Texture mapping is a powerful shading technique which maps a texture image to a surface to create realism[1][2]. Without texture mapping, an object may appear solid, smoothly shaded between colours or if geometric details are needed, has to be rendered using small polygons[3][4]. The advantage of using this technique is that it requires only a modest increase in rendering time to create high level of details in an object.[5]. In addition, surface properties can be represented without needing to model the geometric or material details [6]. Take for example figure 1, which illustrates the effect of texturing in a scene.

The effect of texturing

Figure 1: An image from Li-Yi Wei’s Crash Course in Texturing article illustrating the effect of texturing

Edwin Earl Catmull (the current president of the Walt Disney Animation Studio and Pixar Animation Studios) pioneered texture mapping and its application towards 3D graphics[Figure 2: A portrait of Edwin Earl Catmull]. This discovery became what Blinn [7] called the start of texture ‘revolution’.

A portrait of Edwin Earl Catmull

Figure2: A portrait of Edwin Earl Catmull (the current president of the Walt Disney Animation Studio and Pixar Animation Studios)

To illustrate this technique, take a polygon and an image [Figure 3]. In basic texture mapping, the image is applied to the polygon and is done by assigning texture coordinates to the polygon’s vertices. A texture image is held at each texture co-ordinates and is then interpolated across the polygon to determine which polygon pixel will contain that texture image. When this polygon is finally viewed on the screen, the viewer will see the portion of the image mapped to the polygon. [8]

Texture mapping has a wide range of implementation towards modifying the appearance of an object. For example, it can simulate bumpy surfaces (Bump mapping), modify the geometric position of an object’s surface by the use of a displacement texture (displacement mapping), modulate the opacity of a translucent object(transparency mapping), control the glossiness of a surface (specularity mapping) and the mapping of specular or diffuse reflection (illumination mapping)[5][7][9]. For this web based essay, the author will concentrate on 2D texture mapping techniques in general such as:

  • Displacement
  • Bump mapping
  • Environment mapping
  • Cube Mapping

Next Map Shapes…


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