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I'm working on new Fokker D.7 skins, and some adjustments that I had to make to Edward's excellent Flanders terrain caused me to think about producing an article about color systems for the knowledge base. First, let me emphasize that there is no such thing as a "bad" color system. The many different color systems found in TW mods are all "good" - but they're all different. Major differences in colors can result in an unrealistic appearance in mods that are attempting to simulate reality.

 

Some guys notice the visual mismatch that can sometimes occur when using a variety of terrain tiles, ground objects, aircraft, etc and some guys don't. Research has found that anyone with normal color vision does perceive "unrealistic" color, but may not consciously realize it - kind of a "you won't notice it if you don't know about it" situation. To illustrate what I mean, below are shots from testing the Fokker WIP and from a new WW1 sim in development.

 

First, why did I modify the Flanders' colors? All color is relative. This is a fancy way of saying that the appearance of a color is influenced by the other colors around it. That's why brick red looks red next to brown, but looks brown when next to red. The way that a group of colors interact with each other creates a kind of group effect that can be called a system. Put another way, the colors all work together to produce a specific visual effect. Adding colors that do not fit the system creates a kind of visual conflict that happens frequently when guys combine different mods together.

 

The greens in the Flanders color system appeared too bluish on my monitor, and this created a mis-match with the cammo colors of the Fokker that made it hard to develop the new skins. To eliminate the conflict of color, I altered the Flanders .bmp artwork - but I forgot to alter the airfield .bmp. First shot below shows how the airfield tile is too bluish to match the new over-all color system created by the Fokker skins and the altered Flanders' tiles.

 

AirfieldColor.jpg

 

It is not uncommon for computer game graphics to have unrealistic colors for natural scenery - most natural colors are fairly dull, so developers hype the colors for a more dramatic effect. The next shot is a SPAD from a new WW1 sim in development.

 

air_400a_005.jpg

 

While the lighting is a bit more subdued when compared to the Fokker shot, the color systems are quite similar. Shot below shows the bluish green from the airfield pasted over the SPAD. The same visual mis-match can be seen - the bluish-green does not match the color system.

 

AirfieldColor-4.jpg

 

The next shot shows the SPAD shot reduced and pasted onto the Fokker shot. The SPAD shot was lightened SLIGHTLY to match the high noon lighting of the Fokker shot - no other adjustments of any kind were made.

 

AirfieldColor-6.jpg

 

As you can see, both color systems pretty much match up. What I propose to do is produce some guidelines written for modders - not artists - to assist them in understanding color systems. But...it will be a lot of work. How many guys would be interested?

 

Snippet from first draft:

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

 

The following guidelines are intended to assist those modders who are interested in making their artwork look more realistic. The guidelines are based on the fundamental principles of realistic painting that were first developed by the "Great Masters" – Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, etc. These basic principles have not been significantly altered by the development of the scientific method, although science can now explain the underlying reasons for these 400-year-old techniques.

 

 

 

Think of a cake, and then think of its icing - if the cake ain't right, it does not matter how good the icing is. 90% of creating realistic artwork is getting the colors right - think of color selection as making the cake. All the artsy stuff - shading, blending, etc - is the icing. Most modders either don't have the time or the ability to make the icing, but they CAN learn to make the cake. If they do, they have accomplished 90% of what they want to do. 90% ain't bad.

 

 

 

Recognizing that the average modder is not interested in spending many years becoming an accomplished artist, I have greatly simplified the basic principles in an effort to get modders up to speed in a reasonable amount of time. The following guidelines are roughly divided into two parts: background and practical application – without an understanding of the background, it will be next-to-impossible to master the practical application.

 

 

 

 

 

THEORY:

 

 

First, some simplified physics.

 

 

 

1) Color is light. Our eyeballs are biological light detectors.

 

2) The different colors that we see are the result of light striking our eyeballs at different frequencies.

