I'm getting into basic 3D modelling and am attempting to texture my model. I'm aware of UV mapping and some similar texturing tools, but I'm not sure how the majority of CG artists obtain their 3D models. When creating realistic models, do they take photos of what they're making a model of and then use those, create multiple textures in Photoshop and then apply those to the model (as in a skin texture and a clothes textures and so on). Also, when creating cartoon-style models, is the method the same? Or do they use different tools, such as Illustrator.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Artists generally create them. That's why they call them artists. Additionally you seem to be asking about textures, and then you say "I'm not sure how the majority of CG artists obtain their 3D models", so what is it you're looking for? \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, meant to say texture there. \$\endgroup\$
    – user12173
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 0:19

4 Answers 4


First of all, you should be aware that there are several textures that might be applied to a model. The most common one is the diffuse-map (color, sometimes including alpha), in modern games you'll also find normal-maps (bump-map), specular-maps (amount of specular reflection) etc.

There are different processes to obtain these textures, but generally these have to be made specifically for the model at hand (as the texture has to fit the UV layout) and can't be downloaded or purchased somewhere (unless you buy a model with the texture).

A common workflow looks like this: You create a mesh with lots of details, commonly with a sculpting tool. Ideally your sculpting base-mesh or starting mesh is the low-poly mesh that meets the requirements of your game (amount of triangles).

Then you unwrap the mesh. There are even specialized tools (like UVLayout) that are very good at unwrapping meshes with minimal distortion and making optimal use of the texture-space (packing).

So when you have the UV layout and the model, it's time to create the texture(s). The normal map usually looks like shown in the following image (surface normals are encoded in the RGB colorspace):

normal map example

It's very hard to create such a texture by hand, therefore it's usually obtained by baking the high-res mesh to the texture-space of the low-res mesh.

Baking texture is a process that's generally useful to get a good starting point for your textures. A common approach is to bake an ambient occlusion map. It will look like this (image © vitamin3d):

occlusion map

This already gives you a great starting-point for your diffuse texture. The process to create the texture is very different from artist to artist and also dependent on the type of texture you need. I think it's safe to say that Photoshop is widely used, in combination with a digital tablet. Sometimes textures are entirely painted, sometimes they are based off photographic imagery.

In case of my avatar image, I decided to print out the UV layout, paint the texture by hand (pencil, felt-tip marker) and scan it back in.

Hand-painted texture

As you can see, there are lots of different ways to create textures, but there's usually a lot of work (and skill) involved in creating good textures. Since the textures also have to match the style/mood of your game, they should be crafted for your game.


Usually in cartoon styled 3D, the texture is made entirely in photoshop after tweaking vertices for the UV map. Honestly though this exactly how it works, you get a bunch of stock photos (or take them yourself) and edit them in photoshop to make them work better for 1. your style of art, 2. most (all) real life things (mainly natural) don't tile perfectly

getting graphics to tile isn't hard, but it takes a while and a bit of fine tuning. It's the things you make BIG edits on that make it hard. Like where skin connects to skin, or where you have weird stretching due to the vertice tweaks. I know it's also really cliche to say, but when the texture looks good, it looks good... You essentially just tweak the model UV points and the texture itself to make it look good. It's a good idea to keep textures nice and clean as well, but doesn't necessarily matter if the texture matches all your other games art.

That is one important note as well. A single texture can throw off game art if it looks completely different. It's always great to look at your model (after texturing) in comparison/in the same scene as, your games other assets.


You can also directly paint your models but unless your as good a paint artist that you are a texture artist, you wont really get anywhere. Texturing might seem like the long road but remember not all textures need to be hand created. Some are imported pictures or slices of bits and pieces of realism and fake portions.


I am using webpages such as http://www.cgtextures.com/ or http://www.filterforge.com/

With little post processing in PS that images usually fits every use I need


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