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Mythic's Car Skinning Compendium; Uses the Toyeca as model for tips
Topic Started: Apr 15 2012, 07:48 PM (2,804 Views)
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Mythic Motors
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Mythic's Car-Skinning Compendium

Okay, so there was that whole unpleasant process of figuring out exactly what part of the image every part of the car is mapped to, but once that was done the scaling issues are a bit of a pain, but really not that bad. So it occurred to me that it might be helpful to people if I posted a .psd file that already had a few key elements worked out for you. There are probably as many different ways to repaint cars as there are people to paint them, so don't think this is the only way to get this done. It seems to work pretty well for me though, so maybe it will for you, too. :)

<> Download Mythic's Toyeca Template <>

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I have uploaded for your convenience a .psd file that contains the 'vital elements' needed for repainting the Toyeca. This is all stuff I do for myself, so since I was doing a skin for the RVL competition, I thought there might be some who would find it useful...and easier...if they had a little help over the initial hurdles of figuring out the mapping, which as we know, is a little messed up.

I figured along the way I would include a few tips for you car skinners out there that might help make Photoshop or your favorite graphics editing program produce some smile-generating results...and maybe even some killer repaints. :D

Check out the way the windows work. Unless it is a rectangular shape like the front window in this case, I will generally start out by using the Pen Tool to draw an outline of the window, with the tool set to output to a vector shape instead of a path. Vector shapes are not resolution-dependent so they can be scaled to any size without pixelization. For instance, the pickup and star are both vector shapes. As they are set up right now, their appearance will change if you scale them because the Layer Styles that have been applied to them are scaling along with the shape. So this means that a 2-pixel stroke around the border becomes a lot smaller in proportion when you scale the shape up...or bigger when you scale it down.

To adjust for this you can do one of two things. You can either go into the Layer Styles dialogue and adjust your values for the new size or you can merge the styles with the layer and then scale everything together. Note that at this point it is no longer a vector shape and will thus be subject to pixelization if/when you scale it. To do this...for who knows what reason...you need to kind of fool Photoshop just because the way layer merging works. To save us both time I will simply explain that you need to create a new layer then merge whatever other layers you want with it. This will apply Layer Styles, Adjustment Layers and a few other things properly whereas otherwise it won't. 'Nuff said.

So getting back to the windows...if you want to change the shape of these you simply need to use the Direct Selection Tool (A) on the path to move the points around. To keep things flat and straight, select the points you want to move then use the arrow keys to move. To constrain movement of the handles to increments of 90 and 45 degrees, hold down the Shift key.

You might also find something interesting going on with the way I have done the color. I create a base gradient using the Gradient Overlay Layer Style which has a bit of color in it...in this case it's kind of a brown color. Then on top of that I apply a Color Overlay Layer Style with it's Blending Mode set to Multiply. Once I get the main gradient banding the way I want it, this usually won't change...but the color I want it to be might. So instead of going in and changing all the little paint chips on the gradient panel, I will simply apply a color overlay that affects the entire thing all in one shot.

The interesting thing is how colors interact with each other depending on the transparency and blending mode. Do you see how in the skin the windows look basically grey? Well, that is actually the result of two colored gradients...one brown and one blue...that are kind of cancelling each other out. Double-click one of the window layers to bring up the Layer Styles dialogue then check out the Color Overlay panel. Click on the little color chip and try setting it to different hues (colors) and see what happens to the color of the window. So they don't have to have color necessarily, but I find that it does sometimes add a little extra something that I like and can help make a more cohesive overall color scheme for your vehicle.

Be careful with this, though! If you are going for a realistic appearance to your car, then I would recommend setting up a basic black and white gradient for your window...for me I like to in general make them a bit lighter at the top and then add a slight darker Inner Glow to darken the interior rim a little bit...then on top of that use a Color Overlay Layer Style with it's Blending Mode set to Multiply and the transparency taken almost all the way down so that it only adds a subtle tint to the window. You can add more, but the more you add, the more the car will start to look like a toy and not a real car. Just something to consider. <smiles>

Highlights & Shading
There are a thousand different ways to do this, so keep in mind that this is only one...and in this case it's a pretty quick and dirty one. By that I mean that in this case I didn't spend a whole lot of time on the highlights for this skin. First off, in general I like to leave most of the highlights to be generated by the game. This makes for a far more realistic result in my opinion since they play across the surface of the vehicle as they should instead of being fixed to the surface of the car. So let this particular file serve as an example of the process, but it is not a shining example of the technique that it could be.

