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What is the difference between using the attribute mode vs the texture coordinate node? enter image description here

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There isn't really a difference. The attribute node has a few advantages though:

  1. It allows the use of more than one UV map. The texture Coordinate node uses only the UV map with the camera icon selected.
  2. It Contains the name, which can be useful for organizational purposes.

Note:

Their is also a UV map node coming into cycles, which will eliminate the need for both of theses methods.

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    $\begingroup$ The UV coordinate node actually uses the UV map with the camera icon selected (which is the first one by default). Also there is now a dedicated UV map node (screenshot) which makes using the attribute node for UV maps no longer necessary. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Jun 26 '14 at 0:37

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