Making Of 'The Crock'

The Crock - from plastic looking to spaceship in no time.

This tutorial explains how to create a convincing spaceship using Texture-CDs without too much trouble and too much painting/customizing.

Understanding spaceships

Before we start with the material themselves, it's important that you understand what a spaceship is and have an idea of the different approaches to spaceship building. There are basicly two different ways of thought concerning spaceship materials: The "all white-the less color the better" and the "bring'em on, let's make some colorful stuff" approach.

Single colour spaceships

This philosophy requires the spaceship to be considered moslty like a military machine, where paint is usually given for camuflage and for protection against the environment. The look of this family of spaceships is usually severe and realistic, colors are often grayish, with few logos mostly using complementary colours or white. The tipical example is the 2001 Space odissey spaceship, but you can find them in almost every Sci-fi movie: from Alien's Nostromo and Sulacos to the empire star destroyers in starwars.

Multiple colours spaceships

One of the greatest authors that created this style is Chriss Foss, maker of the early sketches for Dunes and Alien movies. This approach basicly takes inspiration from the biological-insect world, and produces some complex and colorful patterns. Examples today can be seen in almost every Japanese anime as well as in computer videogames like Homeworld2.

Let's begin

The ship used in this tutorial is the Crock: a mixture between a crocrodile and a dragon, with a flat vertical front part, a more curved back and two rotating side engines. The model is quite simple as it's made mostly of extruded parts, loft objects and splines. The approach followed is the colorful one, mostly because the other one relies on the same operations, but it's simpler in using just one colour. The first operation is to analize the model and divide it into groups or entities. Each entity would require a different material and definitely a different mapping method. The crock is basicly divided in two specular halves, each half also divided into small gropus in order to distinguish all the moving parts (carriage, engines) from the main body. These entities can be meshes themselves or groups of meshes, depending on the software you're using.After dividing the model itself into parts, the next thing you would do is to save the untextured model as a new scene and keep it separate from the model we're currently texturing.

Materials & Layers

Now that we have prepared the model and we're ready to begin texturing, we have to think of the overall look we want to give to the spaceship. In order to do that we can simply render the untextured model and begin practicing a bit adding colours till we have an interesting result. I opted for a two colour scheme (blu-grey for the upper armor and orange for the bottom-engines) with white stripes. How do we translate this in textures? We have two options here. The first is to draw from scratch a complete map for the entire spaceship using a paint program. This method provides definitely the best results as the texture is "taylored" precisely over the model, but it's obviously time consuming and, unless you create a huge bitmap, scales badly when the spaceship is close to the camera.
The second method, the one we're using here, is to use premadde highres textures and combine them to create semi-taylored
materials that scale well and are very fast to create and modify. Pre made materials are a great base layer to create your own texturing without the hassle to begin everything from scratch. While hand made details are still required to create a convincing model, mostly all of the base colouring can be done in a few easy steps.
The idea is to use the same pre-made material customized into different colours (without the aid of a paint program, just using the 3d software color map controls) and then use masks to tell where each colours has to go.

This provides:

  1. seamless hullplates regardless as the colour chosen. The result is that the colour is painted over the hull plates.
  2. different methods for mapping coordinates for the hull plates and the color zones. example: the hull plates can be mapped with a box or shrink wrap method while the colored zones can be easly mapped in planar mode without side effects
  3. easy customization of colours. Manipulating the color map controls is easy to create different variants of the same spaceship without even opening a paint program or having to redraw the diffuse map.
  4. different scales. While the hull plates can be a high resolution premade texture, the mask used to define the colored zones can be any size. The mask can be even a combination of different masks with different resolution and mapping methods (more on that later).

Basic materials

To texture the Crock I created 3 colour materials out of the original one. I used the texture hull007.jpg for diffuse map and the corrisponding hull007_spec.jpg for specular and hull007b.jpg for bump mapping. To create the other colours I enabled thecolor map option (3dsmax) and edited the values of the diffuse map so that I obtained the orange. To get the white I used the bump map instead the diffuse map. I also tweaked a bit the shininess level and colour to differentiate a bit the materials themselves.


Before we go on, we have to understand the effects of the weather and time on our spaceship.
There are basicly 5 different types of dirt and waethering effects that we have to consider:

  1. Dust. Any colour, usually dull, it settles everywhere there's a reeceeding.
  2. Rust. Orange to brown to red, dull and settles between hull plates, tubes and everything that carries-gets in contact to corroding agents.
  3. Smoke. Any dark colour. Positioned near the engines, and airvents.
  4. Oil spots and various. Basicly everywhere.
  5. weathered paint, scratches, damage. Mainly over sharp edges, it can be determined by the overall movement of the spaceship and friction with atmosphere, micrometeorites, so on.

