Every artist has their own methods for creating their artwork. In this project overview I would like to share some of my methods with you.
The modeling for this scene is pretty simple. All objects were created from box's, extruded splines and lofts. The most important thing is to give at least a slight bevel to all sharp corners. Nothing in reality is perfectly sharp so your models shouldn't be either. If your not animating, then some of this can be done in post, which I'll get more into later on in this overview.
Once I have some real rough geometry, I set up my cameras and a rough lighting setup. Composition is very important to me, and I like to make these type of adjustments early on so I know exactly what I'm getting.
I always UVW map objects as I make them. I'll usually apply a checker map to the more complex objects to make sure that all the squares are about the same size. That way I know that none of my textures will be stretching once applied.
I like to do as much of my texture work as possible within 3ds Max. Usually I will only make small adjustments to materials in Photoshop and paint masks. Only one custom mask was created for this entire image and was used on both of the two buildings walls. Normally my renders will require more custom dirt and grime masks, but the grime maps from the Total Textures CDs were so easy to work with that I was able to only have to make one mask.
Because I try to do as much with my materials as possible within max, I often have some pretty deep material trees. The reason I try to do as much as possible in max is because I can always adjust things. In Photoshop if you've changed for instance the brightness/contrast, and wish you hadn't 200 steps later. Well....it makes it much tougher to fix if you haven't planned way ahead for that.
Here is the material browser showing the texture for the wall to the left of the bridge. I use Blend materials and mix maps for almost everything. It is important to get lots of variation in your materials Often I'll use a mix map in the diffuse slot with the same textures mixed together using a dirt or grunge map. The result will give you more variation to your diffuse colors with very little effort.
I'll change the output on one of the maps to create darker stains or dirt. Its also a good idea to do something similar for your bump mapping. As you can see I didn't use any mix maps for my bump mapping this time....The results were so unnoticeable that I went back to a simpler set up.
Most of the textures used in this scene came from the Total Textures CD's. I found lots of uses for the dirt maps as well as the various wall plasters and concrete textures. Because they are so high-res I was able to easily render this image at print resolution without having blurry textures.
I'm not a big fan of UVW mapping...It is my least favorite part of the process. I will often use this little cheat when I need to have worn areas in my textures wrap around corners of my mesh. This trick only works for rectangular objects and with materials with no noticeable orientation. Use a planar UVW map. Rotate it 45 degrees around two axis, so that it is projecting at 45 degrees to the objects sides and 45 degrees down onto its top. This trick was used for the steps coming out of the water. By mapping those steps in this way, I'm able to have the cracks in the material creep up and around all sides of the steps.
I didn't need to see around the sides of the steps, so I only rotated the UVW map 45 degrees on one axis, but would have otherwise done it around two axis.
The lighting for this scene is very simple. Because I primarily create still images, I will often use global illumination to get better shadow quality in my renders. This scene was rendered with V-Ray using an area light for the sun, and a skylight. The caustics on the underside of the bridge are real, but could have easily been faked with a projection map on a light.
I almost always do some post work on my images. Often it is easier and faster to add things like dirt, plants, and specular blooms in post. All the plant life was painted in Photoshop from reference photos. Also, the cracks in the walls were created in Photoshop after the final render came out of max. They were created by adjusting the brightness/contrast of the same bump map used on the steps for their cracks, erasing unnecessary parts and multiplying that layer over the finished render.It is often a good idea to go back after your final render and do a little cloning and smearing along razor sharp edges of your renders. I did this in several more noticeable areas of this render. The bricks along the water where the two walls meet, and all along the edges of the rectangular doorway.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this overview and hopefully picked up something useful from it.