Texture Studies

Hello and let me introduce myself a bit. I’m Keegan Penney, an amateur mapper and learning texture artist. I would like to try and enlighten a few of you to a process in design and art called texture study.

Texture study is exactly what it sounds like, the study of a texture. Though I’m not directly speaking about texture materials in your Hammer’s dropdown list. The type of texture I speak of are ones found in the world around you (coincidently the bases of HL textures). These textures range from anything, plastics, metals, concrete, rock, wood etc.

In short a texture study is an attempt to dissect the unique features, colours, looks etc. of a material. Learning more about the materials around you generally will potentially benefit you in your creation of textures depending on the things you examine. In my examples I will attempt to try and learn more about concrete slabs with digital photographs taken of the sidewalk in front of my place of work. In a second study I will again attempt to learn more about various metallic materials found in my neighbouring schoolyard.

Essentially, your objective is to generally study and learn from the material presented, the process taken isn’t overly important as long as you are learning about the material in study. My process is simply one way you can learn, I’m sure there are endless ways of doing what I’m doing but mine works for me and hopefully will give you a better idea of how to carry out this process.

We shall begin!

The first thing I did was secure a digital camera, where I work it’s quite an easy task but it may not be for you. In this case I would suggest finding images on Google or a stock photo site. Though a digital camera is usually the best solution since you can pick and choose what you want to capture for future use.

Second thing I did was take pictures of the slab pieces in front of my work. The first shot I took was a general overview, trying to include any unique features that may appear. In my case there were the edges of the slabs.

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Notice that there are actually many different shades of grey in these slabs. From colder/darker tones to lighter/warmer tones, there are also the recurring blue rocks, mashed in gum and cigarette butts. Note that this is a farley well used, 30 year old sidewalk. Also notice that on the outside of the cracks the cement is noticeably a lighter tone.

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The next thing I did was take a close up (macro shot) of the crack, there is actually not a lot to learn from this shot other then it was filled with grains of sand and other tidbits, though the edges have been weathered down and rounded off.

See how much we’ve learned on just those two photos? But were not done yet, I’ve taken a few photos and I plan to examine a couple I find unique that show off specific features, to learn tidbits from each one.

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Rust! Imagine that. This must be from oxidising metal left on the curb too long but we can see how the rust has attached itself to the curb. It appears to have obviously washed off of whatever it was on, and rested when the water evaporated. As far as I can remember the rust has been there for quite some time and has survived some intense rain. Another tidbit we can learn from this photo is patch up work, when cracks became too big and needed to be filled, the difference can be seen on the right where the concrete appears with more reds, and more blue rocks then the newer, rust stained piece.

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Firstly, notice how this next image contains more blues and colder colours then the others? That is simply because it was taken in the shade, and natural light actually casts a blue shadow in almost every case, at least in this case taken at around 2 o’clock in the day. This can come in handy later when you’re trying to figure out lighting.

This is another stain, from what god only knows! I would think water since rain has been known to collect here from time to time and you can also see that the wall is also a bit stained around the base. From this photo you can’t learn a whole lot more but you can see the difference between a newer slab, which contains the stain and an older more weathered slab which is visible in the top right corner. The newer slab is of course more smooth and isn’t decorated as much with blue rocks.

And there you have it, we’ve learned several unique things about concrete and how it appears in the world around you, how much you want to show in your textures is up to you and your Photoshop skills.

Though I should also note that you don’t have to limit yourself to one example of the material, in fact it’s usually better to find other examples of the same material since there are sometimes notable differences between examples, this will allow you to better generalize the texture you are creating if so be it.

Lastly I have reflected on the basics of what I’ve learned, though you don’t have to stop just yet, you can always continue if you want to know more, researching the material more in depth to what it’s made of, melting temperatures, materials used in manufacturing and so on.

What have we learned?
-Concrete is not just one shade, its made up of small variants.
-Older unsheltered concrete is weathered; meaning edges are usually more rounded off and can appear more rugged.
-In this type of concrete a speckled pattern of blue rocks is more noticeable as it ages and the smooth surface is warn down.
-Rust can appear on concrete, like many surfaces along with water stains.

This marks the end of my first study though you can continue to learn more threw more in depth research as I have previously mentioned or perhaps other techniques, but for now it isn’t necessary.

My next study will be metal, which in some cases can be a bit trickier though you can always pick up a few traits. This study is more of a generalized look at a few examples I found, it’s a bit longer but if you’re willing to continue, we shall.

The first photo I picked was a couple macro shot of a rust covered piece of something I found in my yard.

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Lots of metal, especially steel, picks up rust eventually, it’s a part of metals life! In this example we can see how rust forms and what colours can be seen. In this case we can see warmer oranges and even dark browns. We can also see that the rust seems flakey and can be chipped off fairly easily. One thing to remember as well is that rust begins to form as soon as it comes in contact with water, in this case it’s been sitting in water and weather for quite some time thus explaining why it’s completely covered.

You can’t always find a lot of good examples right in front of you; scouting is a good solution to this. I took a trip my neighbouring junior high to see what I could find.

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In this next example we can see the rough texture of this particular piece. It has a lot of small bumps along with apparent scratches. Also note that it’s slightly rusted but not much also it has a few white dots covering it but more importantly notice how the piece its connected to going into the wall is much more rusted then it is. These two pieces must be made of two different metals or alloys. And also it appears to be branded with the word or name “ASK”. If you pay a bit more attention you can pick up that it’s thicker at the ends and just more of a smooth tube in between.

