Klingon Panels and Weathering

Part 1: Introduction

Special Note: There's nothing fancy here, no crazy setups or extensive work. This is just a basic run down of making raised, Klingon style panels with the simplest settings and options that anyone with a passing familiarity with image editing can manage. My methods are far from gospel and there are plenty of alternate ways to do things but at the very least, it may give you some ideas.

Three different styles will be covered: The B'rel, the W'ked, and the TMP era style of the Godslayer/E4/C9/etc.

Requirements: A basic familiarity with an image editing program (notably Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop)

You may also need UV mapping software of some sort if you're starting a totally new ship and not a simple retexture. 3D Studio Max has that built in, as do recent versions of Lightwave and Milkshape, among others. Uview is a standalone program that one can use as well.

This tutorial is not limited to Klingon textures as it can be easily adapted to other races with some modification and variation. I suggest tampering around to see what other purposes you can find and tinkering with your image program's various settings and options also.

I also suggest a strong cup of coffee, a quiet place to work, plenty of spare time, and some damned good music (for me, something in the heavy metal variety gets the need to conquer and pillage going quite nicely)

Part II: The Tutorial Itself

Klingon textures are not as difficult as most people think. They are deceptively easy and after reading through my ramblings here you will invariably smack your hand onto the desk and say "That's it?!". If you can create a layer and draw a line then you're already ahead of the game. The key feature of Klingon textures is the raised paneling, something that makes most modders wary to attempt. The most obvious method to use is to draw out the panels, add a basic bevel effect and call it a day. That's partially right but as I've often found out, going the extra distance will give your ship that added bit of realism and style to help set it apart from the five-minute tossouts.

1: Naturally, at this stage you should probably have your ship already built and mapped out so I'm going to assume that's taken care of. The first thing you need to do is get an appropriate Aztec/texture to use or at the very least, a base color. A ship like the B'rel doesn't have an Aztec in the usual style and since it is the one that required the most work, I'm starting with it. Right now I'm not concerned about the color of the ship yet so set the Aztec aside for the moment. To make things easier, you'll need a screenshot of the mapped area as a point of reference. You obviously don't want to draw all the details only to find out half the panels are running off the edge of the ship. If you're using 3dsMax, I suggest a plugin called "Texporter" that allows you to save images of your surface's wireframe in any size you wish - notably, at the very same size you're texture is supposed to be. If you're using another program, simply hitting "PrntScrn" on your keyboard while in the texture view will accomplish similar results. You can then crop, edit, and resize the picture to fit your texture.

Once you have that, set it as a layer and name it whatever you want - "Reference" or "Wire", for example. It will be in the background while you work and won't be needed for the final texture. (In PSP, go to "Layers" on the menu bar and scroll down to "Properties" and type in the name - this automatically promotes it to it's own layer). Save the file as something appropriate (wzbop4.psp in my case) and continue. Be sure to save frequently and to keep backups after every major change. Once I'm done with a current stage I set the file to "Read Only" and resave it before I move on (wzbop4a.psp, wzbop4b.psp, etc.). This will prevent a lot of headaches in the long run and should something happen to your latest file or you make a mistake, you can at least fall back on the previous one.

The next step is to draw the lines of the hull panels on a separate layer. The B'rel was easy since there were plenty of reference images to go by (including a top and bottom view of the wings). I won't go into detail about the lines themselves as they are pretty straightforward. Just be sure to keep any overlapping lines in separate layers so if you make a mistake you don't have to redo the intersection. In the B'rel's case, I had four separate layers for the lines: one for the outer edge, one for the inner edge, one for the cross lines, and one for the bar. If you don't have a steady hand or nitpick allot, I suggest an additional layer or two for the "Cross Lines" in case things start to get really mixed in. A special note - in PSP, if you haven't saved the file an asterisk will be visible in the window title that will disappear once you have saved. With each alteration you make in between saves, the asterisk will appear as a little reminder.

Here, you can see the finished lines with the excess clipped away and all of the line layers merged together.

Now things start to get interesting. At this point I have stepped up to "wzbop4a" since merging the lines together is a key move. Here is where the panels themselves will be formed. On the line layer, take the selection tool and draw it from the top left corner to the bottom right corner to get this:

Then, click in the middle of the selection to create the "Floating Selection". All of your lines will now be selected.

Go to the main menu bar to "Selections" and scroll down to "Invert" - assuming you don't have this as a separate icon in the toolbar.

Everything will be selected again except this time you get to fill in the layer. Of course, you could have simply filled in the spaces directly but it wouldn't allow for the soft edge of the panels and would come off looking jagged.

Hit the "Paint Brush" tool and max out the brush size. Paint over the selection without releasing the mouse button - in most versions of PSP the selection lines will vanish wherever your brush has hit. Once those lines are totally gone and the layer appears solid, release the brush but NOT the selection.

Invert your selection again and hit the "Delete" key about 10 times. Now instead of a bunch of outlines for panels, you have a bunch of panels with an empty space in between where the lines once were. This allows you to select each panel separately and to add the bevels and such later on.

