You create new material for your object but all you have is a single color, but you want to add a pattern or a texture to that material so it looks right, and you’re not really sure how. you find a cool texture online but you have no idea how to apply this 2D image as a texture to your 3D model.
To add a texture to a 3D model, first, add a UV map in the UV image editor to the object making sure there is no overlapping. then import your image texture in the UV editor and fit your UV map. Next, add a material to the object in the shader editor, and for that material join an image texture node to your main shader. Finally, open the imported image in the image texture node to map it to your object.
Because there are several steps to go through it can be a bit confusing to add a texture to your object, especially since you are adding the texture in different panels. So let’s take a look at exactly what this process looks like.
Why Do You Need Image Textures For A Material?
Almost every material that you could create will benefit from having a texture applied to it. In case you were wondering what the difference was, a material in Blender is data that determines how the surface of an object responds when hit by a source of light.
A texture on the other hand is data that represents the pattern that is visible on that material, which gives it the appearance of its real-world counterpart.
An example of this is wood for a living room floor, where we create a material to control the behavior of the wood, while the texture is used to control the appearance.
Because a texture can only be stored as a part of a material, textures cannot exist in the 3D viewport without a material, however, a material can exist without a texture.
If your goal is realism, then you should consider having textured for 99% of the materials that you create. Glass on a phone might be an exception you would think, but the glass always has dust and fingerprints on the surface, and you will need a texture to apply those.
You don’t always need to use an image texture to do this, however, as you can use various other nodes in Blender to create what is known as a procedural texture, you have the advantage of being able to change at any time.
Procedural textures also don’t need to use UV maps to be applied onto 3D objects as they are already using the £D data of the mesh that they are applied to.
However, it takes a lot longer to create a procedural texture than simply adding a UV map and applying an external image, not to mention that image could be exactly what you are looking for.
As such we use image textures for common materials that we find in the real world like wood, marble, and brick. While procedural textures are for when we want to create something more unique like a form of clothing.
Locating Your Image Texture Online
The first step toward applying your 3D texture is to find it, and there are a few places online that you can use to locate some great photo scans of real-world textures. Before we think about downloading the first texture we see on google search, there are a couple of factors that we need to consider when searching for a usable texture.
- Make sure the texture is an albedo map
- The resolution
- Is the texture seamless
An albedo map is a texture or pattern that uses the base colors of the texture and is not affected by light, in other words, it’s not a photograph. Several websites provide albedo maps as their bread and butter image textures.
Depending on the project and the size of the object, we need to make sure the resolution of the texture is usable. Unlike procedural textures, images have a finite resolution and if too low can display pixelation on your texture. On the other hand, going too high res requires more memory for the scene, so get the balance right.
Some generated textures are also seamless, which means that one side of the texture can link up perfectly with the other, avoiding the creation of any seams on our texture.
Now let’s take a look at a few places where we can find images that meet these requirements.
The pet project of one Andrew Price, who you may know as the Blender Guru, his YouTube channel has over 1.8 million subscribers but we aren’t here for his videos, we’re here for his textures. Poliigon is a modern site that focuses on providing professionally crafted texture maps for almost any material imaginable.
You will find on here a combination of photo-scanned texture maps from real-world objects as well as textures that have been meticulously designed using powerful software tools like substance designer.
You can choose either a subscription model to download your textures, which will permit you a certain number of credits used to download your textures or purchase credits directly without the need of a subscription, but at a higher value per credit.
If you don’t want to commit to purchasing your textures just yet they also offer a range of 60+ textures that you can download for free.
You can check out the website here.
Check out Andrew Prices’ introduction to the site below…
Next on our list of recommendations is textures.com. This is the standard-bearer for acquiring PBR texture maps and there are a lot of similarities here to Poliigon. There are 100’s of high-quality texture maps to use and there are even variations of these maps so that you have even more choice for what ones you want.
It also uses a credit system but this is used in a slightly different way to Poliigon. If you sign up for a free account you will get 15 credits per day assigned to that account. However, only textures up to a certain resolution may be available to you.
You also get the option of going premium with a subscription or purchasing credits in bulk. These credits are added to your premium pool so you will not be restricted if you choose this method.
You can check out the website here.
As the name suggests, Free PBR is all about providing you with high-quality textures for free. Naturally, there are a few compromises here, such as the smaller library of textures that are available. You do have the option of purchasing their entire library for just $7, but why is this the case when you can download them for free? Because purchasing the library downloads it as a single large folder and is 100 times faster than during so one by one.
You are also set to a single resolution for your texture maps, normally a 2K resolution, which is a good middle ground anyway.
Also keep in mind that you have a few different file types for the download, but as a Blender user you will want to enable the bl file to use it in Blender.
Beyond that, the textures are still great and do exactly what you need them to do.
You can check out the Free PBR website here.
