Materials and Textures into the Next Level

Good artists make tools. Today I decided to share 2 tools with you. The first tool is the “Material & Texture Data Collection Sheet” or in short “MTD Collection.”  The 2nd is the “Material & Texture Data Extraction Sheet” or “MTD Extraction.” These sheets work in sequence.

In a nutshell here is how they work. 1st you collect material and texture data by looking (taking photos and writing), then you extract the information to material properties and texture layers that can be used in any 3D software (preferably BLENDER).

How to use “MTD Collection Sheet”?

MTD Collection Sheet must be accompanied by few photos. So basically you’ll go out there, snaps few interesting textures from various angles. Lighting and timing record are important. Something in the light will always appear brighter than in the shadow. This will help you to decide which diffuse color. If your camera can capture in RAW format, you can take extra advantage of your photo editing software to get the best color.

You are advice to fill in the sheet on location at the same moment you capture those photos. If you did it later at night or/and at home, many ambient nuances will be missing from the record. Therefore you must carry this sheet around, put it inside your camera pouch or bag. Bring a pen or pencil. Snap and write.


Some of the miscellaneous properties on the sheet maybe new to you. Here I list their fundamental meaning.

  • Transparency is the physical property of allowing light to pass through a material; translucency only allows light to pass through diffusely.
  • Iridescence is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Commonly seen in items such as soap bubbles, butterfly wings, and sea shells
  • Opalescence is a type of dichroism seen in highly dispersed systems with little opacity. The material appears yellowish-red in transmitted light and blue in the scattered light perpendicular to the transmitted light.
  • Luminescence is emission of light by a substance not resulting from heat; it is thus a form of cold body radiation. It can be caused by chemical reactions, electrical energy, subatomic motions, or stress on a crystal. This distinguishes luminescence from incandescence, which is light emitted by a substance as a result of heating.
  • Fluorescence is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation.
  • Incandescence is the emission of light from a hot body as a result of its temperature.

Below is a filled sample MTD Collection sheet

How to use “MTD Extraction Sheet”?

In this sheet you will extract materials and texture properties from MTD Collection.

Depending on which 3D software you use, material properties will differ. To do this correctly, you must open up your 3D software and look at its material parameters. Try to emulate what is in your photos and the 1st sheet. If you are very familiar with your 3D application like the back of your palm then you’ll ride this like a Pro. For some of us new into this area, experimenting will lead you into connecting your eyes to material parameters in your 3D application. Keep both sheets in a neat folder as they will be valuable in the long run.


Texturing sometimes very confusing. Especially when it comes to texture maps. But the basic is very simple.

  • Color/diffuse Map describe color information. It can be a single color or color as complex as on a tapestry. Normally they don’t have shading information, only color.
  • Specularity Map describe the highlight value on a surface. Normally in Grayscale with brighter hue as hightlight and darker hue as dimmer and more subtle.
  • Luminosity Map is the map that provide self illumination. In Blender this is done with “Emit.” An example is the end of a lit cigarette.
  • Reflection Map is used to fake Raytracing relection. Normally done as world texture in Blender.
  • Translucency/Transparency Map is a combo map. Translucency define semistranparent material like glass, paper, cloth, skin. On the other hand Transparency is about how opaque something should look. You can also use it for fence viewed from far. Most times you have to separate them into different maps.
  • Bump Map describe surface quality to the touch. Smoothness or roughness of a surface. It is also use to fake tiny details like sand on a beach, groove of the wall or floor or wood.
  • Displacement Map often confused with Bump Map. The key to get it correct is “bumps are small, displacements are big!!!” That is why it is called displace. Displacement map displace 3D geometry. It is great for making those hard to model tire threads.
  • Dirt (Discontinuity) Map is the extra texture map. It can be the same as color/diffuse map. Its main usage is to break tiling textures. Other usage is to make things look dirty, like smudge on the windshield of a car.

The last question: Should I use all texture maps in my 3D model?

No. As a general rule, use 4 to 5 max. Less of them will make rendering calculation faster.

For this I don’t provide an example sheet. Not everything should be spoon fed, it is best to get your hands dirty to earn a tool. It is really worth it that way. Keep both sheets handy, explore your neighborhood, look for cool textures, collect then extract, use them and you’ll earn them like a KING!!!

DOWNLOADS:
1. MTD Collection Sheet A4/Letter size, 150 DPI, 4 in a sheet
2. MTD Extraction Sheet A4/Letter size, 150 DPI, 4 in a sheet

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