What is 3D texturing?

Model and texture by CG Spectrum grad John Olofinsky

4minutes read


What does a 3D Texture Artist do?

A 3D Texture Artist creates stylized or natural textures and materials that are then applied to 3D models and environments in games, films, or TV shows. They play an important role in the VFX Pipeline.

Whether texturing game models or film assets, Texture Artists use a variety of texturing software and techniques. They may use Photoshop or Mari to paint high-resolution image textures or use scanned-in 3D data; or build procedural materials (a network of properties that can be changed fairly easily) in a program like Substance Designer (see video below for examples). 

A Day in the Life of a 3D Texture Artist

A Texture Artist's job is often to make things photoreal. Say an artist has been tasked with texturing a tank for a war movie or video game. The artist begins gathering reference images online. Depending on the project, there may be an opportunity to observe and take photos of similar textures/objects in the real world. In the case of a tank, an army or war history museum may have additional photos, resources or similar vehicles on display to take photos of.

The artist may also need to research the specific time period and location to gather more information on types of materials available then, typical colors, textures, and how materials might age. A good Texture Artist might collect these images to build a library for future projects. 

Check out the textures applied to the 3D tank model below. Notice the mud, rust, shiny vs dull metal, etc. Depending on how the tank is used throughout the movie or game, it may need to be covered with more layers of mud over time, show more or less wear and tear, or if it will be exposed to rain, the amount of specularity (reflection) needs to be factored.

3D model and texture of German tank (the Pz.Kpfw VI Ausf.H Tiger) by CG Spectrum Alumnus John Olofinskiy


Textures applied to model (work by John Olofinsky)


Once research is complete, the Texture Artist decides the best way to capture this information. If practical, they may get a scanner and scan an actual object, or they'll create procedural material from scratch using a node-based workflow. Procedural materials allow the team to experiment with the final look.

3D material technologies are improving by the day, so Texturing Artists must keep up to date with new tools and techniques to stay relevant and get work.

Chappie and Optimus Prime 3D modeling and texturing by CG Spectrum graduate John Olofinskiy (view full demo reel).


How to Become a 3D Texture Artist

Successful 3D Texture Artists are able to translate true physical properties of objects into the digital space. This includes properties like color, reflectivity, metalness and more. In many cases the properties will change depending on factors like precipitation, age, temperature, etc. It's good to have knowledge of the properties of organic objects like plants and flowers, as well as inorganic objects like a steel railing or a cement walkway. Think about what these objects look like on the inside too, as the effect may also require those textures.

3D Texture Artists also need to understand UV mapping, and how textures are used in different applications. Try to get familiar with UV mapping in popular software like Maya, Houdini, Modo, and 3ds Max. Learn how to bake out texture maps and which renderers use metal roughness workflows and which use specular glossiness workflows. These details are extremely important to ensure you deliver the right types of textures when you start working.

paul-griffin-hydroponics-lab-4-800x436Hydroponics Lab by CG Spectrum grad Paul Griffin

Tips to Get a Texture Artist Job
  1. Build a Versatile Texture Artist Portfolio
    A strong portfolio is essential for getting a texturing job. Many Texture Artists are also 3D Modelers and can show off both skillsets in their portfolio. If you aren't a Modeler, find free 3D models to texture from sites like TurboSquid.

  2. Gear Your Portfolio Towards Your Dream Projects
    If you want to work on sci-fi projects, tailor some of your texturing portfolio towards that type of project. For example, a spaceship shot in Avengers: Endgame would have a whole host of textures including metallic, building, pavement, and textures for the glow of the spaceship. 

  3. Show Off Different Techniques
    Learn how to create 3D textures using scan data as well as procedural work. Add them to your portfolio to show you understand how properties change with different elements in a scene. If you create a stone walkway, show how it looks on a sunny day, as well as with puddles after a storm.

  4. Take a Course
    If you don't feel like your skills are there yet, even after watching online texturing tutorials and reading everything you can on the subject, consider taking a course. CG Spectrum's online 3D modeling courses that cover both modeling and texturing to increase your versatility as an artist.  You'll start off with a solid foundation, and under the guidance of your industry mentor, work your way up to more complex pieces. You'll learn industry standard software used by top studios and graduate with several original pieces for your portfolio - ready to show employers!

  5. Practice, Practice, Practice!
    The best way to improve is to keep at it! Work on personal projects, experiment with new tools, share your work, learn from critiques, and keep an eye out for competitions. If your work is good enough, you may even be able to sell it on sites like Gumroad. Artists sometimes create and sell textures, brushes and assets for film and games online for extra income. Buying textures can save time for large companies and indie game creators and filmmakers, so they are often willing to pay for quick solutions. Showing prospective employers that your work is in demand and getting noticed can help you stand out.

Pietro-Trizzulo-Rookies-Comp-Peaky-Blinders-Final-800x450CG Spectrum student Pietro Trizzulo was a finalist in 2019 Rookies competition (see breakdowns)

Texture Artist Salary Expectations

Glassdoor states the average 3D Texture Artist salary is about USD$69,232/yr. with various other sources reporting a range of about $47,000 to $96,000. However, many Texture Artists can also model and increasing your versatility as an artist boosts your chances of getting a job. Positions that require you to be both a 3D Modeler and Texture Artist often earn more too. This is especially the case at smaller companies. At a larger company, specialized Texturing Artists are often necessary, but during crunch time, a VFX Artist who can texture and model can be a real lifesaver!

Learn 3D Modeling and Texturing From Industry Pros!

Whether you're just starting out, changing careers, or upgrading your skills, our online 3D Modeling courses will have you modeling and texturing from scratch using expert techniques used by top studios. Progress faster with mentorship from industry pros who have worked on major films and games. 


Tags:   Tips & Tutorials