You'll end up with this. Notice the space in between the panels is a bit thicker than the lines were. In the case of the B'rel, this is perfect since a moderate gap was between the panels allowing for an 'engraved' look on the wings.

At this point, do the save and copy routine before moving on. The hard part is over, believe it or not, and now it all comes down to basic settings and nitpick work. Jump to the panel layer and color-replace it to the desired color or Aztec Once that's taken care of, go to the menu, hit "Effects", then "3D Effects" and "Inner Bevel" and alter the settings to match these:

You can save your settings once you've gotten them the way you want so you don't have to redo it every time. Once that's taken care of, you should end up with this:

Depending on the way the texture is setup, you may have a beveled edge on the four sides of the map as well. That can be easily removed by either a color replacement or copy/paste or any other method.

Notice that some of the panels are darker or lighter - a simple matter of using the "Magic Wand" tool, selecting the panels you want darker or lighter and then adjusting the brightness up or down. This gives the ship a more random look and for the extra kick, the other wing can have different panels selected.

You've gotten the panels themselves finished and it's on to the fun part - weathering and dirt. To keep things simple I've broken each respective layer into it's own example image and they would obviously look different all together. First, jump to the panel layer if you aren't already there, and go to the menu, "Layers", and select "Duplicate". This copies the current layer into a new layer and probably has "Copy of" in the layer name. Rename the layer to something like "dirt" or "grime". Then go to the 3D Effects menu, and select "Cutout" and give it these settings:

Note the vertical offset is the only one changed, giving the cutout the effect of a slight "push" in the opposite direction the ship travels in. Hit "OK" and now you've got a haze/edge that is confined to the boundaries of your panels. This has the added benefit of toning down the beveling and giving the panels a touch more subtlety. In the B'rel's case, I changed the dirt color to a dark red instead of the default black.

Next, create a totally new layer, name it "Scorches" or "Blob" and bring it to the very top where it will stay for the duration. Select the "Paint Brush" tool and draw a bunch of blobs at random on the texture. After that go to the menu, "Effects", "Blur", "Gaussian Blur" and set it to 6.5. This will soften the blobs - granted, the "Air Brush" tool could do all of this on it's own but I tend to use it for other purposes and don't want to change the settings all the time. Regardless, you should get something like this:

In the Layer Palette (If not displayed, right click in the menu area and select it), change the blob layer's settings:

The B'rel didn't need these to be too obvious but they can just as easily have a higher setting. You can also scroll through the various types of layers to get a sense of what they all do. There are plenty of possibilities and uses for such an option that a lot of people weren't even aware of.

Now this is where I may lose a few people since this takes a bit of hands on work. There's plenty of ways to do this but I went with the tedious route, using the air brush and smudge-retouch tools:

I created a new layer called "Paint" below the blobs, and with the air brush, painted out a few squiggles and smudges. I focused on the edges and kept it minimal - basically one or two squiggles per panel. It doesn't really matter what you do here as it's your choice, but in the B'rel's case I didn't overdo it and emphasized the rough and random style of the studio model. After that, I used the smudge tool to smooth things out in places while leaving a few other parts of the squiggles a bit boxy to signify chipped or worn paint.

Once all is said and done, you should end up with a worn and battle hardened Bird of Prey wing:

The white image is to highlight the details and changes. At this point you can add hull markings and insignia and make any other changes needed. I adjusted the contrast slightly to bring out more of the detail.

That takes care of the wings but what about the rest of the ship, you ask? The B'rel is an exception among Klingon ships since the panels and details are notably different from the K'tinga, Vorcha, and the like. This is why other parts don't have the same style of paneling as the wings, and while they are raised slightly, they aren't extended enough to warrant such obvious work as the wing panels.

A good example to work with is the top of the bridge. I have this portion broken up into two pieces, the 'side' of the head and the top itself since the lines and panels tended to distort in some areas. I'll only focus on the top portion for simplicity:

Note the various layers for the reference image, background, lines, panels, and greebles. I'll cut to the chase on this one since the panels and weathering are already a given. The greebles and the lines are the only things different so I'll start with the greebles. These are just unnamed doodads added to the model to make it look all Science-Fictiony and mechanical. I basically just filled in the colors, added a bevel and drop shadow effect with some slight dirt along the edges (same as the wing panels). As for the lines, I copied the layer and drop-shadowed it TWICE with the same settings, then Gaussian Blurred it and set the color to black.

The rest is pretty obvious as it's the same as the method for the wings.

Part III: The W'ked

The W'ked is a late-TNG replacement for the tried and true B'rel so I opted for something a bit different with it's textures. Based on the Vorcha and Neghvar but still different and unique, it was also an experiment of mine to see how other methods for the paneling would turn out.

As usual, I started out with the reference image:

I then drew the outlines for the respective areas. Since there was a slight angle to the wings at one section, I decided to split that area into two parts so the armor wouldn't 'bend' across the joint. Oftentimes the model itself will help guide you in the right direction with the paneling. Notice a kink in the part where the semicircle and main body outline join - instead of fixing that, I decided to leave it and use it as a 'gap' point later on.