 

 

 

When we look at an object, what we see is the result of light bouncing off that object - the reflected light travels through the air and strikes our eyeballs. The real world usually changes that light as it travels from the object to our eyeballs. This is crucial to understanding color – the colors that we see are not always the colors that first bounce off the object. This is why carefully matching a color chip does not always produce game textures that "look real". For you techno-types, this is the same frequency shift that can occur with most any kind of radiated energy.

 

 

 

Let's call these color changes "optical illusions". Learning how to make realistic artwork is basically learning how to simulate the optical illusions that occur in the real world. Learn this and you will have learned how to make the cake.

 

 

 

 

 

TERMINOLOGY:

 

 

 

A color has three components:

 

- Chroma. This is a fancy word for the color itself. Is it green, or blue, or red, etc.

 

- Value. This is the lightness/darkness of a color. Think of what shade of gray the color would be in a black and white photograph. A light gray in the photo would be a light value.

 

- Saturation. This is the vividness or intensity of the color. Think of fire engine red, and then think of brick red. Fire engine red is highly saturated (very vivid or intense). Brick red is a low saturation color (not vivid or intense).

 

 

 

Tint: Adding a very small amount of one color to SLIGHTLY change another color.

 

 

 

Atmospheric perspective: The atmosphere is not 100% transparent – water vapor, dust, etc in the air is the primary cause of color change. Atmospheric perspective will cause colors to appear lighter in value and lower in saturation. Distance between the object and your eyeball is the main variable – the more air the reflected light must pass through, the more the color will change.

 

 

 

Scale Effect: The same color applied to two different objects can appear different if there is a significant difference in size of the objects. Generally, the larger the object, the less saturated the color appears to be.

 

 

 

The bottom line: Simulating real world changes to a color is all about making the color lighter ( in value) and duller (lower in saturation).

Edited by Geezer

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Is this thread going to get lost in the sands of time?

 

Geezer, you did an impresive Color System analysis, will you continue working on this?

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Interesting. The human eye is most sensitive towards greens than any other color. We can more easily discriminate between subtle shades of green, then we can between reds or blues.

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That is because we are all still apes at the bottom (IMHO)... In a rain forest, reech three enviroment, some times the difference betwen a dark green and a blueish green can be the death.

 

I don't have First Eagles, so this is new for me: are those threes casting shadows? Also, are the threes being reflected in the river?

 

 

Want to see that in SF*/WO* series...

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I don't have First Eagles, so this is new for me: are those threes casting shadows? Also, are the threes being reflected in the river?

 

 

Want to see that in SF*/WO* series...

 

It's not First Eagles. To get that sort of reflection, you'd need to have post-processing coded into the graphics system, which TW hasn't done yet. Give'em awhile, and they'll incorporate it.

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Thanks for your comments guys. It initially looked like no one was very interested in the subject, but the spate of recent comments tells me I should get back to work. :smile:

 

Another factor in realistic appearance is lighting - the amount of sunlight flooding a landscape can also affect how we see colors. This gets us into areas that TW sims can't simulate - yet. All we can do is be aware of the effect and try and balance colors for the best compromise possible. Shot below is a developer's shot for a popular shooter - it shows the photo the devs worked from, and the game level the devs made that was based on the photo.

 

The "real" photo shows color variation in value (lightness/darkness) and saturation (vividness/dullness) due to some parts of the landscape being in shadow, and some parts being in direct sunlight. The game level does not attempt to simulate this extensive color variation, and pretty much shows a uniform amount of sunlight everywhere. This is an old dev shot that does not depict what was eventually released - the shooter DID simulate this kind of color variation when it hit the store shelves.

 

Unfortunately, TW modders can't simulate this variation in lighting without sometimes getting some weird results. This is a judgement call - that's why they call it "art" - but I suspect that a uniform system of colors would look the most realistic, most of the time. In plain English, without the ability to simulate the light variation shown in the photo, TW game levels should probably have the uniform look shown in the game level shot. Any comments?

 

tropical_river_photo_vs_ingame.jpg

Edited by Geezer

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In fact, I had this thread as my start page* from its creation... As no further development was shown, I had to ask for more...

