While this Making Of is set in the environment of 3Ds Max and Adobe Photoshop, it’s focused on the universal general principles applicable to any tool that’s familiar to you. It will describe the method of creating a Homeworld ship, not the specific 3D modeling tools.
It’s written as a guide for beginners to design and execute a decent Homeworld ship, so if you can model and you’re more interested in the textures, feel free to skip through it.
You don’t have to be an artist to have an idea. All you have to have is a pen and a piece of paper. At the beginning of this particular ship started as this 5 years old long forgotten silly doodle:
No details, just a simple outline. Let’s be honest, it’s not enough, but it’s something and something is still better than nothing. Model with a clear concept, don’t improvise, that’s very important. It’s crucial to know where you’re going with your shape, don’t just extrude random polygons and call it a ship. That is a trap that will end up limiting you, your ship will be defined by the edges and polygons you started with. You may easily end up in the mindset that the model you have in front of you is it, that this is the final basis for your ship. And it’s hard to convince yourself to remodel the whole thing, when you find out your meshflow is all wrong. It’s better to start right, than to fix what doesn’t work. So do yourself a favor a draw it on a paper first.
(Blocking out from basic geometric shapes as skewed boxes or bent cylinders in 3D is also fine, if it suits you. But after you’re done with that, use it only as a template and start a new model around it, don’t turn these into your actual ship models.)
You have your concept drawing, put it on a plane to your scene as a modeling reference. It’s always good to have all side + top + front view, but this would do:
One trick is to give your mesh a material with low opacity, while still viewing the geometry’s edges. A side view of the basemesh:
While I stressed not to improvise, if your reference picture has this little amount of information, you’ll have to start working primarily in your 3D editor at some point. But even it’s preferable to be more responsible than this and start with more, the main point was to build a model with the topology that you want it to have. Another example I was trying to make is that you don’t need much to start with, for instance if you don’t have a full faith in your drawing skills, this is enough. But you definitely do need something.
This was the furthest the so called “concept art” could take me by its own:
Since from this stage all the design elements will be decided in the 3D environment, there’s no more information the sketch can offer, it’s time for a revision and comparison with the actual Vaygr ships:
So now we have a 3D model and we found out it’s as similar to a Vaygr vessel as a quad bike is to a buldozer. So let’s compare all that we got terribly wrong:
This is proper Vaygr:
This is the mess I have:
If you didn’t see that it is just bad up until now, now you can see it. This stage is your perfect time for self reflection. The mesh is barely few polygons, it’s now when you want to find out whether you’re fine with your overall shape. And we are most definitelly not.
You can’t just make a ship that you found cool, you also have to make it authentic. This fragile body and a lack of 90 degrees angles is not authentic Vaygr by a long shot.
It has to be fatter and shorter. The word I had in mind when fixing it was “warship”. It has to look more like a warship:
Now that I’m happy with the shape, let’s add details:
It’s a little on the fancy side, but I think we’ll get away with it:
(By the way, this is the place where many of the beginners will claim “my ship is almost finished”. I could rant for hours about the cruel fallacy of “making ships = spending two hours in the 3D editor” philosophy, but let’s keep it short and civilized, so let’s just say:
" No "
We have a mesh, no UVs yet, no nothing. And now it’s exactly the best time to bring it in game and set up our weapons.
Why? Easy, you might decide you don’t want two turrets, you might not want any turrets. You might want bigger missile silos, you might want four missile silos… And all of that is easy to fix and adjust before you make your UV maps. And a huge pain after you do.
Also as you can see on the picture below, it’s also a perfect time to figure our all your capture points and how they might collide with your weapon positions:
…And salvage points, and repair points and animations and dockpaths…, do them all now before you proceed any further, make it a fully functional ship:
Give it a couple hours or even weeks of playtesting, drag this placeholder through battles. If something doesn’t work, you really want to figure it out now.
If you don’t know weapon’s, here’s a Dom’s turret tutorial:
4. The ship, exactly as you want it:
UV mapping. You either know what it is and then I don’t have to write about it here. Or you don’t and you really want to watch a tutorial that explains them. This Making Of can’t go deep into technical details.
If you’re interested, the UVs for this ship look like this:
Now here is where we also make badges. Start by cutting a square into your ship in a desired place:
No need to separete the mesh, just make sure you created a new polygon, or a square shaped group of polygons.
Now you select that polygon or polygonal group and assign it a second UV chanel. In that new UV channel you’ll make the square fit the whole UV map from corner to corner.
From all of everything, I always want to start texturing with the armor lines. That creates the ship for me:
The nice thing is, you just paint some black shapes on your ship, it can’t get easier and yet more engaging than that. You’re just making a selection map, so no worries, nothing is set in stone, if you don’t like it, you erase a part of a black mass and paint it somewhere else.
This process is a lot of fun and makes you fall in love with your ship:
Now is a good time to look closely at some Vaygr ships again. Make sure you take an inspiration from the existing race units and that your patterns feel right. Don’t copy, just imitate the style:
And before any texturing begins I prefer to start with the team colors. A rough preview of what I’m looking at, the ship really comes to life just by adding them (note the diffuse texture is nothing but gray at this point):
For that I have a file in Photoshop with three layers in it. First is a team color layer, second is a stripe layer and the third one is my previously mentioned armor lines layer:
All of these are nothing more than selection masks. After you paint your ship, you select the armor layer and delete its selection from the team color and stripes. Then you use the team color and stripe as your selection for the TEAM and STRP textures you’ll make. They’ll get detailed later, but for now that’ll give you nice basic team colors.
