Using Textures Wisely and Well
If you put into practice everything you’ve learned so far about texturing, you will be known for making excellent objects. However, there are just a couple more things you should know to use textures like a pro.
Using Too Many Textures or Lots of High Resolution Images are the #1 source of Scene Lag!
The number and size of textures you use to texture an object or scene can affect the amount of lag someone experiences as they walk through your build. Lag is a slow down in performance of the viewer. If you’ve ever tried to move or walk and you find that your avatar isn’t responding as quickly as usual, or that everything just seems sluggish, or the objects in the scene look grey and take a long time to come into focus, that might be because the builder wasn’t careful and used either too many textures, or textures that were too high in resolution!
Textures that haven’t loaded or “rezzed” yet look grey.
A simple rule to remember is the more textures you use, the more lag visitors will experience. Using as few textures as possible, and textures that are as small as possible, can make everything come into focus much more quickly and make the experience much more pleasant for your visitors.
An image’s size, or resolution, refers to how many pixel columns and rows appear in the image. The higher the resolution, the more pixels there are in the image, and the bigger the image’s file size becomes. As with anything else you download on the internet, the bigger the file size, the longer it takes to download, and the same thing happens with your viewer! If a builder uses a lot of high resolution images, or uses a lot of different images, then the viewer takes more time to download and display the images for the user.
For the mathematically inclined, viewers display images in factors of 16, so no matter what size or resolution the image is on your hard drive, when you upload the texture to the OpenSimulator server, it will convert the image to the closest factor of 16.
Step 1. Finding the size (or resolution) of a texture
When you double-click on any texture in your Inventory, a Texture Preview window will open. At the bottom left is the size (resolution) of the texture. The larger the numbers, the greater the size (resolution) of the texture.
Open your Inventory and navigate to the OpenSim Library > Texture Library folder. Now find the texture called “4-tile2” and double click to view it.
See the Dimensions at the bottom? This texture is 256 pixel columns across by 256 pixel rows horizontally.
Tip: Choosing smaller textures for most of your build will make it come into focus faster and lessen lag. Save the largest textures for when you need a lot of detail. For most projects, you can use textures that are 256 x 256 or even 128 x 128.
Professional builders pay very close attention to the size of their textures and use the smallest textures possible for things like walls, trim, floors, and other background or general scene objects. They save larger textures, like 512×512, for objects that are areas of focus or items that need to show more detail. The largest texture size you can use in most OpenSimulator grids is 1024×1024, and that should be reserved for signs with text, large maps, or other items that really do require a higher resolution to view properly.
Note: If you are handy with Photoshop or another image editor, resize your images before you import them! Using a texture that is 256 x 256 will be faster than using one that is 512 x 512.
Step 2. Looking at the number of textures in a build
Let’s say you’re going to build a house. How many textures will you need to use? Perhaps you will need a siding texture for the outside, a wooden floor texture, and a wallpaper texture for the inside.
Can you re-use the wooden floor texture on some of the furniture inside too? And maybe use color tinting and offset to make the same texture look a little different?
If you think before you texture, you can reduce the number of textures you use in a build. Ask yourself:
- Can I use repeat, offset, rotation or tint to make the different faces look unique?
- What about using shininess or bumpiness to vary a look?
- Is there a specific part of a texture I can use to make a prim look different from other prims in my object?
Keep in mind that when you upload a texture, the server assigns that texture a unique identifier, known as a UUID. If you upload the exact same texture a second time, the second upload will be given a new UUID.
If you use both textures in your build, the server will have to send both files to your viewer, so it will take twice as long to display even though it is the exact same image! This is why it is important to think carefully about how many textures you use!
Tip: If you are doing a big build as a group, decide together on the textures you will use, and be sure to only upload the image once and then share the same texture file among everyone on your build team. Using fewer textures will really make a large build appear f-a-s-t!
Using Poorly Made or Garish Textures Can Make a Great Build Look Horrible!!
In the real world, someone could build a perfectly nice house, but if the person who comes to paint it isn’t a professional and does a poor job, then that beautiful house can be the ugliest eyesore in the neighborhood. No one wants to live next to a neighbor with a garishly painted house, either!
The same is true of your builds in the virtual world! Nothing can ruin a great build faster than poorly made or garish textures.
If you are going to be building in a community or with other people, then you want to make sure that your textures or aesthetic style isn’t going to clash with everyone else’s tastes.
If the whole area uses very realistic textures, and your textures look cartoony or abstract, then visually, your build doesn’t blend in well with the community and that can be very disruptive for visitors.
Make sure to talk with your neighbors and be observant of the style of architecture and textures they use. You can still be creative and unique, but don’t be the neighbor with the crazy weird house!
Attention to Detail is the Mark of a Great Builder!
When you get busy building, it’s easy to get lost in the big picture of putting all the elements of a scene together, but if you fail to pay attention to the little details, all those little shortcuts – sloppy corners, bad texture alignment, flickering overlapping textures – will turn your great build into something that’s only mediocre.
Look at this walkway path intersection. The texture the builder used for the path is ok, but the builder didn’t take the time to make sure the texture repeats were properly set, so the bricks on some parts of the path appear to be squished or stretched. This really distracts from the experience of walking on the path – it’s not only a little disorienting, it also doesn’t look very nice.
Being a great builder takes time, care, and patience, just like being a carpenter in real life. You can’t rush great quality, it only comes from taking the care and time to make sure that prim adjoins the next prim just so, and the texture on one face lines up just right with the texture on the other face. We all take a shortcuts now and then, but take too many, and it really degrades the quality of your work.
Look at these two kitchen models. It’s the same, identical build, they both are textured nicely, but the second one looks a little nicer, a little more professionally done. Can you tell the difference?
The kitchen on the bottom used a slightly shaded texture as the base for all the cabinet faces, and it makes it seem as if light is reflecting off the surfaces, giving the kitchen a little more depth and variation. These simple tricks, and paying attention to the details of your textures, can move your builds from good to great!
You now know more than most people do about texturing! Good job! Just practice what you’ve learned and you will create objects that people love to look at.
If you are using the PRIMLAND Tutorial game, stop here and continue on the path!