 

Nice to read you'll keep working on this :grin:

 

 

Alex

 

 

 

 

*= I use Google Chrome, an it allows you (me) to keep the windows from the last session. Each time I open up the browser, that pages are automatically loaded.

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Edited and expanded draft:

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

 

The following guidelines are intended to assist those modders who are interested in making their artwork look more realistic. The guidelines are based on the fundamental principles of realistic painting that were first developed by the "Great Masters" – Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, etc. These basic principles have not been significantly altered by the development of the scientific method, although science can now explain the underlying reasons for these 400-year-old techniques.

 

 

Think of a cake, and then think of its icing - if the cake ain't right, it does not matter how good the icing is. 90% of creating realistic artwork is getting the colors right - think of color selection as making the cake. All the artsy stuff - shading, blending, etc - is the icing. Most modders either don't have the time or the ability to make the icing, but they CAN learn to make the cake. If they do, they have accomplished 90% of what they want. 90% ain't bad.

 

 

Recognizing that the average modder is not interested in spending many years becoming an accomplished artist, I have greatly simplified the basic principles in an effort to get modders up to speed in a reasonable amount of time. The following guidelines are roughly divided into two parts: background and practical application – without an understanding of the background, it will be next-to-impossible to master the practical application.

 

 

 

THEORY:

 

 

First, some simplified physics.

 

 

1) Color is light. Our eyeballs are biological light detectors.

 

2) The different colors that we see are the result of light striking our eyeballs at different frequencies.

 

 

When we look at an object, what we see is the result of light bouncing off that object - the reflected light travels through the air and strikes our eyeballs. The real world usually changes that light as it travels from the object to our eyeballs. This is crucial to understanding color – the colors that we see are not always the colors that first bounce off the object. This is why carefully matching a color chip does not always produce game textures that "look real". For you techno-types, this is the same frequency shift that can occur with most any kind of radiated energy.

 

 

Let's call these color changes "optical illusions". Learning how to make realistic artwork is basically learning how to simulate the optical illusions that occur in the real world. Learn this and you will have learned how to make the cake.

 

 

 

TERMINOLOGY:

 

 

A color has three components:

 

- Hue. This is a fancy word for the color itself. Is it green, or blue, or red, etc.

 

- Value. This is the lightness/darkness of a color. Think of what shade of gray the color would be in a black and white photograph. A light gray in the photo would be a light value.

 

- Saturation. This is the vividness or intensity of the color. Think of fire engine red, and then think of brick red. Fire engine red is highly saturated (very vivid or intense). Brick red is a low saturation color (not vivid or intense).

 

 

Tint: Adding a very small amount of one color to SLIGHTLY change another color.

 

 

Atmospheric perspective: The atmosphere is not 100% transparent – water vapor, dust, etc in the air is the primary cause of color change. Atmospheric perspective will cause colors to appear lighter in value and lower in saturation. Distance between the object and your eyeball is the main variable – the more air the reflected light must pass through, the more the color will change.

 

 

Scale Effect: The same color applied to two different objects can appear different if there is a significant difference in size of the objects. Generally, the larger the object, the less saturated the color appears to be.

 

 

Simulating real world changes to a color is all about making the color lighter (in value) and duller (lower in saturation).

 

 

 

THE SAME ONLY DIFFERENT:

 

 

All color is relative. This is fancy way of saying that a color's appearance is affected by the other colors around it. Brick red appears red when placed next to brown, but appears brown when placed next to red. Adjusting the way a group of colors interact with each other is probably the second most important thing to learn (after lightening and dulling the colors).

 

 

Think of the faces of the brothers and sisters in a family. There is a thread of family resemblance running through those faces even though each face is unique – they are "the same, only different". A color system can have a wide variety of colors but they will have a thread of similarity running through them – a kind of family resemblance. The thread can be any one of the three color components: hue, value, or saturation. Really complex color systems can have a combination of components, but let's keep things simple for now.

