What is texture mapping?
Texture mapping refers to a graphic design process that involves a “texture map” (a 2-D surface) that is “wrapped” around a 3-D object. In this way, a three-dimensional object achieves a surface texture that is similar to the surface texture of a two-dimensional surface. It's the digital equivalent of applying wallpaper, painting, or covering any surface.
Texture mapping is used to add details and textures (in the form of a bitmap image) to a 3D object or color to a 3D graphic model.
Edwin Catmull first used texture mapping on computer-generated graffiti in 1974. With this method, pixels were essentially mapped and merged on a 3D surface. This technique is now known as diffuse imaging to distinguish it from other types of imaging techniques.
Advances in computer-aided mapping techniques such as elevation mapping, bump mapping, normal mapping, displacement mapping, reflection mapping, mipmaps, and occlusion mapping have made it easier to give computer-generated 3-D graphics a realistic look.