3D Models and UV Mapping

by Michele Bousquet

Earlier this year, TurboSquid introduced the UV Mapped attribute for 3D models in response to customer requests. This attribute indicates whether the model’s UV mapping is laid out flat with no overlapping UVs, preferably using one square map. The UV Mapped attribute tells customers whether the object is mapped in this way.

Many TurboSquid customers export models to programs that require laid-out UVs, or plan to re-texture the model after they buy it. Before they part with their cash, such customers want to know that they won’t have to clean up the UVs themselves after buying the model. Not all customers, mind you, but a sufficient number of large production houses mentioned it. We want them to fill their shopping carts more often, and thus the change. Hitpoint Studios, for example, who I interviewed last week, specifically mentioned UV mapping when I talked to them about what they want in a 3D model.

One thing we can be sure of at TurboSquid: any new feature that requires more work from artists is going to generate a lot of commentary. Contrary to the responses on our forums, we didn’t dream this up just to make our artists miserable. We did it to increase customer confidence and get more sales for our artists.

One question we heard from artists regarding the UV Mapped attribute was about simple objects. If Box, Planar, or Cylindrical mapping works just fine, then why, artists asked, should I have to unwrap the mapping? The answer is that you don’t have to; you can leave the UV Mapped attribute set to No on a simple object, and some customers won’t care. On the other hand, it’s really easy to unwrap the mapping on such an object, so it might be worth it to get those extra sales.

What about a 3D model where some parts are unwrapped and others aren’t? If the largest or main part of the model is unwrapped, then you can say it’s UV Mapped. For example, for a building exterior where the walls/doors/windows portion is unwrapped but the doorknobs use spherical mapping, you can set the UV Mapped attribute to Yes. Just be sure to state in the Description that some of the smaller parts of the model use simpler mapping.

Artists also asked whether setting this selection to No will make them look like they don’t know what they’re doing. The answer to this question is, of course not. Every 3D artist uses simple mapping when it’s called for, and customers are aware of this. Any explanation about the mapping you used can always be added to the Description section of the product preview.

If you do unwrap your mapping and set the UV Mapped attribute to Yes, customers will expect to see a screenshot of your unwrap layout in your thumbnails. Even if you watermark this thumbnail, customers will still be able to tell that you did it right.

If you’re a TurboSquid customer, how important do you consider this attribute? And if you’re an artist, do you still think we added it just to annoy you?

11 Responses to “3D Models and UV Mapping”

  1. Kupfer says:

    I think that all depends on complexity of model. For example what for UVW for a glass vase or the steel refrigerator? And here for example or a blanket it is very necessary for curtains. The client wants to see this option.

  2. Phil says:

    I think for some models its a great idea, keeps things nice and clean. But for a lot of models that have mostly procedural materials on them it would be unnecessary. Also saying UV mapped is different from unwrapped. I can have a model with lets say a bunch of wood pieces on it and they can all be UV mapped and look fine but they might not be unwrapped with no overlapping maps. I think the check box should read UV unwrapped. I think the unwrap applies more to lower poly models. (not always of course) Just my thoughts.

  3. Shiva3d says:

    Yes. its a big difference with “UV mapped” and… “UV mapped”.
    This check box don`t give any real info about maping type or quality.
    I just put preview of UV layout or texture to show how exactly my models is mapped.

  4. Max says:

    The name of this feature doesn’t represent what you described in any way.
    According to description it should have been called “Unique UV mapping” that means there is 0 overlapping.
    99% modeling in professional game development uses overlapping. There are lots of repeating parts. For example a character with 2 swords obviously doesn’t have 2 separate sword textures in a square pattern.
    If a car model has just 1 wheel texture in a pattern instead of 4 ones does this mean that car model doesn’t have UV mapping?

  5. mostlysquare says:

    Now I’m confused, Michele. What exactly unwrapping stands for in this article? Does it mean unwrapping the entire mesh and painting over it? It works fine for an organic model where textures kind of blend into each-other, but its difficult with composite objects – a sword for that matter. So if I separately UV-map each material keeping it still within a single UV, can I still call it “unwrapped”?