 

 

 

ANALYSIS:

 

 

Figure 1 shows an example of colors that lack family resemblance – the airfield - when compared to the surrounding colors.

 

 

FIGURE 1

 

 

AirfieldColor.jpg

 

 

Notice the wide variety of colors, but they all seem to be part of a piece – there is a thread of similarity running through all of them (see THE SAME ONLY DIFFERENT). Except for the airfield above the wing – it's "too different".

 

 

To analyze why the airfield seems too different, think about the three components of color: hue, value, and saturation (see TERMINOLOGY). While looking at the image, squint your eyes until they are almost shut. The green portion of the airfield partially fades into the surrounding colors, while the beige portion of the airfield (bare earth) remains distinctive.

 

 

Squinting your eyes is a good way to get into the ballpark quickly. Minor differences in hue, value, and saturation tend to fade away. However, major differences that are "too different" do not fade away as much.

 

 

1) Hue: Both the beige portion and the green portion of the airfield do not fade away as much as the surrounding colors. The beige portion really stands out because - except for a sprinkling of houses - it is the only example of that specific color. You have just identified a mis-match in hue. Now look at the green portion of the airfield. While less pronounced than the beige mis-match, there is a difference between the airfield green and the surrounding green colors. You have just identified another mis-match in hue.

 

 

2) Value: The beige portion of the airfield does not fade away as much as the surrounding colors because is lighter in value. As the bare earth visible elsewhere is not as light as the airfield patch of bare earth, you have just identified a mis-match in value. Now look at the green portion of the airfield. The value is not wildly different from the surrounding colors, so there is no mis-match in value.

 

 

3) Saturation: Both the beige portion and the green portion of the airfield do not fade away as much as the surrounding colors. Ask yourself: do they stand out because they are more, or less, vivid than the surrounding colors? Remember, you are looking for the difference between brick red and fire engine red. They are not significantly different than the surrounding colors, so there is no major mis-match in saturation.

 

 

Bottom line: the airfield stands out from its surroundings because of differences in hue and value, but not saturation.

 

 

 

HUE:

 

 

The beige mis-match is pretty obvious, but the green mis-match is more subtle and thus harder to understand, so let's talk about greens. Remember "tint"? (see TERMINOLOGY).

 

 

To over-simplify a bit, there are three different tints to green:

 

- Red-ish tint: Think of forests as found in temperate climates.

 

- Blue-ish tint: Think of jungle as found in tropical climates.

 

- Yellow-ish tint: Think of early Spring grass as found in temperate climates.

 

 

Figure 2 shows the three different tints: left is red-ish, center is blue-ish, and right is yellow-ish.

 

 

Figure 2

 

 

Red-Blue-YellowComparison-1.jpg

 

 

Note that in each example, there is a wide variety of greens but they all share the same family resemblance (see THE SAME ONLY DIFFERENT). All colors can be lumped together into families, though the actual tints will vary. To "look realistic", all colors should be part of the same family.

 

 

 

VALUE:

 

 

The following will blow your mind. Figure 3 is an IDENTICAL COPY of Figure 2 except that it has been de-saturated (converted to gray) to show value (see TERMINOLOGY).

 

 

FIGURE 3

 

 

Red-Blue-YellowComparison-2.jpg

 

 

Figure 3 illustrates how deceptive some colors – particularly yellow – can be when analyzing a screenshot. Converting a screenshot to gray (de-saturation) is a good way to identify a mis-match in value. By converting your screenshot to gray, you can avoid being deceived by color.

 

 

More deception – black and white are NOT colors. They are values. Remember, color is light (see THEORY). True black represents the total absence of any light. True black is seldom found in nature, except inside enclosures that block all light from entering. Also, true black and true white are absolutes – none of this stuff where colors are affected by surrounding colors.

 

 

Once again – true black is the total absence of any light, and does not usually occur in nature. What you see when you look at "black" markings on a real aircraft are actually EXTREMELY DARK GRAY markings. Conversely, "white" markings are actually EXTREMELY LIGHT GRAY – except in areas of greatest reflectance. http://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Comput.../2002/Color.asp Let's call this another optical illusion.

