Texture Atlas Guidance

01. Overarching Guidance

A texture atlas is a single image map that is applied to a model that has been unfolded flat. It often shows multiple materials on a single map and can only be used for a single model. Because this makes the model difficult to edit and the materials challenging to transfer, we recommend that you avoid using texture atlases at all costs. To the right you can see an example a texture atlas. However, in our system this model should not use an atlas. It should have one texture/material for the picture and another texture/material for the frame.

Below are some general guidelines to using texture atlases.

a. Repeating patterns should never use a texture atlas.

i. We believe more than 95% of the models we assign are using repeating patterns.
ii. This means texture atlases should only be used less than 5% of the time.

b. Examples where a texture atlas is never okay:

i. Any surface with homogenous material such as wood, metal, and leather. These surfaces don’t repeat in real life, but they do have a sameness across the surfaces. These should use tiled textures.
ii. Printed fabric, patterned lace, patterned lamp shades.

c. Examples where a texture atlas is okay:

i. Non-repeating details like sculpted parts, filigrees, or any shapes that don’t repeat.
ii. Clock numbers, certain clock faces.

02. Using Textures from Reference Imagery & Creating Wood

You can use textures from reference imagery except when:

a. Resolution of texture causes material on model to look blurry in renders
You can leverage an up resolution tool like the one below to increase resolution of reference imagery
http://letsenhance.io. Also, see our Photoshop and texture guidelines for techniques to up-rez images.

b. There is lighting baked into the reference imagery
Textures should never have any color deviations due to lighting.

Example

c. Creating wood grain
To create wood grain textures, you can either create a tileable texture from the reference imagery (see above), or find a high resolution wood grain texture online that closely matches the wood grain of the actual product. Note that specific locations of knots in wood is not important, however the overall color, size, and frequency of knots should match that of your reference.

Image Credit: Textures.com – a great resource for finding free high resolution textures.

03. Hand Painted Masks vs. VRayDirt

You can use hand painted vertex masks to create distressed details on models. However you cannot use them to create reflective details on a metallic surface. Distressing should never use an atlas texture.

Generally, a lot of these details can be reproduced using VRayDirt – but you can use either or.

Reference Imagery

Hand painted mask

Reference Imagery

Hand painted mask

04. Texture Atlases for Clocks

Texture atlases can always be used to create the numbers of the clock, since they are a non-repeating pattern. However, they cannot be used on any other part of the clock – unless the clock face is a unique pattern that cannot be created with a tiling pattern (see the second clock, below).

For the first clock, you can see that it uses a texture atlas to project the numbers of the clock onto the clock face with one material, and then uses a tiling texture to create the wood grain behind it with another texture. This is done with a V-Ray Blend Material. Note that the planks are actually modeled.
Note that in both cases, the clock hands are made with a separate material and object.

Texture

Reference Imagery

Texture

05. Texturing Products with Planks

When you have a model that is made of different planks and has a non-tileable pattern that covers all of them, you should model in the planks and apply the image over top of them whenever possible. Avoid using the image to suggest plank detail because it will look flat and unrealistic.

If you have a tileable pattern, such as wood grain, on a plank then you should use a single texture map with color correction – do not use a texture atlas.

Reference Imagery

Texture

Texture

06. When and When Not to Use a Texture Atlas

a. When a non-repeatable pattern is present, use an atlas. When you can create a repeating pattern, do not use an atlas texture.

b. When an object has a consistent material, use an image of that material – don’t create an atlas.

c. As a rule of thumb, never use an atlas across multiple materials.

d. Do not use texture atlases in metal materials to create areas of discoloration in or around creases or turns in the metal.

Use VRayDirt instead. You can find several materials in the material library to use as templates for this process. Also make sure to check out our tutorials on commonly used nodes for more information on using VRayDirt.

e. You can use them when there is non-tiling imagery, but make sure to use tiling textures when applicable.

In the example below, Texture #1 is used for the diffuse but texture #2 is used for the bump.

07. How to Convert Photos into Tiled Textures

Below is a quick tutorial on this process. For more detail, see our guidelines on Using Photoshop.