    David Lynn

  6. Michele Bousquet says:

    Great questions, guys. I am asking a couple of the guys here at TurboSquid who initiated this new feature to chime in and talk more about its origins and its name.

  7. Hey everyone – this is Beau from TurboSquid. You all make valid points about the mapping name. It is currently a bit confusing but based on a good deal of artist feedback we are making some changes internally to the metadata choices for this field so that it will fully clarify the intent. Ultimately what our customers have told us repeatedly is that they want to know if the model is completely UV Unwrapped (and if so, how is it laid out), a combination of Unwrapping and standard mapping, uses all standard mapping or not mapped at all. This impacts their buying decisions and the more information we can provide so that it fits their work pipeline, the more likely they are to buy. For now, if you’re unwrapping your UVs in any manner, then you can call it Unwrapped.

    @Phil – Actually, if you’re using procedural materials (like the new Substances in Max and Maya 2011), you should still inform the customer of how the mapping is handled. If you don’t use any, then we will simply ask you to say so. There isn’t a right/wrong way to map an object here – we just want the customer to know before they buy and get a surprise they didn’t expect.

    @Shiva3d – Good to hear that you provide a preview of your UVs. That should go a long way to removing any doubt in the customer’s mind on what they can expect when they purchase something you’ve created.

    @Max – You are correct, game developers often use mirrored UVs and re-use texture portions on their models to save texture space. This is perfectly acceptable and some of our clients won’t care about that overlap. Likewise, those customers who need models that will be exported to ZBrush or Mudbox for further manipulation will not generally want this sort of overlapped UV layout as it makes painting in those apps less than ideal. All we’re asking of our vendors is to present their UV method to the customer so they can make an informed decision.

    @mostlysquare – I’ve seen both organic and hard-surface models UV Unwrapped so it’s definitely doable when required. And as I’ve mentioned previously, there is no right/wrong in this respect. You can take each element of your model and unwrap it individually in one or more UV space tiles and still call it unwrapped. Or you can have all of your UV Islands in one frame. Either way, it’s still considered unwrapped.

    I hope that helps.

  8. Phil says:

    So if I have a model with several parts some of which have box/cylinder UV maps on them and other parts that are fully unwrapped would I check the box at this point or does the model have to be fully unwrapped? Also, part of a model might have simple metal on it which might not require mapping and other parts like say wood that need it. I guess what I’m asking is do we need to describe the mapping for all the parts of the model? I understand its nice to know how and if the model is mapped which is what I’m guessing you guys are trying to do here.

  9. Beau Perschall says:

    @Phil – The idea of mixed mapping techniques is part of what our artists have indicated is important to distinguish. It’s rare that a single type of mapping method (unwrapped / standard / none) is used, and we’re looking to address that shortly. And you won’t have to go completely overboard, either your model will be mostly unwrapped or mostly standard or not use any mapping.

    I DO think your question about describing it is valuable too – the more information you can provide the better.

    I hope that helps.

  10. Max says:

    These are indeed logical requests you are getting from customers. They want to know the details before they buy an asset. Though don’t try to automate everything possible.
    It is impossible to put 20 checkboxes describing exact customer’s needs for each model.
    Obvious solution will be to simply answer customer’s requests by checking exact model he is requesting info about. This is a job of your support team after all.
    Just adding that UnwrapUV checkbox alone you have caused lots of confusion among all the vendors and more important it still doesn’t give a clear answer to customers.
    So we end up setting a checkbox on and giving detailed description on what kind of UV mapping there is and providing the UV layout.

  11. Beau Perschall says:

    @Max – Correct. Customers want more information and we want to provide it. As I mentioned, we will be updating the UV Mapping metadata field shortly to make it easier for artists to understand and use when publishing new models.

    And of course, we’re also going to encourage customers to ask questions before they buy as well. :)

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