It's a pretty simple formula, really. The crux of it is that you throw some almost-white paint into a new layer using the Brush Tool where you want your highlighted areas to be, then you take the Smudge Tool and smear it smoothly over the surface you want to lighten...such as the top of fenders, the top of the roof, etc. This doesn't have to be perfect, in fact it is probably better if it's not. You do want to basically spread a fairly even layer of white, but it can have small...soft...imperfections that will end up adding visual richness to the final result.

You will then want to set the Blending Mode for the layer to Overlay and set the transparency to taste. As is shown on the area of the hood by the headlight and those vent slots, the highlight should be present, but not overpowering. Your final call will be made after seeing how it looks in-game.

Another example of this not being the absolute best example is found in the shading. It uses essentially the same technique, only for this one the Blending Mode is set to Multiply and you use an almost-black paint. As you can see in the area around the door, I first made a selection with the Polygonal Lasso Tool using the uv map as a guide...which can be found near the top of the layer panel...then I used the Brush Tool with the Hardness cranked all the way down to zero for a very soft edge.

I should note that this same setting can make edges of varying softness depending on how big the brush tip is set. In this case I set it very big and just caressed the edges with it so it sprayed just a little bit of paint along the edge of my selection...which I hid first by hitting Ctrl+H so I could better see the result as I painted.

I didn't need to do any more than that on this one because the model of the car itself is already heavily vertex shaded in most areas.You can however, use this same technique to shade areas of your texture when you do need it. Another great way to shade something if the surface is not too complex is to use a filled shape...either a vector one or just a new layer where you create a selection and fill it with paint...then use the Gradient Overlay Layer Style. First you would double-click the layer to open the Layer Style dialogue then in the Gradient Overlay panel you would first click on the gradient band then in the dialogue that pops up select each of those two color tabs then use the color picker to pick up your base paint color from your texture. That's just to get your base. Next you would click once more in the middle of that color band to add another color tab...which will be the same color as the last one you clicked on.

That last color tab will remain your base color and wander around somewhere in the middle...or maybe on the top...of your gradient band. This is assuming that light is coming from above, by the way. Now you would take the color tab that represents the bottom of your gradient...let's say we are applying this to the side of a car...and you would darken that one by first selecting the color tab, then hitting the color chip in the dialogue, then...in the color picker dialogue that pops up...you will see three radio button directly to the right of the color slider about in the direct center of the dialogue box. They say H, S & B...or Hue, Saturation & Brightness...and these let you change only those elements if you so desire. Select the 'B' for brightness and drag the slider down to make the color a slightly darker version of what it already is. Next do the same for either the top or middle color tab...depending on where you want to place your highlight...and make that one just a little bit brighter.

Another way to use that would be just to use a black-to-transparent gradient that shades a certain area instead of adding any color. In the gradient dialogue, the tabs on the bottom of the gradient bar control the color while the ones on top control transparency. Something else to consider and tuck away for future use is the fact that transparent white looks a lot brighter than transparent black...so remember that just because it's transparent, that doesn't mean it's completely invisible or has no effect on anything else. I mention this because if you manage to do all your shading without using color then you can easily throw any color underneath it and have it be automatically shaded without needing any further adjustment. That's what you can do with this example file...just fill a layer with solid color and boom...you've got a shaded car. :D

The mapping on the Toyeca is messed up...there are just no two ways about it. Once you get a good look at it though, you notice that it's not nearly as messed up as it could be. For one thing...yes, it's a pain to have to scale the wheels at all, but at least it seems that they have kept things fairly simple in that once you have the height correct...and use that for a perfectly round wheel on another layer or even another image altogether...all you have to do is scale a copy of the wheel horizontally (in width) by exactly 50%.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't bother trying to figure out if there was something similar going on with the top and side, but I'd wager that there is some magic number for that as well. For me, it was easy enough in this case to just tweak the scaling, take a look at it in-game then tweak again if necessary. It's probably not perfect, but I found it was close enough for me.

