Seamless textures take two

After learning how to make seamless textures yesterday, I became a bit obsessed with it, taking pictures all over the place and trying to turn them into textures.

And I discovered that that turning bricks and boards — anything with a large, regular pattern — into a seamless texture is a lot harder than it looks.

At first, I tried the quick-and-dirty approach, using Paint: select and copy the texture, use properties to double the width of the images, flip the image horizontally, then paste in the original texture. Now select everything and copy it again, double the height of the image, flip it vertically, and paste.

The result is a bit of a kaleidoscope effect:

My brick texture, made seamless by mirroring it.

When you put it on a wall, it creates a cool pattern:

Mirroring an image creates a seamless texture with a symmetrical pattern.

In fact, a lot of the textures I had in my inventory have a similar pattern — they were created by mirroring a single tile.

To figure out how to get rid of this pattern, I went back to Google and picked up some new GIMPing skills.

And found that trying to turn original photographs into seamless textures posed three main difficulties:

1. The camera is always off-kilter. You think you’re holding it nice and even, but when you look at the photo on the computer screen, it turns out that none of the vertical lines are vertical, and the horizontal lines aren’t horizontal. It’s not just a matter of rotating the photos into place, either — they also get skewed by perspective, like railroad tracks meeting in the distance. GIMP has tools to fix rotation and perspective, but they take a lot of fiddling. I could never get it to line up right.

2. The pictures are never evenly lit. One side — or one corner — is always brighter or darker than the rest. There are things you can do with layers and overlays to fix this. Or maybe have better lighting when you take the photo.

3. To fix the seams, you can use GIMP’s Layer-Transform-Offset function, offset the image by half its width and half its height, and then smooth out the seam by using cloning brushes, smudge correction and copy-and-paste, or putting layers over each other in various degrees of transparency.

It can take hours to turn a single image into a seamless texture. Okay, the second and third one go faster, but it is still an enormous amount of work.

There is professional software out there that can do it for you, but it costs money. And I’m not sure my texturing phase will last past the end of this weekend.

But Google came to my rescue again — there’s a free program out there that does nothing but turn images into seamless photos, and does it very, very, very easily: Texture Studio, a free, open source program.

Creating a seamless texture is a quick, easy process that the program takes you through, in a very intuitive way. The rotation and perspective problem is fixed in the first step, by positioning the four corners of your texture tile where you want them in the photo.

Then it lets you correct the lighting, the contrast, and blur the seams, with a slider at each way point so you can decide how much to do of each.

You can also set the desired size of the final texture, and whether the tiling will be horizontal, vertical, or both.

Same starting image, this time with the seamless texture created in Texture Studio.

The only issue I have with it is that it only lets you pick image files that are in the same folder as the program itself, which is a minor quirk but easy enough to deal with.

 

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

  • As an extra hint for making seamless textures (and this is more about how it will look in the final render – that is viewed by someone) is to avoid structures in the image that clearly shows the tiled nature of the image.

    For example, in your above image, the large black colouration on the brick is easily seen to be repeated as the image is tiled, making it obvious that the image is a tiled image and not a complete texture in itself.

    Sometimes you want this effect, but most times you will want to try to avoid it so as to make the object you are texturing seem more realistic.

    It is often hard to avoid, and it takes more work, but the result is usually a much better looking production.

  • w00t! that’s awesome! =)

    this has become a great creative outlet for you!

    can’t wait to see Marias-Open-Source-OpenSim-Textures.com (mosot.com?)

  • Susannah Avonside

    Great post, but sadly the download link no longer seems to work, all I get is a 404 error 🙁

    I make textures myself too, but entirely in GIMP without using photos as I’m unsure whether the graphic standard of OpenSim is suitable to ‘photreal’ textures, but that is a subjective matter.