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Book Excerpt: 3D Game Textures: Create Professional Game Art Using Photoshop
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Book Excerpt: 3D Game Textures: Create Professional Game Art Using Photoshop

June 22, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

Quick Studies of the World Around You

The following pages are some quick studies I did of random objects. I tried to work through each of them as a game artist might to give you some quick and general examples of how a game artist might break them down. We will do this type of exercise in more depth throughout the book, but in the tutorial portions of the book those breakouts will be more specific and focused to the goal at hand.

This is a general look and introduction to the thought process of recreating surfaces and materials in a digital environment. I covered all that was introduced in this chapter: shape and form, light and shadow, texture, color, as well as considering other aspects of the object or material. I didn’t touch on perspective in these exercises because in the coming chapters we discuss perspective as it pertains to collecting and processing textures. In the following pages, Figures 1-30 to 1-35 will each have a caption that discuss the particulars of each study.


Figure 1-30: The upper left-hand image is a digital photo of some simple concrete stairs. You may have an art lead email you an image like this and tell you she wants a texture based on these stairs. Fortunately, this is a rather simple form; not a lot of color or detail to distract us. Look at the simple recreation of the stairs to the right showing the basic light and shadow patterns on the stairs. The lower left image shows the 2D texture created in Photoshop to be applied to a 3D model of the stairs. If you look at the yellow stripe on the stairs and compare it to the stripe on the texture, you can see the highlights painted in the texture where the edge of the step is and the shadow under the lip of the edge. If you were able to examine the original digital image of the stairs closely, you would see an almost infinite amount of detail. Part of the texture artist’s job is to know when to draw the line. Here I didn’t include every scuff and mark from the original stair image because it wouldn’t work. You will learn in coming chapters that such details usually stand out and draw attention to the repeating pattern of a texture, or in the case of fabrics and fine meshes can create noise or static in the texture. I created this texture pretty quickly; given more time, I would experiment with the chips and wear on the edge of the steps to add more character.


Figure 1-31: This is a straight-on photo of an interior plaster wall. I included this obviously unexciting image to demonstrate that even in such a simple surface there can be complex highlight and shadow going on. Look at the color swatches of the highlight, shadow, and mid-tone. Notice that the colors are not simple black, white, and gray. The highlight is not pure white or light gray, but a very pale green. Look at the close-up of the image. You can clearly see the consistent behavior of light as it highlights the upper ridges of the plaster and shadow falls from the lower edges. Once you start studying such seemingly commonplace things, like a wall you may walk by a hundred times a day, you will start to notice, understand, and remember how various lights, materials, and other factors affect a surface. Do you convey that simple raised pattern in the texture, using geometry, or a shader? Of course, that depends on many factors, and hopefully by the end of this book you will know what questions to ask to determine the answers.


Figure 1-32: This image simply shows the world that I need to wash my car. Seriously, look at the various parts of complex objects and you will see a variety of surface behaviors. Notice how the paint is highly reflective and mirrors the world around the car. The metal is not flat like a mirror, so notice the distortion of the reflected image. The windows, while reflecting the surrounding world as well, are translucent so you can see what’s behind the window and on the other side of the car. The window also has a patina of dirt and spots on it. If you needed to recreate this as realistically as possible, you would have to take all those aspects into consideration and determine the best way to achieve the effect. Look at the close-up of the rim. You can see that the highlights are not mirror-like in their accuracy, but rather they are a diffuse notion of highlight. Looks simple to paint, but wheels rotate and will instantly look bad if not painted properly. Using a real-time process for highlights eliminates this problem. While the tires are flat black and reveal only a faint notion of highlight, depending on the detail level, you may be dealing with complex mapping and shader effects here, too. While all of this seems obvious, taking the time to examine the object you are recreating and understanding what you are seeing and how to verbalize it helps when turning the object into game art. If you were to make materials or textures for this vehicle, you would need to know many things about the technology and how the car will be used in the game. Can we have real-time environmental reflections? Can we fake them using a Shader? Do we have to carefully paint in a vague notion of metallic highlights that work in all situations the car may be in? And the windows. Can we do a translucent/reflective surface with an alpha channel for dirt? If the car is used in a driving game where the vehicle is the focus of the game and the player gets to interact up close and personal with the car, then I am sure a lot of attention will be given to these questions. But, if this car is a static prop sitting on a street that the player blazes past, then over-the-top effects may only be a waste of development time and computer resources.


Figure 1-33: This sewer intrigued me: a simple shape of a common item that many may overlook as not worthy of serious attention. Some may have the attitude that it is only a sewer grate, so make it and move on. But a shiny new sewer grate with clean edges would stand out in a grungy urban setting. Look at this sewer grate. It is made of iron and looks solid and heavy. It was probably laid down decades ago and has had thousands of cars drive over it, people walk over it, millions of gallons of rain water pour through it. On the image at the upper left you can look at the iron and see how it is rusted, but so well worn that the rust is polished off in most places. Dirt has built up in the cracks between the grate, the rim, and the concrete. Even little plants have managed to grow. Look at the close-up at the upper right and you can see just how beat up this iron is and how discolored it has become. At the lower left I desaturated and cleaned up a portion of the image to see just how the light and shadow are hitting it and to get a feel for the quality of the surface. In this image you can more clearly see the roughness of the cement and the metal, and while the circular grate looks round from a distance, up close there are no straight edges and smooth curves. All this detail can’t be depicted 100% in a game texture, but knowing it’s there and understanding what you are seeing will allow you to convey a richer version of the grate as you will learn to focus on those details that add realism and character. On the lower right is a texture I did, and you can see that I was able to quickly achieve a mottled and grungy look for the metal and the edges. There are a few places at the top where I started the process of eating away at the concrete and the metal a bit.


Figure 1-34: This image is similar to the sewer in approach. Here I wanted to point out how a simple shape can be turned into an ornate hinge with little effort. The top image is the original digital photo of the hinge. I drew the shape of the hinge in Photoshop. You may notice that I drew the screws separately. This is because you need the shapes separately to work with them in Photoshop, you will see why later in the book. In Photoshop I applied and adjusted the Layer Effects and then colored the hinge close to the overall color of the original. After that it was a matter of applying the right filters and doing some hand work to get the edges looking right. We will be doing this type of work throughout the book. And I will remind you from time to time that while the best approach may be to use photo source, or any one of the other methods available, the focus of this book is to help you develop a set of Photoshop skills that will allow you to not depend on any one method. These skills will improve your abilities when working in any of the other methods.


Figure 1-35: This light switch is a common object you may need to create. Instead of taking the time to clean up and manipulate a photo, you can just make one quicker from scratch. The switch is composed of simple shapes with the layer effects applied. The wall behind the switch was a quick series of filters run to add a base for this exercise.



This chapter was an overview of the most basic, but critical, aspects of traditional art. Understanding the concepts in this chapter, and further exploring them on your own, will make you a much better texture artist. We are now ready to get more technical and look at the mechanical issues of creating game textures.



Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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