Making Elven Armour
I made this elf for the Races Of Middle Earth CG Challenge run during January and Febuary 2003.I decided to make a ghostly elf character, sort of like a wraith, that haunts the battleground where the warrior was slain. I took heavy reference from the Prologue sequence from Fellowship Of The Ring - getting most of my designs for the armour and such from the design galleries that come with the Extended DVD boxset of the film. Although I modelled and textured the entire character for the challenge, I had a lot of people enquiring about the armour, so I decided to devote this little area of my website to explain how I put it all together. I started off modelling the torso armour plates by making a cylinder, removing its top and bottom polygons, and then using Extender to create new polys to fold over and inwards to form rims for the seperate plates. I repeated this process along the bottom of the cylinder as well, so that I would end up with a nice folded over plate.
Once I had the basic form, I used the Knife tool, as well as Bandsaw, to adjust the shape into the form that I wanted it in. I tweaked the shape and rotated the cylindrical plate into position. I then copied and tweaked and positioned each plate in turn to create the entire armour suit for the torso area.
As you can see in the image above, I also modelled little leather and metal ring joints to hold the plates together. These had to be carefully positioned into place one by one, as the armour piece is NOT symmetrical at all! Each plate was adjusted individually to allow for the overlapping pattern to work nicely. Each joint piece looked something like this, although each one was obviously adjusted slightly depending on where it was situated on the plates.
Once I had all the little joint pieces in place, and all the plates adjusted and positioned perfectly, I had a model like this
Since the character was supposed to be of rather great antiquity, I decided to mess up the armour a bit. I placed holes and breaks here and there to show that the armour was beginning to fall apart, as well as to show damage that may have been inflicted upon the armour in the battle during which the character had actually been killed.
I also made little adjustments to the little leather straps on the joints, pulling some of them apart and making them detached somewhat from the metal rings, just to create a slightly threadbare look.
Once I had the armour at this point, I was ready to begin to texturing! Due to the rather unusual shapes and positions of the individual pieces of armour, I decided that UV mapping would probably be the best way to go about texturing the model. The idea I had in mind was that I wanted to do intricate patterns on the plates, and I knew that in order to make that process a little simpler, I would need to do some very extensive editing of my UV map to get it into some kind of template that would make the placement and alignment of such patterns relatively simple. I unwrapped the model cylindrically on the Y-axis to begin with.
I then spent about roughly 6 hours editing it so that it became this (bearing in mind that I was chatting on IRC the entire time, I probably could have done it a lot faster if I hadn't been online at the time hehe).
Aaaaaah there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of making a fabulous UV map! Making my UV maps as perfect as I can get them s something I really pride myself on.
Having the UV map all nice and straight like that would make the placement of intricate patterns really simple, because I would not have to painstakingly bend the patterns to conform to any weird shapes.
While editing these maps, I used the Set UV command extensively for the first time - really useful! Using this command allows you to position the points in your map with absolute precision, which is really great when bringing pieces together that have been fragmented in the unwrapping process.
Now onto Photoshop to create the textures!
Right, so now the painting process begins.
Oh, and yes, I do use a Wacom. An A5 Wacom Graphire, to be exact.
Okay, let's make some textures!
Colour map first. I started out by making a basic oldish looking steel base for all the plates. I used some photos as a base for this, and then used some filters to clean the images up, as well as some rather extensive use of the cloning tool.
On top of this basic steel base, I began to add fairly extensive rusting. I also used a lot of photos as a base here, using pictures of many different kinds of rusts, in a number of different colours. Blending these all together, and spreading them around, I got a nice colourful rusting happening all over. At this point, I began to incorporate the intricate Celtic patterns that I had wanted to have beaten into the armour plating. You will have to look pretty closely to see them in the colour map though, since they are heavily rusted. To create the patterns, I used some Celtic fonts, which I then edited and added to, to form patterns.
I then added some Adjustment Layers (two Hue/Saturation, 1 Brightness/Contrast), some more colour detailing for more wear and tear, as well as dirt. I then added a layer of flecks of gold, into the patterned areas. The idea for this is that I thought it would be really cool to texture it to look like the armour had once had gold inlays in the patterned areas. Like when the armour had been made, and those patterns had been beaten into it, it would be very typical of Elves to inlay the patterns with gold, since they are a very artistic race, and would, I think, go to lengths to make their armour look beautiful.
You will notice that the result of this is extremely saturated. However, since in my actual Surface Editor settings, I have lowered the Diffusion to about 75%, this will not be as saturated when rendered.
I was pretty happy with that as my colour map. From colour, I went on to create the bump map. As you may notice, I stuck to my usual habit of keeping all my different details in seperate layers. So basically, I started off this bump map by taking the steel base I had originally made for the colour map, copying it to a new layer, and desaturating it to grey.
I then did the same for each of the other layers which I had created for the colour map. I now had a bunch of layers with all those details, in much the same order as they appeared in the colour map, all desaturated and ready to be adjusted accordingly.
What I do now is decide how each of these details will affect the bump map. Will it raise the bump, or lower it? Does it add any kind of grain, or does it merely add some kind of smooth adjustment? Once I have decided on these, I adjust each layer individually.
For example, the rust layers need to add a slight coarseness to the bump map. So I took the desaturated colour layer which had been originally made from photos, and firstly applied Photoshops High Pass filter to it. This ensures that no lighting information will remain in the images - luckily, none of the images I used in these textures had any major lighting of their own, but I use the filter just to be absolutely sure. I then play around with Levels and Brightness/Contrast until the rust layers look like they will affect the bump map in the manner that I wish.
This is the same process that I do for each layer. It's really a simple matter of understanding in your mind how different details with affect different surface properties. Below is the completed bump map.
As you can see, the pattern inlays are now more visible. Since I imagined that they would be beaten into the metal, I made them rather dark in the bump map, so that they would appear to be dented into the metal. The gold flecks that I had added to the inlays are raised, since the gold would have risen above the plating when it had been applied.
After completing the bump map, I create the layers for the Specularity map. Since the different layers for both of these maps will be desaturated, I start off by simply copying all the bump layers to new ones, which I then name accordingly.
The process for building up the different layers is pretty much the same deal as when I was making the Bump map - I decide how each detail will affect the specularity of the surface. Will the detail increase of decrease it?
Obviously things like rust will decrease the spec, since rust is not shiny. Whereas the gold flecks in the inlays will be slightly shiny, since they are gold, so I increase the brightness of that layer to get that effect.
I decided for each, and adjusted each layer accordingly, and came up with my spec map.
Since this metal was pretty damn ancient, I decided that making a reflection map would be pretty unnecessary. As a result of not making a reflection map, making a seperate diffuse map was also unnecessary, so I simply lowered the overall Diffuse amount in LightWave's Surface Editor until it looked right.
The final render of the torso armour is below. For the other pieces of armour on the character, like the armour on the shoulders, hips and the gauntlets on the wrists, I used pretty much the same process and techniques, so I won't really go into that now.