How to Map Textures onto a 3D Model in Blender

Rootyjr | 12-14-2018
How to Map Textures onto a 3D Model in Blender

Recently I undertook an effort to map some basic textures to one of my favorite models, my ISU-122. Now I know tank experts can probably spot a few things not perfect in this model, but this was my first attempt at modeling a tank in Blender. And I was very pleased with the result.

 

Getting Started:

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.

 

Launching Blender:

Once you are done installing Blender you can go ahead and launch it. Blender typically starts up in a mode known as Blender Render.

Blender at startup.
Blender at startup.

You will need to switch this to Blender Cycles.

Switching to Cycles.
Switching to Cycles.

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.

What your editor should look like.
What your editor should look like.

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.  I downsized and positioned my model in the editor using 's', however if your import was successful it should look pretty similiar to the picture below:

Imported and positioned model.
Imported and positioned model.

Adding Vertices (You can skip this if you want):

Now you 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 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.

Split the Blender screen.
Split the Blender screen.

Now go to the 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.

Open the UV image editor.
Open the UV image editor.
This is what you should be seeing.
This is what you should be seeing.

In the panel on the right, press Tab again. When it becomes orange again, click on Mesh > UV Unwrap > 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:

The UV map can be seen to the right.
The UV map can be seen to the right.

Creating Our UV Map:

In the menu below 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*. The * means the image has not been saved so we should save it.

 

Saving Our UV Map:

Open the menu and click Save As Image. You can also press F3. 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.

 

Setting up to Paint Our UV Map:

On the same bar you accessed the Image menu from there is selection menu currently set to View. Open this menu and change it to Paint. Now navigate the the selection menu currently set as Edit Mode under the right pane. Change this to Texture Paint. You should see what is seen in the image below.

Let's paint.
Let's paint.

Navigate to the central panel change the side tab from Tools to Slots. Change painting mode from Material to Image. And now you can open your UV map using the file selector. If this worked successfully your white model should have turned black. Now you can switch that tab back to Tools and you should see a color wheel. You can use this to change the colors that you paint onto the UV map.

 

Painting Our UV Map:

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.

  

My tank before I render it.
My tank before I render it.

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 highlighted camera on a row of other items.  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 and Selecting a Texture:

Once you see the texture sphere option click on it. Click on the + New material button. Now go back up to the menu above and click on the texture icon with small red tiles directly to the right of the current option. Click on the New button. You should see a black square fill a preview box. A few rows under this box under Image dropdown, click on the little image icon. This icon is itself a dropdown and you will be able to select myTankSkin or whatever you named it. Now you can begin rendering.

 

Rendering:

Press F12 on your keyboard and your system will begin rendering. The photo may be dim. This is because the default light is underpowered. However solving this is more than this article will cover. Below is my rendered tank. To save your photo press F3, make sure to change the name however, otherwise you will overwrite your skin. To exit this view, go down to the menu that says Blender Result and click the X near it.

The default poorly lit image.
The default poorly lit image.

The same model with better lighting:

After simply changing the point light to a sun light.
After simply changing the point light to a sun light.

And finally a different render I accomplished after changing some more environmental settings and adding a smoke mass to the turret and a textured plane beneath the tank:

My final render.
My final render.

Conclusion:

I hope this guide has been helpful and I wish you a Merry Christmas! Cue the shamelessly low-res christmas gif.

I don't even regret it.
I don't even regret it.

 

To download the associated files for this post see here: ISU-122 by rootyjr

If you have any questions please comment. If you enjoyed this post then please share. 

 

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