sure there are no duplicate faces etc. You can also apply the scale - it seems to make a difference (ctrl-a, scale). Looks pretty good.