SIGGRAPH 2018: Automatic UV Unwrapping Application

Published:07/24/2018   Last Updated:07/24/2018

Intel® Software Innovator Eskil Steenberg’s Tool Simplifies 3D Model Mapping

By harnessing the compute power of Intel® Xeon® processors, Intel® Software Innovator Eskil Steenberg created a fully automated tool to map and unwrap 3D objects so that they can be painted or have texture applied.  He will be demoing this project at SIGGRAPH 2018, a five-day event showcasing the latest tech in computer graphics (CG), animation, virtual reality, games, digital art, mixed reality and emerging technologies.

Project: UnWrapper

Eskil Steenberg has designed a fully automatic UV unwrapping algorithm for use in creating 3D models for games, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and visual effects.  3D artists can easily spend up to 20% of their time unwrapping an object on to a flat surface so that it can be painted.  The more complex the object, the more laborious the task.

With some free time on his hands earlier this year, Eskil decided to revive an old project that automated, and thus simplified, the task of unfolding individual polygons.  Eskil’s initial objective was just to port over the old project onto his modern code base, but in doing so he received positive feedback from colleagues in major game studios who encouraged him to keep improving it.  The final product completely automates the entire unwrapping process for any kind of model.

What is UV Unwrapping?

3D models are built from multiple polygons – defined as planes that have at least three straight sides – that are interconnected to form a mesh of the intended shape.  Texture coordinates, or UV coordinates, are generated for each vertex within the mesh creating a UV map.  UV unwrapping consists of unfolding the polygons, or map, at the seams so that they can be rendered on a flat 2D surface in order to paint or texture it.


UnWrapper is a game changer for any 3D artist who uses textures.  Large game companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring artists to manually perform UV mapping for the thousands of assets needed in a game.  Automating the UV mapping process will not only save them time and money, but also gives artists the ability to iterate, allowing them to easily change geometry and apply procedural textures.  But, anytime the geometry of a model is modified, the UV mapping needs to be updated by hand.  This product removes that bottleneck as well, making this a valuable tool that SIGGRAPH attendees will want to add to their collection. 

Project Challenges

A recurring challenge when writing algorithms is that it’s hard to create a one-size-fits-all solution.  Detecting what kind of approach to use for a specific area is often harder than doing the actual mapping once you know the right approach.  Often you might think it’s solved, only to find that it doesn’t work with another 3D model and it needs more adjustments.  With this in mind, Eskil has built up a fairly good-sized library of test models to continually test his algorithm.

Technical Details

This application is just another example of how modern compute power can remove obstacles and make technical problems invisible to creative people.  Instead of spending countless hours on a laborious task, an Intel Xeon processor-powered workstation can solve the problem in a few seconds, or it can be sent to the cloud for processing.

UnWrapper is written using the pure C programming language along with Microsoft Visual Studio* and Intel® VTune™ tools.  It comes in two forms, one with UI using OpenGL* and the other a command line version that has no dependencies at all.  Given that the process is entirely automated, many people want to batch the process and run it on servers that are part of a studio’s pipeline infrastructure.

Next Steps

Eskil is in talks with a number of large AAA game development studios about licensing this technology.  While quality has been the main priority, he is currently working on optimizing the algorithm for improved speeds and is experimenting with new stages to improve edge-case geometry.  Eskil is currently working with artists and customers for testing and feedback on a wide range of 3D models as well.

Intel® Software Innovator Eskil Steenberg

At age 13, Eskil discovered Deluxe Paint on his Commodore* Amiga computer and was hooked on computer graphics.  He started as a 3D graphics artist before he moved into programming and a big focus of his work is to make graphics tools that help artists.  Learn more about Intel Software Innovator Eskil Steenberg on his website

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