To make a decent texture you will need a good graphical program like Photoshop, Paintshop pro or like in my case Fireworks from Macromedia. I can't actually say which program is best as long as it supports layers it should do. I have been using Fireworks quite some time now even before I started working on textures. It's actually a program specialised on web graphics I use it mainly because of it's powerful scaling tool and simple interface. I must say that it doesn't have a lot fancy masks like Photoshop (you won't be using them anyway) has but it is a lot easier to us, than again that could also be my knowledge of Photoshop which is pretty much none. Any way I will be using Fireworks version 3 in this tutorial and I think that a lot of the options and tools I use like bevel, emblose, dropshadows will be available in the other two programs. If you know your program there shouldn't be any problem if not get the free 30 day's Fireworks demo that can be downloaded at http://www.macromedia.com.
I actually wanted to put a little note here telling you all to read the whole thing first before you start following the steps but you probably won't do that so Iíll put my notes and tips here.
For starters the XWA engine does strange things with colours so make sure there is enough contrast in the colours and don't make them look too white because XWA will make it look like white anyway. This is something I can't help you with you will have to try and see what the engine does to the colours you used.
Second the example I used here is a little big I did this on purpose so it would show ok. If your going to make new textures try not to make them any bigger than twice the actual texture size so max. 512 x 512. You can make them bigger but it will cost you details when you are going to scale it down. There is how ever another way to fix that. You can split up a texture after making it if you want I can explain that later.
When scaling down your texture to any XWA accepted size make sure it reassembles the as much as you can for instance a texture 580 x 300 should be scaled down to 256 x 128. That way you will keep the most details
Ok let's start.
I will be texturing the side of the X-Wing that was made by Darksaber mainly because it's a good example and isn't to hard to do. I'm not going to make it look exactly like the original X-wing because there is no need for that it's just to show you how this stuff is done. I would have used my already finished Z-95 but I lost those after a stupid mistake I made, I accidentally deleted them, yes I know the word MORRON comes to mind. Ok let's get to work.
Ok Iím presuming you have your model finished and the first thing we have to do is determining which texture goes where. It comes down to cutting the model in small parts like sides, front, back, top and bottom. It's not like your going to have only 5 textures, wings probably have to be separate as well as the guns but Iíll leave the dividing up to you. Well if you have a rough idea on how the textures are going to be split up you better get to it. Open you model in your 3D program and take a screenshot of the side you want to start with, don't forget to delete all the meshes you don't need for this texture because they will only make it harder for you to determine the borders. Ok open the screenshot in your graphical program and select the exact part you want to texture using the retangeling tool.
Ok now a simple cut and past in a new document should give you a good base to build your texture on.
The program probably put the pic on layer 1 which is good now rename this layer BASE and lock it because we don't want to change it any more it will just be our reference point.
Create a new layer and call it BORDER this will show us the space that will not be shown on the actual model. I used black squares here and used the subselection tool to position these to make a good overview on what to texture and what not. This layer will always be on top just like the base layer will always be the last inline the actual texture will be build up between those so we always a have a nice clean view on how the thing will look at the end.
Ok we are almost done with the preparations for this texture we only have to set the canvascolour which will be the base colour for the texture in this case I used a light brownish yellow colour
I also made the base pic transparent so I have a colour reference. Now the total thing looks like this from here we can start with the real work.
Now first make a new layer and call it COLOUR01 in this layer we are going to give the nose tip an other colour. As you see I used two squares and used the subselection tool again to make it fit the nose tip. I temporary blinded the BORDER layer just to give me a good view. Lock this layer to.
Jet an other layer we going to start on the hull detailing and try to make the impression it is made up from separate plates. First we going to put up some line for some rough plating on the layer that is called PLATING02. I used a darker shade of the colour I used for the canvas colour but don't be afraid to experiment with colours other colours may work just as well or even better. Now select all the lines you just made and copy them after that, lock the layer.
