Unconventional Texturing Methods - Metal Balls

Unconventional Texturing Methods

Practice with Metal balls.

Before we move on to an actually game model, I have devised a simply exercise with a simple object that may familiarise us with some of my unconventional techniques.

You will find this exercise useful as the same techniques are used on our tutorial model later. Besides, I do not believe in prescribing how one is to decide actual application of paint. This tutorial will free you from slavishly replicating my decisions on the tutorial basketball player which you can see this Friday 6th July 2007. I think understanding the technique- not copying the method, is of import.

<strong>Left:</strong> Painted by freehand, <strong>Right:</strong> Mechanical airbrush with masks

Left: Painted by freehand, Right: Mechanical airbrush with masks

I have here two metal balls. The first, painted by freehand in Photoshop. The second ball, painted mechanically using Photoshop masks, gradient tools and wind blur filters. I will explain later why I rarely use Photoshop's Gaussian blur filter, Smudge or burn tools. For now, we will concentrate on the differences between freehand airbrushing and mechanical airbrushing. (Fig01)

Freehand painting above (Fig02), Mechanical painting below. (Fig03)

A closer look at both balls demonstrates the differences in results. Freehand is great for painting rust buckets and monsters with acne. If you want to do a Toy Story-esque theme, gradient tool based painting is your best bet.

With freehand painting, the artist's imperfect hand movements can be seen. Certain styles require painted smoothness with absolute consistency; this is why gradient tools are used for such textures.

These layers show how I build up my tones in both techniques. You will notice that I used motion blur instead of Gaussian blur for the black base of the second ball. I tend to use motion blur because it adds character to what could potentially be sterile. (Fig04)

I have taken extra care with the first ball keep the tones as smooth as possible, yet, it cannot match the consistency of the tones in the second ball. (Fig05)

As stated previously, I rarely use Gaussian blur. You will discover that with ample use of Gaussian blur, your texture will end up looking wooly. Judicial use of motion blur on the other hand lends character to soft and hard folds, solid walls or even skin.

I have applied Gaussian blur for the large grey area, but to add a certain hardness to the ball I will now use motion blur for several touches. The first of which is a hot spotlight on the side of the ball filled in with solid white. (Fig06)

Each effect is done on a separate layer for maximum control.

Fig. 007

Fig. 07

The trick with motion blur is to get the angle right. I have chosen -36 degrees here, I would suggest choosing an angle to your taste. The blur distance is also at your own discretion. The point to remember with these parameters is that blur distance and angle will affect the outcome drastically, judgment must be exercised as to how appropriate such an unconventional application is. (Fig07)

I have added a secondary glaze to the right side using the same method. (Fig08)

Here, we will use some of the most common masking techniques I use for all my masking work.

You may have noticed from my brush pallet that I have several customized brushes. These are designed to suit my disposition. They are easy to design in Photoshop 6. I think Photoshop 7 is un-intuitive at best and quite clumsy in the extreme. However, I digress.

Here, I am trying to create an offset highlight effect. I have created an oval mask. Make sure the oval select menu is set to normal for that non-fixed axis flexibility. I will proceed to shade my chosen position using a large brush. I always use a large brush to disguise hand movement and therefore maintain paint consistency and fine gradient. (Fig09)

I then create another smaller oval selection to clear the bottom of the highlight. You should have a crisp airbrushed shade. (Fig10)

Simply motion blur for effect. Besides giving character and movement, motion blur blends the edges with finesse. (Fig11)

Now add your final brighter highlight using the same technique. (Fig12)

Finally, soften the edge of the ball. (Fig13)


I do not use these tools for painting, in particular when creating consistent tones for cartoon or stylized textures or in general when painting gritty textures.

It is of my opinion that certain tools do more harm than good. Just because a tool exists is no reason to use it. I have seen painters use the smudge, dodge and burn tool to the detriment of the texture.
There are of course occasions to use them, but I really believe that skin textures (or many other surfaces) is not one of them. Take another look at a number of skin tones in games and see how some characters look like they have face powder on.

These tools have a bleaching effect on skin. They tend to lack pigment/hue quality leaving a dirty or washed up look. Try instead to use colour to simulate a bleached look. Another way sure to surprise you, are Photoshop's layer blenders in the layers window. Blenders like Overlay and Screen can be a revelation.

What I do is paint the tone variations normally then attempt to see what it would look like in some of the layer blenders. You may need to modify the original hue slightly in image>adjust>hue/saturation menu or adjust the opacity of the blender later.

If you know how to paint well, try to use hue rather than the aforementioned tools above to simulate what you need. Your textures will end up looking richer.

Back to our metal ball, I selected the background with the selection tool, filled it with white on a separate top layer then Gaussian blurred it to soften the edge of the metal ball.

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