Let's say I'm going to be doing an instructional animation showing 100 different chessboards/positions (all at once, at one point). The chessboards are just planes of 8x8 faces. The pieces will just be textures.

My question is how to structure the materials.

Originally, I thought of having all the 12 piece types on one image, and using a separate UV map per chessboard, and if a queen was at c3, then move 'c3' in the UV map to be over the queen. However, this turned out to be rather messy, and not maintainable so I'm starting again.

The "brute force" method is to do all the work in Gimp and have 100 textures of a full board. That is of course not efficient with 100 1024x1024 board textures.

Another idea is to use a different material per 'face', so then have 14 different materials (6 piece types 2 colors, 2 blanks) and apply a different material to each square.

Note that I would also like to be able to show different positions on the 'same' board at one point, so having some way to animate between different squares having different pieces is a goal.

Is there an obvious way to do this that I'm missing?

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Texture the board with a checker pattern. Create your pieces/mesh individually. $\endgroup$
    – Dontwalk
    Dec 20, 2017 at 17:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Name your images with the same name and a suffix (like move.001.png, move.002.png etc)Then create only one plane use the image sequence as texture. Then you can animate the transition between images. Read: blender.stackexchange.com/questions/39876/movie-clip-on-plane/… and blender.stackexchange.com/questions/61308/… $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Dec 20, 2017 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @cegaton this is the correct answer. I've tried several things and this is the most obvious way to just easily switch between the pieces. If you add it as an answer I'll accept it. Otherwise I guess I'll add my own answer. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2017 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @AwokeKnowing please add an answer detailing what you did and the logic behind your choices. Other users might find that useful. $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Dec 24, 2017 at 7:57

1 Answer 1


It seems you are trying to do illustration work on a 3D modeling tool.

Inkscape could be a much more adequate program for this. You will get the additional benefit of clean, unpixelated vector graphics.

If you want to do it in Blender then I'd say take advantage of its powers.

Model a clean board as a separate recyclable object. Texture it using a procedural checker texture as Dontwalk mentioned (one less image texture and unwrapping needed); then duplicate it around your scene as desired.

Then model your chess pieces also each as a separate recyclable objects and place them on each board instance at the planned position; even if they are just a bunch of simple flat planes or circles.

You can take advantage of easy independent positioning for each, and use snapping for precise placement, no need for dozens of different textures. You can still use image based textures for each piece if you prefer, but taking advantage of modeling might produce better results depending on what visuals you are looking for.

This way, you wont have duplicate textures, needless duplication of information and manual work painting each scenario as a pixel based image in a painting program.

If you are looking for plain flat colors and simple visuals you might not even need formal rendering and can quickly capture images directly from the OpenGL viewport preview.

Animation of moving checkers

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm visualizing how to represent the chessboard to AlphaZero (chess AI) which uses Convolutional Neural Networks, which take 'stack's of images as input. So in fact it's better for me to use 'images' for the pieces instead of separate objects, and at some point they transition from images of pieces to just 'on or off' squares. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Again, I really need it as I stated in the question, which is for there to be actual image textures on on the plane, not separate pieces. And that's why I can't figure out a good way to manage the textures in that case. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ Can't you extract the images from the above setup or similar at the end? You can still make all your textures in GIMP map them to individual textures and then do all the setup in Blender. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ I see your point. The thing is half of the chessboards will actually end up being a 'all black' 'board' with someof the squares/pixels white (the full square). Think, 8x8 pixel image with radom black/white squares. Circles won't have artifacts with two adjacent pieces, but squares most likely will. I may be able to get away with quite squares that are slightly smaller than the black surface 'square' hey occupy $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 23:53

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