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What Are 3D Textures?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

Three-dimensional (3D) textures are images made to replicate real-world textures, such as the veins on a leaf or fur on an animal. Many 3D textures look like two-dimensional (2D) textures when viewed head-on, but there is a major difference in how the two are created. The 3D textures are square images that are made to repeat, so they can be laid over a surface without conflict. These are most commonly used with 3D models, such as in games and animations, to make the models look more realistic or to give them a certain look. When these textures were first created, they were not used much, but advances in 3D technology have made them a common occurrence as of 2011.

When looking at 2D and 3D textures head-on, most people will not be able to tell the difference. Both are made to look as if they have a real-world texture, and a skilled 2D artist can make textures that look 3D. The difference between the two is not so much about appearance, but about how the textures are made. While 2D textures have two dimensions, textures in 3D are made with three dimensions, commonly known as the X, Y and Z dimensions. This adds a new layer of information, making the textures useful for more applications.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Most 3D textures are square images that are made to repeat. This means that, if the texture image is tiled on a surface, then it will look like one large image. If properly done, viewers will not see the tiling, because there will be no conflict. Poorly designed textures will not flow, meaning one tile will look awkward next to another tile.

While 3D textures can be used as desktop wallpapers or as embellishments in an image, they are most commonly used with 3D models. When textures are tiled over models, it will alter the models’ appearance. For example, if a model has a skirt and a pink cotton texture is added over it, the texture will fill the skirt and make it look more realistic.

In the early days of 3D textures, they were rarely used. This was because memory restrictions made them capable of causing games and animations to crash or become too memory-heavy to properly play. Advanced compression technology allows the textures to be made to take up less memory, so they can be used without causing these problems. Adding 3D textures can make realistic results, and it typically is easier than designing the 3D model with texture in the modeling program, so these textures are common.

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