Scaling Text
Also in regard to scale and text...I would recommend using the scale settings in the text dialogue box rather than using the Scale Tool. This way you always know where you are at in relation to 'normal' and you can always just change it back. This would apply for non-uniform scaling, while for uniform scaling you would simply change the point size. Keep in mind you can also...and often want to...change the spacing between the characters. This is something that I judge by eye, but a good rule of thumb is that smaller text will need slightly more space between them while larger text will often benefit from slightly less. This also applies to the text you use for carboxes.

The Window Visor
It took me a few minutes to figure out the wonky crap they have going on with the front window, so I'm sure that has given some of you a bit of grief as well. I left the text in there as a reference for about how big it seems you can make it. Much bigger and you start getting some weird stuff going on at the top.

This has two seperate pieces. The first is pretty obvious as it is that bright grey thing with the 'visor' text on it. <smiles> The other part is found right above the front windshield. I'll admit I didn't try to decipher every cryptic thing they did with the uv map for this thing, but if you fill that area above the front windshield...it is labeled in the layers as 'Front Visor Metal Window Tab'...with a color that you pick up using the Eyedropper from the end of the other visor gradient band then you should be golden. So fill that big 'visor' block with whatever gradient you want to use for the visor then match the end of that band with the 'tab' on top of the front windshield.

The Wheels
To help ease the pain of creating new rims for your ride I have included my patented [size0](not really) vector shape tire for your conveneince and enjoyment. :D

To make use of this, first go to google image search and plug in the term 'wheel'. Browse through the presented selections until you find some snazzy wheels that would look good on your car. copy and paste this image into Photoshop, place a circular selection around the wheel, then copy and paste it into the template .psd file. It's currently hidden, but in the 'Wheel Parts' layer group you will find the aforementioned vector tire. You would scale your wheel to fit inside the tire, then Ctrl+click on the tire layer thumbnail to load a circular selection that includes both the tire and your new wheel. Next you would Copy Merged (Ctrl+Shift+C) and paste this into a new layer. Finally, you would scale the merged copy 50% in width and position it using the center lines and guide template provided (you'll need to turn on the layer visibility for them first).

You may want to change the apparent shape of the tire. This is done in the mind of the viewer by changing the colors on the tire which gives them the impression that the tire is a different shape because it is being lit in a different manner. You do this in reality by double-clicking the tire layer and going into the Gradient Overlay panel. Click the gradient bar to bring up the Gradient Editor and I usually start by putting a near-black color tab at the point along the gradient bar that corresponds to just inside the outer border of the wheel rim. This will create a bit of shadow where the tire dips in under the rim. Next I take the color tab on the other end of the spectrum and set to the same color as the tread side of my tire...which for me is going to be light enough that I can put some near-black tread lines on there and just barely be able to see them. For me, I try to keep these like many other things...present, but subtle. Lots of little details add up in the viewer's mind to a sum that is greater than your original whole...because if you take them to a certain point of believability they will take it the rest of the way themselves, adding in details to their mental image of what they are seeing.

So once I have the shadowed rim juncture and the outside taken care of I then decide what kind of profile I want the tire to have then move/create one or two color tabs between those two. How light you make them and how close you place them to the other color tabs will determine how the viewer perceives the shape of your tire. Fatter tires will have larger, softer highlights nearer to the center of the tire. Harder, flatter tires will have a broader surface area between the two tabs and it's highlight will be placed nearer to the outside edge of the tire.

Take your time when you are judging your colors. When you get down into the near-black range it is very difficult to spot small differences in shade, but that's exactly what you have to do in order to pull off a good tire. There has to be just the right balance between lighter and darker shades so that you give the impression of detail without going over into the realm of being cheesy.

The Wheel Squares and Underbodies
Who hates the wheel squares? That's right, we all do. Without being able to alter the wheel mesh or uv map though, this is something we will just have to deal with as best we can. For the most part it can largely be pure-blacked out. Due to what I can only assume was inexperienced mapping however, a small portion of the wheels that can't be blacked out just happenes to be lying on top of the same space as part that should be. Confusing enough for ya? :D Basically two seperate parts of the car are mapped to the exact same image space...and this is never, ever good...unless you are intentionally desiring to mirror something on your texture. So having both sides of the car mapped to the same space is not a problem, but mapping the underside of the car to the same space as the front window...that would be a problem.

