__StrafeMike__

Community Skinning Advisor
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About __StrafeMike__

  • Rank
    Squadron leader
  • Birthday 05/14/1970

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Thessaloniki ,Greece
  • Interests
    Plastic Modelling, Dioramas, Figurine painting, History and above all else skinning!!!

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  1. Thank you so much, friends!
  2. Canopy exterior work. Care was taken to ensure a realistic look of the three canopy parts. Windshield, canopy and rear canopy parts were not blending in with the rest of the fuselage.they were individual units that have to be embossed in order to show right.They now are more "protruding" and not as flush to one another as on the default skin.Various smaller details have been reproduced also, made after a closer look at photos of the real thing.
  3. Nice point made! I second this with the size matter, resolution as well as final vehicle size, as a bomber should be a lot different compared to an i16. A wire mesh on these planes would be made using different pixel sizes and should be checked according to size and resolution
  4. Looking good!
  5. Afaik, the models, therefore their templates are different, so even if you rename any blk files, the result won't be proper.
  6. Well, Paul i use paint.net to save dds files...lightning fast and easy, no real trouble with all these settings. just DXT1 no alpha for texture, DXT1 1 bit alpha for texture damage and DXT5 interpolated for the rest. Paint is freeware. PS With mipmaps ofc!
  7. Gonna make a note on the devs directly, seeing this is not only me and my old rig!
  8. I do, but it seems that a game restart will solve this issue cheers! Mike
  9. Hi there guys! If i remember correctly, we had a small discussion with Paul about the half erased "writing" on the nose gear front cover...if Constantia refers to that, may we remind that it was on the real plane as well. I couldn't find what it was supposed to represent though, even being a Greek! Maybe it could be "ΠΑ", the initials of Polemiki Aeroporia or Air Force. As for the blurry textures try using the wrench key on the top right of the game launcher, if nothing else works that is. Cheers! Mike PS, at some point in time, the rescue decals were replaced by the Greek "ΔΙΑΣΩΣΙΣ", but I wouldn't know if this applies to as early an aircraft as the F 86
  10. ooops! After a little research I came by this photo So, for a third time i had to correct those clamps...good thing it was an easy task. I have also noticed that the clamps weren't always prfectly flush with the rest of the fuselage surface, so I made a bit of an effect to show them at different angles.
  11. Fastening clips changed to the Messerschmitt type ones...aaaaand, please see the next post!
  12. A few small notes upon using the Asset Viewer: 1) Keep the files you're using in one folder for each project and avoid having too many folders in WarThunder/WarThunderCDK/develop/assets/gameres/aircrafts . This way you don't get the "duplicate files" error messages and keep things light and easy to focus on. 2) Remember, resolution is not as great as in Hangar Mode, but it is enough to work on things. You can always save your normals appropriately and check details and final looks later on. 3) You can work on any model ever introduced in game, and even files associated to your plane, such as interiors, extra racks, props, cannon gondolas etc that otherwise would've been impossible to do, unless someone else did it for you! All you have to do is choose the model of the plane you want and have a look at the right side panel under "used textures" . Check "use full quality tex" if it isn't checked already and click on the texture file you want .The program will ask you to export the file, so choose your prefered directory and click OK. that's all there is to it! This way you get a dds format file that you can work on. Cheers, Mike
  13. Some more shots here, with a few more corrections. Note surface detail, variating panel line thickness, turned screws and hinges on the top of the cannon access doors. Allied pilots commenting on the plane's surface wrinkles, said it was the result of using bad quality raw material during construction.Late war consequences!
  14. It's been long since i had in mind to work on this baby. no need for special intro, we all know her and we all know of the awe inspiring lines of her advanced design for her time! I know I said I will work on some of the latest models in game, but it seems like there will be no near future update on her and so I think I will keep working on this template in my free time. Some of the changes or additions in this nose part of the 262 are the glass gun camera cover, detail around gun ports, new hinged upper cannon bay doors, new correct fastening clamps for these doors, wrinkled surface as seen on many 262's and of course new riveting and screws added along with new panel lines and access panels. No painting is done yet. I will try to keep posting updated WIP shots for anyone interested. Cheers!
