Understanding UV Mapping

UV mapping is a technique used to take 2 dimensional images and turn them into 3 dimensional images. This is done by applying a texture map that uses an additional set of coordinates above the classic Cartesian coordinates of X, Y and Z. These 2 new coordinates are titled U and V. So, the title does not refer to UV light but to 2 different coordinates. This makes it possible for the 3d object to be painted with color and texture.

Texture Map

The texture map will assign pixels to the surface mappings on the shape. The color is added by copying small triangles all over the object. This system is known as programmatically adding color. The UV pixels only map into the textural space and not the geometric space. Once the UV map is added, it is possible to render the final object so the surface is also painted. Think of using this texture map as adding texture based on the longitude and latitude.

Making the Map

UV maps are normally automatically generated by software and then manually changed to fit the necessary design. Normally, changes are made to minimize the overlaps and seams. Sometimes, overlaps are used in order to paint simultaneous sides. It is easy to cut apart the adjacent triangles to change them because the coordinates are applied per face and are not applied per vertex.

Steps to UV Mapping

There are 3 different steps to applying UV maps. The first step is unwrapping the mesh. The second step is creating the texture, and the third step will apply the texture.  All of these steps can be done automatically by the software program.


There are many benefits to using UV maps, as it is very easy to alter the map and see the changes immediately. UV maps can be easily exported to other 3d programs and then adjusted within these programs. There are many different types of map depending on the shape of the image. Cylindrical maps can be used as can planar maps, spherical maps and much more. Make sure you choose the best map for the model by looking at the general overall shape. Heads work best with spherical and cylindrical maps.


Depending on the map, a rotation must be used. Sometimes, there is a polar effect which causes some of the texture to be distorted. In order to eliminate distortion as much as possible, begin rotating the map until the majority of the texture map looks uniform.


Once the texture map is applied, it is possible to paint. Select the types of material and then see the texture as it fills in. Paint on the canvas until the desired image is created. The texture will come out more and more as more paint is applied to the model. A texture map can also be used to paint difficult areas. Within the texture panel of the maps, the texture can be changed if desired.


UV mapping can be found in most video editing software. It is definitively found in rendering and 3D animation software. Most UV maps can easily be recognized in different software, so export the map and then import it into the needed rendering software.