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Introduction to Textures – Diffuse Maps

If you are not familiar with textures, do not panic. This is the best place to start learning about them. This article will help you understand what textures and diffuse maps are and how they work. Let’s dive in!

What is a texture?

The IMVU Catalog is filled with 3D generated products, and the success of any good 3D product is the quality of the textures applied to it.

A texture is a two dimensional artwork that is applied to a three dimensional shape or also called “Mesh”. That is to say, adding a texture to a 3D mesh is much like wrapping a package, or covering a piece of furniture with patterned paper.

Adding a texture to a Mesh

IMVU is founded on the idea that many products in our catalog can be derived from. This means that if a product is set as derivable, other creators can make a newly edited version of the item and sell it in the shop. All creators involved in that derivation chain, get a portion of the transaction.

One of the most popular methods for deriving a product is to replace the textures applied to a product for new ones. Below, there is an example of four tops that have been derived from the same product and whose original textures have been substituted for different ones.

How to customize a texture

As you will see later on, texture maps can be the key to your success as a creator; what makes you stand out among the rest. So you may be wondering, “how can I create or customize textures?”

Textures are primarily created using a 2D application like Photoshop, Gimp, Corel Painter, or another image-editing software.

For more information about how to customize your textures, please have a look at the following tutorials. You will find step-by-step instructions of how to customize T-shirt textures on GIMP and Photoshop.

Applying diffuse maps to a model

There are different types of textures such as opacity maps, normal maps, and shineness maps. However, in this article we are going to focus on the diffuse map which basically defines the color of the surface we want for a Material. This color is also referred to as Albedo.

So, let’s open IMVU Studio to get a better understanding of diffuse maps.

If you have not downloaded and installed IMVU Studio yet, click here to learn how to do it.

Before going deeper, let’s talk about Materials. Every Material is always associated with one Mesh. Each Material contains different properties and one of them is the diffuse map.

On IMVU Studio, the Materials of a product are below the “MATERIAL” tab.

Those Materials are the ones that are applied to the 3D model. When selecting one of them, its properties are displayed on the right panel on the right side of the screen.

Each Material has its own diffuse map and on hovering it, a helpful tooltip pops up.

When clicking on the diffuse map texture , the Texture panel pops up on the screen allowing you to add a new diffuse map by clicking on the “ADD IMAGE” button.

In this case, the Material only has a flat grey diffuse map applied to the model.

The room in which we are in has a lighting setup that allows us to see the shapes and forms on the model. For example, the folds on the sleeves.

So, what would happen if there is no lighting and shadows in a room? How could that affect the model?

Ohh!! The fact of not having light and shadows in the room, and using a flat diffuse map make the model look dull.

We stated at the beginning of this article that diffuse maps define the color of the surface we want for a Material. A flat diffuse map, like the one we have been using, doesn’t look well in a room with that configuration. However, what will happen if we apply a diffuse map that has more details on it?

Wow! The model starts to have some shape. By adding a diffuse map that contains patterns, different colors and/or shapes, we will end up having a more fashionable product.

Let’s see what happens when we apply new diffuse maps to the entire model.

What a difference! Regardless of whether or not the room has lighting, the new diffuse maps give the garment a completely different look.

The power of diffuse maps

After all we have learned, we can say that the way we create and/or customize textures is key to get more attractive, interesting, and unique products. It makes a huge difference, indeed.

Texture Maps are applied to the surface of a 3D model to create patterns and/or visual effects among other things. Besides defining clothing details, diffuse maps can be used for designing hair, skin, and many more.

Hopefully, this article has helped you to have a better understanding about diffuse maps and how they work.

We encourage you to start creating your own textures! You can start your “texturing journey” by following the Making a Shirt tutorial in which you will customize your own T-shirt by deriving it from an existing product.


Updated on December 9, 2021

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