  15. Hello fellow skinners!      This is my attempt to pass on what I have learned so far regarding skinning. It is a simple way, distilled through my limited knowledge and my ageing computer system. I share it with you, hoping that along with my fellow skinners we will provide more knowledge and shed more light on our beloved hobby.      1. Starting up!     What can be more exciting than having the ability to freely create whatever we desire! Only the choice of the plane has to be made, then the world of possibilities is wide open. Choosing the plane to skin for, is the first logical step. Here, we might want to take into consideration the plane's model, whether it's new with the latest detail, or we might like something more challenging, like an older model. After a choice has been made, it becomes a matter of investigation, or rather research, to find everything possible for the skin we are about to make. More important for me than any plane is the amount of information we have to work on...     2. The all important research...     The all important factor in any historical artistic creation is research. We have to know what was our plane like, where it served, how it was maintained. Was our plane operating from England, enjoying all luxury as did the late war US planes? Or was it flying off from hastily made runways, serviced under continuous fire and harassment like the Luftwaffe of the later ww2 period? Both of these serve as mere examples, ofc and there are cases of Mustangs operating from strips in Belgium having to plow through mud to get airborne! Always bear in mind the particular conditions your plane met around the time span that you are about to represent. Would we like to take it further? Super-detail it? Then research is something we absolutely can't do without.   This will unveil to us the exact story of the particular plane we are about to resurrect! We can Google-search for images and have a look through our library. Find detail drawings and close ups and study them. This way, we get to develop a "feel" for the plane, a unique sense that will serve us not only to paint the plane, but paint it our own way!   Research is where I start from, I once had read that researching takes up most of the time, while making a model (or a skin in our case), is only a fraction of the total time invested! After studying, it is perfectly clear that now we know so much more about our machine than we did before! For example, watching documentaries and photos on the 109 during the Battle of Britain, I had noticed that many planes sported intense exhaust stains.Yet, a contemporary photo of Galland's E4 has shown me one of his "black men" meticulously cleaning the stains off of his plane! A famous "Experte" and a JagdGeschwader Kommodore by then, Galland should have his bird looking as sharp as possible!     3. Dividing areas and layering.      Now is the time to launch our favorite image editor and open the texture file. Examine it carefully, Look at the smaller details, familiarize with the template, It will be helpful to know the location of every little part we need to paint or change later on. So, what I do is think of separate areas of the plane and picture them in my mind as different layers, always bearing in mind the different work stages. For example the interior of the plane, the cockpit main panel, landing gear, seats, side panels, wheel wells, all form one layer of the interior of the plane in general.   Then comes the exterior surfaces, which will be covered with one layer of uniform color that will serve as a base of our later detailing work, It is helpful to think like this: imagine what happens to any vehicle in real life. It is constructed of metal on most occasions, then painted and delivered to the unit it will serve with. Service can only mean one thing: wear and tear through continuous use by man and the effect of nature's elements on it's surface. This is what we have to represent, too! We have to go through the same steps, in order to make a realistic bird . Work on the Interior of the plane, exterior surfaces, painting, weathering.   There's only one thing I use as a rule: few layers. It serves to keep our files small, and it helps me remember where everything is. Keeping it simple is half the fun in the long run! I can see other people use hundreds of layers and files, having a layer for every little tiny bit. I don't! I mean it's not wrong, everyone is free to use his own distinct way of working of course! It's that i prefer it this way. And it serves me well on the ability of my system to cope with the large files too!   My templates have at the most, around 25-30 layers, which I merge appropriately if my file exceeds 3.5Gb. This ofc goes for my rig, as I have a mere 8Gb RAM and a 3.2 GHz quadcore CPU. You can adjust and find the values you can use with ease on your system. It will be of great worth to know when you're reaching your max and have to save and reset your image editor. Another rule I follow, is save my files regularly. Never make one or two additions without saving. It might be a bit more time consuming in the long run, but you never know! I'd simply hate to see my work vanish because of a blackout or a power drop, something frequent around where I live. It pays to stay on the safe side. And while we're at it, remember to defragment your hard drives regularly! This thing we do, is working with images, a "heavy" kind of file category, so it is good to keep your drives in optimum condition. Frequent read - write will put a strain on your system if not handled properly. Which brings us to the next part of our project, image resolution that we'll work on.     4. A note on resolution.      Commonly used resolution is 4K. That means our image is 4096x4096 pixels, which provides reasonably good performance in game for medium computers, as well as good detail in skinning.   8K however is the pinnacle today. Being 8192x8192 pixels, it is actually 67.108.864 pixels square, compared to the 4K's 16.777.216! Doing the math, you can see that it is really 4 times the amount of pixels used to give us 4 times the detail!      This can be really helpful in making better circles and ellipses, or drawing angled lines. a lot more helpful if we need to recreate thin panel lines and define access hatches. And a lot more useful in riveting. For example, I have calculated that a rivet in real life was about 5mm thick in body with a head washer of around 1cm. This translates in a 4-5 pixel head in 8K resolution for a single engined 30ft spanned fighter, which in 4K should be 4 times less... making it a single pixel unrealistic square! Not to mention of skinning a larger plane as a bomber, which must fit in these same dimensions... in a 4K bomber skin, rivets are simply either oversized or non existent! You get my drift! Moreover, a template made in 8K, can be down sized to 4K and provide better detail than if it was made originally in 4K.       5. Adding details.     