A Guide to 3D Texturing in Animation

By Michael Jones

Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Texturing is an especially crucial step in the 3D animation process. All the finer details of characters you see in 3D animation, such as wrinkles and individual carpet fibers, result from a 3D artist applying texture. For a more comprehensive look into the techniques and tools, we have a guide to 3D texturing in animation below.

What is 3D Texturing?

In its most basic form, texturing refers to the method through which experienced animators can provide stunning details to objects. This detailing might apply to a character or environment and make them look aged, add appeal or give them more realism. Texturing in 3D animation is the process of dressing up 3D models with 2D pictures. Texture artists oversee giving 3D objects physical characteristics. The overall goal is to match the surface of the model to its concept art or real-world equivalent.

Why is Texturing Significant?

Texturing is one of the most critical aspects of the character display process. Texture helps to establish a framework of any person or scene before it achieves its ultimate form. It is crucial to have a rough sketch of the entire scheme of characters before reaching a complete and final draft of the characters. Moreover, once you convert your characters to a 3D representation, texturing or texture mapping becomes more practical and efficient.

3D Texturing Objectives

  • Texture may provide the observer a feeling of material about an object in a 3D environment. Viewers should be able to tell what these objects are made of just by looking at them.
  • When exposed to light, every object in the actual world exhibits distinct qualities such as reflection, refraction, intensity, form, color, and many more.
  • Creating and processing every minute detail of the exterior of a 3D object during the 3D modeling phase would be a major hassle for both the software and the artist. This difficulty is solved by 3D texturing, which allows artists to add microscopic details to the surface of the models, such as creases, blemishes, cracks, and bumps, without putting too much strain on the hardware or software.

What Does a Texture Artist Do?

It is the work of a texture artist to paint surface textures on animated characters, settings, and objects. Animators deal with an infinite variety of textures, including fur, scales, wrinkles, sweat, and dirt. In certain circumstances, the surfaces utilized in animation are not available in nature. In these cases, the texture artist creates his textures using his creativity and imagination.

Texture artists typically work for VFX businesses and studios as independent contractors. Smaller VFX studios may not differentiate between texturing and modeling artist positions instead of advertising for a single job that does both.

Different Aspects of 3D Texturing Process

3D texturing involves many distinct aspects that differ slightly depending on a particular animator or studio’s workflow. Here are some examples of what steps look like in the texturing process.

UV Mapping and Unwrapping

The initial step of the 3D texturing process is to unwrap and map your models. As soon as the final models are received, texture artists produce a UV map for every 3D object. A UV map is a flat display of a 3D model surface used to wrap textures quickly. The word “UV” alludes to the two-dimensional aspect of the procedure: letters “U” and “V” denote the 2D texture axis because the 3D model is shown in the form of letters “X,” “Y,” and “Z.”

UV mapping enables a 2D image to be wrapped around a 3D object, connecting it to a polygon point. You will use the result directly in the texturing and shading operations.

Lighting and Shading

The correct representation of an object’s overall appearance and interaction with light goes a long way towards its realism and charm. Unsuitable material or surface qualities in the light can cause the viewer’s mind to reject it. The texture is a two-dimensional image, and shading is a set of functions that govern how light interacts with the two-dimensional image.

Texture Mapping

Texture mapping is the process of defining the texture, detail, and visual qualities of 3D models. Bump maps, normal maps, height maps, ambient occlusion maps, refraction maps, specular maps, and other texture mapping techniques are just a few examples.

Examples of 3D Texturing Software

Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D is a highly regard 3D software in the animation business. Developed by a German company called Maxon, Cinema 4D is a potent tool that lets you generate outstanding graphics and special effects. It is well known for its accessibility and easy-to-learn nature; also, it has many tutorials available to help beginners. Many studios only offer Cinema 4D due to its versatility and dynamic options.


Blender is an excellent choice for beginners looking to break into the world of animation because it is free to use open-source software that does a wide range of 3D processes beyond texturing, such as rendering, rigging, motion tracking, and more. Blender provides a straightforward interface, robust rendering engine, and all the sculpting and texture tools required for CG artists. Due to Blender being free, a large community is constantly helping to tweak the software and provide help for newer animators.

Adobe Photoshop

You’ve no doubt heard of Photoshop before. It is one of the most valuable tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. Because it has been an industry mainstay for such a long time, there are many helpful videos, tutorials, and courses online that can help you learn the fundamentals if you’re just starting as an animator.

Photoshop enables CG artists to use a wide selection of new functional effects computer plugins. It offers all key 3D capabilities, such as 3D printing and customized textures and maps. Another helpful feature is that designers can store the texture in a.png file type and export it to another software after you complete the texture.

Adobe Substance Painter

Substance Painter is a newer addition to the Adobe Creative Suite. Substance Painter’s primary function is texture modeling. Its sophisticated masking and procedural texturing capabilities enable you to create textures more challenging to produce in 2D applications such as Photoshop. As a result, Substance Painter has swiftly established itself as the premier tool for painting and texturing 3D objects digitally in the industry.

How to Become a Texture Artist

Whether you’ve dabbled in animation before, or this guide to 3D texturing in animation has inspired you, you might consider a career in 3D texturing. The most critical thing you’ll need to become a texture artist is a great portfolio that highlights your skills. The best thing you can do for yourself is to practice the craft as much as possible. A degree from a college institution can also help, but it is more important that you know the different techniques and work within the industry standards for software.

If you can’t find a job as a texturing artist straight away, you could also try becoming a runner or a match move artist and work your way up to a 3D texture artist. You might also consider obtaining an internship or apprenticeship that will continue to reinforce the fundamentals and help you network.

If you’re interested in learning more about 3D texturing or any other aspects of the animation process, MoGraph Mentor can help. We offer a diverse range of tutorials, videos, and classes, such as our motion graphics online school, that can take your skills to the next level. Let us help you create a portfolio that will stand out from the crowd.

A Guide to 3D Texturing in Animation


Don't miss out on our future posts!

Scroll to Top