There are four main ways to apply UV mapping data to a polygon object: planar mapping, cylindrical mapping, spherical mapping, and automatic mapping. All of these involve projecting the data directly onto the objects surface.
Planar mapping (Edit Polygons > Texture > Planar Mapping) projects UVs through a plane along one direction only onto a mesh. This method is ideal for mapping flat objects.
As you can see in Figure 8.1, the front of the cube is mapped fine, but because we are using a planar map the texture is stretched along the sides. To fix this you would need to apply additional mapping to the other five sides.
Figure 8.1. Planar mapping
Cylindrical mapping (Edit Polygons > Texture > Cylindrical Mapping), as the name implies, projects the UVs inward through a cylinder onto the selected object (Figure 8.2). This will work best on the outer polygons but, as with the planar mapping, you will need to add further mapping to correct the top and bottom caps.
Figure 8.2. Cylindrical mapping
Similarly, spherical mapping (Edit Polygons > Texture > Spherical Mapping) projects inward through a sphere (Figure 8.3).
Figure 8.3. Spherical mapping
The three techniques mentioned so far have very similar options for altering the final projection. Let's have a look at some of the more common options, shown in Figure 8.4; these are for a planar projection but are also used on the other projections.
Figure 8.4. The options for Polygon Planar Projection
The fourth and final mapping method is automatic mapping (Edit Polygons > Texture > Automatic Mapping). This will attempt to find the best UV layout for your mesh by projecting inward from a specified number of angles.
Look at Figure 8.5, left, where we have a basic, low-polygon hand model. If we apply automatic mapping with the default options, our UVs will be laid out for us. You can see this in Figure 8.5, right.
Figure 8.5. Automatic mapping applied to a basic hand model
To see an object's current UV layout, simply select the mesh and go to Window > UV Texture Editor. In addition to seeing the UVs, you can also edit them; we will talk more about the UV Texture Editor later in the chapter.
We will see how to use some of these mapping methods as we apply UV mapping to our characters, but first we need to prepare the geometry to make the mapping process easier.