A picture is worth a thousand words, so it is vital to show pictures of the work in progress. This photo (Pic.1), is a part of the default Bf 109 G2 texture file serving as the bottom layer. Everything else will come on top of this. It is also an example of adding a few details and this can be a lot of fun also. In this particular case, a new instrument panel photo was added and I have redrawn the main wheel hubs. I always search for these little additions. They provide something extra for the "keen eye"! We can always add seat belts, lettering, wear and chipping in the interior, so, when in hangar view, one can stop and look at all these nice additions too! I am amazed when people say how often they stop and gaze at a plane while in hangar mode! I thought I was the only one!!! It is therefore useful and gives a personal touch. Something more to tell our work apart from other fellow skinners.   Pic. 1 Part of the starting Bf 109 G 2 texture file.A base layer has been added too.     So proceeding with the work, as seen in this shot (Pic. 1), I have made an external surface layer, which serves as a clean base color. It defines the space to work on the later applied camouflage and weathering effects. Most importantly, it is a clean background for the making of detail work, like drawing the riveting and panel lines, screws, access hatches  and various other bits. This shows how valuable research is. Good detail drawings and general documentation is a must. The method for making rivets is explained on chapter 9.   We really have to get to know our bird. Where should we make the panel lines more pronounced, where should they be thinner. How was the riveting made and were all the rivets flush? This latter instance is a vital detail, when we recreate older machines, or as I have come to find out, some British planes like the early Spits and the Hurricanes had old style rivets around some areas. Maybe you want to recreate those as a separate feature. So, one can realize that there's no golden rule here and no standards. Line thickness may vary according to our plane's dimensions. Making a P-38 could require a 1px line thickness, while a P-26 or a Chayka could be well off with 2 or even 3 px wide lines. The smaller the plane, the greater the leeway we have in making detail. Remember, our image size is standard for all planes!     An important thing about our work here is to test and check and then double check the result of our detailing. Don't be lazy in having a closer look in Hangar mode or even take a test flight and observe the replay. I often pause my replays and take screenshots to analyze closely afterwards, so I can check on things with certainty. This is imperative, as there are so many tiny details to correct and hangar mode provides a starboard lit side only of any plane. Along with this, we need to get closer than allowed in this mode, so zooming in while paused at replay is better. The time spent here, is time well spent! We get to check on panel lines alignment, mostly between top and bottom wing areas and fuselages, camo matching and weathering, leading edge chipping, insignia etc. All parts in general that share common areas on the model but different ones on our template.   Pic. 2  On the base layer details are added in black, like panel lines, access hatches and finally rivets and other minor details.     6. Painting camouflages.     There are many ways to paint. However, I find the traditional default brush applies here best! Many types of brushes exist, and It never hurts to look for a new type. They can be really useful in weathering, producing scratches and dirt etc. and we can find thousands for every need! Play around with your brush settings, size and opacity. This helps in most occasions too. But the truth is that I use the feathered default one in 90% of the paint work I do.        When painting, I try to get into the shoes of the man that painted the original vehicle. I compare between photos and various profiles I have found, and follow the way the plane was really painted. I try to grasp the patterns the painter used. I remember a photo I saw once of a happy German soldier, painting his SdKfz with a brush and a thick mixture making "x" 's all over!!! To mimic a certain way is not easy though, the aforementioned "x's" being an exception! Many sources vary so much in color and shape, many photos are old and time's left a mark on them. Even more often, some of today's artists present us with different examples of the same plane, leaving us with more questions than answers. We simply cannot follow blindly one or the other. When this happens, we have to cross reference.       This fact is more reason to try and make a good research job before even starting to draw the first line on our plane. Sometimes it's best to leave the project aside for a later date, when we have more information at hand. I am not as strict as I might sound, to be honest. Above everything, I know I am painting skins of machines that were used during the worst times of the last century. Archives are bound to be incomplete, photos a rarity, and most of all, exact color information misleading, to say the least!       But this is no reason to get discouraged, or listen to color experts that wave charts in front of our face. Remember that color chips may vary so much! Also, later war mixing of whatever colors available was a common practice, or using confiscated material as situations arose, so there's no need to get alarmed. What looks good, usually is good! Above all, this is a hobby and we have to draw satisfaction from what we do.   Enjoying ourselves is an integral part of the whole skinning experience so, being a "rivet counter" doesn't always help. All this changes if you're skinning post war planes. Photos are available in quantity as well as in quality. Not only black and white ones, but the world by now had taken a step towards color, and those few and scarce ones of ww2 are now multiplied.     Colored surfaces are one type of camouflage, the other being the natural metal finish, applied mainly on US warbirds. This is no more than a well chosen grey, coupled with a well picked "blue" value on the spectacular map. This is where we come across a major part of the skinning process. The PBR rendering that War Thunder has incorporated in it's game engine since patch 1.53. What Physically Based Rendering means, the way I see it, is a closer to life lighting method, that takes into account all existing material, all possible lighting sources, all reflections produced in between, and combines them into a realistic result. Have you noticed how colors tend to appear bleached under intense sun light, or how they look dull until they become black when in shadow? This is also the case with our game here, so we need to practice to get what we aim for. There 's a great guide explaining PBR here http://forum.warthunder.com/index.php?