Photo as textures? I need your opinion and point of view.

Hi guys, this is a question I’m racking my brain on since a lot.
When I discovered Blender last november I was a “procedural-only guy”. I mean, I came from the Nurbs world of the 3D modeling and as often as not I finished my models I was used to serve those up on a platter to POV-Ray.

I like POV-Ray so much and used it a lot, and when I began learning it I even started to love its excellent procedural materials I thought could realize everything in my mind.
I think I developed some “only-and-exclusively-procedural” approach in order to “materialize” my models and stay away from every photo, painted texture etc… and I tried to squeeze out of that process all I needed.

That happened some years ago.

Then… well, I discovered Blender and first thing I did (obviously…) has been to try and transfer that way of thinking to my “new toy” and look at the result. The first attempt was the image in my sign.

But after that experience, I’ve begun learning Blender a lot more in depth and discovered a lot of new tools and especially UV unwrapping among those, and the world around it… Now I think I’m about to entirely recasting my mind about the way of making textures and materials and trying to integrate procedural textures with hand-painted textures, and next step even with pictures.

By using a combination of modeling, sculpting and pictures used as normal map then diffuse map I’ve grown in the reliability of my materials and now I think I reached an interesting level of photorealism in my images that was simply unreacheable with only the procedural textures approach.

Where is the problem then? :confused:

As a former procedural-only material user, the use of pictures as textures even in the light of the great results obtained, sound to me like a trick, something like a cheat out of the 3d pure world. I know 3d world is actually a bunch of tricks in its essence and in its every form, but the “cheat” feeling is always there and it seems to me like it’s taking away… mmm… I think value from my works.

I think I’ll definitely make use of pictures to increase the level of realism of my images and this thread could seem a bit paranoic, but I would really like to know what do you think about that, whether you too have thought about this “problem” sooner or later. Is an artists less “artistic” by the using of pictures in its textures? What is your opinion about, and what your way to make materials for your models?

Thanks for reading!

I have never understood why the use of painted textures and photos could be considered cheating.

I just read through an interesting photo realistic texturing tutorial by Leigh van der Byl who is a texture artist with extensive experince, she has worked on several feature films. Within the first few pages she swears off procedural textures. for some things I think you could pull it off using just procedural textures but for something like human skin. I have yet to see anything beat photo textures.

I myself am the exact opposite of you perharps I favour photo or painted textures.

Why would using a camera be cheating and using a computer (or paintbrush) not be cheating? Tools are tools.

Also consider that most digital matte “paintings” are often achieved mostly with cloning (masking, compositing, etc.) of parts of various photos and renders, compiled to appear as an original location. There’s a whoooole lot of “cheating” going on there.

I think that because of the greater expectations and limited time-constraints, you really don’t have any choice but to “cheat”. If an artist has the talent (and speed) to do it all without going digital, then any digital techniques applied would probably be considered cheating, from that person’s perspective. Even then, the work still might not be workable within the pipelines of most modern studios so, I wouldn’t worry about cheating. That’s just the way it is in the 21st century. IMO, if you want to get work…learn to “cheat” really well.

BTW, using procedurals, instead of photo-textures, would be considered as cheating by many in CG. LOL. You can’t win this internal debate you’re having without inducing some form of insanity so, it’s best to simply focus on doing whatever is necessary to finish a project on time and at the expected quality level.

First, thank you for reading, I know it’s a long and boring thread.

Now, I think your point of view are correct.
And that strengthens my belief that the wrong approach to tools like POV-Ray I made some years ago, affected my way of seeing the 3D world of the CG.

I’m not saying I renounce the procedural world I liked in the past, because I think it can offer a lot even now. But I should be blind also if I’d stand firm on my old position ignoring the “other side” of the question.

I’m actually happy having discovered what can be considered an entire new world for me in 3D, only, I think I need some practice and some forcing to mentally absorbe that new method and consider this “legitimate” for my works.

I like this pratical approach, I think it’s just literal transcription of what I yet unconsciously decided. As long as the procedural method give me good result I’d use that, for the area where the photo textures are best, I shouldn’t make any trouble using photos. Other than that the sum of the two methods could give me even greater results.
Just as the camera similarity :slight_smile:

http://www.leighvanderbyl.com/tutorials.html

if you’re going for realism, a detailed image, painted or ‘real’ is best. Since art imitates life, you could spend hours painting an image that looked like brick, or take a picture of a brick. In either case, the image is not the brick. It is a picture that is redrawn by the PC, and thus imitating the real brick (life). http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Tutorials/Camera_Mapping

Either approach can produce good work. Here is a thread with a meticulously modeled and textured city scene,and here is another that is almost entirely photo textures on very simple geometry.

Both are five star gallery images.

Procedural textures aren’t wrong nor is using photographs cheating. Our business is to make engaging images that reflect our artistic vision, and we use tools to do it.

@Papasmurf: interesting reading, I’ve to dig in, thanks.

@paulR: such a great article, thank you