Painting Guide by Geez

To both ease the production bottleneck and pass on some information that members can use for their own purposes, this is a step-by-step procedure for painting tank skins.  It utilizes the recently completed Cromwell model that is available to all members.  The PEDG member who did the Cromwell, Francis, was in the same place most of you are - how do you make the skins after you have modelled the tank?

Even though the Cromwell was a great first attempt at painting skins by someone who had never done it before, Francis was dissatisfied with the results as he isn't use to working in 2d (his attempt was very good).  He probably wanted it to look more realistic.  This painting guide will teach you how to make the skins look more realistic. sample painting guide psd file here
Before we get to the actual nuts and bolts details, let's review a little theory.  Color is reflected sunlight that has bounced off a surface and then hit our eyeballs.  Our eye recognizes the shape of an object by the way light bounces off the top, side, and bottom surfaces of an object. The most sunlight bounces off the top surfaces, a little less bounces off the side surfaces, and very little bounces off the bottom surfaces.  The science of physics demonstrates that all this bouncing sunlight scatters in every direction, consequently there is a little scattered light even in shadows.  That is why black is not used as a general usage color - black represents the total ABSENCE of any light and therefore cannot accurately show what happens in daylight. 
Imagine a tank painted a solid color: your eye will recognize the shape by detecting four different versions of that solid color - light, medium, dark, and shadow.  These light, medium, dark, and shadow versions of the color are called values. This first lesson will teach you how to "finalize" skins by creating four different values of a solid color to simulate the fall of sunlight on a tank.  This first step in painting a basic tank, without blending or weathering is crucial - a realistic simulation of sunlight is what makes a painting look "real". 
The attached bitmap is in 8bit PSD format - this is a very low resolution form of computer art that cannot show fine details.  There are good reasons for this limitation, so we must learn to live with the drawbacks and simplify details.  At 200 yards in the middle of a firefight, you won't notice their absence anyway.  We have to make realistic, but SIMPLE tanks.  But simple does not mean sloppy, that is why this lesson is in 8bit format - working in 8bit format is the only method I know of that will ensure "what you see is what you get".  Working in 16bit format will not ensure the details come out exactly the way you want them, because the conversion process (16bit to 8bit) changes some things.  I am not saying everyone must work in 8bit, I am only saying that I prefer it.  Because many members have Photoshop (including me), I will use photoshop terminology.  If your painting software is so different that you cannot figure out what to do, ask in the PEDG forum and we will work it out.
- Start up your painting software and then open the Cromwell file.
- Pick WINDOW (at top menu), then SHOW LAYERS (box appears).  Pick the LAYERS tab if necessary, to see a vertical box with a bunch of layer identifications on the left.  The file is broken up into many small parts, with a different part located on each layer.  Blue hilite indicates which layer is active - eye indicates if it is visible or turned off - paintbrush indicates which layer you are working in.
- Pick WINDOW (at top menu) again, then pick TOOLS (box appears). Use magnifying glass to enlarge file 'till you can see the hull top and left hand skins well.  Note how the hull side plate, driver's front plate, and left hand portion of hull top have been repainted.  This will demonstrate the four values of British Bronze Green (a very olivish green).  There is a small amount of dust (grayish tan) painted along the fender's edge in the side view. 
- The top hull view shows the light Bronze Green (called BG hereafter). 
- The sloping front plate (to the left of the hull), or glacis, is painted medium BG. 
- The side plate (below the hull top) is painted dark BG.
- The cooling air intake for the engine compartment is shadow BG.  Note that it has been emphasized a little with real black - this is the realistic way to use real black (in small quantities as an accent to give added emphasis).
- The bow gunner's hatch (on the side plate) and the bow MG mount have been shaded with the four colors (more on this later).
How To Create the Four Values:
You can obtain a base color from several places in most painting software (this should be your dark/side color). 
- Using the eyedropper on the toolbar, pick one of the darker patches of green on the original Cromwell upper hull (color shows in selected color box at bottom of toolbar). 
- Then pick the selected color box itself (big rainbow box appears).
- Note the cursor inside the rainbow box.  Also note the small box to the right that contains a sample of the selected color (from the upper hull). You can vary the amount of blue, red, etc. in the selected color by moving the cursor towards red, blue, etc. (results of change, compared to original color selection, show in small box at right).  By moving the cursor upward (towards lighter area of rainbow) you create a lighter version of the original color selection.
- Pick OK (rainbow box disappears, but new color is now loaded into the color selection box at bottom of toolbar).  Apply large patch of new color to sloping glacis, using one of the applicator tools (I prefer the precision of the pencil).  Eyeball results.  Repeat above until satisfied.
Using the above procedure, you can create progressively lighter values of the base color.  But what about shadow?  Or suppose that you have no colors to start with?  The answer to both questions lies in the Pantone Matching System (called PMS hereafter). 
- Pick the color selection box at bottom of toolbar (big rainbow box appears).
- Pick custom at right side of box (PMS color selection box appears).
- Scroll up & down: use either the buttons at top & bottom (to move in big increments), or triangle at side (carefully picking the upper or lower part of triangle will move up & down in small increments).
- This is how you locate a starting color - Bronze Green is 4485CVC, U.S. Olive Drab is 463CVC.
- To select shadow color, scroll all the way to bottom of PMS colors.  There are a selection of near blacks (green, brown, violet, etc.).  Shadow for BG is 6CVC.
Application of color:
- Select pencil on toolbar.
- Pick WINDOW (at top menu), then pick SHOW BRUSHES (box appears).  Note the different sizes - this will adjust the size of most any tool on the toolbar.  Select the smallest size.
- Carefully outline around the detail lines on a portion of a skin.  This is why I like to work in 8bit - working in 16bit, then reducing down to 8bit, creates those fuzzy lines that are driving you crazy.  The fuzzy lines also create fuzzy detail in the game.  Sloppy.
NOTE: Undo is located under EDIT (top menu).  Work in short strokes to avoid losing a lot of work if you slip and have to undo.
- When everything is outlined, use BRUSHES to enlarge your tip size and start filling in within the outlines.
- Pick VIEW (on top menu), then pick ZOOM OUT.
- Examine the bow gunner's hatch (side plate) and the bow MG mount (driver's front plate).  They already appear to have form because of the way light appears to be falling on them.  This is shading - blending is blurring together 2 colors at the point where they meet.  If you get the shading right, you will not need to blend very much.  This will be covered in part 2.  Just for giggles, try using the BLUR tool (teardrop on toolbar) to blend the color transitions.  You may have to touch up afterwards - this is normal.  You now have a finished MG mount, unless you want to add dust or mud (also covered in part 2). 
- Hilite layer 8 in LAYERS box.  Now click the eye on and off several times.  The bow MG mount disappears and reappears, showing the original outlines underneath.  The actual mounting was slightly conical, and this is depicted in the shading - notice the light appears to be coming down from the upper left.  Because there is only one sun in the sky, your light should always come down from the same direction when you shade objects.  Study how the colors transition from lightest to darkest in steps.
If you can get the hang of all this, then you can finalize a tank (except for weathering).  If you can get the basic shapes colored right, but not details, you can then pass the job on to someone who can finish the tank.  Efficient art production.