/topic/281013-pbr-texture-migration-and-new-engine-features/     I am a practical guy, however, so here's what I do: I first choose the particular color I want to recreate. It might be a natural metal finish, it does not matter, it's still a grey of some kind. So, I paint my skin with this, and then I make all necessary corrections as I go. I have worked professionally in image editing, and I am familiar with color so maybe this could be hard on some people, but just imagine the color wheel and a few experiments will get you going. Remember that in RGB mode, the one we're working with, the color range is from 0 to 255. 0 meaning no color and 255 full color. So, a medium grey, is a value of 127 Red, 127 Green and 127 Blue which combined, produce our wanted result. If we want a blueish grey, all we have to do is add a bit blue, so our value of blue must be more than 127. 0 Red 0 Green and 0 Blue is pure black, while 255 in all three is white. Simple!      One thing I avoid is using overly saturated colors, or even before PBR, pure white and pure black. Or, too light and too dark colors. These, apart from being tricky to handle, are not realistic. Nothing in real life is left untouched by nature's elements or man, so it's bound to have it's colors changed. The amount of this changing, is what defines how much weathered our vehicle is. It serves well to remember to keep our paints between 30-230 points for any color, or about there. It's a rule of thumb from artists and it applies especially since PBR is used !     So, that being mentioned, the question is "how" do we paint. This is not a brush or an airbrush using liquid paint here. We can define our area of color and fill it. We can feather our selection and then fill, when we want a feathered edge ofc. I follow the rule mentioned above: Paint as it was painted in real life. I use a feathered brush and adjust it's hardness if need be and paint freehand. This was done in real life too, right? Sometimes I use a photo of the real thing to follow the pattern exactly. If I can find one that is! I paste this photo or profile if you like on a separate layer and then stretch and warp it accordingly. When I have it in the correct place, I use it to trace the contours of the camo or paint the mottle as closely to the original as I can. The only difference in mottling, is that my brush has lower opacity, maybe less than 50%, even as low as 20% sometimes. This is "forgiving" and allows multiple clicks to get the pattern right. You may have noticed that spraying is a matter of a more "fluid" procedure than painting with a brush in real life. For those of you that aren't familiar, spray painting is dependent on the paint thickness, or it's dilution, the quality of the thinner, the air pressure used, humidity and ofc the paint quality! So many factors!   This, in our world, can be interpreted by simply painting with lower opacity, as explained, and being a bit more "persistent" in some areas. a close inspection of a real life photo will help you follow the original. When finished, go back and inspect your paint job. It serves now to have a base layer of a lighter color, as explained above. Switching that layer on and off, can reveal areas left unpainted by mistake etc., the lighter color of the layer being sufficient in most cases as the camo is usually made of darker colors. We can of course, always darken it easily to check on any light camo colors used.     Finally, here's the painted camouflage on our G2 (Pic 3), representing Waldmann's Bf 109 G2 "Black <+2". Look at the clean surface. It seems like the plane has just come out of the paintshop, something definitely not realistic! There are many people as I have found out through discussions in the forums or in Live, that believe this is the way a plane should look, possibly biased by some visit to a museum, where all exhibits are just what they are...exhibits! Washed and polished, sparkling and ready for the visitor's eye. I strongly doubt however, that any Air Force's crew had this in mind while at war!   Pic 3 Clean and freshly painted camouflage on our G2...you can almost smell the fresh paint! A few vertical areas have been left on purpose, to represent areas somehow missed by the paint crew. The rest is covered by the large crosses.     7. Weathering.         Thus, we come to the crucial "make or break" stage of weathering. If painting needs improvisation once, here in this stage this rule applies three-fold! We are in hot pursuit of reality here! My weathering technique evolved through trial and error, but the general idea was to work in a similar fashion to that of my modelling experience.     Some pointers as to what is useful in weathering.  In general, I use  multiple layers in making the base color look worn, bleached, with scratches, stains, smoke marks, you name it! The only barrier is one's imagination. But, we must not overdo it! For one, you can easily get carried away and push weathering beyond the boundaries of battle damage, right just before being shot down! This is a no-no! Subtlety will carry the day and of course, yes, you guessed it, research!   A good photo can lead you through in achieving your goal of a super realistic plane on it's hey day of fighting! What to look for in a photo? Most used access panels, fuel filler caps, greasing points, oil leaks, fluid streaks, chipped paint, all the little bits that when incorporated will provide that much extra for the eager spectators. Every brush stroke, or rather mouse "click", will bring you closer to reality. Consider working with higher resolution and smaller sized brushes.It will make the difference between a good skin and a real masterpiece!    So, once we get to know our plane, we can recreate a given photo and the wear we see there for that particular plane on that particular day. It can be of invaluable help, when such a photo exists. The God of skinning, unluckily is not on our side on this in most cases. We're lucky if we can find one single photo of the real thing, and this may well be blurry, almost certainly black and white, logically will show one aspect of the plane and maybe so overexposed that we cannot tell many details as a result.     There are, however, some basics to follow. All paints bleach under the sun, especially around the Equator, where UV rays have a field day, colors tend to lose their original vibrancy. If we are to combine this with the respective dust and sand of those places, you can guess what a plane in service around northern Africa might've looked after a bit of service in those parts! The salty sea can also do most damage, so the Japanese used primers and the US special glossy paints to fight the salt. Here you can flake the paint to the reddish primer on the first instance for the Japanese Navy planes. I'd go for a less glossy finish for the US Navy birds, maybe even matte in some areas. Again, good documentation will help.   