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Author Topic: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.  (Read 19256 times)

Psiyon

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Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« on: February 04, 2012, 12:27:44 PM »

I figured I'd make a separate topic instead of adding to my "free stuff" one, since these two tutorials don't really fit there.

This tutorial is for those of you who want to get your 3D models into Starfarer (Or any other 2D game). The software I use is 3ds Max for rendering, and Photoshop for post-processing the completed renders. You can render your ships out in other software, like Blender, and you can also use other image editing programs besides Photoshop. This tutorial is focused on these two pieces of software, however, the concepts would apply to any other program.

Part one (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0WVhI7BgKs

Render scene file: http://www.mediafire.com/?e0qx48x48pck7kf

(Alex, any chance of a forum update so we can embed youtube videos into posts? It would make things a bit more convenient.)

Part 2:

I tried a video version of this, but in the end, it would have just wound up being way too long and drawn out. A text and picture version will work better and allow you to work at your own pace, instead of pausing every five seconds to see what I'm doing.

I'll be using a different render than the one I used in the video, because I made that one when doing the ill-fated video version.
(Here's how it turned out, if you're curious:

)

Let's begin.

First, start by making a new document, and copying both the render and its Ambient Occlusion pass into it, each as a separate layer.

Because the ship we're making is symmetrical in shape, we're going to make sure it's symmetrical in every other aspect as well. Select half of the ship, from right down the middle.



Copy and paste that halved segment of the ship. It should now appear on a new layer. Go back to your base layer, and select the other half of the ship. Delete it. Now, you'll be left with two halves of the same ship, each on a different layer. Select one of the layers, and transform them horizontally. (Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal). Align the two halves so they fit together.



Finally, merge the two layers into one.

Then, repeat those steps for the ambient occlusion pass. Make sure that it fits over the base layer nicely before merging. Once done, set the AO layer mode to Multiply.



Now that we're set up, we can start doing the editing that matters. Duplicate the base layer, and then go to filter>sharpen>sharpen. The filter might be a little powerful, so adjust the new layer's opacity as needed.



Duplicate the base layer again, and move it underneath the Sharpen Layer. Go to Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast. In this case, I'm actually going to decrease the contrast, however, in most cases, you'll find that increasing it will look better. It all depends on what render settings you used, as well as the model's texture. Make sure the contrast layer's opacity is left at 100%, as it will soon become our base layer.



Next, I'll duplicate the base layer one last time, and move the new layer above the Sharpen layer. On our new layer, we'll go to filter>filter gallery, and then under brush strokes, choose the Accented Edges filter. Set all properties to the lowest they go.



Click OK. Set the layer mode of this new layer to Soft Light, and drop the opacity into the 15%-40% range. This layer helps make the sprite a bit darker, and also helps add a little detail into the render.




Now, disable the visibility on your base layer. We won't be needing it anymore, and its presence will only make the edges of our sprite sharper and uglier.

This is where the fun begins. Create a new blank layer, and name it Paint-Over. We're now going to try to smooth out any rough parts on our sprite.

The general idea with this step is to find grainy and blended areas of color, and make them more uniform, like a sprite usually is. In other words, we want harder and sharper color transitions, instead of smooth gradients and turbulence.

With the eyedropper tool (hotkey I), find a problem area. Sample one of the colors in that area, and begin to paint it over. Make sure you're using the pencil tool for this (Click and hold over the brush tool to see other brush options). Also make note that you only need to do it to one side of the ship (if it's symmetrical). In the end, you can just duplicate your paint over layer (and the others to come), and it'll save you 50% of the work.



As you can see in the picture, the right side looks more uniform than the other side. While it might not necessarily look better, it provides a good foundation for our next step: detailing.

Create a new layer, and set its mode to multiply. At this point, we stop preparing the ship for making it look good--here, we actually make it look like a sprite. Set the brush width to 1px (still using the pencil tool), and select shades of grey--usually a shade right in the middle of black and white works well for this. It depends on how much you want your ship to "pop". If your detailing is too dark, the ship will look silly, and if it's too light, then it will also look silly. Experiment to see what works best.

