The Crock - from plastic looking to spaceship in no time.
This tutorial explains how to create a convincing spaceship using Texture-CDs without too much trouble and too much painting/customizing.
Before we start with the material themselves, it's important that you understand what a spaceship is and have an idea of the different approaches to spaceship building. There are basicly two different ways of thought concerning spaceship materials: The "all white-the less color the better" and the "bring'em on, let's make some colorful stuff" approach.
Single colour spaceships
This philosophy requires the spaceship to be considered moslty like a military machine, where paint is usually given for camuflage and for protection against the environment. The look of this family of spaceships is usually severe and realistic, colors are often grayish, with few logos mostly using complementary colours or white. The tipical example is the 2001 Space odissey spaceship, but you can find them in almost every Sci-fi movie: from Alien's Nostromo and Sulacos to the empire star destroyers in starwars.
Multiple colours spaceships
One of the greatest authors that created this style is Chriss Foss, maker of the early sketches for Dunes and Alien movies. This approach basicly takes inspiration from the biological-insect world, and produces some complex and colorful patterns. Examples today can be seen in almost every Japanese anime as well as in computer videogames like Homeworld2.
The ship used in this tutorial is the Crock: a mixture between a crocrodile and a dragon, with a flat vertical front part, a more curved back and two rotating side engines. The model is quite simple as it's made mostly of extruded parts, loft objects and splines. The approach followed is the colorful one, mostly because the other one relies on the same operations, but it's simpler in using just one colour. The first operation is to analize the model and divide it into groups or entities. Each entity would require a different material and definitely a different mapping method. The crock is basicly divided in two specular halves, each half also divided into small gropus in order to distinguish all the moving parts (carriage, engines) from the main body. These entities can be meshes themselves or groups of meshes, depending on the software you're using.After dividing the model itself into parts, the next thing you would do is to save the untextured model as a new scene and keep it separate from the model we're currently texturing.
Materials & Layers
Now that we have prepared the model and we're ready to begin texturing, we have to think of the overall look we want to give to the spaceship. In order to do that we can simply render the untextured model and begin practicing a bit adding colours till we have an interesting result. I opted for a two colour scheme (blu-grey for the upper armor and orange for the bottom-engines) with white stripes. How do we translate this in textures? We have two options here. The first is to draw from scratch a complete map for the entire spaceship using a paint program. This method provides definitely the best results as the texture is "taylored" precisely over the model, but it's obviously time consuming and, unless you create a huge bitmap, scales badly when the spaceship is close to the camera.
The second method, the one we're using here, is to use premadde highres textures and combine them to create semi-taylored
materials that scale well and are very fast to create and modify. Pre made materials are a great base layer to create your own texturing without the hassle to begin everything from scratch. While hand made details are still required to create a convincing model, mostly all of the base colouring can be done in a few easy steps.
The idea is to use the same pre-made material customized into different colours (without the aid of a paint program, just using the 3d software color map controls) and then use masks to tell where each colours has to go.
- seamless hullplates regardless as the colour chosen. The result is that the colour is painted over the hull plates.
- different methods for mapping coordinates for the hull plates and the color zones. example: the hull plates can be mapped with a box or shrink wrap method while the colored zones can be easly mapped in planar mode without side effects
- easy customization of colours. Manipulating the color map controls is easy to create different variants of the same spaceship without even opening a paint program or having to redraw the diffuse map.
- different scales. While the hull plates can be a high resolution premade texture, the mask used to define the colored zones can be any size. The mask can be even a combination of different masks with different resolution and mapping methods (more on that later).
To texture the Crock I created 3 colour materials out of the original one. I used the texture hull007.jpg for diffuse map and the corrisponding hull007_spec.jpg for specular and hull007b.jpg for bump mapping. To create the other colours I enabled thecolor map option (3dsmax) and edited the values of the diffuse map so that I obtained the orange. To get the white I used the bump map instead the diffuse map. I also tweaked a bit the shininess level and colour to differentiate a bit the materials themselves.