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Author Topic: Bare metal skin effects  (Read 2198 times)
Greebo
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« on: December 09, 2009, 03:58:12 AM »

Larry emailed me for tips on how to skin bare metal aircraft but a lot of this stuff is hard to explain using only a text description. So I decided to do a full tutorial with screenshots and post it in here as it might be of help to other skinners. I don't profess to be the best at metal effects, Fester and others do this stuff better than I do.

I start with a base aluminium layer of RGB 192/192/192. Over this I create three layers for green, blue and white reflections. The idea is that the shiny metal reflects the blue sky from above and the green ground from below and the white areas are highlighted reflections of the sun. The LH screenshot below shows these layers at 100% opacity as they look when they are being created. The RH screenshot shows the effects once the layer opacities are reduced down to 5-10%. This sort of thing looks a bit bogus in the game if it is overdone, as the reflections don't move when the plane changes its attitude....so keep it subtle.



Next I create three panel variation layers as shown below. The metal used to make real aircraft was sourced from different batches and so the aluminium panels often varied in colour slightly to their neighbours, you can often see this effect in photos. The LH screenshot shows individual panels painted in dark blue grey, light blue grey and light purple shades. I use a seperate layer for each colour as its a lot easier to change the colours later for future skins. The RH screenshot has the layers' opacity reduced until the effect is only just noticable.  Note don't apply this effect to P-51 wings as the Mustang's wings were painted silver.



My panel lines, fasteners and hatches have a drop highlight layer to give a 3D effect, basically just a white copy of the panel lines offset one pixel horizontally and vertically. On bare metal skins I make a copy of this layer and place it below the camo/markings layers and above the base aluminium layer. So on the painted areas you see just one faint (15% opacity) drop highlight layer and on the metal areas you see both (15+70% opacities) giving a much stronger highlight on the shinier metal. This effect can be seen on the screenshots below. Note when doing 3D effects make a test layer of direction arrows showing a consistent light direction for each part of the skin, on my skins light comes from above, from the front and from the left.

I also like to create some aluminium sheet deformation effects around the rivets. To do this I make a copy of the rivet layer and paint it some bright colour, say red, to make it easier to edit. Then I offset the rivets in this layer one pixel horizontally and vertically in the same direction as the panel line drop highlight layer, i.e. away from the light source. Once all the sections of rivets have been moved, I turn the layer white and gaussian blur it by 1 pixel. I then do the process again for another layer but with the rivets offset in the opposite direction and turned black. These two layers become the highlights and shadows of the ripples in the skin around the rivets. The screenshots below show the effects in full on the left and reduced in opacity on the right.



The screenshots below shows all the effects together, along with weathering and 3D effects. Although I paint the main rivet layer black on bare metal skins, I've added some light grey rivets above just the painted areas of the skin, partially erased to give a worn apperance.

The individual effects shown above are not really noticable once the whole lot is mixed up, however combined they do stop it looking like an aircraft that's been just been painted light grey.

AH doesn't support specularity maps that would let a skinner alter the specularity (shinyness) of different areas of the skin. Most AH skins that have bare metal schemes do have material file support now, offhand I can only think of the B-26, P-40 and C-47 that don't. The material file lets you alter the overall specularity of the skin. However it is tough to get a good looking compromise between making both the shiny metal and dull painted areas of the skin look right. Below is the material.txt file I use on bare metal skins.

0.302,0.302,0.302,Ambient
0.439,0.439,0.439,Diffuse
0.000,0.000,0.000,Emissive
0.425,0.421,0.415,Specular
8.200,Power




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oboe
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2009, 07:28:07 AM »

Wonderful tutorial, Greebo!   Thanks for posting that!
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2009, 08:39:05 AM »

Very nice.  I don't know why I didn't think of the "black rivet offset" with the white rivet.  Brilliant.

I been playing with blue and yellow highlights on metal skins but the blue was more of an overall with a large brush used to dab at it to remove portions.  I am going to have to try your technique.

I had asked Oboe recently about how he was getting such good effects on his 38s.  With what he told me he was doing, I been playing with that and a few other things on a basic B-17G.  (Nice Large Canvas)

Thanks for posting this Greebo.
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Fencer
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2009, 12:30:11 PM »

Awesome Greebo! I think this deserves a sticky  Thumbs UP!