When it comes to detailing, I find that outlining distinct parts of the ship is a good place to begin.



Again, you only need to work on one half of the ship, we can duplicate and flip it later.

The next step is to add smaller details--like hull plating, little dots and squares, etc.



Finally, if you're satisfied with the result, we duplicate both the paint-over and detail layer. Flip the copies horizontally, and align them properly.




The last step is adding lights, if you want them. Create a new layer, and set its mode to linear dodge. Move it above the ambient occlusion layer. Choose a color that you want your lights to be, and add them wherever you want.

When you're done, duplicate that layer, set its mode to normal, and put it underneath the light layer. Go to filter>blur>Gaussian blur, and set the radius to about 0.5. Hit OK.




Do any last-minute touch-ups you need, and then you're done! Export it as a .png file with a transparent background.






I hope you found this tutorial helpful. And, an offer: if anyone wants their model rendered off by me, don't hesitate to ask. As long as I don't get swamped with requests (which I doubt will happen) I'd be happy to render a ship here and there. I won't, however, do all the post work. That's your job :P
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megal00t

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2012, 01:22:28 PM »

was reading though this again... now that i'm beginning to understand photoshop i see the endless possibilities with it...
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hammerblow

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Psiyon

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2012, 11:22:19 AM »

Hey man would you be able to make these to models into sprites for me?

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=8b38c139f15b997cb5666ac9dae008e8&ct=mdrm

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=4d71fcdddcd794ddb5666ac9dae008e8&ct=mdrm#

Would be awesome if you could :P
Unfortunately 3ds max cannot import .skp files--meaning I can't render them, at least, not with the method I normally use. If you can get those models in a more flexible format (.obj, .3ds, etc), then I will be able to help you. Otherwise, I'd suggest taking a top-down screenshot. It might not be perfect as it lacks ambient occlusion and everything, but it would provide a decent guideline for you to start drawing the sprite with. And the Halcyon really wouldn't be difficult to do at all, you probably wouldn't need to even render it to make a convincing sprite. Just saying.
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Wyvern

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2012, 11:33:09 AM »

Hm.  Compared to the stock ship sprites in game... I think I'd skip your step of "smoothing over" "grainy and blended areas of color" - IMO, it really kills the sense of depth.  I'd probably also skip mirroring the underlying ship; a little subtle asymmetry is usually a good thing (though mirroring detailing where possible is certainly a time-saver).  The rest of this I like, though.

Although, if you're trying to do a full conversion instead of an expansion, the flat look you've got going is just fine.
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Wyvern is 100% correct about the math.

intothewildblueyonder

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2012, 11:58:30 AM »

Hey man would you be able to make these to models into sprites for me?

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=8b38c139f15b997cb5666ac9dae008e8&ct=mdrm

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=4d71fcdddcd794ddb5666ac9dae008e8&ct=mdrm#

Would be awesome if you could :P

I don't have much experience with google sketch up but I think you can export that as a 2D image (and just set the camera view to top)
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Psiyon

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2012, 01:30:24 PM »

Hm.  Compared to the stock ship sprites in game... I think I'd skip your step of "smoothing over" "grainy and blended areas of color" - IMO, it really kills the sense of depth.  I'd probably also skip mirroring the underlying ship; a little subtle asymmetry is usually a good thing (though mirroring detailing where possible is certainly a time-saver).  The rest of this I like, though.

Although, if you're trying to do a full conversion instead of an expansion, the flat look you've got going is just fine.
The painting layer doesn't have much of an affect on depth, depth is mainly given by the ambient occlusion layer. If it looks too flat, just duplicate the AO layer and adjust blurring/opacity as needed. You could also paint it in yourself if the AO layer isn't doing it for some reason.

