Wouldn’t it be boring if every model in a 3D graphics scene was just gray? This is why in 3D modeling programs like Blender, textures and materials are commonly used; they give character to the models and bring them to life. It’s easy to confuse the two, but there is a difference.
In this article, we are going to talk about the differences between a texture and a material in 3D modeling. What are they, why are they important and when should they be used? Keep reading to find out.
What are textures in 3D modeling?
In real life, most objects have variations in the patterns on their surfaces. Consider the grain of the wood, for example, or the surface of a donut. In a 3D modeling program this can be created with textures.
A texture is a bitmap image, usually in JPG or PNG format, that produces detailed and intricate features. This image is projected onto the three-dimensional space of your 3D model. So, rather than just being a two-dimensional image, it gives the appearance of a texture on an object, much like in real life.
For example, you can use a photograph of an actual brick wall to add texture to your building model. Alternatively, you can use an image of a real piece of metal to give your object a more realistic metallic look. You can find many textures through the online 3D modeling community, and there are also sites where you can get free textures, like Poly Haven.
You can also modify the textures. Blender has a built-in mode called Textured paint and as the name suggests, it allows you to paint textures on your model or make changes to an existing texture. Just open the Texture Painting workspace, and from there you can edit your textures quickly and easily.
You can also use an external paint program, such as Photoshop or GIMP. Then import it into Blender and paint it like any other texture preset.
What are materials in 3D modeling?
Whatever type of image you’re trying to create, from cartoon to photorealism, you’ll probably want to replace its default boring gray plastic material.
The material is what defines the optical properties of an object; namely its color, its dullness or its shine. Another way to think of a material is a collection of instructions given to a 3D modeling program that describes the appearance of the 3D model. For example, will it be shiny enough to show a reflection, will it be transparent, and what color variation will it have?
There are additional settings that let you customize each material, including shaders, ray tracing, and halo. Shaders determine how a material’s appearance varies in the angle of light, which can result in a non-shiny or mirror-like appearance.
In some ways, adding materials and textures to your 3D models can be a big challenge. To get started, we recommend checking out our guide on how to add textures in Blender.
Textures and materials: what will you create?
After reading this, you should have a good idea of the differences between textures and materials in 3D modeling. Both play a role in making a model more interesting and complex.
Sometimes it can even create a photorealistic effect as seen in Blender Guru’s famous Donut Tutorial series. It involves multiple steps ranging from modeling, sculpting, materials, lighting, rendering, UV unboxing, texture painting, procedural texturing, moving, compositing, and more.
This writing is only one piece of the puzzle; there is a lot more to learn in 3D modeling, and there are plenty of tutorials that can help you.
3D modeling allows you to exercise your creativity while keeping in touch with your technical side. And these free Blender tutorials will help you do just that.
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