It's really interesting to see where the similarities and differences fall into line comparing with my own bare metal attempts (for instance, I think you and I do panel lines and rivets almost identically, especially the dual layers, one above and one below the paint). I've been trying hard to include blue/green highlights to my metal but haven't liked the effect I've been getting, but you seem to have mastered it. Very cool info!     salute
« Last Edit: December 09, 2009, 12:32:24 PM by Knite » Logged

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Larry
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« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2009, 01:44:46 PM »

Thanks greebo  salute
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Once known as ''TrueKill''.
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2009, 01:51:06 PM »

Just want to say  salute

I very much appreciate the work you and every other "skinner" does.
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« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2009, 05:56:38 PM »

Awesome. BMF is one of the toughest things to do convincingly. This tutorial is a big help! I had also discovered that rivet effect when making my Tiffie template and I'm starting to use it a lot more now on other projects, and it really looks best on BMF as strong highlights look better on metal than on painted surfaces.

[Note: following not intended as a hijack]

Skins for Micro$oft FS use an alpha layer that sets the reflective property of different areas of the skin, this is something I am having to learn about now for another project I'm doing.

ie, no alpha layer done yet, metal looks somewhat flat, and painted areas have same reflectivity, kind of like our skins in AH2:



If AH2 starts using alphas in future it'll make the skins a lot more realistic - camo and markings can appear duller than bare metal areas instead of having to compromise with a single materials file used for the whole skin (like it is now).

Also, exposed metal in the form of scratches and chips will reflect more than the painted areas as the sun catches them - weathering layers will be more complex and the total effect will be more lifelike.

as an example:



« Last Edit: December 09, 2009, 06:09:12 PM by jocko- » Logged

417jocko
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Fencer51
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« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2009, 06:13:58 PM »

Why are the Brits (and Canucks?) so darn good at this? Thumbs UP!
« Last Edit: December 09, 2009, 06:19:19 PM by Fencer51 » Logged

Fencer
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2009, 07:00:56 PM »

Why are the Brits (and Canucks?) so darn good at this? Thumbs UP!
Crappy weather stuck in side all the time? I say that from an Australian perspective. Joking of course neener
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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2009, 08:03:58 PM »

 Really need a jaw-dropping emoticon for jocko's stuff.   Holy Hanna.
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DGS II 364th FG 385th FS

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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2009, 11:33:52 PM »

My attempt

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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2009, 08:32:56 AM »

Err, I should mention that although the Sabre skin is my work, the Hurri wing is not. I included the screenie to illustrate what effects are possible with alpha channels, but it's not my skin. The Hurri wing is from an upcoming sim (produced by a certain Russian gentleman) that is finally starting to resemble something other than vapour-ware.
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417jocko
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2009, 09:26:23 AM »

The Sabre made me look twice, at first I thought it was a photo as an example..Outstanding
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Bring the Beaufighter to Aces High
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« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2009, 05:23:51 PM »

Jocko that Sabre is incredible looking.   How did you get the APU and the helmet and gear sitting on the wing?  I know nothing about MS Flight simulator...
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DGS II 364th FG 385th FS

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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2009, 08:55:45 AM »

It's part of the sim, there's a few key commands that can be used to do various things to the aircraft's state. Most MSFS aircraft will have the main door open and close by hitting SHIFT+E, this opens and closes the canopy on the Sabre. Also, with the parking brake on and the engine master and battery switches off you can use Shift+E+2 to open the ammo door on the left side of the nose. This was actually used in RL, you stepped from the ground to the open ammo door to the wing to a kickstep and then into the cockpit. The GPU can be plugged into the aircraft by hitting an 'external power' switch in the cockpit while the parking brake is on. Lastly, with the parking brake on and the engine master and battery switches off, the plugs, covers and chocks are installed, the pilot disappears from the cockpit and his parachute and helmet appear placed on the wing. The Sabre model was done by a group called SectionF8 and it's an awesome free add-on. The model is an F-86E/F which is pretty much identical to a Canadair Sabre Mk.2 which is what I've skinned. It's for an upcoming project I'm doing with some other guys, concerning the very early Cold War period, back when Canada still had an air force!  Wink







Now, back to Greebo's BMF thread... I've been experimenting with the above techniques and it sure works nicely. Too bad the P-51 slots are all full  Sad


 
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417jocko
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