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15 Tips On Choosing Textures For Game Level Art And Design

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Choosing textures is something many levels designers need to do. Having a large library of decent textures will make your work that much easier. Remember: there are no rules in level design (other than sticking to the theme and style you’re shooting for). You can choose any texture you want, as long as it works with the map layout and design.

I’ll give you some tips below to help when choosing textures for your map.

  1. Experiment!

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it looks bad, then change it before putting the map out for everyone else to see it. You can always test your textures and tones in-game or even compile a pointfile with a “notarget” or “nodraw” texture in place of your normal map. This way you can check out the look without having to worry about monsters attacking you.

  1. Layer It!

One thing I like to do for my castles is add some ivy to the wall textures and statues. When using multiple textures, play around with the colors until you get something you like.

  1. Detail

Adding detail puts depth into your map. This can be done by adding decals (blood spatters, rust, bullet holes) or even an extensive amount of displacement mapping. It is possible to go overboard on the detail to the point where it looks over-textured. Make sure you keep the item size in mind so that your map doesn’t run too slow.

  1. Be Subtle

We don’t all have to create realistic textures to get our work noticed. Sometimes adding subtle things like slight wood grain, stained glass windows, or concrete textures can add just a little bit of extra detail.

Don’t go too crazy with your texture choice. Remember that you are still creating a game level, not an art piece.

  1. Color

Textures come in different colors for a reason! Be sure to keep the same general color palette for similar types of textures (stone brick may use grey tones, while wood or metal would be brown tones).

If you need textures of all kinds and colors, check out CreativeMarket. 

  1. Bump Mapping

Bump mapping is a process that adds depth to an object by using a grayscale image as part of the texture map. Generally, you will want to find a bump map that has similar colors to your texture.

  1. Tiling

Make sure you use the same textures throughout an area. It is possible to make different textures “tile” (rubber bands, for instance) but it’s not recommended. I’ve found my best maps are ones with a limited amount of tiles throughout the map.

  1. Stay Unique

Don’t make textures on walls the same. Make at least one item stand out from your other items. One way to do this is by having a unique look like marble or sandstone.

  1. Variation

You don’t need as many cool textures as you think you will need. I’ve done plenty of castle maps with only 2-3 textures used throughout the map. If you end up using too many, then at least use different variations of that texture (wood may be pine or oak).

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Trim

Adding trim (such as around doors or windows) adds a little bit of uniqueness and detail without cluttering the area with too many items.

Never forget that you work within certain boundaries, but it’s your map, so have fun with it!

  1. Reference Material

When choosing textures, reference some photographs or other game screenshots. Using similar textures from other games/movies can help to achieve the look you’re going for.

  1. Watch The Clipping

Make sure you don’t have any clipping problems with your textures. Clipping happens when two surfaces intersect and cause a visual crease in your map. This can be fixed by widening the door frame or cliff edges so they don’t interrupt when the player walks through them.

  1. Dithering

Sometimes adding small dithered patterns on some of your textures can add depth without having to use bump maps.

  1. Aesthetics

Don’t forget that you’re creating an aesthetically pleasing map while still maintaining gameplay. It doesn’t matter what looks good if it’s not functional for gameplay (like stairs or doors)!

  1. Angles

Try to use your textures at different angles (curves, slopes, etc.) This will help to make the map not look like it’s made of flat surfaces. You can also vary the size of your brushes for that added effect.

  1. Shadows

Don’t forget shadows! Sometimes you can get away with using dim light (light value 128 or lower), but if you really want to add some extra depth, use a large brush with the “soft shadow” texture applied.

In Conclusion

In the video game world, textures are what make a level come alive. It can be difficult to know how many you need, or which ones will work well together, but it is important not to slack on this detail. If done well, your product will stand out in the crowded market of games available for purchase. These 15 tips should help you find some solutions when choosing textures for your next project.