All templates have basically the same layers, maybe different names, but they serve the same purposes, which will be explained here. We’ll also tackle on the issues of left/right-mirroring and specular-map creation. We go bottom to top.
On the lowest layers is the design of the car. Namely the lines, colors, all stylistic elements, which compose the final design. Here you paint your new paintjob. The design should not contain any logos. Everything in here should be the same for both, the left and the right car-side. We included the outlines of our original textures in the templates.
Note, that it doesn’t matter whether you use colored layers, layer settings, paths, everything works out.
Above or sometimes beneath the design-layers is the carbon or commons. This contains the carbon-material areas. Depending on the car the design can be on top of the carbon, or the carbon can be on top of the car. Matter of taste.
We use to create 2 folders for left and right side, which contain all logos for the left and right side. Both sides have the very same mapping and their only difference is that the logos are mirrored accordingly. So you basically paint the texture once, but get two textures out of it. In this process we paint on side first, usually the right side, which doesn’t required logo-flipping. Once everything is alright, duplicating and flipping the logos is one last task. The logos are stored in the same file. This may become a bit large, but it’s still good to handle and easy to maintain.
When this is done, the cardesign is actually ready. Everything following now is technical stuff and explanation, but as a painter you are through.
Alpha (Folder, set of layers)
The alpha-folder, I call it alpha, as this is the alpha map of the later saved textures. This folder is a set of layers which serve the purpose of creating alpha maps. To know what this alpha-folder does, I have to explain how the spec maps and reflection maps work. For more details read the write-up about the texturemaps of rFactor.
The alpha-channel and the spec-map define how the surface reacts to light and reflection. The reflection map defines how reflective an area on the car can be, the specular map defines, how much light is reflected.
The simplest way could be to take a grey alpha for both maps and be fine with it, but we wouldn’t be CTDP, if we’d do it this way. Instead we analysed how the carsurfaces reflect and noticed, that black reflects better than white. Everyday knowledge. So all white surfaces on the cardesign, actually have to reflect worse than the black areas. This alpha-folder doesn exactly this, to invert the reflectiveness of the cardesign. You end up with a greyscale map of the cars reflecting areas. Attention, there is a reason, why this alpha is below the details and shadows and above the design and logos. We only want the design to be inverted, not the shadows. The result would be, that shadowed areas shine more, which doesn’t make sense. Keep the shadows and details above and everything is fine.
Usually this is turned off and only for saving the textures it gets interesting. Usually we save alpha-maps without logos, so the same map can be reused on different liveries.
Noise and dirt is great, it makes the car less septic, adds visual distinctiveness, enhances the view and gives a better feel for the surface. You can deactivate it if you want the car to be clean. You definately have to deactivate it if you want to create a normal map, else you get funny effects.
This layer has all the small details that make mommy cries her eyes out in joy: Joint lines, bolts, ducktape, holes, screws and ton’s of other elements, which let the car look real. You don’t have to change anything. This layer is important for the creation of own normal maps.
F1-2005 was the last mod, that used traditional shadows, which per painted by the artist. Since then we developed some automated ways to render shadows on a seperate texture and compose it into the cartexture. The result were amazing and we kept using this method, I think you’ll agree why. 🙂
Last few words about the alpha. The alpha-folder below is fine, but the results are too bright. This layer, is just a black layer with transparency set between 40-60% and all it does is darken the specmap down. 40% for reflective cars and 60% for dull surfaces.
Note, the chrome surface of McLaren utilizes the same methods, but is worth a hole unique article, so we don’t cover it here.
So now we are through all layers. I hope this helps you to understand how to handle the templates and to produce cars, which share our expertise and quality.