M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Textures and How to Use Them

There has been a lot of discussion on recent episodes of Model Rail Radio about photo backdrops, how to make them and how to use them. 'Textures' is a topic related to photo backdrops that can help you build or detail a photo backdrop.

"Textures" are photos and/or computer generated patterns of brick, stone, wood, windows, doors, grass, roads, etc. Anything that could be used in a photo or CG (computer generated) composition.

There are many texture sites on the web; many are pay sites, some are free sites. Two of the better free sites are:

Mayang's Textures

CG Textures

At Mayang's you can just download the textures. At CG Textures, you must sign up for a free account. CG Textures' free account limits you to 15 MB of downloads per day, which should be enough for all but the most hard core texture junkie.

The use of doors, windows and such like architectural details should be self explanatory; although it will take some familiarity with Photoshop or GIMP to extract these details from their backgrounds and size them to your scale.

Some of the most versatile textures for model railroads are the brick, stone and rock textures. With brick and stone textures, you need never have to buy brick paper for scratchbuilding. While each individual brick texture is a small sample, you can use it as a 'tile' to make brick walls of almost arbitrary size.

Mayang's has the best brick and stone textures inasmuch as each photo is taken with very flat lighting so the sun angle and shadows are not an issue. Start building a sheet of bricks by making a canvas of the size that you want in Photoshop (or GIMP). Select the brick texture of your choice, copy it to the clipboard, and start pasting copies into your workspace. Fit the tiles together using the 'nudging' technique to align the mortar lines of each tile vertically as well as horizontally; using magnification greater than 100% will help.

After fitting a few tiles you will begin to notice that repetitive patterns will emerge in your new brick wall because you have used only one master tile. To prevent this, start manipulating newly inserted tiles by rotating each one 180 degrees, flipping vertically, flipping horizontally or combinations of the above to make each tile a little different.

When your new brick wall has reached the size that you want you should save and print a sample. Save first. As each tile was added into Photoshop, it was added to it's own layer. If you do not flatten the file the only thing that will print is the last tile added. This had me baffled until I figured it out. Saving the file to JPEG format from Photoshop will flatten the file into a single layer. Once flattened all of the previously added tiles are frozen in place.

Here's an example of what can be done with a single tile and some time:

From Textures

You can download this file by clicking on it and then clicking on 'Download' when you get to Picassa - WARNING this is a large file (11+ MB).

Unless you are very lucky, when you print the brick sheet the individual bricks will not be of the proper size for your scale. You can fix this in one of two ways. Measure the bricks and figure out how much smaller (or larger) they need to be to fit you scale then use Photoshop's or GIMP's 'scale' tool to size the master file appropriately. If you do this be sure to lock the proportions or aspect ratio of the picture or it will scale in one dimension only.

The other method involves using your printer's enlarge/reduce function to adjust the size. The print size adjustment will be located somewhere in the printer's settings, accessible from the print menu. Not all printers have a size adjustment, but many do. So as an example, if your bricks are 4x too large, you'd set the printer to print out at 25% of full size.

You can use the brick sheet above to experiment with either of these two methods.

Mayang's and CG Textures both have terms on how these free textures can be used. The terms are generous for both personal and commercial use. You should read these terms and abide by them.

I'll cover CG Textures in a subsequent post.

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