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I really want to be able to apply mapping to a curve object. For instance a rope or pipe that has a repeated pattern along its length that follows it's twists and turns.

There must be a simple way to generate UV coordinates for such an object without converting it to a mesh and unwrapping it. Can anyone help?

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Yes, you can. Just simply toggle the Use UV for mapping option in Properties Editor > Object Data Tab > Texture space panel.

enter image description here

For BI render

  • In order to use UV coordinate, you have to convert the curve object into a mesh object to store UV (AltC > 2). Just besure to have that optio toggled, which will automatically generate a neat UV (named Orco by default). and set Texture coornidate to UV:

enter image description here

  • If you don't want to convert the curve object into a mesh, for regular use, you have a nice option, by using Generated coodinate instead for texture:

enter image description here

For Cycles Render:

  • After toggling Use UV for mapping option, you can immidiately see the automatic Orco UV in 3D View, Cycles will by default use UV coordinate for both curve and mesh:

enter image description here

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The easiest and quickest way to create UV for a pipe (curve) without having to convert it to a mesh is to use the generated UVs.

  1. I am assuming that you are using cycles

  2. Assign a (diffuse) material to your mesh (in the materials tab) if you haven't already

    enter image description here

  3. Add an image to your material, Shift + A -> Texture -> Image Texture

  4. Add an UV input, Shift + A -> Input -> Texture Coordinate

    enter image description here

NOTE:

  • the curve is still intact, you don't have to convert to mesh

  • the generated UV is not perfect and there may be some minor stretching


enter image description here

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This answer only applies if you are using cycles to render your scene. Note that I can't provide an answer for the internal renderer.

However, in cycles, this can be achieved easily by using the following note setup. This generates a nicely distributed trexture ove the beveled curve (I guess that is what you want):

Texture and node setup

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