Creating a 3D model for a paint over part 2 – the paintover

Download tutorial assets here: PSD, ZTL and FBX


We used ZBrush in order to invent and create at the same time. This saved us a lot of time, that would otherwise go into creating thumbnails, sketches, iterations, finding the right camera angle, and constructing perspective. It saved us a lot of time. Today I am going to show you how I use our reference in order to create a paintover that goes well with any other 2D assets and blends easily with painted backgrounds and characters.

sparks tires car buggy buggy vehicle 3d model stylised car sci-fi prop design texture

The finished shot with a simple but stylish background.

Creating a tight line drawing

Those who know my tutorials, know that I love my line drawings. It‘s not only a fantastic exercise, it is also a great way to get to understand your painting subject in detail. Every moment you take at this stage will pay back later and will help to paint in a clear and decisive manner.

line art drawing final concept rendering 2d car buggy sci-fi vehicle

Take your time for this step and plan out your details.

Testing colors

I create my selection pass and fill each element on a separate layer. Having each material separated, I can now quickly switch their colors and try different ideas. Even if you already know which colors you want to choose for your rendering, I recommend trying a few variations. Only when you compare your ideas to one another will you be able to really see which one is the most successful one.

testing colour rendering modeling experimentation car sci-fi

Compare your ideas and pick the one that fits your design brief.

Cast your shadows

Having a 3D model as a reference will make this step easy, especially when dealing with complex shadows such as the ones on the tires’ profile. Simply either trace or paint your shadows on a new layer and set them to multiply at around 70% opacity. I recommend giving the ones that get cast on chrome or car paint a little bit of color but in general I keep them black.

shadows lighting rendering 3d model referencing tires profile

On the left you see the shadows on their own, and on the right they are already applied to the colored vehicle.

Background and reflection

I create a simple background for my presentation, but now I also want the car to blend with its surrounding environment as well. So I add a reflection pass, picking the purplish blue from the background as a color and switching its layer to screen. Note that I also at this point painted in some details describing the areas behind glass so I won‘t have to go back later.

background design reflection pass rendering car tires  3d model

On the left you see the reflection pass on its own. Notice how the tires have a softer reflection due to their material.

Ambient Occlusion

You can render this pass with your 3D software. It is one of my favorite passes to paint however and so I usually do it myself. If you are having troubles getting this one look nice, you can also paint it in two steps. First paint all the small cavities and then do a second layer where you use the lasso tool and a soft brush to do the larger areas.

photoshop lasso tool selection layers 3d model designing painting

The lasso tool and my selection layers make it easy to select and paint the areas that need to be darkened.

Adding the main light

We already added our shadows, so now it‘s time to add our main light. The pass is fairly straight forward and its creation is no different from how we painted our reflection pass. Make sure you consider your material. The tires show a softer reflection than the other components. In order to get a convincing and shiny car body I push the reflected light towards orange.

main light shadows lighting rendering model pass car buggy

Each material has a different way in order to reflect light.

Painting the details

Finally we arrived at my favorite step, the paintover. All the shadows and colors are already in place since we carefully created each pass. Painting the details is very rewarding and a few touch ups are enough to complete this step. Except for the highlights which I decided to lighten a bit further and add some extra vibrancy, I don‘t introduce any new colors. Also pay close attention to the tires.

3d model detailing passes outliners shapes rendering design sculpt

Adding a few details and cleaning up the outlines and shapes take our rendering to the next level.

Sparks and sparkles

The painting is complete but in order to really sell our design and make it stand out we still need to add some extra spice. For the background paint some stars, simply playing with glow and motion blur effects, and then I add a concrete texture set to overlay in order to suggest a night sky background. I import my pre-made highlight set to screen and use it to create some highlight effects on the chrome. In order to make it look convincing I use the smudge brush and play with it until I am satisfied. Finally I use some extra glow to turn on the headlights which completes the process.

buggy vehicle 3d model stylised car sci-fi prop design texture

Some extra effects will make it pop out from the screen.

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