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What Are Bitmap Textures?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bitmap textures are images in digital format, usually created as a bitmap, which can be applied to an object or image to provide texture to it. These types of images are often used in three-dimensional (3D) Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) to provide objects and models with additional detail. Bitmap textures can also be used with two-dimensional (2D) graphics to give an object in an illustration additional texture and realism. These types of texture images can be created in a number of different ways, including scanning in photographs and pieces of artwork, as well as the creation of new images through digital graphics programs.

Although there are a number of ways in which bitmap textures can be created, they are typically used to provide texture and realism to different forms of computer graphics. One of the simplest ways in which textures can be created is for someone to take a photograph of a wall or other object and then use it as the basis for a texture. A photograph of a brick wall, for example, can be digitized and then modified in an appropriate graphics program to create a texture. The term “bitmap textures” simply refers to the file format in which these images are often created or saved, which are small in size and easy to use.

One of the most common ways in which bitmap textures are used is in the creation of 3D CGI or Computer Generated Imagery. Objects in 3D computer graphics are made through a process called “modeling,” in which lines and geometric shapes are used to create a “wireframe” of an object. A wireframe is essentially what an object would look like if made from chicken wire, consisting of interconnecting lines. Each of these lines is then filled in with geometry, or simple shapes, between them to create a “skin” on the model.

Different texture maps, including bitmap textures, can then be laid over this skin to make objects more realistic. A flat plane, for example, can be created in a 3D CGI program and then covered in a skin to give it a surface. Bitmap textures can then be used to apply images to this skin to make it look like a brick wall. Additional layers of textures are often added to increase the realism of this simple wall, adding dirt and providing different indentations and textures through “bump mapping.”

Bitmap textures can also be used in the creation of 2D computer graphics, such as digital illustrations. An artist can scan a piece of wallpaper or use a photograph of an orange to create textures that can then be used within 2D artwork. This allows artists to more quickly and easily add different types of images and textures to an illustration.

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