Create a Post-Apocalyptic Biplane From a 3D Reference

With the right knowledge of 3D applications, you can create just about anything. What do you do, however, if you need a 3D rendering but have little to no 3D modeling experience? In this tutorial, we will explain how to render, texture, color and detail a basic, low-resolution 3D model using Photoshop. Let's get started!

The techniques I am going to demonstrate can be applicable to just about any 3D model - particularly solid/metallic objects such as vehicles, environments and even weapons. If you have a bit of experience in 3D modeling and can create your own base render, that is certainly a bonus!

For this demonstration, I have chosen to use a simple Biplane model. The idea I have is to take some inspiration from the Post-Apocalyptic style you see in movies such as "Mad Max", "Waterworld", and even the game "Borderlands" with that patchy, run-down scrap metal appearance.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

Normally I would request a 3D image output on a Transparent Background, but because I have taken this example image from a JPEG, I must manually separate the model from the background. I just used the Magic Wand Tool to Select all the background, and also the Polygonal Lasso to neaten up the edges.

Step 2

Before I begin any coloring or texturing, I make sure I have a pretty clear idea right in front of me of what I want to do with this image. So I sketch in some rough lines (on a separate layer) of where details will be just as a reference point.

Step 3

I make a New Layer (called "color") and add some splashes of color. I went with a brownish yellow (#b38c16) to suit the dirty, grungy look, and set the Layer mode to Color.

Step 4

I then merged the "color" layer with the "base" layer, and adjusted the Levels (just to bring out the shadows a bit more).

Step 5

I create a New Layer which will be the layer where I paint in all my shadows and start adding a little more dimension to the base. I set that "shadows" layer to Multiply and chose a brown color (#47432f)

Step 6

I paint in some shadows with the Hard Round Airbrush, using the sketched lines as reference. I also went ahead and darkened some particular areas much more (such as the wheels and wing struts). I also took this opportunity to slightly adjust the shape of the tail.

Step 7

Now I go over the sketched lines on a New Layer ("clean lines") with the Pen Tool (2px stroke) to neaten them up. I also dropped the opacity of that clean line layer (to about 80%) so they are not so strong.

Step 8

On a new layer ("Shadows2") set to Multiply, I can begin painting in some more shadows to bring out the individual plates of steel I just added, and emphasize the little areas that break up the flatter areas. You can see how it starts to add a bit of depth and almost bevels the surface too. I use the same color as I did with the first layer of shadows (#47432f)

Step 9

I just kept building up those shadows, adding stronger ones as I went.

Step 10

Once I am satisfied with the amount of shadows painted in, it is time to add texture! I create a New Folder (TEXTURES) and open up my rust texture file from CGTextures.com (Rust.jpg). It was a bit too vivid for my liking, so I just des a tu rated the colors a little bit.

Step 11

I drag and drop the whole image into my Textures folder. Right now this piece will be used for the wing. I select my texture layer, use the Free Transform tool and skew/warp it around until it sits on the same perspective as the wing.

I set the blending mode to Overlay

Step 12

To save some time, I simply duplicate that texture layer, and drag it over to the opposite wing.

Step 13

I repeated the last two steps to cover the rest of the plane such as the body, tail and upper wings.

Step 14

Once I have covered the entire base of the plane, I then merge all the texture layers together (keeping them set to Overlay)

Step 15

Then I select the whole plane by Command/Ctrl + Clicking the "base" layer on the Layers Window

Step 16

I then Invert that selection with Command/Ctrl + I (so everything but the base layer is selected) and hit Backspace to delete all the excess trimmings of texture.

Step 17

It's not a particular consistent pattern/texture so it can get way with being a little messy here and there, but I also used the Clone Tool on the texture layer just to cover up some little patches where I missed or where it was showing an obvious overlap!

Step 18

I decided the texture was still looking too vivid and was losing a bit of detail, so I simply desaturated the layer a little bit.

Step 19

Now it is time to add some paintwork on the aircraft! On a New Layer (PAINT) I set the blending mode to Multiply and an Opacity of about 80%.

Step 20

I choose a dark red color (#a8250b), Select All on the base layer, and begin painting in the paintwork with the Textured round brush (from Rahll's brush pack). I'm not covering the entire plane- I want it to be a more rushed paint job that has worn down over time.

Step 21

To accentuate that worn-down effect, I take the Eraser, zoom in, and begin chipping away at little areas (such as where the metal sheets join together). This will create a bit more depth and dimension between the joints so the surface doesn't appear as one smooth plane

Step 22

With the Polygonal Lasso tool, I also made some square selections and took away some larger areas of red paint to isolate some of the metal plates. It just adds to the "patchwork quilt" look, degrading the quality of the handiwork even more!

Step 23

I also used a bit of Burn Tool just to darken some areas.

Step 24

Now time to pimp out my plane a little more and add some decorations! I create a New folder (ADD-ONS) and a new Layer (add-ons sketch) where I will be drawing in bits and pieces such as vents and exhaust pipes etc. I sketch them in white first.

Step 25

Then I use my white sketch as a guide and finish painting them in on a New Layer- matching the reds and browns already established in the base.