All engines burn fuel, emitting intense heat. This results in smoke residue abaft the exhausts, but very importantly, a thin grey burned paint leftover immediately after them. Intense heat burns the paint, leaving a thin layer of grey "ash".  Heavy black smoke reveals a bad quality fuel, or engine malfunction. You can always add some oil streaks, especially around the lower parts of the engine cowling, some grease stains after the propeller and around the base of the wheel legs. A little dust with a light beige color along the top surfaces along with some scratches. Always remember to use low opacity and work on a separate layer. When a nice result has been achieved, you can always merge if you want to save RAM and disk space. The trick is to remember scale and be subtle. I have often overdone it with scratches being too thick and dust particles resembling a golf ball! Just a hint is all the eye needs to appreciate a job well done. Just a small suggestion.      Do not forget, this is not something new to our eyes! Maybe our brain needs to work double time to add all this detail in any given skin, but our sight has so often stumbled across a dusty vehicle, has seen so many photos of planes in the desert or weather beaten otherwise. We've all seen an engine after overheating, an exhaust after heavy use, metal oxidized etc etc...Our eyes will know it the instant they see it! This makes it more worth the extra trouble to try and add as much subtle detail as possible.   Pics. 3-7  These are staged shots of the G2, starting from  fresh paint to a completely weathered result with exhaust stains, shading, streaks, "dusting", fading, dirt and many more. Now, this smells oil...               8. Detail painting, nose art and decals.     This is a small part of the whole painting area, it is vital though, in the sense that it gives our work it's definitive character. It speaks about the identity of the pilot who flew her, the individual markings that tell this aircraft apart from the rest. Just like in plastic modelling, I use my decals in a layer below the weathering layers, so they will appear as they were actually painted on, avoiding that ugly and unnatural "sticker look". I can always go back and "clean" the surface above the decal, should need be, or add weathering.     Here we can use vector graphics, achieving a clean cut look, but brushwork can give excellent results too! It depends on the resolution of our image. The example (Pic.8) is a work on my old "xxxx" Cresswell's P-40, the "Five Flags". It is all made by freehand drawing, using brushes. Examine the subtle shading and highlighting, coupled to give the sense of waving to the flags. A b/w photo of the original piece served as a guide. Again, low opacity was the trick. Highlights and shadows were painted on, not using white and black to modify the colors, but light and dark versions of the original colors used for each of the flags' colors. This little detail helped keep that silky look on the flags.   Each flag was vector traced on it's perimeter, starting from the one further back and then a hard edge brush was used for the various stripes. Finally, each flag received its highlights and shadows, just like if I was painting a figurine. Most nose art is easily traced if it involves a name for example. One can use the resulting selection to paint and make any effect necessary. We can also use some of the many fonts available and modify them to match our lettering style. The trick here is to make them look like hand painted, as this was the method of application in real life too. Few examples of nose art had any form of stenciling used for spray painting. So, you can always add a few runny streaks here and there, or maybe some paint being too thin, revealing the under coat.   Another trick is to make the edges uneven at some points, or add fresh paint on top of an old and faded under coat. Remember that people made those in real life. People just like you and me, so there's nothing perfect and 100% untouched. I have seen pictures of those so well known invasion stripes that scared the "beep" outta me! Only then did I come to remember that the order to paint those stripes was given overnight and the mechs had only hours to finish servicing, arm and paint the planes too! What a job they'd do, huh? Those birds would be so sweet!   Pic.8 Australian pilot Richard Cresswell's P-40 sported a five flag personal emblem, four allied flags on the port and one Squadron leader's on the starboard side. These were hand painted using a photo of the original flags as a guide. Below you can see the painting in progress, along with some of my nose art hand painted examples made for my skins. [spoiler]   [/spoiler]   9. 3D Effects       Something that one can't do without, when serious detailing work is sought for, are the 3D effects. They're used on all planes, existing on the default templates and of course can be manipulated or changed and new ones can be added. They're no more than variations of light that produce highlights and shadows to fool the eye into seeing small dents and protrusions.   As you already understood, they cannot alter the original surface significantly, but only affect it by a small margin. Large bulges and other details are the work of the plane's 3D model. Small enough, however, enough so that we can easily add our own panels and panel lines, rivets, bumps and dents on the plane's skin and so much more effects, all in pursuit of realism.   This method is called normal mapping. These effects are easily made. I'd say the hardest thing is to make all detail work as we've seen in chapter 5. One way is to use the NVidia's plug in for Photoshop to make normal maps. It's fast and easy and there is a great tutorial here http://forum.warthunder.com/index.php?/topic/192972-perfectly-normal-an-n-map-tutorial/ made by Schroer.   The downside is that it produces one kind of effect, so if you have raised rivets, you can't represent them along with your other details. Maybe working with the settings and in different layers can help, but the other way, the so called "hand made" is easy and flexible and more fun!    