An interesting note is that the "full selection" trick mentioned at the very beginning can also be used if your outlines weren't large enough or too small - you can do the selection and paint brush routine, contract or expand your selection, and delete to get a smaller or larger set of lines. This is also useful if you want to draw smaller panels inside the main ones and have a lot of troublesome angles to work with - doing this trick will save you the effort of having to draw them all over again. Just be careful not to contract/expand too much as the shapes will start to lose their form.

On a separate layer I drew a set of "deletion" lines (the blue ones here) that I then selected and expanded before switching to the green outline layer and deleting the selected portions. This leaves a bunch of gaps in the outline that I can then fill with another set of lines to create the various shapes and panels.

Once that's done, I can then merge the outline and filler line layers and end up with my panels:

The design itself doesn't matter as it can be anything you come up with. The trick with the Klingons is they don't use a lot of curves and don't have 'pockets' of isolated panel groups - the entire area in question is taken up by the same group of panels flowing in the same direction. They have sharp corners and triangles with clipped ends, diamonds, trapezoids, etc. You can get a sense of their design routine by reading through the Aztec Overview.

The next step is similar to the B'rel's various stages. The difference here is that the background plays a larger role this time. Once you've gotten the panels outlined, you can then take the magic-wand tool and select anywhere in the empty region (the top-left corner for instance), expand the selection by 1 point (or more if the lines are thicker), drop down to the background layer, select "Invert", click on the new selection of shapes and "Promote Selection to Layer". This will basically cut and paste those shapes from the background layer into a new one by themselves. The background will look more like a cookie-cutter at this point. Then, go to the background layer and fill it with your Aztec or color and apply a bevel.

Next, jump to the promoted layer and name it "Panels" or some such. Fill it with your Aztec as well and then leave it alone. Duplicate this layer TWICE, one copy above the panel and one below it. The top one will be the chipped panels, the "Panels" layer will be the undercoat, and the bottom panels will be the edge. Rename the bottom one to "Edge" (buh), and give it a drop shadow effect and afterwards change the color to something dark or pure black.

Now for the kicker. Jump to the "Chipped" layer and you can do any number of things to get the chipped-edge look. You can either go through each panel one by one with various settings and brush sizes for the "Retouch-Smudge" tool, or use an effect or plugin that 'chips' away at the panels all at once. Either way, the point is to make this layer look like it's been worn and...er, chipped...away. Once that's finished, fill it with your Aztec and darken/lighten/change the colors as you see fit. Then, jump the line layer which at this stage should be the top layer, and change the color to match the background. This way the panels look as if they have a slight edge or lip to them and helps cover up the jagged roughness of the panel layer edges.

Next, drop down to the background layer and create a new layer called "Background Brush" or whatever else. Small ships like the W'ked don't have an abundance of hull paneling so instead of that as the background layer I've opted for a shadow/brush/dirt look. It's just like the B'rel's 'blob' layer except this time they aren't blobs so much as vague shapes and outlines of the wing areas. After that, they are Gaussian Blurred at 6.5 and given a dark color.

As a homage to the original Bird of Prey, which had a panel missing on it's port wing with exposed greebles, I did the same for the W'ked. I deleted the chipped and edge portion of the respective layers, then selected it and promoted it to it's own layer from the "Panels". Then I moved it below the background layer and replaced the Aztec with a greeble texture. To add to the detail, I added a drop-shadow edge above it to give it the appearance of being inset instead of extruded like the rest of the wing panels.

After that, I added a new layer of 'blobs' as the top layer, with another layer of streaks underneath. The streaks are just random dots added with the paintbrush tool and blurred slightly to give the effect of motion and grime.

In the end, it should look pretty dirty and worn, just like any self-respecting Klingon ship should be.

Part IV: The TMP Era (E4 Stalker)

The setup for the TMP style Klinks is much the same as the W'ked. The main difference this time is that there is no "Panel Edge" layer. I started out with the wireframe guide and the basic outline layer:

It's the usual routine at this point so I'll just move ahead to what's different.

As you can see, the panels, lines, dirt, and background are just like the W'ked (or vice versa since the E4 was built first). The only real change this time is the "Paintbrush" layer. It's nothing fancy, just a bunch of random squiggles across the panels in various places. In the end, your ship should look like it has a bunch of maggots running across it.

You can then Gaussian Blur it and adjust the Layer Palette settings to reduce the obviousness of the squiggles. Next, you create another layer for the scorches and burns and give it the similar treatment as the squiggles only this time they're at random areas across the entire ship and not simply along the edges of the panels.

After all that, you'll end up with your final texture, where you can add the hull markings and make the appropriate adjustments. Often a mild contrast and/or brightness tweak is needed to give the texture more depth once everything else has been finalized.

As I said, this is all pretty straightforward and simple, and you don't have to jump through a lot of hoops to get results that look high-quality. The key factors are the basic panel design itself and learning which particular settings work best for what you're going for.

 

All images are property of Demon Renegade Studios and are not to be redistributed without the author's consent. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, feel free to e-mail me or drop by the DRS Forums.

 

 

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