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A rendering method that simulates light 

reflecting on an object. It is a much faster ray tracing. The texture is used to store the image of the distant environment surrounding the rendered object.








Original model by: Zeijko Mihajiovic




This is what you'd find on most texture websites. It's a standard photo that you'd get if you stood in front of the material and photographed it. Diffuse maps contain already build light and shadow information.


Albedo texture is very similar to a diffuse map, but with one extra benefit: all the shadows and highlights have been removed. Simpler version of the diffuse map which gives you the freedom to manipulate and create light and shadow information using PBR shaders.

(People also call it: ''The new diffuse'')


ID map is a texture that defines areas of your UVs that belong to different materials. It is used mostly in procedural texturing like allegorithmic's substance designer/painter and quixel's DDO in order to create masks for areas that are metal, leather, cloth, skin, etc and makes sure that those material values only exist within the specified color given in the ID map


A normal map is commonly used to fake high-resolution details on a low-resolution model. Each pixel of the map stores the surface information of the original high-res mesh. This creates the illusion of more surface detail or better curvature. However, the silhouette of the model doesn't change.

The most commonly used is called a Tangent Space normal map

(The blue coloured one)


Bump maps are greyscale images. They create the illusion of depth on the surface of a model using a very simple lighting trick. When values get brighter, details appear to pull out of the surface. When values get darker, they appear to be pushing into the surface. Bump maps are great for creating tiny details on a model. The problem with bump maps is that they break pretty easily if the camera views them from the wrong angle. 


Creating parallax mapped materials always starts with creating a height mapEach pixel's texture coordinates are adjusted at render-time to create an illusion of depth as the viewer's eye moves across a scene.

The virtue of parallax mapping is efficiency. It is the cheapest real-time technique for displacement mapping. As a rule, parallax mapping looks good on walls and floors.


Technique that aims to render bumps as true geometry. Unlike bump mapping, normal, parallax which tries to "fake" bumps Displacement mapping actually displaces the surface with real geometry based on black and white values of the texture map itself.


A specularity map defines how strong the textured surface will 'shine' at a certain position. Most render engines use this information to define the appearance of specular highlights


This not so common map type.

Anisotropy is used to simulate stretched out highlights. In the real world, they are caused by elongated micro-scratches or details that go in the same direction.


vector displacement

Vector displacement displaces on 3 axes of 3 colours, while regular displacement or height along the same normal. 

Rarely used, but useful in some cases.

An example would be a mushroom. Mushroom’s cap grows in a certain directions, it cannot be done properly with Height or Displacement map, because they pull the geometry only in one axis (Up) while Vector displacement works with multiple axes (Sides)


Represent how smooth or rough a surface is. Also called Microsurface. Roughness map controls the specular spread, what you need to consider is controlling where the spread happens and to what degree. Good to use for metals, rust, ice, skin, etc.

environment map

I have created something which could be beneficial and useful for many artist out there. (Primarily for beginners and mid level)

The following content covers 21 different texture types and their usage. 3D is a huge challenge and texturing has always been an essential element to it.

You will find similar information all around the web, but it’s just much easier to have it all at one place. Isn’t it? I am not covering every texture with detailed and long description. I am just providing you a simple guide with basic rules for each texture type. 

Nowadays there are more advanced techniques to achieve realism  such as:

3D scanners and Photogrammetry but those are more advanced topics which I don't have the full knowledge to cover.

I am open to suggestions and criticism if you think something could have been said better from the content below



Height mapping is very similar to displacement map, but it's usually is applied on a terrain, mountains, and larger scale surfaces where the values are only used to modify the vertex height.

Height mapping usually refers to large scale / tessellation based techniques, where displacement mapping usually refers to small scale / raytracing techniques.


Metalness maps are marking materials look as metallic or non-metallic



ambient occlusion

 Ambient occlusion is simply a simulation of the shadowing caused by objects blocking the ambient light. Because ambient light is environmental, unlike other types of lighting, ambient occlusion does not depend on light direction. As such, it can be pre-computed for static objects.


Cavity maps are narrower version of ambient occlusion, keeping dark shadows to crevices and sharp corners only. Useful for hard surfaces texturing. 

Curvature map stores the convexity/concavity of the mesh. It can be used to mask where the surface would get more wear or where sub-surface scattering might occur. You could achive some interesting effects by just putting the curvature map on top of the diffuse and change the mode in Photoshop. Bake with ‘’Crazy Bump’’

Thickness maps are a measurement of how thick/thin a surface is. Typically used for faking light passing through a surface when lit from behind, such as a cat's ear or a stretched hide. It can be used in a Sub Surface Scattering (SSS) shader or directly in the diffuse/albedo to fake a SSS effect.



Emissive map mimics surfaces that emit light, like a computer monitor, a vehicle dashboard at night, or magical effects.

Transparency maps define how opaque a texture is at a certain position. Bright zones mean ean solid areas, dark zones transparent areas.

subsurface scattering

SSS maps fake the behaviour of light bounce inside of a semi-translucent surface, such as skin or wax. The brighter the area the more light passes through.



back scatter


spec. amount

Overall color

Top-most layer of the skin, should look like the skin is drained of all blood (like a dead body), desaturated version of the overall color map.

The level underneath the skin, saturated version of the overall color map with a bit of blur on it.  The lower dermal area contains more blood vessels and typically is the layer that contributes the most red because of this.

Back scatter is what controls the way the material handles light that comes from behind the object. This is due to the light absorption in specific parts of the face for example, ears nose, thin skin areas.

A specularity map defines how strong the textured surface will 'shine' at a certain position. 

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