Creating Textures: Bump Maps (3)

In previous post I have enhanced the bump map texture effect, using two different images. This is the continuation on this subject.

Have you ever noticed that the classic stressed skin of a real aircraft is not ideally smooth? It is more visible in the areas where the skin is thinner, especially on an old, “weary” aircraft (Figure 70‑1):

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Figure 70-1 Deformations of the stressed skin (in two different aircraft)

The wing on the left (Figure 70‑1a) belongs to a SBD-4 (BuNo 10518) from Yanks Air Museum in Chino. This wing was recovered separately from Guadalcanal (circa 1980), and restored a few years later. This aircraft is in flyable condition (registered as N4864J), but has not flown since its restoration.

The  wing on the right (Figure 70‑1b) belongs to a SBD-5 (BuNo 28536) from Planes of Fame, also in Chino. This wing was also recovered from Guadalcanal, in the same time as for BuNo 10518. This aircraft was restored, registered as N670AM, and made its first flight in 1987. Since that time it has been flying during various air shows.

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Creating Textures: Bump Maps (2) and the Opacity Map

Originally I was going to describe the finished bump map in this post. However, when I started writing it, I discovered that I have enough materials for at least two subsequent posts. Thus I decided to split this text into this and the next article.

There are many small openings in the aircraft skin. For example ­– perforation of the SBD Dauntless wing flaps, or small slots for control surfaces actuators. It would require a lot work to model each of such details “in the mesh”. What’s more – it would make the model meshes much more complex, which would hinder the UV mapping, and so on.

Fortunately, there is a much simpler solution for all these small openings. Just draw their shapes as black objects on white background, then use this picture as so-called opacity map (Figure 69‑1):

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Figure 69-1 Opacity map and its effects

As you can see in figure above, the final result does not differ from the openings modeled “in the mesh”.

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Creating Textures: Basic Bump Map (1)

In this and the next post I will describe my work on the first of the textures required for the SBD Dauntless model. It is called bump (height) map. I use it for recreating all of the minor details that are visible on the aircraft skin.

However, before I begin this work, I had to put my model into more “natural” surroundings. I imported the environment (World) and the material settings from my previous model (the P-40).  You can see the initial results below (Figure 68‑1):

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Figure 68-1 The model, placed “in the air”. I applied the preliminary shiny (duralumin) material

Of course, the propeller of this aircraft is static, and there is nothing in the cockpit and under the engine cowling. Do not worry, this is just the first approximation! The principle is that you should work with the materials in the final environment. Otherwise the final result may not look as you want. In this case there is an outdoor scene, full of the sunlight. (Every painter will tell you, that everything on the picture depends on the light: many details would look quite different in the indoor lights and their soft shadows).

As you can see, I decided to start this work with an ideal, smooth and shiny material. Each new texture that I will apply will make it more realistic.

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Using Panel Lines to Verify the Fuselage Shape

In every creative process, after each “big step forward” you have to stop and carefully examine the results. Usually you have to make various corrections (sometimes minor, sometimes major), before taking the next step. This post describes such minor corrections that I had to make after mapping the key texture of the panel lines.

In my first post published in October, I drew the panel lines on the model, then compared them with the photos. Sometimes a minor difference between their layouts can lead to a discovery of an error in the fuselage shape. I in that post already found and fixed an issue in the shape of the tailplane fillet.

I also mentioned (see Figure 65‑9 in previous post) that I can see a difference in the bottom part of the wing fillet. Now I would like to resume my analysis at this point (Figure 67‑1):

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Figure 67-1 Difference in the shape of the wing fillet bottom seam

Continue reading Using Panel Lines to Verify the Fuselage Shape

Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Center Wing and the Fuselage

This week I continue mapping the SBD-5 Dauntless skin panels onto my model. After tracing the outer wing sections, described in the previous post, I traced the center wing section (Figure 65‑1):

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Figure 65-1 Traced panels on the center wing

As you can see in the picture, I also traced the contours of the wheel bay on the wing surfaces. (These openings disappear, when you enter mesh edit mode, because they are dynamically created by Boolean modifiers. Thus such contours will be useful during further work, because in this way you can see these edges while editing the mesh).

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Tracing Aircraft Skin Details: Panels on the Outer Wings

I always start drawing the image of the aircraft skin by tracing the lines of the main panel seams. They will form a kind of reference “grid”, which later I will fill with other details: rivet seams, inspection doors, etc.

I will draw all these technical details in Inkscape, because it is much easier to modify such shapes in this vector-based program than in GIMP, which is mainly intended for the raster images. What’s more, I can export this scalable vector graphic from Inkscape to a raster image of any resolution.

Initially I prepared in Inkscape an empty drawing, set up its layer structure, and placed the appropriate links to reference drawings on the UV and Reference layers (Figure 64‑1):

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Figure 64-1 Preparing the “canvas” for the texture drawing (Inkscape)

I duplicated here the basic structure for the detailed bump map, which I worked out during my P-40B project. It is explained in all details in the “Virtual Airplane” guide (chapters 3 and 4 in Vol III, or chapters 6 and 7 in the complete edition). In this case I just used the hierarchical layers feature for grouping the related layers (in Panels, Fabric) together. (This feature was introduced in the latest Inkscape 0.9x, while the guide was written earlier, using older versions of this software).

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Alternate UV Map for the Aircraft Skin Technical Details

The progress of my work in this month will be relatively slow, because I still have some additional activities linked to my “daily” job. Nevertheless, it is going on.

The original texture map (UV map) finished in the previous post (Figure 63‑1) is appropriate for the color textures (camouflage, national insignia and other markings). In this mapping various parts of the airplane overlap each other, so the pattern of the test image remains continuous:

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Figure 63-1 The basic texture mapping – for the camouflage and other “color” textures (UVMap)

While such an arrangement makes the camouflage painting easier, it would be impossible to use such a map with overlapping elements for another important texture: the image of the aircraft skin details. In this post I will shortly describe, how I prepared an alternate UV map for this purpose.

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Unwrapping Meshes of the Alternate Dauntless Versions

After a long break in August and September (I had to finish a demanding project in my daily work) I am back. This week I made a “slow start”: because in my last July post I finished mapping the SBD-3, now I mapped in the UV space parts that are specific to the alternate Dauntless versions: SBD-1 and SBD-5.

Let’s start with the SBD-1: when you switch into its scene, you can immediately see the gray elements that are not mapped in the UV space (as in Figure 62‑1a). These parts are specific for this version:

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Figure 62-1 Unwrapping elements that are specific to the SBD-1

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Mapping Images onto the 3D Model Surface (1)

Because of the holiday break, during July and August I will report my progress every two weeks. I will return to weekly reporting in September.

I have just begun the third stage of this project: “painting” the model. At this moment I am unwrapping its meshes in the UV space . I will deliver you a full post about this process next Sunday. Today I will just signalize how it looks like.

So I started by creating a new reference picture. It had to have a rectangular shape. Inside I placed my drawings of the fuselage, wings, and the tailplane (Figure 60‑1):

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Figure 60-1 Reference drawings for the UV map

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