Open a new layer and call it PLATING01 and put it under PLATING01, paste the lines you just copied from PLATING02. Select all these lines and change stroke to airbrush, make the width 10 pixels and set transparency to 25%. This way you give the lines a little more depth.
No do the same creating layers PLATING 03 and PLATING04 these lines are also rough plating only a little less rough =O). I used a lighter colour this time just to give the whole texture more depth. When your done lock both layers we won't be needing them anymore.
Guess what, YES an other layer. This time we are going to call it COLOUR02 meaning it has to go above COLOUR01 and below PLATING01 after we are finished with it. Now what I did is quite simple take an other darker shade from the canvas colour and make squares with it all over the hull but try to stick to the plating lines you have already drawn. I used two types of squares here one with transparency set to about 20 and one with transparency set to around 10. Don't be afraid to overlap the squares actually it's better to do so since that will create other shades. I didn't use bevel or dropshadows in this example but if you want try it just make sure you don't make the shadows to big. Once your done lock the layer and put it in the right place.
Once again we make an other layer calling it COLOUR03 and yes it will be above COLOUR02 and under PLATING01 =O). On this layer I will add some illusion of additional painting and repair plating. I choose orange yellow and grey all with a transparency setting around 25 or 30 and use the main lines to place the squares. It will give some verity in the hull. I used the subselection tool once again to make the squares follow the hull better. Close the layer.
Now we going to work on making the whole thing look a bit more realistic using shadows and waste. Open an other layer and call it WASTE01. Waste and shadow always goes on top since it effects everything. The airbrush tool is used a lot in this part of the texture you will have to play with the line width and the transparency setting to get the right effect I can't describe that in this tutorial, just try and see what you like best. I do recommend you use a high transparency factor since you can better put a line down twice to get the right colour because it lets you make the fade out better. As you can see I used a dark red as base for my shading, like I said before don't be scared to use colours you don't think fit. The old impressionists already used contradicting primary colours to create shading, blue on orange for example. Any way track down the whole outline of the texture and if you want some lines in the model where you are sure there will be a lot of shading, after that close the layer.
The WASTE02 layer is going to give the shading a little more impact. I used a Grey colour a smaller line width and traced over the textures outline again as well as over the main plating lines, giving it some darker spots where I saw fit. After that also close this layer. Hey it actually is starting to look better =O)
Hey wait a minute I forgot the Flight group colours let's put those in on a new layer. I used a template flight group colour here which I made for my self I won't bother you explaining how I did it Iíll just put them on for download soon. Any way just don't make a plain red bar because it will stick out like a flag on a shitpile. The craft is used so the stripe has to look used to. A good way to create a stripe is to build it up from little squares with different shades and different transparency settings. This picture actually is no good though it shows the stripe pretty good, I moved this layer to be just under the main plating layer PLATING01. Ok it's in now close the layer and back to the waste we are almost done.
The last waste layer, WASTE03 is really going to be the waste. Use plain black as colour and once again play with the line width and transparency again. Making little dot's will look like blaster marks or engine waste. Also around the nose tip we will need some extra shading. But like I said before this is a little bit of playing around, trial and error is the best way. Be glad I made you put all this stuff on separate layers that way it will be easier to change something. Once your done lock the layer and the texture is done so far.
Now blind the BASE and BORDER layer and the texture should look something like this. It's very important you blind both layers because the border might not be completely correct meaning it will leave black stripes at the edges on your model.
You see you don't need any special skill just some ordinary tools and some time =O). I know this isn't the best I ever made but it gives you a nice idea on how to do this stuff. I have to keep some stuff to myself or else you all will be flying past me in no time =O). Any way I 'm thinking about releasing some of the standard stuff I made in the near future. I'm talking about the stripping, some standard machinery and some other stuff that can give a texture some more detail.
Be sure to also check Dec's Machinery Texturing Tutorial!