1. Studying is Important!
As with all aspects of game art, studying from real life always helps, regardless of style. I tend to do this in the form of photography, which not only helps with texturing, getting up close and checking out how objects wear and tear, but also with how light reacts on a surface.
Here is a video I captured from an old scratched up pot in my kitchen, used as reference for the train.
2. Everything Tells a Story
When building a scene, people tend to lean on composition and lighting to sell the story, but textures are just as important. A scenes location and history should all feed into your textures, even something as mundane as a brick wall has history – Was it built well? What kind of damage has it taken over the years? All of this enhances the story you are trying to tell.
3. Bake All The Maps! Properly.
Learning to bake correctly has never been more important for a texture artist. As I’m sure a lot of you reading this are aware, procedural texturing tools like Substance and Quixel have been making waves through the industry – these tools can help you make your textures a lot quicker than in the past. For instance, when texturing an asset using substance there are many generators that make use of maps you would not typically bake for use in game. Spending the time to get my bakes right so I can use these to apply dirt and wear automatically in the right places saves me so much time during the texturing phase.
4. Procedural + Unique = Awesome.
Tools are tools, how you use them is up to you! Using these tools smart and efficiently is what they are built for. Building something as complex as a leaf can take huge amounts of time in substance, especially if you are just going to be scattering it on a floor that the player quickly runs over in less than a second. Instead I find it quicker to knock up a few variations in Zbrush, bake a height map/normal in substance and use a switch to go between them. I can now still use the procedural power of substance to scatter them about and switch between the different leaf types and as a bonus I get to use this new leaf tool I’ve created in different projects.
At the end of the day, your textures are part of the sum that adds up to making a game, so make sure you are always talking with the rest of your team, and making the best, most beautifully textured game together possible!