One single rivet, is ofc round, the head of the binding part that is used by the thousands to hold all pieces of metal alloys together and onto the frame of each plane. i have found a good documentary of a US midwar riveting procedure that explains all there is to know on rivet types and methods to fasten them. This video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDbTUt3OG9s   So, we start making the rivets, preferably a 5 px hard round brush will do. We can make easy rivets by drawing paths conforming to the rivet "lines" and "circles". Those paths can be open or closed, it makes no difference. Then, we can go to the brush preferences and set them to the desired brush width and specs. spacing being crucial and varying from one plane to another. Take into consideration the plane's dimensions and test your rivet spacing until you find the right looking result. In a fighter, I use a 5 px rivet head with a 300-500 spacing. When you stroke the path, the rivets appear along the designed paths. Then it is time to clean them up. Delete all rivets that are too close to one another and add some where appropriate. If you have a tech manual or official drawings of the plane, it is best since you can safely know the number of rivets and have a more realistic result.    I divide various rivet sizes into different layers when appropriate. This will help me get better results when making the normal map. So, it is best to keep objects that need similar treatment in the same layers, as each layer will receive the same layer effect. Eventually, I make a copy of the alpha channel and paste it in a new file. This will serve me as nothing but the base for the work that follows.    There's one simple thing to know here: a normal map has two channels working in conjunction to reproduce the final 3D effects. The green channel and the alpha channel. Green channel global lighting must always be at 90 degrees to the file and the alpha channel at 180 degrees to the file. Any simple line, any rivet, any dent, bump or plate added, must submit to that rule. Start with applying a 50% grey on any object you want to work on, and go to Layers/Layer Effects/ Bevel and Emboss in PhotoShop. There, you can choose the type of effect, lighting source, highlight and shadow values etc. Practice will reveal the values you have to put to achieve your specific effect. One rule goes here too: Subtlety! Sometimes a 10% difference can make or ruin an effect. So, please work in layers and try out many times and in different lighting angles every effect. Every plane was made in a different way, with varying techniques and technology, so there are details that might very well be applicable in one plane and not the other.     To recap, we have our layer that we want to make a 3D effect painted grey, and placed on top of a new file in the exact position it has as on our original working file. to achieve this, we use the "paste in place" command. We go to bevel and emboss and adjust our settings as needed. global light set to 90° for green. We apply this effect, duplicate this layer and use it for the alpha 180° layer effect.   Beware, before doing anything, we must Rasterize the 90° layer, as any other layer effect applied to every new layer, will affect the previous one as well ! So, we make an effect for the green channel, duplicate, rasterize the layer for the green channel and then change settings for the alpha on the duplicate layer and apply and rasterize again. this leaves us with two layers, one with the effect at 90 degrees lighting and one with the same effect with 180 degrees light. We can repeat this procedure again and again for every new little bitty thing we want to have a 3D effect made. Each will have two layers made and eventually, these layers will be pasted on our definitive normal map. One group of them for the green and one for the alpha channel.     With a little practice you will find that you can produce reasonably fast results, able to add or subtract any details from your normal map files. you can keep details from the default files if you want and erase all unwanted ones and build up from there. here, is the only exception to my rule of a few layers. I can't abide by this rule here, simply because the file is small enough to handle many more layers than the texture file. So, the only thing to so is get organized and know the details we have to add. we don't want to be too deep or too high on our effects and the plates and dents we make on the plane's surface. After all, nothing was ever too pronounced on any plane, aerodynamics call for as smooth a surface as possible.      A little practice is all you need, and in no time you'll be able to create wonders! Just a side note. I sometimes start making the normal file first. It's better to see the surface already detailed in full and gradually painted over and weathered. I simply left this part for last, as someone can bypass it and work using only the default details.   Pic 9. 3D effects made on the Bf 109 F. The only default details are the dents on the surface, that i lately get rid of by using a file add on made by iFez for a smooth surface. [spoiler]  [/spoiler]   10. Conclusion.       I tried to show my way of thinking through the various stages of making a skin in the confines of an article. There are a great many things to expand on, for sure! Many more are in evolution each day, as every skinner is, maybe unknowingly, involved in a wonderful process of discovering new ways to produce skins. I only work in a simple way, as you have seen. I try to enjoy myself in every project, looking for that warm feeling one gets when he sits back and looks at his latest "baby"! Mistakes and omissions are always hidden around every corner, perfection is not a human attribute, but what matters is "the journey"!        Taking something and transforming it to something way better! This is what counts most...         My experience so far, is that there is no program to be christened the "ultimate" tool. What works for me might not work for you. A dear friend of mine has produced top quality skins, using free programs, like Gimp and Paint.net.        I once had read that good tools are half the job. But I cannot stress this enough, I feel that love for what we do is most of the job done! So, don't stand in awe if someone uses this program and not that one, simply because all you need is brushes and basic commands found in all image editing programs. Keeping it simple is half the fun, right? Use whatever suits you and your pocket and don't try to find magic solutions presented within a single program.        Knowledge, a keen eye, imagination and love are the ingredients of making magic happen!                                                                                                                                     Happy skinning,                                                                                                                                                        __StrafeMike__   P.S. A big shoutout to MightyArrow, Petranera and TheOmega89 and a warm thank you for all the knowledge shared and the will to pass it along! If you guys have any questions regarding any part of this article, please contact me or visit The Community Skinning Centre , we'll be happy to answer!  
