The Mapping Process

3ds Max has several different mapping methods available to users. All of these mapping methods are available when you first apply the Unwrap UVW modifier to the object that you want to unwrap. The Unwrap UVW modifier lets you select Vertex, Edge, and Face subobjects. After you choose several Face subobjects, you can select the mapping method to use. The available default mapping methods include these:

■ Planar mapping. Bases the mapping on a projection from a single point.

■ Cylindrical mapping. Bases the mapping on a cylindrical-shaped object, such as the label of a can.

■ Box mapping. Applies six Planar mappings from each direction of a box surrounding the object.

■ Spherical mapping. Bases the mapping on a spherical-shaped object, such as an orange.

■ Pelt mapping. Pulls each of the seam borders outward to stretch the mapping coordinates.

The mapping method to use depends on the type of body part that you are applying the texture to. Cylindrical mapping works well for legs and arms; Box or Spherical mapping is generally used for the head, torso, and feet; and Planar mapping is useful for the hands and the soles of the feet. However, for many complex objects, the Pelt mapping method combines the benefits of each of these methods.

Of all the available mapping methods, the Pelt mapping method is probably the easiest to visualize and use on characters. This mapping method splits the mapping along predefined texture seams. These seams are then aligned to a circular stretcher (see Figure 5.1) and pulled until all the vertices are exposed, creating a flat, stretched mapping of UVs. Pelt mapping lets you pull the seams of the object, causing all the interior faces to be stretched flat. For most of Hicks' parts, we'll use the Pelt mapping method. Pelt mapping is similar to the way the skinned fur of an animal is stretched, thereby giving it its name.

When you select a mapping type, a gizmo appears in the viewport. This gizmo defines how the mapping is projected, and you can manipulate it by using the Move, Rotate, and Scale tools. The Command Panel also includes several buttons to help position the current mapping gizmo, including Align X, Align Y, Align Z, Fit, Center, Best Align, Align to View, and Reset. Of these, the Best Align button is probably the most helpful. It centers the gizmo and aligns it to the boundaries of the current selection.

Figure 5.1 The Pelt stretcher is used to pull seam vertices away from the rest of the piece.

You can view the unwrapped UVs in the Unwrap UVW window, which you open by clicking the Edit button. This window has several menus and controls for working with the UVs.

The Edit UVWs window includes three additional mapping methods: Flatten, Normal, and Unfold. These methods are useful in certain situations. The Unfold mapping type is great for unwrapping simple geometric objects because they show all the faces.

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