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texture guts surface texture frozen ice terrain coal ground texture skin surface texture dry looking terrain texture

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Textures in 3D games are like surroundings in the real world. Anything you look at in a 3D game is a texture mapped on a 3D model. I have done a good share of 3D modeling in my career but probably even more texture painting. Quality textures are essential to any 3D work, still or motion, they are enormously important. Great textures can make even poorly designed models or environments look significantly better then they actually are. This gallery shows some of the game textures I did for computer games - Unreal 2, Warpath, Dungeons & Dragons Online: StormReach, and others. Included are Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and skybox textures. If you are looking for game textures to use in your projects, see my selection of these free textures.

When I first started creating textures for my sci-fi images they were simple base textures with a rusty, weathered, used up look. I liked them because they communicated visual richness with a history behind it. Later when I was working as a texture artist doing sci-fi work for 3D games, I continued with that look and feel because it works very well with angular structures that are so common in sci-fi hardware designs.

I often get asked about my working process, or if I could give some tips on how to design game textures that will stand out. My process is very linear.

First I need to know the function of the texture. Is it a ceiling texture, a floor texture, a wall, etc. Then I need to know about the environment in which the texture will be used. A sci-fi ceiling texture full of worn out hardware for some neglected cargo ship will be very different from a ceiling texture for a nice and clean Star Trek like control room.

Then I start by imagining how the texture will look like in a general way in terms of colors used and its structure. It is important that the texture works in harmony with the other game textures in the environment it will be used - so colors and style will match.

Next, I look through my library of base game textures - which I created over the years - to see if I have something that comes close to what I have in mind. If not, I'll create a new base. By the way, a base texture contains no structure in terms of hardware panels or anything that stands out. For example, a base metal ceiling texture typically has a flat surface of some sort of metal. Perhaps with some minor variations on it in terms of the natural metallic pattern that gets created during the production process of the metallic surface from molding or cutting.

When I have the base ceiling texture, I will start by drawing the main outlines of the hardware panels using the line tool. Once I have that, I may start doing some highlights and shadows for the main panel surfaces. I may also change the color somewhat. At this stage the main parts of the ceiling texture will stand out and already give an overall direction of the design. Now, ceiling textures can be a bit tricky sometimes because of the source of light in the game environment, so I'll have to make sure the lighting is right.

Then I will start drawing the smaller panels or parts of hardware, again doing highlights and shadows. Because everything is on layers I can easily go back and change any aspect of the design. Here, I may start adding wear, or rust, or bump maps to the texture if required. I will do a lot of color tweaking to make sure it works as intended.

The final stage consists of adjusting all the elements of the texture until they work in harmony. Not only internally, on that ceiling texture, but also with other textures in the game environment. The lighting, color, and style all have to match so the 3D environment will work visually as one coherent unit.

When creating textures for games it's important to have a good sense for visual harmony of the structure on the texture. Detailed areas should be broken up by larger flat surfaces in a meaningful way that makes the texture look natural. Similary, the rust, wear and bump should be applied with care in areas where it makes sense for it to occur. Textures which do not follow these rules look confusing and unnatural, and therefore take longer to process visually.

I can also recommend that texture artists use both 2D and 3D software during the creation process. Some things can be too complicated or time consuming to paint in 2D and are easier done in 3D software. 3D software offer the advantage of rendering complicated objects from any angle - which can be difficult or impossible to do in 2D correctly.

Generally it's also a good idea to develop a habit for observing how textures are created in the real world and how they change over time.

Painting textures for games can be a very rewarding process. Especially if enough freedom is given to express yourself creatively. And of course, it's also great to see them being rendered in game.

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