  16. Image created by Kaspar_ Hello to all fellow flyers out there, armchair- or not! Ever since I walked out of a shopping mall in Melbourne, back in 1981 with a Monogram Mustang in my hands, I knew that it was airplanes for me and never looked back! I am still in love with the plane and many times in the recent past wished to at least see one up close, but anyways!I guess that's a no-no for me!All the same, Gaijin is my antidote and my medicine this last year or so!Skinning came by as an unexpected "gift" so I could practice my old profession -image editing- this time on my favorite subject! I had nothing to do around skinning before. In this community I came by some very nice people who give their help and expertise freely ! So it's a real pleasure to be here among guys that know and feel things the way you do yourself! This fact alone made me decide to take my work a lot more seriously than before, almost given up "flying" War Thunder or any flight simulator and devoted myself solely to skinning! I'm only on historical themes.Every skin is made with as much detail and realism to the best of my knowledge and ability, ...yet! I sincerely hope you find my stuff interesting enough and comment on any matter you may please! Happy landings! __StrafeMike__ Important notes:a) I am willing to do requests, as long as I find them interesting and of course have enough source material to work on. As for requests, please read post #318 at page 16 b) I always appreciate any feedback, any criticism , as long as it is put in a kind and gently manner! We are here for the pleasure! c) Every work of mine, is updated, should I find it proper. Any updates will be referred to as last dates of update in the short description window.This is of course to avoid any confusion. d) Every decal is custom made, using photos, sketches or decals found on the net only as guides for the actual work that is done on separate layers and never do I copy actual files, whole, or as a part. e) Every project is given my best attention to detail . It is the only way to make something better than the default textures provided and not just change color and slam a few decals! This involves remaking each plane's riveting, panel lines , access hatches, adding new nomenclature (stencils) and making new 3D effects, all according to detail drawings and blueprints. This is my preferred method of making skins that provides the best results and is most realistic. f) You will find some more examples on my profile at Warthunder.live , planes that are not included here,These do not fall into the same category as the rest, as they were my first attempts , serving as a way to find my footing around skinning.I just keep them as a reminder of my first tries and of what to avoid in the future! :P Go to ***My Profile*** So these are my projects to date: I will present only all newer 8K DDS projects. (Older 2K and 4K skins can still be found at my profile but I will not depict them here, as they're obsolete since the 1.53 patch). WARNING! I might have overlooked and forgot to edit swastikas on some occasions. This is purely unintentional. Swastikas are there only for historical purposes, and no politics are involved whatsoever! 8K DDS Projects (PBR compatible when indicated) North American P-51D Mustang ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ "Big Beautiful Doll" http://live.warthunder.com/post/283850/en/............PBR friendly Indonesian P-51 http://live.warthunder.com/post/93327/ "Petie 3rd" http://live.warthunder.com/post/285535/en/............PBR friendly "Iron A$$" http://live.warthunder.com/post/321201/en/............PBR friendly Mustang IV "Dooleybird" http://live.warthunder.com/post/105408/....................You may find this skin included in game too. "Frenesi" http://live.warthunder.com/post/326226/en/............PBR friendly "Sunshine" http://live.warthunder.com/post/420739/en/............PBR friendly "Short Fuse Sallee" http://live.warthunder.com/post/193720/ "Mad Irishman" http://live.warthunder.com/post/194973/ "the Deacon" http://live.warthunder.com/post/196754/ "ShangriLa" http://live.warthunder.com/post/288172/en/............PBR friendly Mustang IV RCAF 403 Sqn http://live.warthunder.com/post/332135/en/............PBR friendly "The FLYING UNDERTAKER" http://live.warthunder.com/post/419597/en/............PBR friendly "Miss Velma" http://live.warthunder.com/post/420781/en/............PBR friendly "The Enchantress" http://live.warthunder.com/post/420883/en/............PBR friendly "Hun Hunter - Texas" http://live.warthunder.com/post/422997/en/...............PBR friendly "American Beauty" http://live.warthunder.com/post/423606/en/...............PBR friendly "Belligerent Bets" http://live.warthunder.com/post/424984/en/...............PBR friendly "Geraldine" http://live.warthunder.com/post/425967/en/...............PBR friendly "Ridge Runner III" http://live.warthunder.com/post/427155/en/...............PBR friendly RNLAF Mustang 121 Sqn http://live.warthunder.com/post/438415/en/...............PBR friendly "CRIPES A'MIGHTY 3rd" http://live.warthunder.com/post/507260/en/...............PBR friendly Messerschmitt Bf 109 E ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ E, III/JG2, Maj. Dr. Erich Mix http://live.warthunder.com/post/226930/ E4, III/ZG1, "Wespen" http://live.warthunder.com/post/322489/en/..............PBR friendly E4, Stab/JG26 Adolf Galland http://live.warthunder.com/post/291288/en/.............PBR friendly E4, Major Helmut Wick http://live.warthunder.com/post/325497/en/.............PBR friendly E4, 3/JG3 (3 skin pack) http://live.warthunder.com/post/448735/en/.............PBR friendly E4, 3/JG2 "Yellow 6" http://live.warthunder.com/post/448752/en/............PBR friendly E4, JG 3 "Red 10" http://live.warthunder.com/post/448777/en/............PBR friendly E4, 1/LG2 "Red 11" http://live.warthunder.com/post/448762/en/............PBR friendly E4, 2/JG 27 Tropical