Textures are simply images that can be applied to geometry within either a game engine or dedicated 3D modeling software such as Blender. Blender has the capabiltiy to produce photorealistic graphics based upon using advanced textures which form complex materials.
Materials are essentially a set of textures and settings combined to form a more advanced and detailed look for the geometry it is attached to. A material will likely consist of two or more textures to form a realistic detailed material. This might include...
- Coloured/Diffused textures (Standard Image with RGB information)
- Normal Map (A altered version of the diffuse image usually colour coded to represent depth information)
- Height Map (Similar to a normal map however uses values between 0-1/Black-White to represent height values) This can be used for terrain in most cases also.
- Specular Map (This is used to determine a surfaces shine values with similar ranges to height maps
- Occlusion Map (This is used to tell the program which parts of the surface should hide from light effects)
The above maps are some of the availbe maps that can be used as textures to form complex materials. The point of them is to save on CPU processing. Each layer is just a 2D image with 'colour code' information to tell the computer how to make lights react to the material. So it costs less power in comparrison to hand modeling the detail into the model you are texturing. The above map samples where made using a free porgram called Crazy Bump which allows you to create the maps with ease as long as you have one of the original maps (Diffuse). Crazy Bump allows the user to edit and manipulate the values of each map and export them to a folder for use in other programs. Which is a great tool for the project.
The Combined Maps that form a higher detailed material (Crazy Bump)
There are some other methods that are used in game development to again help save on CPU processing. And that is a method I learnt from Blender Guru which is known as Normal Baking. This is the process of using a low poly mesh with a high poly baked texture to save on geometry but keep most of the detail in a baked normal map.
Bake Normal Video. [6DL]