It also happens more than once...which as you can imagine...doesn't help things one little bit. :lol: The other fairly important place that this occurs is with the underbody. I've got it labeled with a little arrow in the group labeled 'Info Text for UV Map' so you can more easily find this area on the uv map. To keep from having issues with this, just make sure you make this the same color as the body. The reason I say that is because the map for the underbody extends into portions of both the front and rear end of the car so I find it's best to just throw a solid paint color on there and hope it isn't too annoying in-game.

Mirroring & Graphics
The star and pickup graphics have been placed in your major 'graphic hotspots' for easy identification. Since they are things that could be easily drawn by anyone...but for you they are already done...please feel free to use these in your own designs if you so desire. The one on the side will get mirrored...and thus not be suitable for everything, but the areas on the roof and hood are ripe for asymmetrical designs. You can tell from looking at the uv map where things will start to get mirrored. You can see evidence of this in the fact that I have only one headlight, tail light, and one set of hood slots. You can use these as placement guides for your own. I should perhaps note though, that the star on the hood is not scaled so that it will look correct on the car. I just stuck that there as sort of a placeholder/example.

Additional Details
Speaking of placement guides for your own...whatever 'your own' might be...there is also two layers in the example .psd that contain copies of the original skin. The first is the background layer. This is how I start all my repaints...by importing the original skin and this simply becomes the background layer by default. I'll use this as a template for drawing my windows, placing decals, etc. Since this process ends up covering up much of this layer, making it difficult to see the original, I have duplicated this layer and moved it to the top of the stack so it can be toggled on and off for easy reference. I don't know about you guys, but it is not uncommon for me to have something in the neighborhood of a hundred+ layers so this is easier for me than dragging the background layer up and down through the layer stack. Again...million ways to do things, this is only one. :)

Compositing Elements (Adding stuff from other stuff)
This next section provides some tips for working with elements that have been derived from another source...such as a decal lifted off a sticker sheet you found on the net or something from another skin. These techiques will be helpful however, for just about any kind of image editing you might want to do.

It is very common to find that you have a bit of a white fringe around a design that for instance, you want to put on the side of your car. Edges are some of the hardest things to deal with when you are compositing elements in an image. I have spent literally years...and years...finding and refining techniques for working with layered elements in Photoshop. To help put a slightly bigger smile on your face, here are a couple of ways I have found to get rid of those white outlines.

[ ] Method 1 - Layer Matting
Down on the bottom of the Layer menu there are several little-known and perhaps lesser-used commands that do come in very handy once in a while. To begin, make sure you have nothing selected (Ctrl+D) and that the element you are working with is rasterized...as opposed to text or a vector shape...then go to Layer>Matting>Remove White Matte. This will often clean something like that up with just a few clicks.

[ ] Method 2 - Multiply
Use the 'Multiply' layer blending mode found up at the top of the Layer Panel. This one might be the easiest of them all, but will work best in situations where the element with the white fringe is mostly or completely black...it does often work with darker colors in general, though there will be some color-shifting.

[ ] Method 3 - Layer Mask
Use a Layer Mask...found under Layer>Layer Mask...then select they type of mask you would like to apply. 'Reveal All' gives you a completely white mask, which completely reveals everything underneath it. The "Hide All' does the opposite, with black completely hiding everything beneath it. You can use most of the same tools on this mask that you would on a raster layer...you can use the Brush, Smudge Tool, Blur Tool, Dodge (lighten), Burn (darken)...you can even run certain types of filters on it such as Gaussian Blur to soften it up. Shades of grey provide varying levels of transparency to the mask.

So you would use this mask to basically 'erase' that white edge. The benefits to doing this over actually erasing it are that you can always 'put back' anything you take away. I use them all the time.

Here's another great use of Layer Masks... :D

If you take a look at the skin I posted for my Xbox Amanra XT, do you see the front window, rear window, hood and trunk logos, underside of the car, neon tubing...all of that, and probably more...all of those elements are there in their entirety, they just have half of them masked off. The reason I do this is because of my extensive use of Layer Styles. These are the Inner Glows, Drop Shadows, that kind of thing. And the way these work, if there is only half of it there, then the Layer Style gets placed on parts of the image that I don't want them.

