Unwrapping architectural vaults

Tutorial // from the ‘Amanuensis Church‘ gallery

Lessons recorded with V-Ray for 3ds Max / SketchUp / Rhino


In the “Amanuensis Church” work I used V-Ray, following the 5SRW Method. A modifier is necessary to shape the material or texture so that its surface pattern follows the pattern of the object we are applying it to. It is used when the “UVW map” modifier is not sufficient to carry out the same procedure.

The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that the object and its faces are “ironed out” onto a flat surface, molding the faces onto the flat texture using the “Unwrap“. Here’s a practical example below.


With the UVW Map modifier (not good in this case):
The texture can be applied using the Box option of the modifier but it creates obvious directional problems on the surface of our object (see image).

With the Unwrap UVW modifier (perfect for these situations!):
When the modifier is applied, the texture is molded onto the surface of our object exactly as we want (see image).


The methodology applied in this case:
Many methods can be used to achieve the desired results and they are based, first of all, on using the standard maps that the modifier makes available to us, that is:

  • Planar mapping
  • Cylindrical mapping
  • Spherical mapping
  • Cubic mapping

In our case, as those maps follow the logic of the UVW map modifier, which is not sufficient to lay the texture out over the surface of the model, we need to map the model by breaking apart its faces, expanding and extending them so that they are flattened out and then sewn back together.

Let’s look at how to do this with UNWRAP, in this video tutorial

(step by step process, no voice)


Breakdown of the same process, step by step

I use the Select by Face option to select the pieces and separate the model in order to quantitatively isolate the content of the faces:

Using the automatic explosion option, I select the peel function and click on the first icon on the right “pelt Map” (see below).

This opens the “UV Editor” window.

And, at the same time, this window and I’ll start here and flatten the object by clicking on Start Pelt (red box):

I can then see the following result in the Edit UVWs window:


Following the tutorial, I then click on Start Relax to obtain the following result with the correct geometry completely laid out on a plane:


If we click on Commit (red arrow), we obtain the exploded view of the previous operations:


Then, carrying out the same operation for each of the vaults, I obtain the following result:

What you can see above are the separated parts of my model. As you can see in the window, the various explosions are not all the same size.

To bring everything back to its original consistent size, we just click on Pack Normalize in the “Arrange Elements” section to the right of the editor. All the contents of the vaults will be inserted into the square representing my texture applied to the model.

PLEASE NOTE: Everything carried out in the “Edit UVWs” window is an exact preview of what’s happening in the 3dsmax window we had open originally, that is:

Now I have to straighten the parts of the unwrapped model to make it as linear as possible and make it coincide with my applied texture, taking advantage of the icons at the top left (move-rotate-scale-reflect-etc.) and obtaining the following result:

As you can see on the left side, the textures, even though they have a large pattern, are now at least all aligned and properly spread out on the vaults.

For personal convenience, I also proceeded to give a sense of symmetry using the junction points at the top of the vaults. If I select one of the explosions obtained with Unwrap, the blue lines on the explosion indicate the point of junction and continuity with the twin vault:


Now, if I use the “Stitch” (stitch custom) command on the right, the software automatically matches them up, giving them continuity at the highest point between the two vaults as highlighted below

I repeat the same operation for each vault, moving the explosions so as to give the complete model continuity:


Having reached this point, all we need to do is enlarge the exploded faces to tighten the size of the bricks on the vaults, selecting all the explosions and using the scale command (top left). This gives us the desired result:

Obviously, to obtain the correct repetition of textures and avoid holes, the texture in question must always be seamless.


Please note that the method applied is not the only one. There are many very different procedures, just like the commands used. It will be up to the person carrying out the procedure to obtain the best result in the shortest time possible, based on his/her technical skill.

Author: Roberto Boga
Render Engine: V-Ray for 3ds Max
Method & Techniques: 5SRW

Lessons recorded with V-Ray for 3ds Max / SketchUp / Rhino

5SRW for 3ds Max ]
5SRW for 3ds Max ]
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