Step-by-step: Rendering metal and light
A quick sketch stage helps me to determine the subject matter and narrative angle. I like to do these as line art, which gives me more control over the lighting that will match the mood and tone of the piece. The next step is to add basic black and white values beneath my line art, and this enables me to determine the most suitable light sources for the final image.
I develop and design the subject; using Modo enables me to quickly build a low-poly model, and set up accurate light and surface properties. I now have enough information to paint my image, and I use Photoshop to edit the lighting and basic colour scheme. I always keep a copy of this ‘light model’ on a separate layer, and refer back to it throughout the process.
I use 3D- Coat to generate several texture and material passes, until I settle on the worn surface. As you work on texturing, you’ll lose the lighting information previously set up, and this is why referring back to the light model layer you created ensures you stay true to your intended composition. Once your textures are in place, you need to reapply your lighting scheme.
During the final stages you’ll blend and integrate all the elements. Metallic surfaces will pick up light sources from across your scene: ask yourself where the light will bounce to once it’s reflected by your metal components. It’s easy to add too much shine everywhere, which can result in overly exposed surfaces. Be sure to only add highlights where they’re needed.