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?
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
- Good results easily
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