Step 26

I make a new layer to add in some bolts.

Step 27

With a small brush, I dot some chunky bolts in, following the lines of the individual plates.

Step 28

Before I move onto the front part of the plane, I decide to smooth off the edges around the propeller by erasing some of the Shadow layer where I painted it in.

Step 29

I make a new folder ("Propeller") dedicated to that part of the plane. Once again, I used the Pen Tool and pathed in some details.

Step 30

I paint in some more shadows and tones. I also added in some extra details like bolts, scratches and a few little highlights along the edges to break it up a bit more.

Step 31

Now I am ready to texture that section. With the same "rust" texture, I drag and drop it over the top (in the "Propeller" folder) and erase where it is going over the selection.

Step 32

This time, I decided to set the blending mode of the texture layer for the propeller to "Color Dodge" and dropped the Opacity a bit- I thought it turned out to make a really nice, genuine rust effect!

Step 33

At this point, I step back and have a look over where I am so far. I decide to add some more texture on the body of the plane to rough it up a bit more (Re; steps 10-11).

Step 34

For the next stage, I am going to put in some different kinds of textures on the aircraft to add to the realism. I create another folder; "STEEL OVERLAYS".

Step 35

I open up one of my "Vent" textures ("Vent1.jpg")and drag it onto my image in the STEEL OVERLAYS folder. I then Free Transform and Warp it to follow the flow of perspective.

Step 36

When I am happy with the position and angle, I erase away a large portion of it leaving only a section of it on the side of the body, using the plate lines as a guide, so that it looks like an inner layer underneath the patchy sheet metal.

Step 37

I adjust the Hue/Saturation of that patch of metal so it is not so grey and has more of a warmer brown hue to it and sits better with the rest of the color scheme.

Step 38

I start on the wings, and do the same as Step 35 with my second Steel texture ("Grating.jpg") which I desaturated from its original color (Crtl + Shift + U).

Once again, I place it over the entire wing and Warp it to match the perspective, then I erase away a chunk of it, leaving a few little portions spread out over the surface.

Step 39

I adjust the Hue/Saturation to bring down the greys again and make it more of a brown hue.

Step 40

What I like to do is take the Eraser, and erase away the edges to get rid of the clean-cut look caused by the selection/lasso tool. It just makes them appear more like tears through the steel.

Step 41

For the window, I decide to throw in a Vent texture. I open up another of my Vent textures again (Vent2.jpg), and drop it over the window, scale it down and Free Transform it to match the perspective (on both sides). I also fix up the Hue/Saturation on that layer too, and use the Burn Tool (set to Midtones) where it goes under the top of the wing.

Step 42

Now on a New Layer (above everything else so far), I decide to add more details such as extra bits of lighting, shadows, more bolts, scratches. I also neaten up some areas. Going over the whole plane in one layer above everything else just ties it all together a bit more!

Step 43

Time to work on the wheels! I neaten the edges on the outside and also the inside (by using the elliptical shape tool), and paint in the tires just where the light catches. I'm not too fussed over detailing the wheels too much as they are rather small. I also added another bit of "rust" texture and set it to "Color Dodge" (just like on the propeller)

Step 44

On a New Layer (in the Add-ons folder) I stroke in some thinner spokes with the Pen Tool (about 3px) inside the wings to give it a more...hand-made Wright Brothers plane look

Step 45

Now that I am pretty close to the finish, I take this time to add in the lights! I create a New Folder called "LIGHTS". It is important to keep this layer above absolutely everything else!

Step 46

With the Elliptical Shape Tool, I put in some little lights on the tips of the wings, and also a larger one in the center of the propeller!

Step 47

I fill them with white, and use the Blur Tool just to soften the edges a bit more.

Step 48

For an extra effect, I take the Rotating Brush (from the Marta Dahlig brush pack) and set it on a Low Opacity and paint in some light where the headlight is shining. I also dabbed in a little bit around the lights on the wing tips.

Step 49

(Optional) For the final touch, I love to add a little bit of rim light around the outer edge on some areas. I select the whole object (Command/Ctrl + Clicking on the "base" layer in the Layers Window) and on a New Layer in the "LIGHTS" folder.

Step 50

I take the Speckeld brush (another from Rahll's brush pack), set it to a medium/small size on a low opacity, and begin painting along the outer edge, starting with the wings. I don't use a pure white, but rather a slightly off-white color (#f0f0f0)

Then I just use the standard Hard Round Airbrush to neaten up the edges and paint in some more fiddly areas like the tail and wheels!

Step 51

Now that I have finished everything, I Save As (a copy) and merge everything down as one layer. Then I simply give the whole aircraft a quick brushing with the Dodge Tool (set to "Highlight") just to bring out a little bit of shine on the rounder parts of the aircraft (the body and the edges of the wings) as a final touch.

Here is a before and after with the dodge tool. You can see how that simple streak of lighting eliminates the flatness and brings out the curvature of the fuselage and adds that extra bit of dimension.

Final Image

I hope this walkthrough has been insightful and given you some ideas/inspiration on how you can go about touching up even the simplest looking 3D model!

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