Today's 5/6/2015 Did You Know That? is about using material and texture features for either prim or blender mesh.
Ornery Disclaimer: I am not suggesting there is no impact on performance. There is an impact like there is an impact for the size of texture used, the number of polygons built and scripts embedded, but when used effectively 'surfacing' can be a nice way to enhance a world.
If you always use jpg textures, you may not know that a png (layered) texture will pop up a menu for you to adjust. And even if you do use layered textures, you may not know why your alpha is flickering away. Take another look at your diffuse textures options. You can make change the degree of alpha displayed. This is not the same as reducing transparency. This will cause a more subtle and artistic change to your texture. Following find a simple chart about how this works.
In addition to these options, you can also add a bump (normal map) to your texture layers that will create an illusion of cracks, bumps, etc. to your texture, and a shininess (specular map) that will change how your texture is reflected by environmental or glossiness. You can add a complimentary color like artists do to create richer texture colors or a texture sheen to your texture, so that when any light shines across your object the color shines. This process for creating visually complex surfaces is the same for Blender mesh or prim objects.
Tomorrow's Did You Know That? Q&A is also about texture illusions & baking processes that add no polygons to your builds (prim or mesh). Until then you can read a very informative article about how artists use color to create aesthetic environments (fiction, nonfiction authentic, serious uses). Textures and Materials
Texture aka diffuse (used solo or blended with other maps)
Bump aka normal (used to create complex textures - fake polygons)
Shininess aka specular (shiny or fake reflective)
Layer Summary - Alpha Mode (The Short of It)
Alpha Blending Use rarely to create semi-transparent surfaces. Can cause overlapping (flicker)
Alpha Masking Use when necessary, adjust to just what is needed. Can eliminate flickering
Emissive Mask Use to create surface highlights, ambient properties. Good option.