3D Artist

Free tutorial: How to create realistic textures

Tips & Tutorials

Find out how you can simulate super realistic painterly textures for your 3D projects with this fantastic tutorial by Richard Yot

Freelance artist Richard Yot is a regular contributor to 3D Artist magazine. Discover how to create extremely realistic painterly effects using Photoshop and ArtRage to create convincing results for your 3D projects with this 6-step tutorial…

Lou by Richard Yot

Step 1: Thick impasto paint in ArtRage

ArtRage is a 2D-only application, so in this case the UVs for the model have been laid out and applied to a layer as a guide. Then a cardboard texture from a CGTextures.com was applied as a background, and on a new layer the paint was laid down using a thick impasto oil brush. ArtRage has many preset brushes with additional controls so you can tweak them to your purposes.

Thick impasto paint in ArtRage

Step 2: Exporting from ArtRage

Once you are happy with the texture painting in ArtRage, there is a feature that enables you to export your textures to greyscale maps suitable for 3D. Select your texture layer, and then go to Tools>Layer Options>Export Layer To Channels. This will create a diffuse map, a bump map, a shininess map and a reflection map of your texture which you can then apply to your 3D model. The bump map is the most useful for the impasto effect.

Exporting from ArtRage

Step 3: Thick paint in Photoshop

It is also possible to create an impasto effect in Photoshop, although this requires a little more planning. By painting in several layers you can simulate the natural build-up of paint, and using the layers as the basis for your bump and specular maps you can easily create the illusion of depth. Make sure to use a brush that has broken-up edges to simulate the look of thick impasto paint.

Thick paint in Photoshop

Step 4: Create bump and specular maps

Once your textures are painted, you can make a copy of the layered image you have created and then by turning each layer into different greyscale values you can create very good bump maps that show varying levels of paint build-up. Specular and reflection maps can also be created this way, allowing for different levels of shininess at different depths. This method requires a bit more work than the one in ArtRage, but the results can be very convincing.

Create bump and specular maps

Step 5: Watercolour effects in Photoshop

A watercolour effect can be created on several layers by building up colour using custom watercolour brushes, included on the disc. These use the stylus pressure to modulate colour, opacity and flow to create the varying levels of transparency and the irregular texture of watercolour. If you add some layers in Multiply mode you can also mimic wet-on-dry and use the background white to blend to transparency white is invisible in Multiply mode.

Watercolour effects in Photoshop

Step 6: Add real world textures for extra realism

Finally it is a good idea to add some extra textural details to the painted textures, for instance scanned paper or watercolours on a subtle overlay layer on top of the Photoshop document, and also to use layer masks to break up your layers and introduce imperfections, these can also be carried over to bump and reflection maps. Every level of detail will add to the final realism of your render.

Add real-world textures for addd realism

Expert tip!

3D painting in Photoshop is feasible, but a little rough around the edges. The navigation is poorly implemented, you have to use a special Rotate tool to turn your model around, and the experience is not fluid compared to mainstream 3D programs. A Space Navigator can alleviate this and allow for a smoother and quicker workflow.

Also be aware that the size of the window the 3D model is active in will affect the quality of your painting. The default is 1024 pixels, and this size is used for projection painting onto your textures which might be considerably larger, so it’s a good idea to increase the size of the master 3D document.

Each issue of 3D Artist magazine is packed with tutorials for a variety of software. 3D Artist magazine is available from all good newsagents, supermarkets and at the official Imagine Publishing online store.

Digital editions of 3D Artist are also available through the Apple Newsstand and Zinio. Save money off the cover price and get your copy immediately. Back issues and subscriptions to this service are also available – check out our latest subscription promotions.