Tips & Tricks: Making UDK Textures

The Unreal Development Kit is a fantastic editor that comes preloaded with static meshes, textures, materials, sounds, and more, making it that much easier to build levels. But sometimes, all of that preloaded stuff just doesn’t work for the level you want to make, which leaves you with two options: make your own stuff or download free-to-use assets. Even with the slew of awesome free assets available to you online, you still might not be able to find exactly what you want, and making your own from scratch might be a bit out of your league. When it comes to making textures and materials for UDK, however, you can use a combination of these two methods to get just the look you’re going for, saving time that can be spent further polishing the actual level.

Keep reading to learn more about making your own textures, and materials, in UDK!

The Difference Between Texture and Material

If you’ve used UDK before, you may have noticed that you do not really use textures, or rather, you do not directly apply them to anything in your level. It seems somewhat strange at first, but materials are what you apply to your in-game assets, not textures. Materials are comprised of one or more 2D textures, which include the normal texture, normalmaps, specularity, etc. By combining several different texture files, a material is created that can now be applied to all of your assets and BSP. I will discuss how to create a material in UDK a little later on, but you will need to first create a texture that you will use. If you’d like to learn a bit more about materials and textures, check out this video.

Finding Free Textures

If you’re like me, you might not have the time or know-how to create your own textures from scratch, so using free ones seems like your best option. There are tons of free textures on the internet, but there are a few things to look for to make sure they will work properly. First off, you want to use high resolution files; otherwise, your textures are going to look blurry or blown-up, which will make your level look, well, bad. Second, check for tiling, which ensures that when multiples of the same texture are placed next to each other, they will flow seamlessly, without any lines or cut-offs between textures. Third, square textures will typically work the best since they are easiest to tile, although there are some rectangular textures that can tile together well. When you think you’ve found a texture, open it up in a program like Photoshop, and make sure that it that it is going to work within a few of UDK’s constraints. UDK requires all textures to be scaled to a power of 2 for it to even import properly. For example, 256×256 or 512×512 for square textures, or 256×128 for rectangular textures. Remember that these numbers are not the only sizes you can use for your textures; they are just a few examples, so feel free to size them to any number so long as it is a power of 2. It should also be noted that if you download a small texture and try to scale it to make it larger, it is going to look blown-up, so stick to high resolutions if you can. There is a nice section in the blocking in chapter in “Game Development Essentials: Game Level Design” that discusses this and other useful information on textures.

Free Texture Resources

Below are a few sites I’ve found that offer a nice collection of free textures:

  • CG Textures: This is one of the favorites among game developers, as it offers a large collection and labels which textures are tiled and which are not. I highly recommend using this site.
  • Free Stock Textures: This site breaks down their textures by category, but also allows you to search by color. Because they are all photographic textures, tiling might be difficult.
  • Zen Textures: This one offers very high quality textures, but again, tiling might be an issue.
  • Texture King: More photographic textures.
  • Mayang’s Free Texture Library: A rather large collection of high quality photographic textures.

Photoshop Is Your Friend

Unless you are perfectly happy with the texture you’ve found, it probably could use some tweaking to make it fit better into your level. My texture creation process begins with finding a base texture, one that I particularly like but might look too realistic or clean. I open up the base texture in Photoshop (a similar program will work just fine) and test it out to make sure that it tiles properly and fits the power of 2 restriction. If it doesn’t check out, you might want to find a new texture, or you can edit it until it checks out. Next, I find a few other textures to layer on top of the base texture. These include grunge or other textures that make the base texture look more worn. Usually the textures I find aren’t quite the right color I’m looking for, so I either create a new layer with the desired color or use the hue/saturation tool to get the right color. Tweaking textures to look perfect is going to take some time, especially if you’re a beginner, but by doing these fairly simple steps, you can quickly get better looking textures for your levels.

Importing into UDK

Before you import your new texture into UDK, be sure that it fits within the power of 2 rule, or it won’t even import. It should also be saved as a .png, .bmp, .psd, or .tga  file type. To import, open up UDK and the content browser, and click the Import button at the bottom of the content browser. Find your texture and click open, which will bring up the import options window. There are a lot of different options you can select, but I won’t go into all of them this time. You do want to make sure the Package field is the same name as the package you want to import into, and when naming the texture, make sure that there are no spaces. There are a lot of different options you can select, but I won’t go into all of them this time. The two I usually select are “Create Material,” which will create a new material of the texture once imported, and “RGB to Diffuse,” which links the texture to the material’s diffuse color. After you’ve selected all of the desired options, click the OK button to import. Once imported, the content browser will open up the package you selected and show the new texture and the new material. The material will probably be the standard checkerboard right now, so to fix this, simply right click on the material and click “Recompile Material.” And you have now successfully imported your first texture and material into UDK! This is an easy way to import new textures, but if you’d like to learn some more in-depth tricks, I’d recommend checking out the UDN’s Content Creation guides; just scroll down to the Textures and Materials section.

I’m certainly no expert in creating textures, but this process is a quick way of getting a more fitting look for your levels. There are a lot of great texture artists out there, so if you’d like to learn more on creating your own textures, try checking them out for inspiration or find yourself some good tutorials. Texturing is an art itself, but it can be a useful skill to have as a level designer, especially for solo projects and prototypes. If you have any questions or have something you’d like to add, feel free!

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  1. Hey cool post i found exactly what i was looking for………….i am learning UDK and wanted to experiment with textures…..i appreciate your efforts……..

    • thomps333
    • February 18th, 2012

    Wow, thank you SO MUCH with the tips on how to import objects. I just got the UDK 2012 a couple days ago and I don’t think I would have figured out how to import textures, without your help. I new about selecting Create Material but didn’t know the second one had to be RGB. I was stuck on that option until I read your post. I’m so excited to finally start putting in my own objects and textures and having fun. Thanks again :)

    • anon
    • April 16th, 2012

    nice article but it should probably be called ‘what are textures’ instead

    • Fat Aido
    • October 26th, 2012

    This is the most informative page on the net to help me work out the differences between textures and materials. I am truly grateful.

  2. Great tips! and thanks for the web links. :)

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  1. January 22nd, 2013

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