Creating Your UV Map For Your Model
When you have chosen your image textures from the website of your choice, you will then need to prep your 3D models to use those textures, and this involves creating what is known as a UV map.
UV mapping is the process of mapping out the geometry of a 3D object onto a flat 2D plane, to make it easier for texturing.
UV is an arbitrary term used to label the axis of the map, as X, Y, and Z are already used in 3D space. However, this is in practice interchangeable with X and Y when we are actually editing the map.
Before creating a UV map, you will want to create seams that are used to mark out where the model will be cut. A single 3D model can have thousands of potential UV maps created for it depending on what method is used or where your seams are placed.
To create a UV map, select the geometry of your object in edit mode, then hit the U key on your keyboard to bring up the UV mapping menu.
In the UV mapping menu, you have a variety of options ranging from smart UV projection to projecting from the current view in the viewport. These are quicker ways of creating the maps compared to the seam method but are not suited for image textures, therefore they are better used for painted textures instead.
Instead, we want to mark out the seams and then use the unwrap option at the top of the list. A seam is where we cut the geometry so that it can be mapped, meaning we are likely to see the seam on the texture when it’s applied.
Because of this, we recommend creating seams that are not going to be the focus of the object, for example when unwrapping a human head you can create the seam at the back of the head.
To mark a seam, go into edge select mode and select any edges that you will want to become your seams for the texture.
Next use the hotkey CONTROL + E (Windows) or COMMAND + E (Mac) to bring up the edge menu. There are a lot of options here, but the one that you want should be halfway down the list labeled as mark seam. Click that option and your selected edges will now appear red.
From here we will use the cube as it is simpler to demonstrate with.
You are now ready to create your UV map, so go to the UV editor workspace where you can view your image editor and select your entire model, then press U to bring up the UV mapping menu and select unwrap. You will now see a 2D representation of your 3D model in the UV Image Editor.
You can select the geometry in the editor and move it around however you wish to get the correct shape.
Before moving on to the next stage, we need to be able to preview how the texture itself is going to be mapped out on our UVs, which we can do here in the UV image editor. At the top of the panel, you will see a New button and an Open button.
Click on the open button and then locate the texture that you would like to import.
Then click on the open image button to bring that texture into your project.
You will now see that your UV map overlays the imported texture, which allows you to reposition the UV map and make changes to fit the texture how you want.
Assigning Your New Material
With the UV map, all sorted you will then need to create a new material for your object if you have not already done so. This is a much simpler process than creating a new UV map.
To add a material, go to the shading workspace which will have in it the 3D viewport and the node editor, which is used to create materials in Blender.
Your shader editor will likely appear as an empty grid if you have nothing selected or your object does not have a material assigned to it. At the top of the shader editor, you will see a button that is labeled as New, click that button to create the new material, which you can then give a name.
In Blender, the default setup is to have an output node and a principled shader node. The output node is required for every material as it stores all of the data created by other nodes in the setup and connects the material data to the assigned objects.
The principled BSDF node is a shader type node, this node gives us plenty of ways in which we can control exactly how our material is going to behave.
Like the output node, we always need at least one shader node to be a part of our material, and we should have one that connects directly to the output node. So Blender actually gives us the perfect foundation every time we add a new material because it adds these nodes for us.
Three more nodes will be required to successfully add our image texture to this material, and this is where we actually connect them together.
Importing your Texture To Use With Your Material
From this point, we are going to be adding three nodes to our materials node tree, and these nodes are listed below.
- Image Texture
- Texture Coordinate
Whenever you are creating materials with nodes we recommend enabling the node wrangler add-on, to improve the functionality of the shader editor. The enable this go to Edit > Preference > Add Ons and type node wrangler in the search bar, then tick in the checkbox to enable.
Now when you go back to your shader editor select the principled shader node and then press the hotkey CONTROL + T. This will both add and connect the three nodes listed above to your shader in the correct order.
Yes, this setup is so common that a hotkey was even designed to create it and reduce the amount of time to add and connect those nodes.
If you don’t use the node wrangler hotkey, then you will need to add them manually one by one. Use the SHIFT + A hotkey to bring up the Add menu, and then either use the search bar at the top or locate each node in its respective category.
The image texture node can be located in the Textures category, the mapping node is found under Vector, and the texture coordinate node is located under Input.
You can click and drag from the little circles of each node to connect them to each other. The setup in the image above is the correct way to position each of these nodes if you are doing it manually.
Then you are ready to use your texture with your material. You should see the option to open an image in the image texture node, but don’t click on that. Because we imported the image texture after creating the UV map its already in our project.
Instead, click on the little arrow next to the new button and you will see a list of any textures that are in the project, select your image texture and it will add that texture to the material.
The texture coordinate node allows you to change how your texture should be mapped, but for our image texture keep this set to UV.
The mapping node allows us to edit the scale of the texture as it appears on our object. This is best suited for when we are working with seamless textures.
And that’s it. You have added an image texture successfully to your object.
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