Introduction to Texturing with Cycles in Blender

Hello and welcome to this introductory tutorial on texturing with Cycles in Blender!

In this Blender tutorial Jonathan Williamson gives you an introduction on setting up your material shaders with textures for Cycles in Blender.


What you’ll learn:

Through this tutorial you should gain a solid understanding texturing with Cycles in Blender, including how to take existing texture maps (diffuse, spec, bump) and use them in material shaders to create the various surfaces you require for your project. You will learn how to set up the textures through both the Material Properties and the Node Editor while being shown distinct advantages of each method.

Along with texture map setups, you will also learn how to set up and HDRI environment texture for the lighting and how to use node groups for easy reuse of existing node setups.

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139 Responses to “Introduction to Texturing with Cycles in Blender”
  1. Posts: 2
    jay says:

    Can you tell me what GPU you used for this tutorial? I’m shopping for a new computer and I’d like to find out the best gfx board for the money (to run Blender) – do you have any recommendations?

    • Posts: 3612

      Hi jay, I was using a GTX 580. It’s a great card and I highly recommend it! Personally I would go for an EVGA branded one.

      • Posts: 2
        jay says:

        Hi Jonathan,

        Thanks for the reply. I should have mentioned that I’m looking for a mobile card. Do you have any hands on experience with either the GTX680M or the GTX675MX? Do you know which GPU feature contributes most to Cycles performance, i.e., CUDA cores, clock, etc.?

        Thanks again for the reply!!


      • Posts: 8
        Clay says:

        I had a GTX580 and yes it is a fantastic card, however in my new laptop I am using a Quadro K5000M and let me tell you, there is no comparison :)

        However get ready to leave your wallet and deed to your house with Nvidia. It is not cheap.

    • Posts: 1
      Ryan Ward says:

      I have this exact same problem, and I literally have no idea how to solve it. :( Any help would be greatly appreciated!

      • Posts: 7
        tardigrade says:

        Hi Ryan,
        I am thinking you should check to see how you did your UV unwrap.
        If you choose the first option at the top of the list which simply says “unwrap” it will cause the image to repeat over and over on the sphere.
        Try to unwrap again and use “smart UV project”.
        This should spread your texture image out over the sphere.
        Hope this helps until you get a better answer!

  2. Posts: 5

    Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for all the great tutorials.
    Are you still using the GTX 580 GPU? I hear that the newer GTX 600 series are not as good. Do you have any experience with newer GPU’s?

    • Posts: 57
      dolores 74 says:

      This tutorial has taken away the ‘big’ from the mystery. It still is a mystery to me but not that big anymore. It’s getting better all the time. You do talk fast Jonathan, English is not my mother tongue. But that’s the benefit of a video, I can rewind as many times as I want.

      That .hdr file you mention briefly ? That’s a study on its own. Bought a 79,4 MB .hdr file but something can’t handle it, Blender stops working. Maybe my graphic card needs more ram. So I had to cut back to the 656 kB free version of it and then it works but then again, only in CPU render mode.

      You can clearly see the effect of the specular map on the left wing. Without the specular map the letters shine too much. Also, all those tiny black lines. Without the specular map the fine line around the cockpit, as well as the others are almost not visible, they are light grey. Everything that is a line, a sign or a letter is black, the rest is white in the specular map. Plugged that map into the color slot of the glossy BDSF. Could’ve plugged it also into the displacement slot of the output node to make it a bump map but that was way over it. I think those tiny details must be subtle.

      The cockpit I learned from Kent. I found one of his tutorials with a wine glass. You can see a bit the two guns in it. The camera I haven’t modeled yet. Should be in there.

      Making the UVMap I applied the subsurf and I lost the shape keys. I cannot extrude it’s wings to glider modus anymore and I have to start all over again. But that’s a problem when it comes to animation. BTW Jonathan, that piston rig tutorial is outdated, can we have a newer one ? The parts of my landing gear are facing all directions. That tutorial is still in my drawer.

      This is the best I can come up with for now. I love that shiny look and a dark blue sky, I discovered the RGB Curves node to make the original background image a bit darker blue. The background is a plane with a google image, the .hdr is the world. The .hdr I bought is black below the horizon and I couldn’t angle it away with the camera therefore the background image. The first two pictures are made after this tutorial. You can clearly see the Jonathan effect, before and after . In the second image, the top view, you can see the reflection of the .hdr, especially on top of the cockpit. There I have a problem, the sun in the .hdr comes from a different direction then the sun in the background image.

      You have to scroll down at the bottom of the page. I did that deliberately for someone to read it. You can click on the images to have a bigger version.

      Must watch more tutorials.

  3. Posts: 3
    Lathou Xaris says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Just a quick question, for some reason, changes I make to the UV mapping do not show up in render preview, e.g when trying to put a mapping node in, or manually altering the UV map. Any suggestions?


