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volume 1, issue 35

Today in loonygames:

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DRAW Partner!: Chris Buecheler's article on games and 2D art.

Two Programs, Two Dimensions: Rick Grossenbacher's tutorial on using Photoshop and Illustrator to create original 2D images.


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Painting on Polygons:
Creating A Space Scene (part 2)

By Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher

Repeat the entire process with the other two renders so that you have three planets in the same document stacked on top of each other. Iíll list the process again so it is in a nice easy to read order:

1. Make sure your Layers Palette is up and the Channels tab is pressed (at the top of the Layers Palette).

2. Open the TIF file of one of your rendered planets.

3. Bring your cursor over top of the Alpha channel in the Layers Palette.

4. Press the Ctrl key, then left-click the mouse (to put a selection around the planet).

5. Cut the planet out.

6. Paste it directly over top of the other planet (in the new document).

7. Repeat this entire process until all three of your rendered planets are stacked in layers on top of each other.

With that done, you no longer need your renders of the three planets, but you might want to save them in case you mess something up. Take a look at my Layers Palette now with the three planets. I named them "Render 1," "Render 2," and "Render 3."

If you are wondering why we have three planets all stacked directly on top of each other, here is the reason. Itís time to erase sections of the two top layers so they show through to the bottom one ("Render 1"). In other words, you can go in now and selectively figure out where you want the bumpiest part of the planet to be, and where you want the smoothest parts. For my planet, I wanted to make it real smooth in the middle and bumpier towards the top and bottom -- also fairly bumpy at the point where light and dark meet. Then, I would put in the mid-bumpiness here and there (where ever I see fit).

I diagrammed it below:

Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

Since the planet was looking a bit dull and colorless, youíll notice I brought up the Saturation slider to about +42 or so (you may want to experiment). I also messed a little with the Brightness/Contrast (brightness -8, contrast +6 or so).

The planet is looking pretty good now (on my monitor, at least). I took the time to view it on a Macintosh the other day and it was quite bright and washed out looking. This is one thing I really hate about computer art. You can never get everyone to see your work as you want it presented since everyone has different monitors.

The planet is missing something though -- a glow. A slight glow can really make it look like it has genuine atmosphere. Just be careful not to over do it too much on the glow, however -- that will just make it look fake.

There are several way to go about creating a glow.

1. You can use a Photoshop filter (or an Outer Glow layer effect).

2. You can create one in 3-D Studio MAX in Video Post.

3. You can create one manually using feathered selections and opacity trimming.

Option number one... Personally, I avoid 90% of Photoshop filters. The worst thing you can have happen to your artwork is for someone to be able to say, Lens Flare here, Lighting Effects filter there, bla, bla, bla, bla. This isnít to say that Filters canít be used creatively, however. Iíve seen some people come up with some damn cool stuff using combinations of filters wisely and creatively. But the nice thing with the layer effects such as Outer Glow is that you can do quite a bit of manipulating color, intensity, etc.

Option number two... Video Post can be powerful, but itís a fairly slow process (unless you have a quite fast computer or video card). Plus, sometimes it can be a pain get things the way you want them.

Option number three... I like to create a lot of my effects manually because you can add the nuances that you are looking for and they arenít as uniform as in a filter. And if I ever hope to be quoted for anything in my life regarding art, I hope it is for saying that the use of interesting little nuances is the keys to realistic, professional-looking computer-art (in the context of what we are talking about -- Iím not talking about cartoons or something, Iím talking about detailed, fairly realistic, artwork). If you take a look at just about anything in real life, youíll see what I mean. Heck, look at your monitor sitting right in front of your face. I bet somewhere there might be a smudge on the screen from where you slapped that bug that was flying around and never got to fully cleaning off other than smearing it with a tissue. Or maybe a sticker stuck around the frame that is now peeling off. Or maybe just a collection of dust that has been settling on the top for three months too long. Anyway, you see what Iím getting at. Those are the things that add character to your work and make it stand out from a mere "computer-generated image."

Ok, Iím a windbag today. Letís get on with the glow. Out of all three options, option number one presents the easiest, least time-consuming solution. Basically what you do is duplicate the layer of your planet and put it behind the planet. Then you can go about working with an Outer Glow layer effect. You donít want to put the glow directly on the layer that has your original planet. Thatís because it will be very had to vary the thickness and intensity of the glow in different places (such as the dark side of the planet where you want much less glow). So, if you have it behind the planet on a duplicated layer of the planet, you can pull out the good Ďole eraser tool and erase (with various percentages in the eraser toolís opacity box) the parts that you donít want so dominating. The other reason that you donít want to put the glow directly on your original planet is because you will probably want the glow to extend into the planet a bit to make the atmosphere more realistic. This is a bit trickier. Actually, not tricky, it just takes a steady hand.

As usual, there are several ways to approach this. You could use an Inner Glow effect but then the glow would be very uniform and probably too much on the dark side of the planet. So, hex that idea. I rendered one in 3D Studio MAX with a Video Post glow effect then slapped it over top of everything and erased out the center. This is really the hard way to do it and I donít necessarily recommend it, but it will work. So, the easiest way that I have found is to simply set your eraser tool to a very low opacity setting, like say 15% or so, then go around the outer edges of the planet and erase a bit off. Then the glow behind the planet will start to show through a bit and make it look as though it is extending into the inside of the planet (works very well for how simple it is).

Anyhoooo.... Take a look at my final image. Again, you might need to darken it if the dark side of the planet is too bright on your monitor.

Here is another planet that you can take a look at to give you an idea of a planet with land and oceans. I did a lot of Rubber Stamping to get the land, cloud, and water features.

While Iím thinking of it, I have one other final note on Alpha channels to end up this part of the tutorial...

Say you create a TIF image with an alpha channel, then are finished manipulating it and want to save it as a JPG (because TIFs have waaaaaay to big of file sizes). Hmmmm.... thatís funny, Photoshop wonít let you! This annoyed the hell out of me the first time I encountered it. So, I thought, "Ah-hah! I have to flatten my image in the Layers Palette. Hmmmmm.... what the f#*@! It wonít let me flatten the image." Finally, I figured out that the Alpha channel was what was keeping me from saving my file as a JPG. JPGs donít support Alpha channels. So, you have to go into your Layers Palette, click the Channels tab, then delete the Alpha channel (drag it into the little waste basket icon, or right-click and select Delete Channel). Now you can save it at whatever file type you wish.

I hope you learned something new here, and I hope you get some use out of Alpha channels. There are more uses for Alpha channels, but thatís all the time I have for today. See you next week with the final (hopefully) tutorial on creating your own space scene. Iíll get into creating stars, a galaxy, and maybe a nebula. Then we can throw them all together into a cool composition and have good looking space scene.

- Rick Grossenbacher is a professional 2D artist and graphic designer. Amongst other things, he has worked at Ion Storm and done freelance work for RCA and Sony records.


Credits: Painting on Polygons is © 1999 Rick Grossenbacher. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, or we'll paint you white against a white background.