Texturing can be intimidating, especially for complex objects like a creature maybe. As someone who mainly make creature, i have learned a few tricks within about 5 years of experience. And today I’d like to share with everyone a technique called: Texture Baking, exceptionally useful for texturing creatures or objects which you have a side view reference of. You can jump straight into my poorly made tutorial, and read my more in dept instruction if you need.
This tutorial is for intermediate level Blender users, it is not meant to hold your hand. You should be familiar with the UV editing process and know how to set up Blender Internal material.
First, a few words about this method and it’s purpose. Texture baking allows you to get the basic coloration for your model straight from the reference image into your uv map with in a few minutes. The quality of your baked texture depends on the quality of your reference image. With the color map, you can add more details to your texture by hand. This methods give you a starting point for your texturing work, because a blank canvas can be an artist’s arch enemy.
For this tutorial i’ve provided you with all the files you need, including a model of a dinosaur i made myself, a reference image of it and the final product blend file for you to observe. Download the package here to begin:
The tutorial does not include how to properly unwrap a model so it is non-overlapping. Perhaps once i got the time-lapse done, you guys can have a look there.
Starting off with removing the Multi-resolution modifier, cause with too many polys, the baking process will be much slower and might even potential crash your blender. Save this blend file with a new name so we can still have access to the version with the multiresolution sculpting later.
Duplicate our model (shift D) and move it (M) to the layer next to it, and ignore that for now. Also while we at it, switch to Blender Render instead of Cycles, don’t worry, it’s only for a few moment.
Go to edit mode with our model, press 3 on your numpad to go to side view. Press U and select “Project from view”. Now, this mesh have got a new UV map, which is not pretty, overlapping everywhere, but it serves it’s purpose.
Now the most important, but boring part. In the UV/Image Editor window, press O to turn on proportional editing and start moving the UV map’s vertices around to match the reference. Try to fit it in so that none of the white background is showing through. We don’t need to worry too much about details, cause like i said, this is just a basic color map. Working with UV map i must admit, is so boring and repetitive. It is my least favorite step when making creatures. But it have to be done and once we have it behind us, the rest of the process will be more “fun”.
(Some tips for editing the UV, mind the position of the eyes, beak, ear hole and that spiky thing on it’s face. Hide parts of the UV which you don’t need with “H” so proportional editing wouldn’t cause any trouble. Alt H to un-hide)
Since we are in Blender Render engine, you can switch to Texture shading view, also press N to open the properties bar, tick on the box “Shadeless” to see the texture better. Continue edit the UV to remove any of the white background.
Back to object mode, go to the other layer and select our duplicated mesh, with this one still have it’s non-overlapping UV. In the UV/Image Editor give it a new Image. Name it whatever, the size is up to you but should be dividable by 4, generally 1024*1024, or 2048*2048… the bigger the size, the longer and memory heavy it will be to bake, but also more details of course. The color don’t matter, i just do that for fun. You can switch off alpha if you want.
This newly created image will be used to bake the texture to. Here’s how.
Give a material for each mesh. For the one with the project-from-view UV, use the reference image as the texture, and for the Non-overlapping one, use the blank newly created image.
Now go back to object mode. Note, this is important. You must first select the model with the project-from-view UV, then hold shift and select the one with the non-overlapping UV, so that this one will be the active object.
Look at the properties window, under Render, scroll till the end to find the Bake tab. Select “Textures” for Bake Mode, tick in the “Selected to Active” box, and press Bake. Now we wait.
Like I said before, depends on how high poly your mesh is and how big your image is, the longer it will be to bake. But texture baking is not that memory intensive so it should be done fairly quickly.
And there we have it, our nice and clean, non-overlapping texture, extracted directly from the reference image!
We can fine tune this now by going into Texture painting mode, use the Clone brush to paint over the weird looking parts, which is inevitable because the other mesh was projected from view. For me, i would also go into Photoshop and add even more details to this texture, using other reference images. But that’s worth another tutorial.
Once you’re done, you should get something like this:
Now on to the gift. Yeah, i didn’t forget.
Included inside the Package for the tutorial is a blend file with a special Node group i made named “Creature Skin Shader”. This is the set up i always use for all of my creatures, bundled up into a group. I designed it so that you only need 1 single texture, plug it into 2 input slots, one as Color Data and one as Non-Color Data. And that’s all you need to do. probably not PBR quality, but it looks good enough. And that’s my Christmas present for everyone. If you wish to use it, just append the node group into your blend file and it’s done.
I hope you enjoy my first tutorial ever, and my gift. Let me know what you think and if I should make a tutorial on UV mapping and texturing with Photoshop & Blender.