Tutorial: Panelling Effects on a Sprite
In this post I’m going to show you the stages I use to apply a ‘panelling’ effect on my machine sprites, to give the impression that a sprite has been constructed. These little details, such as raised and indented areas, can really bring an otherwise simple surface to life very fast.
1. The Base Shape
For this example, I’m going to work with a basic sphere. Draw a circle the basic colour of the surface you want to add detail to. In my case I’m just going to use a simple metallic gray. Make sure your circle is on a separate layer to the background.
2. Shading the Surface
Next, using the Dodge and Burn tools, add shadow and highlight as required. I recommend setting the Exposure to 25% and the Range to Highlights, but of course this is just my preference.
3. Panel Shapes
Now create a new layer and call it something like ‘Panel Shape’. Change your foreground colour to something highly visible (red in my case) and draw a shape over the sphere. I recommend using the path tool for this. The tricky part here is getting a convincing shape, but this will of course be easier on flat surfaces. The important part is where the red area intersects the sphere itself, as this is the line we will be working with. It does not matter if the shape goes over the edge of the sphere. Then, fill the path with your chosen colour.
4. The Magic
Now, turn off the Panel Shape layer’s visibility, so that you can just see the sphere. Then, CTRL+click on the thumbnail image in the Layers palette, so that you get a selection the shape of the Panel Shape.
Next, go to Select > Modify > Expand, and select 2 pixels. Higher numbers will yield deeper grooves. Once you have expanded the selection, CTRL+ALT+Click on the thumbnail image of the Panel Shape in the Layers palette, which subtracts the shape of the shape from the current selection. This will give you a thin outline selection.
Then, select the Burn tool and set the Exposure to 100%. Then, on the Sphere layer, shade the parts of the selection area that are facing away from the light source, and 100% Dodge on those that are.
5. The Clever Part
CTRL+Click again to select the shape of the Panel Shape, as before. Only this time, we’re going to contract the selection. Select > Modify > Contract, by 2 pixels again. Then, invert the selection (CTRL+Shift+I). Next, CTRL+Shift+ALT+Click on the thumbnail of the Panel Shape in the Layers palette. This will give another thin selection, only this time inside the previous shading area.
Now, use the 100% Dodge and Burn again, making sure that the shading is reversed from before, i.e. dark areas touching light areas, and vice versa. It will take a little practice!
Repeat the process as much as required to produce an assortment of panels and effects. I used this extensively on many of my sprites, for example, this guy:
I hope you find this useful in making your own sprites!