Painting metallic tileable textures


Creating a metal-effect tileable texture

Teo KiKi takes us through some of the key aspects in painting a metal tileable texture in Photoshop.

The main point to remember when creating your tileable texture is to make the appearance as generic as possible, as it will be tiled over a model surface.

Color map: Background

We'll begin with a color map. First, reference your callout sheet and analyze it. Then, as we'll be painting metal, we need to start with a black background.


Starting out with a black background

Color map: adding color

Pick the complementary colors on your reference image and using a Cloudy brush, paint the basic color variations into the image. Here, this example uses red and blue as most types of painted metal have a very powdery look.


Adding color variation with a Cloudy brush

Color map: patterns

When you are done adding color to the base, you can start extracting patterns from reference photos.


Using reference images to add texture

Color map: contrast

Using the RGB channel, look for the channel with the highest contrast on the image. Duplicate the channel and adjust the curve for more contrast.


Add a starker contrast to the image

Color map: select patterns

Now Ctrl+click the thumbnail of that channel to select the patterns.


Selecting the channels

Color map: ‘Select color range' function

Alternatively, you can duplicate the original layer, and use the ‘Select color range' function.


Duplicating layers

Color map: paste selection

Copy and paste your selection onto the base layer you painted earlier and adjust the Hue and Saturation to blend it in.


Blending in your selection by adjusting the Hue/Saturation

Color map: using photographs

Continue using photographs to get patterns. These can be anything, from tea stains to concrete, to achieve the effect in the metal reference. Keep your changes on separate layers. You can also play with the Opacity and layer modes: Overlay, Soft Light, Multiply, and so on, to make the patterns blend in. Use Curves, Hue/Saturation to refine the effect.


Use photographs and adjust the layer modes; Opacity and Hue/Saturation

Color map: fixing gaps

After you copy and paste the patterns on, fix unnatural gaps in the texture by creating a Layer Mask. Mask out or paint over some of the patterns that have hard edges and seams.


Fixing problems in the patterns

Color map: scratches

Now, create a new layer, paint in the scratches with a custom brush and adjust the Opacity. The example below is painted with a 1 pixel standard hard-edged brush with the pressure turned on.

If you're satisfied with your texture now, we can move on. Save your PSD into a TIFF file for the next step.


Painting in the textured scratches

Tiling the textures

Click on Filter > Other > Offset, and check the Wrap Around option. If your tile is sized at 2048 for example, then offset it by 1024 on the horizontal and vertical axes. Now you have a tileable texture, but with ugly seams down the middle.


Tiling the texture

Fixing seams

To fix the seams, use the Clone tool to clone other parts of the texture onto the seams. Be careful not to touch the edges though.


Fixing the seams in your texture


Use a Hard brush that has breakup on the edges to refine your seams. Don't use a Soft brush because your texture will turn really blurry and muddy. Also don't use a Hard brush with no breakup on the edges, because you will get some funny-looking spheres in your texture.

When trying to create a uniform texture, the Healing brush is a better option than the Clone tool. This is because the Clone tool can easily make the image muddy. Using the Lasso tool is another good option – simply select an area that you want to use and feather the selection. Copy and paste it over the area you want to cover.


Some of the brushes used to refine the texture

Specular map: using color maps

Based on your color map, make a specular map. Specular maps are in grayscale, and white indicates full specular and black indicates no specular.

In the PSD file for your color map, group all your color layers together, and name the group ‘Color.' Duplicate the ‘Color' group and name it ‘Spec.'


Naming the groups of layers to create maps

Specular map: Hue/Saturation

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of all the layers under the Spec group. Adjust the Saturation to -100.


Adjusting the saturation on the spec group

Specular map: final map

Based on the look of material, decide which areas should have more specular and where will have less. Use Hue/Saturation and Curves to adjust the layers in the spec group. You should adjust it according to the areas that will be darker or lighter. For example, rust layers are darker and scratches are brighter. You're making decisions on what to make black or white in the texture. Remember that the map must have contrast.


The final specular map

Bump map: introduction

Bump maps are also based on color maps, and are also in grayscale. The level of bump indicates the nature of the 3D texture depth. White indicates a bump at 1%, black is -1.50%, and gray is for areas that are smooth with no bump.

So first, duplicate the Color group, and name it Bump.


The extra group in the panel

Bump map: refining the map

Using Curves and Hue/Saturation, adjust the layers individually. Here, the rust layer needs to be brighter because of the slight lift from the surface of the texture, and the scratches layer needs to be darker because they sink below the surface. A 50% gray square is placed on the side for comparison in the image here. Remember to keep your bump from looking too noisy.


The bump map indicating the depth of the texture

Related links

Teo's website has projects, sketchbooks, showreels and animation
Check out Teo's Tumblr for some of his daily sketches
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