Design Visualization

First Looks: Essential Textures

28 Feb, 2003 By: Patrick Davis Cadalyst

Easy-to-use materials and effects.

Essential Textures
Materials and effects

pros: Many options; inexpensive.
cons: No tutorials.
price: $195

800.854.4496, 504.468.7898

Some purists like to create everything from scratch, including texture maps. There's nothing wrong with this, if you have the time and skill. If you're like me, though, you have deadlines to meet, and there aren't enough hours in the day to get the modeling, lighting, texturing, and rendering done, let alone create every texture map from scratch.

Essential Textures from Digimation is a collection of 48 procedural maps for 3ds max 1.0 and higher and Autodesk VIZ 1.0 and higher. Essential Textures lets you build a wide variety of materials and effects suitable for print graphics, architectural, mechanical, forensic, and scientific visualization. You can create organics, transitions, game, grid, projections, LED counters, and even radarscopes.

In addition to the procedural maps plug-in, Essential Textures adds 17 sample material libraries with dozens of preset materials and effects that you access via the material editor. The examples use both individual and

Brandon Riza created these images with Digimation’s Essential Textures. See more of his work at
combinations of Essential Textures' procedural maps. Though there are dozens of samples, I'd like to see a few tutorials that walk through the process of building a material or effect. The product does come with a spiralbound user's guide and a corresponding online version.

The documentation does a great job of detailing the myriad texture control options available in Essential Textures. It also covers a bit of basic theory and guidelines on when it's appropriate to use a procedural map.

With 48 procedural maps and their corresponding texture controls, there are far too many options to discuss one by one. We'll go over a few top ones. The Burnish procedural is a brush pattern you see on different types of metal. The Crumpled procedural is terrific for creating a crumpled paper or a chipped glass effect. The Machinery procedural is great for adding items that resemble conduits, circuit traces, and even building complexes. My favorite is the Streak procedural, which adds long, thin grain-like features to your model to create the effect of wood, particleboard, or anything scratched. You can animate each procedural and adjust antialiasing within the material editor. You can also add some irregularity to your texture without distorting the model geometry.

If you're familiar with 3ds max's material editor, you should be able to use many of Essential Textures' procedural maps immediately. To make the most of Essential Textures and its many texture control options, set aside a few hours to read through the manual and pick apart some of the examples.

Essential Textures provides a comprehensive set of maps to build just about anything you want. With Essential Textures, it's easy to create believable surfaces. You don't need to spend a lot of time in Photoshop to create a bit-map. Essential Texturesis relatively inexpensive and a useful addition to 3ds max. You are limited only by your own imagination in creating materials and effects. For more information, sample images, and demos, point your browser to Digimation's web site.

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