The Irony of Texturing

For the past several years or so, I’ve dedicated a vast amount of my free time (and time I should’ve allocated for school instead) attempting to create textures in a style similar to Toontown Rewritten.

After analyzing texture artists with styles similar to Rewritten, I learned a very special technique that I’ve never seen many game artists (outside of Toontown) do before – texturing with vectors. There wasn’t any Youtube videos or much documentation whatsoever about this process, so the majority of learning this application was all self-taught and more “go figure it out yourself, buddy.”

From what I attempted to learn on how to texture like a GOD – or at least texture like the many I looked up to, a lot of artists who worked on texturing informed me that they would use “vectors” to make their textures.

So, after about a good three years of trial and error with texturing via vectors, I think I’m well-rounded with this skill. Texturing UVs with the pen tool. Yeah. I thought I was good – but there was a thought-provoking question always on my mind. Is this the technique that industry-level game artists use?

Hand-painting versus vectorizing textures

In hand-painting textures, I usually throw down my drawing tablet out and cross my fingers that my shading won’t break. Personally, I don’t have the most experience in the world when it comes to painting (with a brush) directly ON the UV map or on the model.

Which method is better?

In my personal opinion, it really all depends on the complexity of the UV map, as in:

  • The total amount of UV shells on the UV map(s)
  • The distortion rate of the UV shells on those UV map(s)
  • The difficulty of directly working on the map itself. (as opposed to painting directly on the model)

Vector Pros

  • Easy to modify colors, shading etc
  • Only requires using a mouse & keyboard, tablet not required
  • Smooth Shading is typically done with either using feathering on a flat-shaded vector or using a layer style such as inner shadow, drop shadow…

Painting on the texture

  • UV distortion isn’t typically a hassle to deal with
  • Ability to make the texture more stylistic & detailed
  • Harder to manipulate or modify parts of the texture with ease
  • But, it also relies on the artist’s style and preference. Does the artist feel comfortable painting on a single layer or multiple layers?

Shading Made Simple ~ Generated Maps

When I was an amateur fangirl oozing at the texture maps of some popular games, I took a lot of time studying how they would manually shade on these textures. I was extremely perplexed and continued to brainstorm on what techniques these producers might’ve used to create that one area of shading or whatever. I thought it was just some extreme, calculated, black magic or something. As I thought about it, these mesh-mapped masterpieces looked extremely complex when it came to mapping out where to shade, where to highlight, where to add any ambient shadow, etc. And the fact that these artists had to make probably dozens to HUNDREDS of these for ONE game?? “How!?” I thought. I found the answer to this perplexing mystery June-ish of 2018.

I was working with my friend GREENCAT at the time on practicing texturing, as I had barely any experience working with UV maps (all I did were rather re-textured or just seamless textures, growl.). Some amount of time later, he gave me this AMAZING looking texture – something ive never seen before – that wasn’t a uv map — it was… an AMBIENT OCCLUSION MAP. I had never seen such a strange map before! I was genuinely amazed at what the heck this was.

TLDR: People spend all this time vectorizing shadows and making pixel-perfect detail, while other people just slap on a subsurface scatter map, direct lightmap, and/or an ambient occlusion map and call it a day.

I remember being such a crazy fangirl for much of my childhood, making “content” packs for Toontown Online and Toontown Rewritten. When Toontown Online was a thing, I used this handy-dandy tool called The Spoof Net to ooze upon the content packs other creators had made, especially Nightlife (by The Spoof Net). Man, I tell you. I had always wanted to learn how to make textures, ESPECIALLY making clothing or any wearable apparel. In many years of attempts in trying to decipher the secret code on how to conquer these cursed UV maps, I stumbled upon a strange, mysterious pathway that had a strange sign that directed me to follow this peculiar path.

Okay, that is me tangenting off about something else. Not the point I wanted to make. I’ll probably make another blog post dreading about that – and other crappy Disney UVs. shudder. I’ve tried to explore many many parts of Youtube, Forums, etc. for techniques with texturing, and although I found useful tidbits of advice and such, none at all used vectors. None. In fact, unless someone can prove me otherwise, the only place I’ve seen where texturing via vectorization is used is in [the] Toontown [community].

I remember a night where I was trying to look high and low for examples of others’ texture art, and some of the few videos I did watch over texturing, they were hand painting everything (with a digital brush) and NOT using vectors. Heck, some of them weren’t even using Photoshop – one guy was using BLENDER to make these good-looking textures! (This is probably another tangent of mine, hahah)

Many ways to approach a shirt texture

  • Offset tool
  • Directly applying on the texture
  • in Photoshop
  • in 3D-Coat
  • Fighting the distortion yourself
  • DanTheDucks method
Technical Artist, Texture Artist

I’m me.