Book Review: Texturing: Concepts and Techniques | WebReference

Book Review: Texturing: Concepts and Techniques

Book Review: Texturing: Concepts and Techniques

By Nathan Segal. May 7, 2004.

This month, we’re going to revisit the topic of textures by reviewing the book: “Texturing: Concepts and Techniques, by Charles River Media. Several things about the design caught my attention right away. First, this book features full color illustrations throughout. Second, the author has created tutorials for the three most popular animation programs. 3DS Max, Maya and Lightwave. While this approach causes some repetition of techniques, it eliminates the need for separate books to address each program.

The author begins with a discussion about understanding textures from an art history perspective and notes that in many computer schools, an understanding of design principles and aesthetics is an important foundation for being a successful digital artist. He also notes that students tend to spend a lot of time learning software, but at the end of their course, their animations tend to lack the qualities necessary to appear convincing (author’s term) in execution. More often than not, textures and lighting issues are placed aside. As a former software instructor, I’ve also experienced this firsthand.

This book then is an attempt to bridge that gap. To give you an idea of what the book covers, here is an abbreviated table of contents:

    Chapter 1: Visual Communication, Good Design, and Aesthetics
    Chapter 2: Realism, Photorealism, and When Being Convincing is Best
    Chapter 3: Technical Issues: The Digital Environment and Delivery Media
    Chapter 4: Materials: Technology and Use
    Chapter 5: Shaders
    Chapter 6: Material Creation Interfaces
    Chapter 7: Image Maps and Procedural Maps
    Chapter 8: Pulling it Together: Initial Tutorial
    Chapter 9: Lights and Surfaces
    Chapter 10: Complex Materials
    Chapter 11: Mapping and Unwrapping
    Chapter 12: Rendering

Here are some highlights from the book:

One of these is the discussion of Aerial Perspective and Perspective of Disappearance in Chapter 2. This was written about by Leonardo da Vinci. Essentially, he says that objects in the far distance appear to be tinted blue and are nearly the same shade as the atmosphere above it. So in order to create a realistic scene, one has to take this into account. In addition, the Perspective of Disappearance is about how the outlines of objects in the distance are less defined and finished in appearance and should be incorporated into a 3D illustration. As Summer notes, the creation of Aerial Perspective is relatively straightforward, but Aerial Perspective is more difficult to deal with. One partial solution is Depth of Field.

Another way of dealing with this issue is in the relationships between objects and textures. Summer notes that it's crucial to look at real life for lessons of how textures work and to not rely on what one can picture in the mind only. Access to reference material is a must.

Also, Summer recommends to avoid looking at movies for a sense of reality: "So many movies now are digitally created special effects that we are losing our sense of what the real thing looks like. Smoke and dust are a good example of the poor quality of contemporary cinematic verisimilitude. Watch the move Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppla, 1979). There is one scene in which several helicopters land in a swirl of dust and smoke. Compare that to the same effect in almost any contemporary film, and you will witness the difference betweeen the real and the artificial."

In Chapter 3, the author looks at the technical issues of digital color, color mixing, using gamma as a design technique (such as adjusting the gamma to boost or lower midtones without changing the black and white points), etc. This section of the book goes into quite a bit of depth on gamma, and as Summer notes: "The whole gamma thing seems unnecessarily complex, but one should be aware of it to avoid unpleasant surprises." He further states that a valuable production asset is a proper NTSC preview monitor that is connected to the production pipeline. In short, Summer says: "In this field, technology matters, and understanding it makes one produce better quality work and frees artists to be more creative."

Chapter 10 deals with complex materials, where you can explore the properties unique to your application. A sampling of the topics here include displacement mapping, double-sided materials, multiple surface materials per mesh surface, etc.

Chapter 11 is about Mapping and Unwrapping. Here, the book discusses The Mapping Problem and The Mapping Solution, where you'll work with Projection and UV mapping (as an example). One important point here is that while the theory is clear, the application can be quite complex and time consuming. As an example of the challenges involved, image maps may look weird, especially when creating maps for the human head. Other factors that complicate matters technology limitations and the skill level of the user.


One thing that concerns me about Chapter 11 is that it immediately starts off with an apology and goes on to explain that there will be many areas that will not be covered here, that will have to be accessed through other books. Personally, I would have liked to see more chapters on wrapping, unwrapping, and more options for image map creation.

However, it's clear that there are many issues when it comes to textures and no article (or even a book) can cover them all. But if textures are your thing and you want to learn more about how to improve the quality of your work, this book can be a useful asset to your digital arsenal.

On the CD

On the CD are all of the files necessary to complete the tutorials in the book. It also comes with a Mel Script to create double-sided materials.

About the Author

Dennis Summers (Royal Oak, MI) holds a BFA in Painting, a BA in Chemistry from Michigan State University, and an MFA in Non-Traditional Media from Ohio State University. An Associate Professor at Schoolcraft College, he also works as a freelance animator, producing television commercials, technical animations, and photorealistic images for the auto industry, etc. His animations have appeared at film festivals around the world.

Reference Material

For more articles, visit the 3D section on

Two other books that I'd like to recommend are Digital Texturing and Painting, by New Riders. 352 pages. Price: $38.50 This book is very helpful when working with textures. It's companion is Digital Lighting and Rendering. 287 pages. Price: $34.00.

Modern Paint Effects, by Firefly Books. 124 pages. List Price: $19.95
Art and Illusion, by Princeton University Press. 512 pages. List Price: $35.00 This should be considered required reading.
ArtEffects, by Watson-Guptill Publications. 208 pages. List Price: $29.95
The Paint Effects Bible, by Firefly Books. 256 pages. List Price: $29.95
Corel Graphics Suite. Graphics software collection of CorelDRAW, Photo-Paint, RAVE, and more.
Corel Painter. Digital Sketching and painting tool.
Corel Bryce. 3D software for creating 3D landscapes and space scenes.
Adobe Photoshop. Industry standard image manipulation software.
Discreet 3D Studio Max. 3D animation software.
Alias Maya. 3D animation software.
CG Talk. Digital Visual Effects Professionals.
3D Café. A source for 3D imagery, tutorials, textures and more.
Highend 3D. 3D Resource and Community web site.
Deep Paint 3D, by Right Hemisphere.
2D Artwork and 3D Modeling for Game Artists, by Premier Press. 720 pages. Price: $47.99.


Created: June 5, 2003
Revised: May 7, 2004