By Christopher "shaithis" Buecheler
Channels are your friend. Learn how to use them. If you bought Photoshop, the manual's excellent. If you have an...*ahem*...trial version, then I'd recommend going out and buying the full version (seriously. I know it's expensive, but much like Paul Steed has said about 3DSMAX...if you really want to learn it, you should find a way to get out and buy it), or at least going to your local library and finding some basic Photoshop tutorial books. There's no better tool for defining a selection than channels (tho quickmask and paths can be very useful, as well).
God, I should hope I don't have to mention this, since it's been drilled into the minds of every computer user on a daily basis for the past ten years, but... Save early, and save often. Once you've put three hours into a texture, and had the machine crash on you, and realized you didn't save, you will understand. I average five or six PSD's per texture, containing various layers and channels.
Every tool, every filter, every brush in Photoshop produces not one, but several different effects. The possibilities are essentially unlimited. It's up to you to toy around with new stuff, find out how each item works, and then learn how you can apply them to your work to achieve the results you want to achieve. When I first started with Photoshop, my work was all (as is most people's) "Filterama" stuff. Just filter after filter after filter applied with no real reasoning behind it, other than that it "looked cool" (and of course, the obligatory lens flare on top of it to add that cutting edge, sci-fi look). Trust me, other Photoshop professionals are grinning right now, and probably nodding their heads. Every Photoshop user I've ever met has gone through almost the exact same learning curve that I did.
Now, I still experiment quite often, trying for new effects, but 90% of the time when I use a filter, it's for a very specific purpose. I know that when I lay down a new layer of black scribbles, distort it, ocean ripple it, and maybe paint-daubs it, I'm left with something that (when the layer mode is set to burn) can be touched up with a few minutes of dodge/burn to make normal metal look rusty/corroded/dented. I know this works because I stumbled across the basic concept while experimenting, and have refined it to a specific technique.
So don't be afraid to play around with the tools. That's what they're there for. :)
Get a Tablet
While not required for texture making (although I can NOT make skins without it, for some reason), an Art Tablet is extremely handy at times. a 4x5 Wacom (I would always recommend Wacom) costs about US-$115, if you look for it on pricewatch, which isn't that bad. Even if you don't know how to draw, and art tablet is very versatile. Though if you really don't know how to draw, I suggest you take some art classes before trying to work on textures/skins. It'll help immensely.
Listen to Orbital
It's good for the mind, dontcha know.
Get good source art
Or hand draw your own. Personally, I prefer a bit of both. Don't be afraid to go wandering around with your digital (or regular) camera, taking pictures of walls and things. Yes, you'll look weird. But if you mumble something about "gotta get this art project done by Sunday" occasionally, people will go "ahhh....artist", and except your weirdness. I wandered around the downtown area of my city for an hour and a half the other night, taking pictures of church walls and dry fountain beds. It was actually a rather enjoyable experience.
The final, most important, most obvious and (often) most difficult tip of them all. Practice. Make a lot of textures. Join a TC team. Do whatever it takes to learn your tools and improve your skills. Understand that you won't appear to improve at all for like three or four months, and then one day you'll wake up and just be better. I don't know why that happens, but that's just how art is (at least, for me). It's like you have to recharge a bunch of batteries for awhile to obtain this one burst of power that mutates and enhances your abilities. So after you've made that 100th texture that doesn't really particularly better than your 5th, just try and remember that you'll sooner or later (number 101 or number 250) make a texture that's just infinitely better than those that came before it. And there's no turning back once you jump another level. :)
Hope those are of some help. Some of them may seem a bit obvious to you experienced artists out there, but it never hurts to reiterate them occasionally. I'll be back in two weeks with some hand-drawn stuff. Right now...I've gotta go make textures. ;)
Until next time,
- Christopher Buecheler is a freelance 2D artist.
Credits: Graphic Content is © 1998 Christopher Buecheler. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, or we'll paint you white against a white background.