December 4, 2011

The Beauty of Tiling Trim Textures

I've been working on The Pit for over a year now. Unfortunately, work has been insanely slow because of multiple distractions and procrastination, but every once in a while I'll catch a creative wind that gets me excited to work on the project again.

Anyways, what's got me excited this time around is the sudden realization that tiling textures play a major role in in large scale environments. Well, I guess I've always known the importance of tiling textures, especially since I've done so much work with them when I was working for Digital Extremes on The Darkness 2. I specifically remember doing pretty much all of Jackie's Mansion (the exterior parts) with tiling textures. When it comes down to it, using tiling textures is the only way to maintain a high fidelity texel density across your whole scene, without going overboard on memory consumption. Don't get me wrong, I think that creating unique pieces for the focal points and other specific areas is definitely warranted, but should be used sparingly.

That was the problem I had with The Pit; I created too many unique assets that couldn't really be re-purposed, and wound up modeling my way into a corner. I burned myself out, because I wasn't getting the modularity I wanted with those specific models. They were only useful in certain situations, and I wanted more than that. The time I was putting into the scene wasn't returning enough satisfaction... so I put the project on hold up until recently.

Notice the meshes designed for radial use. They were modeled for this one unique area.
And therefor can't be used in other areas

When I picked up the Wacom tablet for the first time in months, I figured that the best thing to do was start making assets that would either work like lego pieces, or enable me to quickly create architectural elements that would work like lego pieces. I was also getting sick and tired of making high poly assets and baking down normals, because that takes too much time for someone who doesn't have it. So I went through my texture library and mustered up all of my tiling textures to see what i had to work with.

(bottom right image is made up of 3 layers that are made visible
via vertex colors of the mesh that it's applied to.)

There isn't much on these initial set of textures to really use as trim, other than some of the horizontal patterns on the top right texture. The only thing to do at this point was to make a couple more tiling textures whose sole purpose was to be used as trim, or repeatable patterns on a mesh. As a result, I created a texture with nothing but horizontal, tiling patterns that could be re-arranged via UV space to form several different patterns  to be used on architecture.

Tiling Texture, designed to be used as trim. 
I now have a decent library of textures to start quickly creating and texturing architectural assets. However, another thing I wanted to try and do was create an actual mesh who's sole purpose was to be bent and shaped to create window trim and doorway trim. With this asset i should be able to get high fidelity custom shaped assets that would fit perfectly as decorative trim.

After about 30 minutes of messing around with my trim textures, I was able to come with a much more visual appealing style of wall architecture to use as a decent base. See below:

Looking forward, creating more complicated pieces will be much quicker and much easier now that I have some high quality tiling textures to work with. Thanks for reading.


  1. This is utter brilliance. Your technical and creative genius are a perpetual inspiration to me. I love you.

  2. Sweet! I wanna see a video tour of the scene :)

  3. Thanks guys, I'll have some videos of the scene later on.

  4. Amazing! i Love all of ur works! Keep Going!

  5. I love tiling textures and all that of course. But in a scene like this wouldnt you end up increasing your draw calls like crazy? If each mesh needs 1 tiling texture for brick, and other for trims wouldn't that balloon the draw calls? Or does UDK handle it differently?

  6. Nice article.Though I still have to learn modular modeling and texturing.I can get modular 3d modeling to a certain extent but couldn't understand how to maximize my texel denisty.can anybody give me a link where i can specifically learn that??

  7. I've been using trim textures since the days of ps2 dev... this one ( in particular was almost completely composed of trim textures... if you're a game artist and don't have a few maps of completely horizontal tiling trim textures you're missing out..