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  • Help with leaf creation in Photoshop

    Hi I am desperately searching for a good tutorial on the entire process to create your own leaves in Photoshop in the *tga format.
    I have scoured the internet, Youtube, UDK forums, these forums and the ST documentation but can't seem to find anything!

    Can someone please help me out here. I'm vaguely aware of the layers involved but I would like to understand the whole process properly. For instance, how to create the frond layer and why it is necessary; why the targa backgrounds are green with blurry leaves etc...

    Once I have learnt this process completely I wish to create a Youtube tutorial video to help others create and import their own leaf textures.

    Thanks.

  • #2
    Hello,

    Happy to help. Any chance you posted this question on twitter to @SpeedTreeInc? We posted that the cmiVFX tutorial, http://www.cmivfx.com/tutorials/view...ssets+Volume+1, was a really good place to start. It's pretty comprehensive.

    Hope this helps!

    Regards,
    -Chris

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    • #3
      Yes, that tutorial helps, ... sort of.... But I would have to dispute the "It's pretty comprehensive." statement.

      The drawbacks, for someone not expert or long experienced in Photoshop are that the actual set up of layers is not clearly described, nor is the "save" process to actually obtain a *.tga file with transparency. I had to seek help on these points from many other sources.

      Also, the cmivfx streaming functions do not work as intended, at least they do not on an ordinary dsl connection and with Firefox and IE. I never was able to stop the video at a given point, and resume from that point to go onward. Instead, the only way I could make it work was to start over from the introduction every time. Fiddled with it for about 14 hours trying to get it to work right, but it never did. A three-hour video pretty much requires you to stop at some mid-point and then resume later, but this function seems to be totally broken at cmivfx.

      The video itself is well worth the expense for what it does cover, I believe, but for someone only moderately familiar with Photoshop, it is not sufficient. What it does cover well is "photoshoppery", or the use of the clone brush and other tools to clean up imperfections in a photo of a leaf, and to manufacture a larger bark coverage out of a thin photo. (But, couldn't help noticing that the supposedly "seamless" bark texture turned out to not really be seamless as finally applied to the plant in the last few frames of the video. LOL!) Also, I did learn that there is no shortcut to close masking of leaf edges by hand with the eraser. I had been doing it this way, but thought I was the dummy for being inexperienced in Photoshop and not knowing a better way. The author of the video confirms that there is no better way, despite the existence of Photoshop plugins such as Fluidmask 3 by Vertus and Perfect Photo Suite 7 by OnOne Software.

      To try to help with the original question, (and probably this answer can be improved by better experts here), the basic process seems to be to start with a photo of the leaves (or bark or other plant parts) in question. Then, Copy that layer so that the original remains untouched.

      On the Copy Layer, use the eraser to paint out the undesired background. Do zoom in and very closely trace the Eraser brush around the outer edges of the leaves to mask out any white space or black space. This is the only way to eliminate white edges.

      Then, create a new layer that is transparent, but has the same dimensions as the original photo. [If you want your new image dimensions to match the image you will be copying from, select all of that image (ctrl A) then copy (ctrl C) and then start a new document with (ctrl N) and the settings on the new document will match what's on the clipboard in width, height and image bit depth.]

      Now, returning to your work image, select the leaf portions of the image by going to "Select" at the top menu, and using the Select By Color function. Select the color of the erased background, and then click on the Invert box to select the opposite of the erased background. Before doing anything else, you probably should return to the top menu and click on the Refine Edges tool to further draw in the edges of the selected area by one or more pixels. This also helps to get rid of the that nasty white or blue sky halo around your leaf edges.

      Then, go to the top menu, Copy the selected area, and then Paste it into your second Transparency Layer.

      Now, put your pointer into the transparent area of the image and click on it. Go to the small "Add Transparency Icon" in the lower right hand corner of the Photoshop work area, and add a transparency channel to the image. Go into the Channel tab and click on the transparency layer to turn it on.

      Now, you should finally be able to save out the copy layer as a *.tga file with transparency channel attached to it.

      I may have made a mistake here in this description - so hopefully someone more knowledgeable will be able to add to it, or provide a better method.
      Last edited by Forester; 01-18-2013, 11:37 AM. Reason: Errors of attribution

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      • #4
        As a further comment, in my short experience of about five reasonably intensive months with Speedtree, I find that deciduous leaf texture preparation is best done by hand. That is, in Photoshop, very close (zoomed-in) masking with the Eraser tool to develop good leaf edges. No other way to get good edges vital to good tree development.

        But for coniferous trees with needles, the "by hand" method is too time-consuming and is insufficient. For "needles", the use of the Fluidmask 3 Photoshop plugin seems to me to be the way to go. Two reasons. First, you need a faster, better way to mask out the blue sky or whatever background may be showing around your individual needles.

        And second, the thin needle edges, especially those photographed against a blue sky, need further definition. Many of those needle edges are likely to be only 1 or 2 pixels wide and they appear "blurry" in almost any *.tga or *.png file unless you can arrange to give them an edge. The Fluidmask tool employs an "edge blend" tool not found in other mask plugins that I know of. (Which is not saying much, since I am a Photoshop novice.) It requires some careful hand work to paint in the edges, so there is no way around the need for careful hand work. However, you only need to worry about the needle edges on the outer edges of your clump of needles. These are the ones that will be blurry on Speedtree unless you put in the time to be careful with them.

        As an added bonus, Fluidmask 3 will also allow you to automatically create a green-tinted transparency if you wish, so that any needle edges you didn't treat well have at least some chance of appearing to be green, rather than white or black or blue-haloed in your final leaf texture file.

        IMHO.......
        Last edited by Forester; 01-18-2013, 11:35 AM. Reason: Erros of attribution

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        • #5
          Fluidmask 3 by Vertus, by the way, also has a reasonable learning curve and requires some time to become proficient in its use. But, if you are required to create realistic conifers, it seems to be worth the time and the cost of $150.00 USD.
          Last edited by Forester; 01-18-2013, 11:34 AM. Reason: error in name

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