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Asset Creation

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Jason Z

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Creating Textures
I tend to have zero artistic ability when it comes to creating art assets. I am thankful that I have the technical abilities that I have, but must accept that the artistic side of my brain (whichever side that is...) is apparently significantly smaller than the other side. Even though I realize this, I had to figure out how to create the textures for my demo. Of course I wanted the textures to look as good as possible, so I started to think about how to go about it.

I needed a gray scale height map, an RGB color map, and a normal map all for the same material. Since I don't own any photo editors (except for MS paint!) I started searching for open source or free ones. To my great surprise, I found the GNU Image Manipulation Program, otherwise referred to as The GIMP. In the past, I haven't really gotten into the open source scene very often, but this program is just phenomenal. It has more or less all the features that a small game startup company could want, is easy to write plugins for, and is easy to use. (Plus the way that they use totally separate floating windows for their tool bars is really cool, and has started some thoughts about how this could be used in my engine gui!)

So I went about using it to create the textures. They aren't perfect, but I think they turned out significantly better than if I was trying to use paint. If you haven't tried this program, go get it! With the color map and height map in hand, I wrote a small height map to normal map converter, and generated the normal map. Finally I tweaked several shading parameters, and then cleaned up the remaining parts of the user interface.

Overall, I was quite proud of the fact that I made the textures on my own. Having not done that before, it seemed a bit daunting - but it is a conquerable problem.

Hieroglyph 2
Like I mentioned last time, I've been reviewing the functionality that I had in my old engine and designing the next version. While developing the first engine, it was basically a case of adding the needed functionality as I went - before you know or understand all the features that you want, its hard to design a priori. So this time around I have the opportunity to really think about the different relationships between the various classes in the engine.

Overall, the current engine consists of approximately 300 or so classes, covering rendering, audio, scripting, physics, and input. To begin with, I will be modifying the renderer design to cover some weaknesses that I have noticed over the last couple projects. I'll post about that once I have the basic design finished up.
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While I consider The GIMP to be a useful open source tool, I personally don't consider it to be "easy to use"; its interface is one of the most frustrating I've ever used in a 2D raster graphics tool. A couple of years back I needed to make a simple image for some tests I was doing, and it took me over half an hour to figure out where the tool was to draw a black equilateral triangle on a white background. But more power to you if you find it intuitive [wink].

Since you're interested in open source art tools, have you looked at Inkscape yet? It's a vector graphics tool that I've been using for a while. It mightn't be what you need for creating textures, but it's a good tool to add to your toolset. Personally I find the interface a lot nicer over The GIMP (although they are rather different tools).

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There is a 400-level course in University here that teaches how absolutely brutal the GIMP is on an interface level, especially for the main aim of the tool (art/design). So far the free open source tool Paint.NET has proven much better than GIMP and the interface is just as good as the commercial applications.

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Hmmm. The interface is quite a bit different than other packages, but I guess since I haven't really tried to use many other tools it just seems like its good [grin]

I have indeed used Inkscape. In fact, that is what I used to create the figures for the article. I was extremely impressed with how easy it was to use as well, but as you mentioned its not really suited to making textures. Even so, it would work pretty good to create gui textures or something like that.

I'll check out paint.net and see what its all about. Thanks for the link!

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I used GIMP a couple of years back. The interface was just painful and I gave up using it in favour of Paint.NET and haven't looked back. Blender suffered the same fate for me, but I've yet to find a replacement...

I'd hoped GIMP had improved though - I saw a news item about it being the first open source project to go through an accredited usability study to improve it's UI...

Then again, I still stick with Paintshop Pro 7 - it's ancient now, but I have a full license at home and I know how to use it [cool]

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