To recreate dust (we'll just settle with dust for this tutorial, ignoring Rust and smoke) I duplicated the orange material I already have and tweaked it until it was dull and brownish. For the sake of detail I've also changed the main texture to the more rusted dusty one. For the weathered paint material I opted for something similar to white, but with a higer level of shininess.

The masks

It is time to look at your model and choose the mapping method for your mask. For the crok I wanted to have the main two colours as the base layer and then the white stripes on top. In order to do that I created a first mask which described the boundaries of the gray and the orange materials. Then I created another mask to create the white stripes and a third for the top decals. The weathering follows the same rule as the other materials, and is composed of two materials (one for dust, the other for scratches) and two masks. Since the colour banding for the crock is basicly following an horizontal scheme, and the shape of the spaceship itself follows a vertical scheme, I opted to use planar mapping for both the base colouring and the weathering effects. Here comes handy the untextured scene we saved before: Now that we know more or less the materials we want to apply and the mapping methods we want to use, it is useful to create a few renderings of the untextured model for reference and baselayer for the masks. Since I needed to create a planar map I set a camera on the right side of the model and took a snapshot of that. I also do the same with every single group I created in the previous stage. The next step is to create with the same method a viable dirt map to use as a base for our dirt masks. In order to do that I placed several lights with soft blurred shadowsthat helped identify the receeded parts.

To create the weathered mask I created a strong light point over the front to give the edges the torn out appearance. We can now import all the renders into a paint program that supports layers (Photoshop or the Gimp to name two) and create a layered file with all our different masks. After drawing a 2 colors mask for the color banding I decided to create the white map using the textures from the cd and importing some of them into the paint program. Be careful not to insert writings and logos that are not simmetrical: these objects should be superimposed over another mask, to be sure that you don't have a mirrored image if you use the same mask for the other side.

Then the dirt mask needed some tweaking in order to be used, therefore I applied some noise and a Gaussian Blur over the whole image. Same thing applies to the weathered mask; remember that we're dealing with BASE textures, do not expect this method to produce final results for both dirt and weathered masks which, as we'll see later on, should be customized more by hand.

It's now time to create the materials and apply them to the object. We start with the base material which I decided to be the gray one. Then I added the orange one over it, using the mask I prepared to filter out transparent areas. On top of that goes the white material with it's striped mask. Note that the white mask is itself a composition of two masks: one later and one top map each one mapped with a different channel. This sandwich of materials is the base colour of the spaceship. There's one nice side effect into all of this, since I've used the same planar mapping for color, dirt and weathered materials, I can add later on more layers into the mixture, adding new custom details to each of the masks using the same channel.
It's now time to add dirt and weathering to the composition, using the respective masks. The result is ONE multilayered material that serves all. The bad news is that some 3dapps tend to be a little sluggish when dealing with such a complex material. The good news is that by tweaking the output of the single masks into the 3d application itself you can give your spaceship more dirt, or change the colors indipendenlty or eliminate the weather effect without the need of entering the paint program again.


Now that we have applied all the materials to the object is time to watch some can see, you can have a pretty decent texturing without too much effort. All we did was use the provided materials, tweak some colours a bit, make a few renders and compose everything. If the model you' re looking forward to create is some background - distant spaceship, that should be it. Otherwise we can start customizing.


It is time to add some detail to the spaceship by hand. You can actually continue adding and mixing different existing textures to create new masks and materials, but I definitely opted against it: Adding more and more masks with different mapping methods can bring even the most powerful system to its knees. Therefore I decided to take the old renders we did creating the first masks, and use them as a sketch to draw by hand any further customization. We have to create a completely new mask (bump mask) and modify the dirt and weathered masks. The new bump mask is used to overlay a solid black color over the standard bump map supplied by the hull-plates material and it's drawn using existing bump mappings on the texture cd and using them as brushes to add detail over the surface. Additional paneling was added using 1 pixel black lines. For the dirty map I took the existing one and added oil leaks and more dirt using an airbrush. For the weathered mask I took the bump map I recently created, blurred it and reversed in colour. This add some washed out effect to all the edges of the bumpmapped panels. I then added by hand some more streaks and effects here and there.

While the new bump map has to be inserted in the existing materials (basicly over all the components with different values) the dirt and the weatherd masks are already in place and only need to be updated. More customiziations could be created adding lights using a self-illumination map and by adding more detail over the silouette.Remember to exploit the possibilities of the layered materials: just by changing the colour of some textures and tweaking the masks a little you can have an entire fleet of similar but different ships in no time.


To test the final settings I created a simple plane and applied some displacement using a cellular map. To simulate terrain I then applied a new material made using hull011.jpg and corrisponding specular and bump files. Lighting was done using
a dome light plus some omnis and a direct. The crok has landed.

Fetching comments...

Post a comment