http://live.warthunder.com/post/450816/en/.............PBR friendly E4, 6/JG51 "Yellow 1" Priller http://live.warthunder.com/post/502559/en/.............PBR friendly Messerschmitt Bf 109 F ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ F , III/JG 2, Hans "Assi" Hahn http://live.warthunder.com/post/297032/en/..............PBR friendly F, Stab II/JG27 http://live.warthunder.com/post/401072/en/ ..............PBR friendly F, Stab/JG51, Werner Molders http://live.warthunder.com/post/356589/en/...............PBR friendly F, 9/JG54, Hans Ekkehard Bob http://live.warthunder.com/post/297455/en/...............PBR friendly F, III/JG27, H.J.Marseille,W.Nr.8693 http://live.warthunder.com/post/399591/en/.....................PBR friendly F, III/JG27, H.J.Marseille,W.Nr.8673 http://live.warthunder.com/post/399624/en/.....................PBR friendly F, II/JG3, Yellow 12, tropical camo http://live.warthunder.com/post/299356/en/ ..............PBR friendly F, Stab/ JG 53 "Pik As" Lt.Schiess http://live.warthunder.com/post/401402/en/...............PBR friendly F4, Hans Philipp, Revised edition http://live.warthunder.com/post/218621/ Messerschmitt Bf 109 G2 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ G2, "Black 2" Gunther Rall http://live.warthunder.com/post/215994/ G2, "Yellow 14", H.J. Marseille http://live.warthunder.com/post/385175/en/.............PBR friendly G2, III/JG 54, yellow 12 Winter Camo http://live.warthunder.com/post/385201/en/...............PBR friendly G2, Finnish 2/HLeLv 24 http://live.warthunder.com/post/416015/en/.............PBR friendly G2, 4o Stormo, Ten. Giulio Reiner http://live.warthunder.com/post/429201/en/.............PBR friendly G2, II/JG52, Uffz. H.Waldmann http://live.warthunder.com/post/433618/en/.............PBR friendly Messerschmitt Bf 109 G6 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ G6 "Yellow 1" E. Hartmann http://live.warthunder.com/post/290164/en/..............PBR friendly G6 "Yellow 11" 9/JG54 http://live.warthunder.com/post/492350/en/.............PBR friendly G6 II/JG51 Hptm. K. Rammelt http://live.warthunder.com/post/493968/en/.............PBR friendly G6 "Black 11" Unit unknown http://live.warthunder.com/post/525299/en/............PBR friendly Messerschmitt Bf 109 G10 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ G10 "Black Tulip" E. Hartmann http://live.warthunder.com/post/288616/en/..............PBR friendly Messerschmitt Bf 109 G14 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ G14 "Gelb 25" II/KG 55 http://live.warthunder.com/post/564974/en/..............PBR friendly G14 "Gelb 8+-" 6/JG27 http://live.warthunder.com/post/567787/en/.................PBR friendly F6F Hellcat ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ F6F-5 (early) Hellcat "Minsi III" http://live.warthunder.com/post/505885/en/..............PBR friendly F6F-3 Hamilton McWhorter,VF-9 http://live.warthunder.com/post/158883/ F6F-3 VF 27, USS Princeton http://live.warthunder.com/post/505848/en/..............PBR friendly F6F-5 VF 27,USS Independence http://live.warthunder.com/post/161224/ Gloster Gladiator ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Gladiator MkII RHAF http://live.warthunder.com/post/184822/ Republic P-47 Thunderbolt ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anniversary P47D28 "Tarheel Hal" http://live.warthunder.com/post/168809/.....................PBR friendly P-47 M1 RE "Tarheel Hal" http://live.warthunder.com/post/169773/ P-47 M1 RE "Slick Chick" http://live.warthunder.com/post/200982/ P-47 M1 RE Maj. Bostwick http://live.warthunder.com/post/203855/ P-47D-28 "Chief Ski-U-Mah" http://live.warthunder.com/post/209324/ Supermarine Spitfire ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Spitfire Mk Ia 602 Sqn http://live.warthunder.com/post/433495/en/....................PBR friendly Spitfire Mk IIb 71 Sqn http://live.warthunder.com/post/336414/en/...................PBR friendly Spitfire Mk Ia 610 Sqn http://live.warthunder.com/post/438173/en/...................PBR friendly Hawker Hurricane ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Hurricane MkIIb "Alsace" http://live.warthunder.com/post/318020/en/....................PBR friendly Hurricane MkI Stanford Tuck http://live.warthunder.com/post/331433/en/....................PBR friendly Focke Wulf Fw190 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Dora 9 "Brown 18" http://live.warthunder.com/post/385816/en/....................PBR friendly Dora 9 G. Barkhorn(2 liveries) pt.1 http://live.warthunder.com/post/400111/en/ ....................PBR friendly Dora 9 G. Barkhorn(2 liveries) pt.2 http://live.warthunder.com/post/400142/en/ ....................PBR friendly Dora 9 "Rot 4" http://live.warthunder.com/post/403482/en/ .......................PBR friendly Dora 9 "Rot 4" Ver. 2 http://live.warthunder.com/post/404629/en/ .......................PBR friendly Dora 9 Rudel Gefechtsverband http://live.warthunder.com/post/410463/en/ .......................PBR friendly Dora 9 Marienburg http://live.warthunder.com/post/419221/en/ .......................PBR friendly Dora 9 1/JG26 "Weiss 1" http://live.warthunder.com/post/465808/en/.........................PBR friendly Dora 9 II/JG301 "Weiss 16" http://live.warthunder.com/post/498166/en/.........................PBR friendly Dora 9 I/JG2 "Weiss 16" http://live.warthunder.com/post/499789/en/.........................PBR friendly Dora 9 11/JG 54 "Gelb 4" http://live.warthunder.com/post/501537/en/.........................PBR friendly FockeWulf Ta 154 A1 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Late war camo http://live.warthunder.com/post/541529/en/.........................PBR friendly "9w+BO" semi historical http://live.warthunder.com/post/558910/en/..........................PBR friendly EXTRAS ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Rustsatze R5/R6 cannon pods http://live.warthunder.com/post/492539/en/.........................PBR friendly for the Bf 109 F1, F2, F4, F4/Trop, G2, G2/Trop, G6, G10, G14, K4