The only real reason I mirror the ships is so that they have a definite center--you never know how the pixels of your ship will be distributed when you render, so I find it easy to just mirror it instead of trying to compare two sides of the thing to find the exact middle. Subtle asymmetry is nice, but it's just that--subtle. I never noticed that some of the seemingly symmetrical sprites in default starfarer were really asymmetrical until a zoomed in on them in photoshop. It's up to you of course, but if you're going to do some subtle asymmetry, I, personally, would just paint it in over the mirrored render.

Obviously, the end result I've shown from the tutorial isn't anything all that spectacular, however, when you're making a TC, you've got to have a good balance between quality and quantity. While I could probably spend a few hours of work on a ship making it look flawless, if I did that, then my mod would never be finished--I'm looking at probably ~40 ships in total for Thiiei's Ascendency, specifically.

So in the end, it's really what works best for you. If you're an exceptional artist, then there's absolutely no reason to confine you to using only my method if you want to do better. Honestly, though, if you're going to go the extra mile for making a ship sprite, you'd probably just want to paint it from scratch--renders can be a pain, and constrict your artistic freedom at times. But they are, though, a quick and effective way of getting a sprite from start to finish in a reasonable amount of time.
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Jmdelrio

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2012, 06:59:49 PM »




Unfortunately 3ds max cannot import .skp files--meaning I can't render them, at least, not with the method I normally use.

Actually you can export a kmz file from sketch up, change the extension to .zip and you will find a Collafa DAE file inside along with any textures.  The just get the Collada DAE plug in for max or maya.

Thanks for the tutorial, it has started the juices flowing for my own mod :)
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Ambient

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2012, 01:50:35 PM »

What version of photoshop do you recommend for this, also would Gimp suffice as an alternative?
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Psiyon

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 05:29:49 PM »

What version of photoshop do you recommend for this, also would Gimp suffice as an alternative?
Any version should be fine, GIMP would work as well, though some things might be a bit different.

Thanks for the tutorial, it has started the juices flowing for my own mod :)
Glad it helped :)
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mattfrank7

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2012, 05:51:37 AM »

You know the texture for the ship render, the one you applied to the UV map..

Did you make it? and if so how did you get it to look so realistic, like with all of the detail and parts of it that most people would skip or not think about.
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“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”
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Psiyon

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2012, 07:32:25 AM »

You know the texture for the ship render, the one you applied to the UV map..

Did you make it? and if so how did you get it to look so realistic, like with all of the detail and parts of it that most people would skip or not think about.
Yeah, I made it, but... realistic? Hardly.



The only reason those extra details are there is because the ship was designed for a Homeworld 2 mod.

http://www.moddb.com/mods/in-the-orbit-of-god/images/thiian-scug-frigate#imagebox

Unless you're planning on putting a 3D model into a 3D game, you really don't need a properly textured and UV mapped model.

Or, it occurred to me, you were referring to the other texture, which was just a generic Filter Forge texture that I didn't make:



In which case, I suggest you check out that program, Filter Forge, because it can generate some wicked looking textures.
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mattfrank7

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2012, 03:07:30 AM »

Oh Ok, that clears a lot up for me! Thanks man!


Don't want to seem like a hassle here, but do you render with Anti Aliasing on or do you have it off, if you have it on, at which level do you have it at?
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“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”
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Psiyon

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2012, 12:59:58 PM »

Oh Ok, that clears a lot up for me! Thanks man!


Don't want to seem like a hassle here, but do you render with Anti Aliasing on or do you have it off, if you have it on, at which level do you have it at?
AA is kind of tricky--I find myself adjusting it on a per-ship basis, but it's usually lower than the default settings. It's mainly about finding a balance between not having extremely sharp edges, but also not having extremely blurry edges either, though the latter is easier to fix in Photoshop. I never turn AA off, however--though that might be useful if you're going for a more pixel-art look for your ship.
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IIE16 Yoshi

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Re: Complete Tutorial on Rendering and Post-Processing 3D Models.
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2012, 10:34:48 AM »

Dayum, Scug looks nice in 3d.
I kinda wanna see some shots of the Ritiak, or the Cerija. Or just all of them.  :P
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