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In this next photo of door handles we can tell a whole lot. First, you may need to look closely but try and notice the grain of the metal. Metal surfaces sometimes have a grain of some sort along with many other manufactured surfaces, The exaggerated parts of the grain are really just many tiny, faint black likes, sometimes more brown.

Another thing we can pick up is how the light reacts In this case we can see the sky (blue) and what I can almost assure you is the light reflecting off the pavement (yellow). Light can be a very key part of how textures look to us in the real world from exaggerating and bringing out detail (hard lighting) to blending and hiding details of the subject (soft lighting). As you can see the soft blue of the sky doesn’t wash out the grain like the hard yellows. Another thing you can learn is that metal like most surfaces picks up a film or a gunk layer after awhile of its life, especially when it’s not cleaned often. In this case it’s a spotted darker smudginess, thicker in some places and thinner in others. One more thing is the rust, it’s forming the crevices of the handle, that’s because water is more likely to collect and continue oxidising where it would simply run down the smooth metal surfaces, though this is a polished piece of metal plus it’s hidden under the doorway, sheltered from a lot of the elements.

Try and see if you can pick up on something else that I may have intentionally left out. 

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This dumpster is has seen better days, but it’s still kicken. Right off we can pick up on the rust, more on the bottom panel, other then that it’s in various random places but also notice the darker various dabbed pattern smudges and a few white streaks.

I see a few green "scratches" as well as a few brown scratches, both vertical and horizontal. One thing you may not have seen was the very faint yellow/orange stains- Look very closely. It being a dumpster who knows what it could be but I would think it’s actually rust in it’s very early stages. Though there’s rust here, what’s with the wear? The paint finish has been warn and rubbed off by something, probably the truck that comes to empty it once and awhile, the colours we can see are dark browns, almost black but with a bit of pigment still in there. That’s the steal without any finish showing. Another thing is that all that green we can see is an old coat that was eventually painted over. Dumpsters in my area use to be green until they were all painted brown. So we can see a bit back into the history of the dumpster. There’s more you could probably learn but we’ll move on.

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Here’s a piece that “blows”, the side of a vent corner. One thing that we should note is that this isn’t steel that would be used for support purposes; this is sheet metal which is made of lightweight metals such as copper, aluminium etc. This means that it generally doesn’t rust like steel. One thing we can pick up on is the pattern. The surface is all flakes of different tones, lights darks and ones in between. Another thing we can pick up on is the faint yellows in a lot of the mid tone flakes but also the blues are overpowering the yellows, ranging from faint blues to much harder and more deeper tones. Another trait this piece has picked up is the rough, repetitious wear we can see in the center and the trim. What’s caused this is anyone’s guess at this point; it could even very well be corrosion.

The white surrounding the rusted steel screw in the centre left leads me to believe that it is corrosion since that would seem like crevice water would settle in and the screw is rusted to begin with, corrosion is actually type of rust. Again note the wear in the crevice running along the bottom. The scratched in letters of “May” in that worn part give us a glimpse underneath the flaked finish, though one could argue it’s only pen ink but regardless it’s a detail to work off of.

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Another thing to think about is the base of the material you're making the texture for. If you’re making a steel post that’s going to be always exposed to the elements then chances are the material at it’s base will be rust stained as well. In this case we can see the heavier rust is just more brown and red but the thinner layers are more yellow on the concrete.

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This vent suffers from the same problem; water will carry the rust downward as we can see the long running stain. This stain in particular looks more vein like, the majority of rust runs down main arteries while the excess is wispy and lighter though take into consideration the stain is mostly all on the left then anywhere else. If we look at the grate itself we can notice that the front was painted over, the top of those metal pieces were not, and thus the rust has formed and has run down atop the paint again. Lastly take note of the bulge in the third photo, sometimes these abnormalities become more apparent to a straight on view and tend to break up the grid element that may have originally been present.

Unfortunately I ran out of materials with interesting traits to use in my texture study but you should keep in mind that metals range and very bit by bit or sometimes they can surpass your expectations completely. This is why I suggest you to do your own texture studies try and explore the community around you with a digital camera or even a notepad and pencil, who knows what unique things you’ll find and observe.

But we shall again reflect…
-Most Metals, especially steel, will rust when left open to the elements, other metals can corrode and this is rust, though looks different. Rust usually runs with rain water and a history of its path is usually quite easy to see.
-Steel can always be painted but in a lot of cases that paint can easily be warn off to show the naked steel that lies behind.
-A grain can usually be seen in a finish or polish.
-Sheet metal is not made of steel because of the weight and use steel normally has.
-Lighting almost always is connected to how much detail can be seen. Hard light will show more details because it is more direct, soft light will blend and subtract from detail because it is more “defused”.
-Gunk, stains etc. will overlay atop any materials, usually making the material underneath appear darker or even more brown, green, etc.
-Darker, older rusts are more of a dark brown while the faint stains are generally lighter oranges or browns.

There are probably more things you can learn from these photos and the others I have but for now I shall leave it at that, hopefully enlightened a few of you in the details that make up the textures in the world around us we wish so much to recreate.

Thank you for your time.

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