For example, let's take the front window. That has a dark Inner Glow that serves to shade the edges. If I didn't have that masked off...with a section extending past the mask...then the Inner Glow would also be applied to the center area. Then when this gets mirrored, you've got a dark band across the center of the window.

Here's an important bit, though...in order to make this work right you have to double-click the layer to bring up the Layer Style dialogue, and on that first 'page' under Blending Options Default there is a checkbox second-up from the bottom in that center area that says 'Layer Mask Hides Effects'. You'll need to make sure this is checked.

[ ] Method 4 - Inner Glow
This is yet another application for the amazingly useful Inner Glow Layer Style. For that side decal, you would apply an Inner Glow, clicking on the little color chip in the Layer Style dialogue and using the eye dropper to pick up the color of the decal, then set the Opactiy to 100% and set the Size slider so that your glow covers the white edges. By default the Blending Mode is set to Screen, so you would want to change that to Multiply or Normal.

Additionally by default, the gradient that makes up the glow is linear. If you want to bias it one way or another...to make it fade quicker or slower...then you would use the Range slider. The Choke works kind of like Range, but in much larger steps, pulling the solid part of the glow out towards the faded part.

[ ] Method 5 - Stroke
This one can be very handy, but it does have it's limitations. One of those...and perhaps the most glaring...is that it doesn't seem to work as smoothly as most of the other things in Photoshop. If you don't have the smoothest, most perfectly antialiased line you've ever created, then a Stroke will generally show up with jagged edges. So for that reason these work really well with vector shapes. Oh hey, that's something else... <smiles>

Vector Shapes
These are SOOOOOOOOO incredibly useful. Do you remember that wheel I posted? Well, here it is again for reference, lol.

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That is nothing but vector shapes with various gradient Layer Styles applied to them. The holes, the bevels on the holes, the curved support sections, the center hub, the tire surrounding it...all vector shapes with gradients. The one thing I did that wasn't was that I made a selection around the whole wheel (not the tire) then 'Copy Merged' and pasted that into a layer on top of the other stuff...which is all in seperate layers as well. I then took this merged version of the wheel and went to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and set up a light in the upper left corner. This gave me a nice 'lit from above' effect...the one that I mentioned in another thread that I was trying to avoid. :D

Well, to give my wheel a little more of a 3D appearance...but not quite as much as something that was fully...and correctly...lit from above, I took this 'lit' layer and reduced it's transparency until I found what I thought was a decent balance between the two lighting styles. The image I posted was the result. Vector shapes are super clean and smooth in general, and can be scaled to any size without any pixelation. They are not the solution for everything, but I sure get a lot of use out of them personally.


So that's how I generally do one of these...lay down a base paint layer, throw on some windows, add highlights and shading to key areas, add the wheel, then I'll toss on some head and tail lights, probably a license plate, door handles, part lines for the hood and doors, maybe the trunk, hood vents and various other minor elements. Next I'll move on to add any artwork, racing stripes and/or decals. All of this just gets added one piece at a time until it builds up into a nice-looking car skin. :)

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"The Truth SHALL Set You ALL Free. If You Only Allow YourSelves To See The Beauty That I, Myself Have Seen. So Shall It Be." ~ Excerpt from Mythic's Journal

Winner of the Only Mythic Racing Challenge - LivingWithGames!
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Pathetic Re-Volt player
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Nice Work ;) Is this going to be your RV repaint competiton competitor?
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Mythic Motors
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Thanks. :)

And yes, I'll be putting some more work into it since there is still more than a week until the deadline, but that's probably the basics of it. I do like most of it, but I'm not sure I love that logo on the front for instance, and the racing stripe doesn't continue all the way down on the front...stuff like that. :)

Also, I was using the template I provided above to create another skin and I found a few problems with the sizing on some of the elements so I'll try to get that updated soon just so I don't have a flawed paint kit floating around. As it is now, it would probably take someone who doesn't need a paint kit to find and fix the problems, lol. :D

That car won't be eligible for voting, though...I'm just participating, not competing. :)
"The Truth SHALL Set You ALL Free. If You Only Allow YourSelves To See The Beauty That I, Myself Have Seen. So Shall It Be." ~ Excerpt from Mythic's Journal

Winner of the Only Mythic Racing Challenge - LivingWithGames!
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Looking forward to see your final results ;)
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