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Natural metal surfaces and how I do it.

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Natural metal finishes is perhaps the thing I love most doing while skinning. After TK introduced specular and normal maps for SF2x, the possibilities to create realistic looking metal surfaces has increased.


I love to experiment with new painting techniques. And I have discovered a fairly easy way to make a credible finish.




You need a High res template to get the wanted detail and color dept. I usual work in 4096x4096 for single maps and 2048x2048 for multiple maps. If none is available for the wanted aircraft you have to create a set on your own. Its time consuming but not as hard as it sounds. The secret is having a good set of reference drawings of the given project. Normally I cut and paste the reference drawings into a new layer on top of the background layer, of the soon to be high res template. I set the opacity to 50% so I can see through the layer and be able to align the drawings to the parts. Free transform tool is a true gift for this task. When all the parts is covered with reference drawings, and their positions have been checked in game. The fun part begins. First all panel lines have to be drawn in a new layer on top of all previous layers. I usual use the pencil tool for all straight vertical and horizontal lines size 2 round hard. For all other curved and diagonal lines I use the brush tool, again with same settings as the pencil. I always use pure black for the lines and rivets. Later you can always tone them down to the wanted contrast using the opacity slider in the layer properties. To get the rivets effect on the above screen shot. You need to paint them with a ring shape brush size 4. with a 300% spacing. When all structural details is done you are now ready to get that metal surface done.


You need to think in 3 different maps to get that effect you want.


First the ordinary map, which be used for the visual appearance under all lighting conditions i game. For this map you need a base color layer of the parts. For example the base color of the skin shown above is a solid layer of 3x190 RGB. Then I duplicate this layer in 3 three copies all on top of the base grey layer. Now set the opacity to 65-70% of each of the copied layers. Select filter and add noise to each. Monochromatic and uniform 12,5%.


On the top layer select filter. add motion blur 12,5 pixel length in the desired angle of direction. Now you have the brushed metal look.

The next layer. Select artistic/ palette knife adjust the 3 sliders to your liking.

Last layer select filter/blur/Gaussian.


If you want multicolored panels darker and lighter than the base color. Simply make 2 new separate layers on top of the base colored layers one for pure white and one for pure black. Select individual panels by using the magic wand on the panel line layer.

Press shift while clicking on the wanted panels. Select lasso tool when done activate the wanted layer and fill with either black or white. Adjust the opacity to your liking.


The specular map.


Use this map for defining what to be shiny or dull. The darker the color lesser shine you'll get. I usual convert the specular map to gray scale. Now I duplicate the rivet layer into the specular map I already had saved using the template and converted to gray scale. select this layer and use the magic wand tool to select all rivets. Simples way is to point the wand at a empty area. select inverse and now all rivets are selected marked on the outside of the rings. select fill 100% pure black.


The normal map or more popular known as bump map


Use this map to produce all the small dents and imperfections. The default color of a bump map is a light purple color. To paint this map use only contrast. Pure black and white layers with an absolute minimum of opacity. 3-30% subtle is the keyword of these maps. Think 3D for this map the darker the contrast the deeper recession you'll make and vise versa for lighter.


I usual duplicate the structural detail layers from my template to this map. Air scoops, panel lines and rivets. Duplicate the lines and rivets once more. Select filter Gaussian blur 1,5% for these extra two layers. Use the properties opacity sliders to adjust.

Now make a new layer fill it with pure black. Select filter add noise monochromatic and uniform. Select filter artistic/ plastic wrap and adjust the three sliders. turn the opacity down to 3-5% and you have a very subtle uneven layer.


That is all for now.


Happy skinning :grin:

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When I did the P47 N I used real photos of close ups of some bare metal aircraft and used bits of the texture to make upi the panel areas then adding dirt etc etc...

the results when I did it that way ages ago seemed to look good.



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But I have a question now,

how do you activate the specular maps right in the model, so it shows up in game? 

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