The .obj files I export are missing data for vertex colors. Is there a way to include color information in the .obj file? If not, what are the alternatives?

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Blender can export PLY files (.ply), which are text-based, very easy to parse, and include vertices colors. The hard way is to change the OBJ exporter code so that it includes the vertices colors (thus breaking obj compatibility).

  • 7
    The wrong way is to change the OBJ exporter. Use the right tool for the job; if you want vertex colours, Wavefront OBJ obviously isn't the tool you want to use (or abuse). – Martin Sojka Dec 20 '11 at 13:49
  • 6
    Why is that a wrong way ? If he just takes the OBJ exporter to make his own, I really fail to see how that's "wrong". The wrong way is not doing any work because it is always the wrong way to someone. – Ravachol Dec 20 '11 at 14:33
  • The .obj format uses .mtl files for storing material information, but as far as I know, only supports one material per face. Also, .obj is one of the not so many topics for which the wikipedia entry is actually usefull: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavefront_.obj_file – Exilyth Dec 21 '11 at 2:26
  • 3
    It's wrong because OBJ is a fixed specification. Once you start changing the exporter to do extra stuff, it is no longer an OBJ exporter, it's something else. From there, it could turn into just about any multi-headed beast. Still, good answer, I'd never heard of PLY. – Arcane Engineer Jul 21 '12 at 10:09
  • @NickWiggill PLY is not necessarily a good choice -- maybe you haven't heard of it for good reason. It's much more complex than OBJ and it allows more flexibility than one would reasonably need to use for a static model. If you need additional flexibility, maybe you should use a more popular file format with well-established parsers, such as COLLADA – bobobobo Nov 23 '13 at 22:27

There does exist a flavour of Wavefront's *.obj that facilitates Vertex Coloring.. I know of two applications that can export these namely "MeshLab" (free) and "MeshMixer" (also free from Autodesk).. The vertex colours is actually found just after each vertex definition as shown below..

(Piece of *.obj)

####
#
# OBJ File Generated by Meshlab
#
####
# Object VERTEXPAINT_004_OBJ.obj
#
# Vertices: 284
# Faces: 281
#
####
mtllib ./VERTEXPAINT_004_OBJ.obj.mtl

vn 0.029683 0.730087 -0.682709
v 1220.094482 -572.500000 177.713943 0.984314 0.764706 1.000000  

# "3 vals for Vert and 3 vals for Col"

vn 0.000000 0.858139 -0.513418
v 1291.571533 -609.439636 -28.628490 0.921569 0.219608 1.000000
vn 0.303129 0.896367 -0.323480

Try using meshlab to generate "Vertex Based Ambient Occlusion", then open it with "MeshMixer"..

This should clarify your issue.. I think Vertex colouring is coming back with the advent of shaders.. Its funny how vertex colouring seems to be neglected when image maps were discovered.. Now we should see the the return of "Vertex Colouring"! Let me know if this was usefull!

  • Oh, I see. They tacked on the per-vertex color as 3 floats after the v vertex position specification. Clever way to (hopefully) not break compatibility with existing OBJ parsers. – bobobobo Nov 23 '13 at 20:30
  • +1 I encountered exactly these colored vertices in an obj file I recently acquired. According to OBJ Vertex Coloring Parsing Problem · Issue #2083 · mrdoob/three.js, the colors are in red green blue order, as is typical, and from 0 to 1. Are you aware of any real documentation for this from any of the folks supporting it? How about any open source code that implements it? Is there actually a written standard for obj which is widely accepted? – nealmcb Oct 8 '14 at 15:10
  • Aha - to answer one of my questions, MeshLab is not only free, but also open source (GPL) and cross-platform :) – nealmcb Oct 8 '14 at 15:44

Wavefront OBJ supports materials, which color groups of meshes the same color.

Material statements look like this:

newmtl redMtl
Kd 1.00 0.00 0.00
Ks 0.50 0.50 0.50
Ns 18.00

So, Kd is the diffuse component, Ks specular.

These would be specified inside a .mtl file that accompanies the .obj file. Inside the .obj file are statements like

usemtl redMtl
f 1/5/1 30/39/2 20/29/3
f 20/29/4 30/39/5 31/41/6
f 35/48/7 26/35/8 2/6/9

This means the faces specified there are to use the redMtl material. When you're parsing the obj file, this translates down to per-vertex color.

If there are lots of different colors, you will have a lot of different materials, but you can do it.

Here's a video of how to assign a particular group of faces a different material. You can assign a different material to each face in a mesh if you wish.

  • 4
    Unfortunately that only allows for per-face coloring, not per-vertex coloring. – fluffy Apr 9 '16 at 7:45

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