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Exporting Textures and Alpha Maps from Picture Lab



Tools Needed

* Bryce

* Image-editing program like Photoshop


A fascinating and sometimes infuriating thing about Bryce is that it contains lots of so-called Easter eggs, nice little functions that never made it into the user's manual, so there is no explanation as how to obtain the function or how to use it. (In fact, at one point in the history of Bryce, the entire Texture Lab was an Easter egg.) One thing I'd always wanted to do in Bryce was find a way to export picture-based textures out of the Picture Library in the Materials Lab for further enhancement (particularly, downsizing) or for personal use in other programs. In the user's manual there's no information on such a function; however, merely by dumb luck I stumbled on a way to do it. In a recent DAZ forum thread, someone posed the question whether it was possible to use Estevez's Realistic Leaves in other programs, so in this tutorial I'll be using his Realistic Leaves package to explain the procedure of exporting picture-based textures and bump/alpha maps. My image editor of choice is Adobe Photoshop 7, but any photo editor that can load BMP, .tif, or JPG files should work.

Step 1 - Materials Lab and Materials Library

Open a new file in Bryce. Since we will only be working with texture maps, we won't need to insert any objects. Hit 'Control + m', which will take us into the Materials Lab. Near the material display window, click the top, right-pointing arrow, which will take you into the materials library.


In the materials library, click the down-pointing arrow near the bottom left-hand corner to display the subfolder categories. I have made a subfolder named 'Leaves' into which I imported the .mat file (instructions on how to do this can be found in the Bryce user's manual). Choose the appropriate subfolder.


Click on the icon of the picture-based texture you want to import. Here I'll choose leaf_1. When you click on the little picture, it should be outlined in red. Click the check mark in the bottom right-hand corner to exit the library.


Step 2 - Picture Library

On the right-hand side of the Materials Lab interface, you can see the texture information in three small windows—the first in color, the other two in grayscale. These are the texture, alpha, and bump windows, respectively. We'll be exporting the information from the first two windows only; the third is unnecessary, because in Bryce, the information in the alpha channel is also used as the bump channel. Above the first window, click the second of the two buttons, which will take us into the picture library.


We'll see a larger version of our pictures in their respective channels. Beneath the first picture, near the lower left corner, is the word 'Copy.' Click on this. Our leaf picture is now copied onto the Clipboard and can be loaded into the image editor.


Step 3 - In the Image Editor

In Adobe Photoshop, open the program and hit 'Control + N' for a new file. In version 7.0 or above, the file information in the dialog window will have switched to the Clipboard preset and will already contain the dimensions of the picture on the Clipboard. Name the file Leaf_1. Click 'OK.'


When the new file window opens, hit 'Control + V'; the file on the Clipboard will be pasted in the window. Since it is pasted as a layer over the background, the default format for saving will be .PSD format. If you intend to save it in another format, hit 'Control + E' to flatten the image.


Step 4 - Exporting the Alpha Channel

Return to Bryce and re-enter the Picture Library. Click on 'Copy' under the left-hand corner of the middle window, then repeat Step 3. When naming the imaging, you might want to call it Leaf_1A, to designate it as the grayscale alpha image.


Step 5 - Texture Files with an Embedded Alpha Channel

First, a short explanation on alpha layers. Many 3D programs have a so-called Transparency Channel that when tweaked by itself, makes an object lighter, but not invisible. True see-through invisibility of an object is achieved through the alpha channel, which uses grayscale information in the following way: full black represents 100% transparency, white is 100% opacity, and shades in between equal varying degrees of transparency/opacity.

If you intend to import these textures into a program like Carrara, which accepts .PSD and .tif documents with alpha channels, you can combine the two exported files from Bryce, the picture texture and the alpha channel picture, so that when you import the combined image file into the color channel as a texture map, the alpha layer is automatically assigned to the alpha channel.

Here's how to properly combine the files. Open them both in Photoshop. It's better if both of the windows are floating so that you can easily click back and forth. We want to first work with the alpha channel picture. Click on it once and bring it to the forefront if it's not there already.


Hit F7 to open the layers palette. At the top of the palette are a series of tabs marked Layers, Channels, and Paths. Click on Channels. At the bottom of the palette, there are four tiny icons, the first of which is a dotted circle. Click on this. This selects the entire picture as a 'mask.'


Hit the second icon, the rectangle with a white circle in the center, to save the selection as a channel. If you double click on the name, you can rename the file to your specifications. Hit return to accept.

Step 6 - Incorporating the Alpha Channel into the Texture Picture

Click on the alpha channel so that it's highlighted, then drag it into the window of the picture file, where it will be copied as an alpha layer.


Save in .PSD or .tif format, and you're ready to go. When you import the .PSD or .tif file into the color channel of a subsequent 3D program, the transparency should be automatically applied.


If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to me at