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Learning to create UV maps and apply textures using Blender

In my last post, I documented my experiences learning the basics of Blender. In the process, I provided a bare-bones guide to using the key modelling tools along with some tips and tricks. This post will continue on from there by taking a brief, but hopefully informative, look at UV maps and textures in Blender. This technique can be used in many ways, for example to create mods for Farming Simulator.

DISCLAIMER: I am still very much a Blender newbie. This guide is showing merely one way of creating UV maps and texturing that I’ve found to work for me.

What is a UV map? A UV map is essentially the 3D surface of a model made 2D by unfolding it. 2D images can then be projected onto the 3D surface of a model using this UV map. What programmes will be required? Other than Blender, a graphics programme (such as paint.net, GIMP, or Photoshop) will also be needed. This will be used to create the 2D texture image to project onto the 3D model.

For those looking for an in-depth tutorial, I would recommend “Blender 2.8: Image Textures & UV Mapping #b3d” by BornCG.

Creating a UV layout in Blender

Once you’re happy with your 3D model, the first step will be to create a new window in Blender. This can be done by placing your cursor in the top right corner (the cursor should turn into a crosshair). Then click and drag to create a new window. This window will be used as a UV editor. To do so, click the drop-down box in the top left of the window and select “UV Editor”. 

The video tutorial linked creates the UV layout by marking the various edges of their 3D object as “Seams”. However, I’ve found that using Blender’s “Smart UV Project” feature makes the process quicker for more complex models. To do this, press “A” to select all and then “U” to bring up the “UV Mapping” drop-down. Once you’ve pressed “OK”, you should see the 2D layout of your model appear within the bounds of the grid in the UV editor window. 

From here, click “UV” and “Export UV Layout”. This will be used as a guide for applying image textures in the next step. It’s important to set the “Fill Opacity” to 0 before saving to make sure the faces of your object appear as transparent. 

It’s at this point you’ll move over to your graphics programme of choice.

Using a UV layout to add textures

Once you open the UV layout in paint.net, for example, you should see a transparent image with only the outlines of the faces from your model. This stage is all about adding the various different textures to this layout using the outlines as a guide. A good website for sourcing images of materials is https://www.textures.com/. However, there are some limitations to this site. A good tip is to add textures on different layers from each other and the UV outline. This will help if you wish to come back later and make edits to each layer. Once you’re happy with your textures, click the “eye” icon on the layer with the outline otherwise it’ll appear on your model. Then, save your image as a .PNG or .JPEG file.

Adding image textures in Blender

Moving back to Blender, the final process is to link the image texture to your 3D model. The first thing you’ll need to do is add another window in Blender. Using the same method before, click the icon in the top left of the window, but this time select “Shader Editor”. This uses “Nodes” which are connected together by “Noodles”. With your object selected, you should see two nodes as standard. What we want to do is add a texture to alter the “Base Color”. 

To do this, click “Add”, “Texture”, and “Image Texture”. This will bring up another node. Using this, click “Open Image” and find the texture you’ve created. All that’s left to do is connect the new node to the “Principled BSDF” node from “Color” to “Base Color” using a noodle. If your texture does not appear on your model, you may need to your “Viewport Shading” from “Solid” to “Rendered”.

To conclude…

I hope you’ve found this post about UV maps and textures in Blender easy enough to follow and contains enough detail. If you have any issues, then, by all means, ask your question in the forums or refer to the linked video tutorial. What’s next? I have some other post ideas rattling around, some of which are Blender related. Keep your eyes peeled!