This is a intro-level guide on mapping textures onto 3d models in Blender. By the end you should be able to create your own textures in Blender and apply them to 3d models in Blender. And finally you should be able to render your model and save it as image.
If you don't have Blender, you will definitely need to download that. If you run linux you may be able to get it through your package manager. However, assuming you run on windows or mac os, you will need to download straight from Blender's website. Download Blender!
If you would like to use my model for this tutorial you can download the file from the download links at the bottom of this article.
Once you are done installing Blender you can go ahead and launch it. If you have never run Blender before it will ask you whether you want to use the left or right mouse for selecting objects. I've been using right-click longer so this guide will be using right-click as the primary select option. Once you have changed it from the default left option to right you can click on the main window twice to close the popups.
Your blender window should now look like this:
Preparing For Our Model:
If you have a model you would like to use as I did you will need to delete the pre-existing cube. You can simply do this by right-clicking on the the cube and pressing the delete button on your keyboard. At this point a menu will pop-up asking you to confirm. Simply press enter and cube will disappear. Your Blender window should now look like the image below.
Importing Our Model:
At this point you can go ahead and import our model. Go up the top left corner click on File > Import > Stl This will open a file selection dialog and you can now navigate to, select, and import the file of your choice. I will be importing my ISU-122.stl. You may need to rotate your view, if you are using a mouse you can click down on the scroll wheel to spin your view around the model and scroll to zoom in and out. I downsized and positioned my model in the editor using 's' (simply click to exit resize mode), however if your import was successful it should look pretty similiar to the picture below:
Adding Vertices (You can skip this if you want):
If your model is not selected you will need to select your model and press Tab. This will put the system into a highlighted mode showing individual points. On models with less vertices (dots) you may need to press 'w' and click subdivide, however, for this model you do not. Do remember this can be very taxing on a system as many models already have many vertices. You can now press 'Tab' again. As soon as you do this your system should speed up a little if it was lagging.
UV Map Editing:
At this point you need to go to the left corner and drag right to split the main viewing window into two. See below in the image if you are confused.
Now go to the top corner of the window on the left. Where you currently see a shaded cube next to the menu option View, you need to click. This will open a menu. Select UV/Image editor. This will open a UV mapping tool in the left pane.
In the panel on the right, press Tab again. When it becomes orange again, click on UV > Smart UV Project. This will open a small window. Change the setting Island Margin to 0.06. After that click OK. This may take some time but once it is done you should see something similiar to the image below:
Creating Our UV Map:
In the menu above the UV Map you should see an image icon next to some buttons that say New and Open respectively. Click New and name it myTankSkin. Now you can click ok. To the left of these buttons you should see a menu that says Image. Our Image has not been saved so we should save it using this menu.
Setting up to Paint Our UV Map:
Now in the same way you changed the left pane from the default view to UV editor you need to again change it to Image Editor. Once you do this a selection drop down will appear and it is currently set to View but you need to change this to Paint. Now navigate to the selection menu currently set as Edit Mode above the right pane. Change this to Texture Paint. You should see what is seen in the image below.
Saving Our UV Map:
Open the menu and click Save As Image. You can also press Shift-Alt-S. Use this dialog to save the image. I saved the image to my Documents folder. When you save the image your editor should look normal again.
Putting the Paint on Our Model:
Hover your mouse over the right pane and press 'n'. A sidebar should appear. Click the tab Tool. See photo below for reference.
Under Texture Slots change the Mode from Material to Single Image. A file selector input should appear. Click on the little image icon and a dropdown list should appear. Click on the filename of your UV map. Mine is myTankSkin. If this worked successfully your white model should have turned black.
Painting Our UV Map:
You should also see a color wheel. You can use this to change the colors that you paint onto the UV map. To paint simply click and drag on the Image Map or on the model. You can paint on either side, but painting on the UV map side doesn't lag as much. When you are done painting. You can go back down the Image menu and save it again. This is my painted tank below.
Preparing for Rendering:
In the photo above a keen-eyed reader will see, that I have not saved the image yet. Just to avoid confusion. I did, I just took the image first. Before we render our tanks, there are a few extra steps we must take. In the options panel to the very right, you should see a list of items and underneath that section you should see a bunch of options with tabs represented by little icons. You can select the border of this panel to drag it a bit to the left if you can't see everything.
Adding a Material:
In the list of tabs second to the bottom should be a red material sphere. Click on this tab. Now click on the + New material button.
Selecting a Texture for our Material:
A bunch of options should have appeared. There should be one named Base Color. Click the ring at the right of the option. A giant dialog should have appeared. Under the second column, Texture, just above the middle click Image Texture. Now you should see a familiar image dropdown selector go ahead and select myTankSkin.
Press F12 on your keyboard and your system will begin rendering. There may be some grainy shadows. This is because the render is not optimized. However solving this is more than this article will cover. Below is my rendered tank. To save your photo press Alt S, make sure to change the name however, otherwise you will overwrite your skin. To exit this view, just close the window.
And finally a different render I accomplished after changing some more environmental settings and adding a textured plane beneath the tank:
You should now have a basic idea of how to map textures to a 3d Model in Blender. And you should have an image to show to your friends. Thank you for reading this guide.
To download the associated files for this post see here: ISU-122 by Booglejr
If you have any questions please comment. If you enjoyed this post then please share.