TEXTURE LAYERS 2 Review Gallery Support Demo Purchase Main

REVIEWER: Laurent Abecassis (www.di-o-matic.com)



The task of mapping a complex object can be a very tricky one. Traditional techniques based on the UVW Map modifier are fine for straightforward objects like boxes, spheres or cylinders. However, even a simple parametric object like the teapot is almost impossible to map without stretching, and as objects become increasingly complex, this becomes more and more of an issue. Unfortunately, the kind of models we all want to do everyday, especially characters, are as complex as they come.
It's exactly here where Texture Layers aims to fill the gap with its two new procedural mapping types, Spline Mapping and Free Form Mapping. You probably already know the mapper's favorite trick, using Material IDs to effectively map different sections of an object, and you probably realize that you don't really have a choice but to use them. Well, you do with Texture Layers, which lets you work without any MatIDs, and instead workds using Gizmos placed where you want to put a texture, that's all.

Texture Layers has been on public beta at mankua.com since October of last year and the final release was out right at the start of the year. In this time, over 800 people have downloaded the beta. Inside the software there are two modifiers: TexLay and TLUnwrap, as well as two new map types: Texture Layers Attenuation and Texture Layers Composite, and one utility: Modifier Space.

The most important part of the plug-in is the modifier TexLay, as this is the one that is used instead of the UVW Map modifier. When you open it for the first time, you will find that it looks familiar, but more user-friendly that the interface that you'll be used to. To see what I mean, take a look at the image O. The Interface looks a bit like the UVW Map modifier, except that a couple of new panels will appear, alongside a bunch of cool icons, that add up to a really nice working environment. I think that it's not just artists who prefer using icons instead of text-based menus.
The first panel is the channel manager, where you've got no real limitations about the number of channels you can use, since the limit is 1.000. In this panel, you will also be able to save your Texture Layers setup and reload it in other Texture Layers modifiers. You can even copy and paste channel information from one place to another.

STACK'EM UP: What is really cool though, is that even if you have dozens of channels you still get just one Texture Layers modifier on your stack. No more stacks with infinitely alternating Mesh Select and UVW Map entries, just one TexLay modifier making for a simple easily understood object stack.
The second Panel is the mapping one, which allos you to define which type of mapping you want to use in the current channel. It includes all the same mapping techniques that 3D Studio MAX R3's UVW Map modifier has, but it also got two new procedural types (see image 2). The fourth panel is a wonderful one, containing the Attenuation details, which allows you to fade the edge of your channel into another. The final panels feature exactly the exactly the same features as in our dear UVW Map modifier: the tiling and alignment functionality.
These new types of mapping - spline mapping and free form mapping - are really quite amazing. When you choose one of these advanced mapping types, you get new panels like in image 1. The spline mapping type is like using a loft object to project the map onto an object. It's based on a spline you create, and you can modify the shape of the loft using local curves tools, these tools works just as the Scale Deformation tool works in loft objects. The result of this is that you can now fit very organic objects like the one in image 2 using this technique. In this example, the raptor hat three mapping splines: one for the body, one for the arms, and one for the legs. The next mapping technique - free form mapping - allows you to use an FFD box to fit your object, you can even move the FF Points in sub-object mode to make it precisely fit to your object.
Those techniques are very useful to map objects that cannot have UVW Map coordinates, like the head in image 3.

STRETCHING A POINT: Imagine that you can remove all the stretching that can appear in a map in just a minute or two. This is basically what the attenuation tool in Texture Layers offers. This works like the light attenuation in MAX: each channel's UVW gizmo includes an attenuation gizmo with 3D Control in U, V, and W, from which it attenuates the texture, based on the distance to the center of the associated gizmo..(continue next column)



You can even adjust a curve to control where you want the stretching to be removed, addressing one of] the most common problems in texturing a complex 3D model. With just a few clicks Texture Layers can attenuate textures where stretching appears.
The way the maps works inside the Material Editor is really quite straightforward: you create any material you want but in the diffuse or any other slot you insert a Texture Layers Composite instead of adding a Bitmap. You will be able to define how many channels you need, insert a bitmap in each, and control the attenuation directly inside the composite maps.
Also generally in texture procedure, an unwrap tool is needed, as help in a 2D program to know where to place individual details. Texture Layers offer a great tool in TLUnwrap, which is a modifier that literally unwraps any object using a chosen mapping channel, and works directly in the scene, where your polygons become a flat plane. You can also render it, directly inside the modifier. My suggestion here would be to put a wire material onto your object before you unwrap it. This unwrapped image can then be used to paint textures as a reference. This is a very useful modifier that can be used with every mapped object; not only those making use of the TexLay modifier, but also any objects using the UVW Map modifier.
Texture Layers really is extremely user-friendly, more than this it's artist friendly. There are many plug-ins that take you hours and hours to be able to achieve great effects, like the defunct ClothReyes, and it's not often you come across a plug-in that couples this level of power with real ease-of-use.Furthermore, Texture Layers comes with great on-line help, and with tutorials that will allow you to see quickly all the functions of this amazing plug-in. It really is merely a matter of hours before you find yourself thoroughly at ease with it.

As you might have guessed by now, I recommend this tool to every MAX user that has had headaches using MatID or trying to make two IDs match without any seams. These people will truly appreciate the power of Texture Layers. Even if you're still not convinced, download the trial version, which works fully for 30 days, enough time to create a hatful of amazing images.

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"TexLay is a flexible tool for complex mapping tasks, with a competitive price tag. Features like spline mapping, advanced attenuation tools and the unique TexLay Unwrap modifier really help to speed up my workflow."

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REVIEWER: MGlenn Melenhorst (www.iloura.com.au)
"Nothing on the market comes close to matching Texture Layers for texture mapping. Texture mapping has been a sorely neglected component of 3D graphics over the past ten years and being limited to planar, cylindrical, spherical, box and shrink wrap has been an annoying constraint when working on complex characters. "
"The tool set provided by Mankua with Texture Layers brings mapping up to par with advancements in modeling and animation functionality and just having attenuation in mapping is a major step forward, let a lone the spline and free form mapping. I would encourage everyone to download Mankua's demo and try it out. We had everyone in the office crowded around a terminal while I worked through the tutorial. We were, and still are very impressed with this package."

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"I have used Texture Layers since it's beta release and without exaggeration have found it to be the most useful tool in the Max arsenal. Unlike many plugins it is one that I use every day and it does what it says it will, with a sophisticated simplicity that puts it out in front of the pack. So far I have not found a situation where Texture-Layers could not get the job done. One of it's cooler capabilities is the attenuation function, that helps a great deal in getting rid of hard and unnatural lines so common in computer generated art. I have gotten so used to this tool over the years that now I don't want to work with out it, it has made me a better artist and has made life a lot easier when it comes to texturing 3D geometry......
Love my T-Layers"

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REVIEWER: Jan Häusle
"For me Texture Layers is the best mapping-solution for the 3dsmax-platform. The seamless integration inside of the max-package give me the possibility to exceed even the most complex mapping tasks without having to worry about import/export or compatibility issues. One of the greatest advantages is the ability to use spline mapping and advanced Attenuation, e.g. normal-based Attenuation. I don´t ever want to go back to the traditional method using tons of UVWmaping-modifiers. These advantages paired with the low price can´t be ignored if You want to create cool stuff with a competitive budget."

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