But the main reason we’ve started with the armor lines is the normal map. With normal maps and all we have at this point, we can get to this result:
What we have here is nothing but a combination of team colors, normal map and gray base color with flat yellow and flat blue for hangar and a darker gray for the armor lines. And ship’s navlights, but I’ve added these way before when I set up my weapons. There’s nothing more, the ship is practically gray. And even now it’s already starting to look like something.
So how do we make normal maps then? I recommend the Photoshop pluging called nDo2 or nDo. It is amazing. What it does is that it takes your selection (yes, the one you’ve made for the armor lines) and generates a normal map out of it based on your parameters.
You can literally make a square selection, click on “Generate normal map” and you’ll get a normal map with a square sticking out or in as many pixels deeps as you tell it.
NDo has a simple UI, is easy to use and understand and it’s definitely worth buying:
Right, here we are.
First thing that can help us with the diffuse texture is the ambient occlusion. Good news is that nDo has a tool for that:
You can also generate AO from the geometry if you want:
If you put just these together, AO passes on top of something gray, you can get this. And that’s a half decent base for a texture:
(BTW if you want to be 100% authentic, that “something gray” can be this piece of the Vaygr BC texture Clone Stamped to 4096 x 4096):
In 3D it looks like this:
First thing I did was that I borrowed some texture from the Vaygr BC. The darker middle to be specific. And using Clone Stamp spread it everywhere I needed it:
We can also make some panels a little darker, maybe less saturated, to add variety. But don’t limit yourself with saturation and brightness, add some color, why not create some overlay layers that are slightly brown or blue. You don’t want your ship to be just gray, that’s unnatural. Remember how much brown is in the Vaygr Shipyard or on the belly of the Flagship? Have some other tints, give it slightly colored stains, it’ll add life to your creation:
There are couple more things we will take from the Vaygr BC. The bright yellow lights and windows. The bridge texture for example is standardized, shared between the Battlecruiser and a Vaygr Carrier. So we’ll use it too.
Another things are missile silos, I’m not making them from scratch. So let’s turn this:
All these details rendered on the ship:
And now …you just paint. Or copy some more details form original textures if you want.
Do you remember the team colors we’ve made? Good, now forget they exist.
You get the most authentic look if your diffuse texture will overlap with your team colors in the most awkward places. Vaygr Carrier is nothing but vertical stripes and is full of details.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is the badge, that’s really the only place you don’t want to overlap with a giant vent grill.
I’ll show here some basic examples of how to achieve the effect of HWRM Vaygr textures with brush in Photoshop.
- Edge lines:
The easiest thing. So easy the point isn’t as much how to do it, that is pretty obvious, but more “notice how it looks like on the game textures”.
So let’s say I want to replicate this effect (notice that behind the bright line there’s a darker rim and a darker patch of “dirt” for contrast):
And you start from a rather flat gray:
You make a selection of your working area so you won’t overpaint where you don’t want to. And you have that selection, because you have an invisible layer of the previosly made armor lines in the same file. So just load it.
You paint maybe about 4 pixels thin bright edge. Preferably a grayish beige color with 90% to 100% opacity rather than white on say 40% opacity, because you’ll paint under it in the next step. It’s just more convenient this way:
Now select one of these brushes:
and paint into a new layer below it with appropriate darker color:
Now of course, you can make edge lines just by selecting your armor lines selection, expend the selection by 1 or 2 pixels, blur the selection, fill it with white and then delete the sharp armor lines selection from it again. What you’ll be left with is a couple pixels thin white blurry edge exactly where you need it.
But that I recommend only for the small 2 pixel thin lines, where you want to be precise. The big ones are much better hand painted, that imperfection is exactly what you need to make it look more authentic.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a tablet. While I do, I’m not really bothered, I make them using mouse myself.
3D view on the ship with brighter edges around some armor plates:
7. hand painting:
Pipes on a spaceship are no rocket science, you can get away with only three layers and produce them very quickly.
In a new layer start with a flat gray to define your pipes shape. Load their selection, create a new layer and paint darker blurred outlines to add depth to them. Get an inverse selection of the pipes and into another layer underneath it all paint their shadows. There, done:
What more do you need?:
Remember at the end you’ll want to edit them into your normal map.
There’s a very empty looking hole in here:
After looking at some Vaygr BC textures for reference:
We want to turn it into this:
All the techniques you’ll need I’ve pretty much mentioned with the pipes creation. There’s nothing new, only geometry, shadows and highlights and couple of brushes, the only difference is that there’s just more of it. A bit more complex, but at the end the exact same thing.
You start by placing a couple of flat objects into the opening in the armor. Here I’ve vizualized them on a flat dark gray, so you can see them better:
You just paint some shadows under and over them (into the new layers of course):
And you also paint highlights:
You can add lights and some barely visible orange paint. Homeworld ships have many of these heavily faded out stripes of old yellow or red paint:
Not much to say about markings, just “don’t forget them”, they add a lot. It’s better if most of them are custom created rather than copy&pasted:
Overlay blending mode with say 60% opacity seems about right.
Also keep in mind Homeworld has some retro looking markings, you want that too:
. . .
. . . to be continued . . .
. . .
Now this is where I’ll stop for now. The Cruiser isn’t finished yet and is currently at this stage:
I will finish this article when I’ll finish the ship. But by far most important things have been arlready covered.
What is missing are specluar and reflectinon textures.