May 28, 2024

Navigating Digital Material Creation: The Role of Direct Capture, Approximation, and Procedural Methods

Creating digital materials can involve three primary approaches: direct capture, approximation, and procedural methods. While the physical properties and physics of materials play a crucial role in how these fabrics perform in the real world, this article will focus on the methods for accurately capturing the appearance of physical materials. An in-depth discussion of the physics behind material behaviour in digital environments is equally important but will require separate, detailed consideration. 

Understanding the distinct advantages and potential drawbacks of each visual capture method is vital for designers aiming to efficiently create physical products.

Direct Capture: Ensuring Precision for Physical Production

Direct capture, the method at the core of our work at Bandicoot, involves an intricate process of recording physical materials' textures, colours, and patterns under varied lighting conditions. This method ensures a digital representation that mirrors the physical material's properties with high fidelity, crucial for applications demanding precision. 

Utilising advanced technologies like Physically Based Rendering (PBR) texture mapping, we've significantly reduced the guesswork typically associated with the prototyping phase. While this method is integral to our approach, its utility in translating design concepts into physical products showcases the indispensable role of accurate digital replication across the industry.

Approximation Methods: Versatility for Digital Spaces

Approximation methods prioritise speed and scalability, employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) or extensive databases to create digital representations based on existing data. These methods offer quick insights for digital-only applications or early design phases, although their success heavily relies on the depth and quality of the underlying dataset. 

The constraints of approximation become clear when absolute fidelity to the physical material is essential, as discrepancies in data can lead to inaccuracies.

Procedural Methods: Streamlined Flexibility and Control

Procedural methods represent another facet of digital material creation, focusing on generating materials from mathematical principles rather than relying on physical data. This approach, which uses rules to create textures and materials from scratch, offers designers extensive customisation and flexibility. While Bandicoot's expertise lies in capturing the reality of materials with exacting detail, we recognise the value of procedural methods in scenarios requiring a high degree of customisation or when creating materials that don't exist in the physical world.


In digital material creation, each method—direct capture, approximation, and procedural generation—serves a crucial role, each tailored to meet different project needs and outcomes. Direct capture is essential for projects where accurate replication of physical materials is paramount, offering the precision needed for the development of physical products. Approximation methods are valuable for their efficiency and speed, suitable for conceptual stages or scenarios where exact material fidelity is not critical, like in digital mockups or early visualisations. Procedural generation stands out for its flexibility and ability to innovate, proving especially useful in digital contexts that demand customisation. 

While this article focused on capturing material appearance, understanding the physics of materials is crucial for applications demanding high fidelity in physical behaviours and will be explored in future discussions. The choice among these methods should be based on the project's specific requirements, including the desired level of detail, efficiency, and the necessity for physical production. By carefully selecting the most suitable method, designers can effectively bridge the gap between digital innovation and the creation of physical realities, ensuring that digital designs are accurately translated into tangible products with creativity and efficiency.

In your inbox - once a month

Subscribe To Our Monthly Updates

First to know
Latest Updates
Tips & Tricks
3D fabric digital textile woven on rolls four standing together Bandicoot