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Archive for January 14th, 2008

How to Turn Off Bilinear Filtering in OpenGL

Posted by gregd1024 on January 14, 2008

I don’t know which video game popularized bilinear filtering (or trilinear filtering for that matter) for close-up objects but I personally hate the effect. The only time I can accept the look of filtering textures in this manner is if the texture’s resolution is massively high (so I don’t see the blur). Note: for this post when I say “bilinear filtering” I’m also referring to “trilinear filtering” – both have the same blurring effects.

Let me show you what I mean and then I’ll explain how to turn it off. The effects of bilinear filtering are best seen on textures that contain straight lines. Therefore, I put a simple checkerboard-like texture on a wall and moved the camera close to it:


Notice how the edges of the alternating dark-green / light-green squares are clear and crisp. Now, let’s look at the exact same thing but with bilinear filtering turned on:


The edges are not clear and crisp anymore. The whole texture looks a bit blurry. If we move closer to the wall, it gets even worse:


The screenshot above looks much worse in its original size; click on the picture to enlarge. Now if we didn’t use bilinear filtering it would look like this:


Hence the reason why I don’t like bilinear filtering. It just makes things too blurry. However, I have yet to see any game programming tutorial or OpenGL tutorial explain how to turn it off.

Actually it’s very simple to turn off. After loading a texture you need to make the following two function calls:



Most code examples already have these calls except the values for parameter three are different. The value for that parameter depends on parameter two. Here are possible combinations:

  1. When the second parameter is GL_TEXTURE_MIN_FILTER, parameter three can be:
    6. GL_LINEAR
  2. When the second parameter is GL_TEXTURE_MAG_FILTER, parameter three can be:
    1. GL_LINEAR

I don’t want to stray off topic and explain each parameter combination, but don’t worry, I’ll write another post on that topic soon. For now, just know that most examples use GL_LINEAR_MIPMAP_NEAREST for min filter and GL_LINEAR for mag filter. This combination sets up typical bilinear filtering used in most games. Trilinear filtering is almost the same except GL_LINEAR_MIPMAP_LINEAR is used instead of GL_LINEAR_MIPMAP_NEAREST.

When you set both parameters to GL_NEAREST it tells OpenGL to not interpolate any of the texel color values. It takes the calculated (u, v) coordinates, finds the texel nearest to that point in the source bitmap, and uses that color. So essentially it is just like old software rendering engines before everybody started using bilinear filtering.

-Greg Dolley

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Posted in 3D Graphics, OpenGL | 14 Comments »