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Autodesk Inventor Tips & Tricks

Make Inventor Models More Realistic with Custom Surface Textures
by David Melvin, PE, TEDCF Publishing

This short exercise will show you how to create two types of custom texture maps. The first type is a standard texture map that can be made from a picture of a real surface or it can be designed manually using image-editing software. The second type of texture map has transparent pixels.

First create the Bitmap image.
Typically pictures are in jpg format. So if you want to create a surface texture from a picture of an actual surface, you’ll have to use software that can import jpg files and export bmp files. Most image-editing software can do this.

Image of surface texture

You can also create the surface texture manually if you’re artistically inclined. The only thing to keep in mind is that the pattern can repeat. That is the pattern can be tiled on the surface of your parts. So you should make sure the pattern looks good when tiled.

Scale the Bitmap image.
When you create a standard surface texture, the size of the bitmap image should be 96 pixels high by 96 pixels wide.

Full size surface texture image

A surface texture that has transparent pixels should be 97 pixels high by 97 pixels wide.

Setting Transparent Texture Maps
Transparent texture maps are 97 pixels square because the pixel in the lower right corner defines the color that will be transparent. For example, if the pixel in the lower right corner was flat blue, all the flat blue pixels in the surface texture would be transparent. Also keep in mind that the 97th column and 97th row of pixels will not be part of the surface texture.

Save the Bitmap image.
You can save the Bitmap image in the current project folders, in a local folder, or a shared library folder. If you want to be able to access the texture from any project, you can also save it in the surfaces sub-folder of the Textures folder in the Inventor install folder.

Apply the New Custom Texture.
Now that you’ve created and saved the Bitmap image, it’s time to apply it to a part. Open a part file that doesn’t have a texture applied to it, and then open the Manage tab and select the Styles Editor command.

Selecting the Styles Editor

Expand Color on the top left of the dialog box. Scroll down and select the Default color style. Check the Use Texture Image option in the Texture tab of the Color Style panel.

Selecting the Use Texture Image command

If you saved the image in the surfaces sub-folder in Textures folder of the Inventor’s Application folder, use the Application Library setting and scroll though the textures to find your custom texture.

Texture Chooser dialgo box

If you saved the image in a personal folder or a project folder, select the Project Library option. You can browse through folders on the right to find the correct folder, and then scroll though the textures in the top window. Once you find your image, select it and then click OK. Click the Save button at the top of the Styles and Standard Editor dialog box, and then click the Done button on the lower right of the dialog box.

Cube with texture image surface
When the dialog box closes, your part will have the new texture on its surfaces.

Why is this important?
Knowing how to do this gives you the ability to create parts that look very close to the final product. If you can take a picture of the material used for a product, you can make your parts look very close to the real thing.