 

 

Figure 4 reveals the optical illusion by showing true black and true white stripes drawn across "black" and "white" markings.

 

 

FIGURE 4

 

 

BlackIsBlack.jpg

 

 

This is why Classical Painters (capital letters intentional) don't use true black or true white as general colors, such as "black" or "white" markings on an airplane. Your terrain tiles, skins, or decals will not "look real" if they use true black or true white. Use extremely dark gray ("off black") or extremely light gray ("off white") instead.

 

 

 

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Very interesting reading, everytime I skin a part, I try to extract the colour from photos, edit it and use it in my skins, but to find the right colour takes it time. Just look on the Superbug Navy colours, damn what a colour

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Very interesting reading, everytime I skin a part, I try to extract the colour from photos, edit it and use it in my skins, but to find the right colour takes it time. Just look on the Superbug Navy colours, damn what a colour

 

I Googled Superbug Navy Hornet, but couldn't find any shots that show unusual colors. If you are having problems, could you point me towards an example?

 

When lifting colors from digital images, I often blur a small patch of the color in question, and then use the eyedropper tool to get a sample. This does not always work well, but it will produce a kind of "average" color sample. I'm still learning the eccentricities of the TW game engine which will (like any other game system) alter colors in-game.

 

Also, digital imagery can sometimes be misleading for a whole bunch of technical reasons. Example below shows Fokker lozenge sample DL-ed from the internet - the flesh-colored lozenges don't "match" the rest of the colors. I altered them for two reasons:

- Common sense. Cammo colors are supposed to hide an aircraft, not make it stand out.

- Real world observation. I've examined several Fokkers in US and German museums, and the over-all impression was of dull, muted colors without any bright, vivid "spots".

 

If you examine the other four colors in the sample, you can see how they were slightly lightened (value) and dulled (saturation) as described in an earlier part of this thread. Sometimes, a kind of visual mis-match can occur when using a combination of dull cammo colors and vivid squadron markings. Is that what is happening with your Superbug skins?

 

Lozengecomparison.jpg

Edited by Geezer

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I see good example, I was refering to ericJ`s work on the superbug was a big fan of the WIP threat. The Superbugs colour looks in every light a bit different (ok other colours too) but this one seems not to be light grey only or white or anything else

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Very interesting and informative article - thank you.

 

Just to tell you how much I agree with you: I recently changed monitor, which caused no end of trouble, and then found that the colour values I was using for skinning in CFS3 don't altogether correspond in SF. Especially greens, as you've pointed out. Which was the colour I had the most trouble with when I changed my monitor, too...

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Once again – true black is the total absence of any light, and does not usually occur in nature. What you see when you look at "black" markings on a real aircraft are actually EXTREMELY DARK GRAY markings. Conversely, "white" markings are actually EXTREMELY LIGHT GRAY – except in areas of greatest reflectance. http://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Comput.../2002/Color.asp Let's call this another optical illusion.

 

 

Figure 4 reveals the optical illusion by showing true black and true white stripes drawn across "black" and "white" markings.

 

 

FIGURE 4

 

 

BlackIsBlack.jpg

 

 

This is why Classical Painters (capital letters intentional) don't use true black or true white as general colors, such as "black" or "white" markings on an airplane. Your terrain tiles, skins, or decals will not "look real" if they use true black or true white. Use extremely dark gray ("off black") or extremely light gray ("off white") instead.

 

Two shots below demonstrate how the use of extremely dark grays instead of black will produce a more realistic looking result. First shot shows "black" and "white" cross on upper wing of Fokker. They are actually extremely dark or light grays - note true black line drawn through center of cross in second shot. True black should be used very sparingly to simulate interior spaces that are not struck by sunlight - compare to black cockpit interior.

 

FokkerSkins-39.jpg">

 

FokkerSkins-40.jpg

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