I have been seeing a lot of cool tutorials for procedural textures in Cycles lately, but I was wondering, are procedural textures actually more efficient rendering-wise than image textures? Do they help speed up the render, or would image textures be a better choice? What are the benefits to procedural textures?

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    $\begingroup$ Go procedural! But seriously, this is primarily opinion based, so it might get closed unless there are some objective things (i.e. the fact that GPU's won't flood their texture memory) $\endgroup$
    – VRM
    Jun 28 '15 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ I think you could rephrase this question into ' what are the benefits of using Procedural vs Texture based materials' and you will get less opinion and more useful fact. As it stands this is going to invite some close requests, probably. $\endgroup$
    – zeffii
    Jun 28 '15 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ Procedural textures use less memory, have infinite resolution, don't require UV mapping, but require more effort to get a photo-realistic look. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Jun 28 '15 at 19:52

Theoretically, a procedural texture is better, in the same way a vector graphic is better then a raster image. It has infinite resolution, can cover any surface, doesn't require UV mapping, and can be created without getting of your chair or browsing on the web.

However, an image texture has advantages to. Sometimes a scene, using image textures, can be finished in under an hour, vs a procedural workflow might take days. Image textures also, if sourced from a photograph, can have natural and realistic qualities a procedural textures might not (unless the procedural texture is really really really good).

In list form:

Procedural Textures Pros:

  • Infinite resolution
  • Increased editability
  • Can be applied to nearly any model without repetition or resolution issues.

Image Textures Pros:

  • Fast to create download.
  • Good results easily
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    $\begingroup$ Well put. I would add a reminder to all that it doesn't need to be either/or. We can make hybrid materials that incorporate texture elements as well as procedural elements and use the merits of each. For example, an image may look repetitively tiled on its own, but if combined with procedural noise that can give enough variation that it appears natural. Or conversely, a procedural-only material may be looking too computer-generated on its own, but once complex color elements from a photo texture are introduced it becomes believable. $\endgroup$
    – Mentalist
    Jun 29 '15 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ When you say "fast" on image textures, do you mean rendering or creation? I understand that it's possible to find an image fairly easily, while creating a procedural of something similar would take a lot of time, but what about rendering? $\endgroup$
    – rioforce
    Jul 1 '15 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ I mean't creation time.... as far as rendering goes, I can image some procedural textures using more CPU power but less memory, while image textures may use more memory and less CPU power, but I'm not sure. I think overall, procedural textures would be better for performance, due to the memory advantage, which is the big one with rendering. $\endgroup$ Jul 1 '15 at 1:25

Seems image textures are faster, caveat, only if its worth the bake time


the above link basically says that images render faster than procedural textures because computing effort. BUT, baking procedural textures can take a long time, so its a judgement call on which is ultimately faster.

e.g. a 2 second clip with an insanely complicated node setup is prolly not worth baking. but a 15 min clip with the same setup might be worth the bake time

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    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome :) Link only answers are generally discouraged here, as links over time tend to disappear on the web. Please consider expanding your answer, and adding the essential information from the link so that it is available to future users of the site. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Timaroberts
    Oct 7 '20 at 15:05

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