Textures: Photos vs Painting


so whens the best time to use either painted textures, or photo textures? advantages, disadvantages? i’ve heard some people say, ‘never use photos for textures!’ and i’ve also heard others say that all they use are manipulated photos for their texture work… whats the deal?! :slight_smile:


I’ll get our resident texture goddess to field this one for ya :wink:



You should use whatever you can get the best results with. If you are going for a realistic look, this often involves manipulating photos. Although you can pretty much never use a photo reference as-is, you can get great results by taking parts of that photo (or a combination of photos) and using them in the final texture. The most common aspects you have to worry about are making sure that the color, scale, and contrast of the images fit the texture you are going for. In Photoshop, using the rubberstamp tool, adjusting levels, the burn tool, and the dodge tool all become indispensable in turning photos into textures.

Painting textures by hand becomes necessary when you can’t find a photo of the texture you need, or you are going for a more stylized look. Also, even if you use photos, you will often need to paint in additional details over the photo to get the exact look you want.

Finally, if you are doing pre-rendered work rather than real-time game art, procedural textures can work wonders in creating the proper look for your models and in ensuring that your various image textures blend in well together.

Some people will tell you never to use photos. Others will tell you that painting is a waste of time. You shouldn’t worry about taking sides and simply use the methods that are appropriate for the job and that you feel most comfortable with. Personally, I use a little bit of both in any texturing I do. Hope this helps,

  • Me



as my old boss told me one time -

you can save alot of time using photos. Photos have the ability to show slight imperfections and detail that would take a long time to make by hand or from scratch.

Most of the suff i do for fun involves doing my own textures, but i have yet to become good enough to match a good set of photos when skinning by hand.

This does not mean you just snap a few pics and slap them on the model. Even a great set of photos need some tweaking.


It depends for what platform you are creating textures and resolutions.

If you are creating 64x64 4 bits textures ( Ps2 ) or even 8 bits, I will definitely not recommend photos.

Unless you really clean them up, by scaling them down and lowering the depth, you are going to loose most of the details to weird artefacts, weird colors and blurry pixels.

But if you paint your texture from scratch, and accentuate the contrast where you want it to be, you will have a nice texture that looks really clean.

I will suggest that you look at Metal Gear Solid 2 for some hand painted textures. As you will see, the textures are really clean but they work really well together… Same palette, nice contrast.

Then, look at a title like Dead to Rights and check out their textures. A lot of them are from photos and you will see weird pixel colors and bluriness.


Metal Gear Solid 2 used many photos for textures as well. They just did a very good job in making sure they matched up color-wise. With some photos (like posters) they obviously downloaded them from www.corbis.com because the “corbis” watermark is all over them! :surprised


Noone will really care how you work if you just deliver, so whatever technique gets you going can’t be wrong.

You just need to be able to do basically anything that might come up. Someone who can do amazing sourced textures but can’t paint/draw wont be able to do anything past base material textures and simple combinations, his use will be limited.

If you can blend painted and sourced stuff anytime then you’re on top of things and can work whatever way is the fastest and most fun for you.


Use what ever methods deliver the best results :wink:

It really is that simple.

If you can only create the texture using photos, then go ahead and use photos, it’s really no biggie.

The only thing to bear in mind when texturing with photos, is that it is very rare that you will find photographs that do not contain any lighting information, such as highlights or shadows. It is very important, when incorporating photos into your textures, that you remove that lighting from the pic, or else once you light your own CG scene, there is going to be a discrepancy between the two :wink:


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