  4. Posts: 5

    Hello everyone, i need help i have blender 2.67b and my add material panel is different to the older bender like the surface selector is not there. i have looked every where to fix this. can any one help me???

    • Posts: 7
      tardigrade says:

      Adam are you clicking on the “Use Nodes” button in the surface tab?
      After you do that you will be presented with a menu to select surface presets.
      The first option will be Diffuse BSDF.
      At least it is for me in 2.66a!
      This is if you’re in the Cycles render mode!

      • Posts: 1
        john whalen says:

        looked all over and finaly found out how to fix this. first off, at the very top, where you have file, add, render and all that on your bar, you will notice at the very end next to the text there is a drop down menu, if it says blender render or blender game, you need to change that to cycle render. from there when you create a material you should then have the surface options like they do in all the videos. sadly all the beginner tutorials i have seen no one covers this minor detail that us new comers dont know about.

  5. Posts: 1
    David Lee says:

    It has been a while since I have updated my blender. Everything in cycles has changed. Just tried the 2.67b and I don’t even thing the node editor works. AND, I bump map anything like I used to. :-(

    • Posts: 1
      existe says:

      I was able to follow this on 2.67b with no issues

  6. Posts: 1
    thefreeman says:

    My Node thing doesn’t appear when I add a material to a mesh?

    Any help?

  7. Posts: 57
    dolores 74 says:

    Is there a way to rotate an .hdr ?

    I’ve experimented with the vector socket in the node editor with : Mapping > Environment Texture > Background > World Output. But no such luck.

    The orange dots comes from the sun in the opposite direction.

    The girl isn’t mine, she is the camera track to object.

  8. Posts: 2
    Drew Bronson says:

    Nice tutorial. The only thing is, in Blender 2.68, the option to select Linear or sRGB is no longer where it is in your video. Did it move?

  9. Posts: 9
    Ron Hatfield says:

    Jonathan, I enjoy your tutorials and working through them. You always do a great job.
    I rarely comment but in this tutorial you really didn’t cover what an HDR file is used for. You simply mentioned that sells them.
    I’d have liked a mention of what benefits there are to owning such a file, and with a large assortment of HDR files on the mentioned site and a price range of $5.00 – $140.00 USD, that type of info would be handy.
    I did notice that you used Parking Space 103 from the video, so that’s what I purchased. I would have liked to heard the design decision(s) that went into your choice of that file (which normally you cover in pretty good detail).

    My apologies if this seems negative, that is not my intention. Just my thoughts and some feedback.
    Keep up the great work. :)

    • Posts: 11

      From what I understand, the term ‘HDR’ in this context refers to an special type of panoramic image. What makes it special is that it is ulta high-rez and edited in a special way. It’s hard to explain, but the gist of it is that regular images captured from cameras are not capable of recording enough information about the light in the environment at all points (you adjust the exposure to capture more light information further or closer to the camera). HDR is a way to circumvent that limitation and get more light information from every point in the scene into a single image. The overall effect is a detailed background without a sacrifice of detail in the foreground and vice versa (of the light, that is). Googling “photoshop hdr image” will prolly be fruitful, here’s one site that provides a decent explanation . The reason you need this enhancement is because we wanna use this image as an ‘environmental image’, which requires a lot of light detail at every point in the image uniformly. The Blender docs has an okay explanation . It’s like an Area Light in Blender, but with a texture and an area that spans 360 around the scene.

      HDR images require a good camera and multiple exposures (probably at different times of day) to make, so it requires some manual labor and equipment (hence the price). If you use a regular panoramic image that isn’t HDR, I think the result of using it as an environmental map in Blender isn’t as high quality (because the image is detail deficient). As for Jonation not even mentioning this stuff, it is just a lighting trick and this tutorial isn’t about lighting. He should do another tutorial on HDR environment lighting. Maybe make a tutorial request?

      • Posts: 57
        dolores 74 says:

        Thank you for sharing this instantmelanie. Found some useful information in this article.

  10. Posts: 30
    killer wolf says:

    alright, as a noob i thought bump/normal maps were purplish, not b&w? or is there a subtle difference between the two, as i’ve read the terms are pretty much interchangeable?

  11. Posts: 5

    thanks I could always follow how to do it in a tutorial but I wasn’t ever to do it on my own with cycles this should do it

  12. Posts: 2
    jcmouy says:

    can someone help me, when i put the image in the soil shpere it just looks brown, it doesnt look like soil?

  13. Posts: 2
    jcmouy says:

    the texture doesnt paste in the sphere? can someone help me please

    • Posts: 3612

      Hey jcmouy, can you tell me a bit more about the problem? What do you mean by “the texture doesn’t paste in the sphere”?

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