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   Discovery Zone: Aztec-ing Made Easy

Aztec-ing Made Easy
By Pedro

Many people avoid adding aztec and other interesting patterns to their textures (or use generic patterns), believing that it takes too much time to draw original patterns, and thier models suffer as a result. This tutorial will show you that this is not at all true, with the right sofware and a little planning you can make complex patterns with ease.


Note: These are instructions for Adobe Illustrator, and assume that you are familiar with basic Illustrator functions. You can achieve something similar with Photoshop, but the drawing tools are not as powerful.

1. Use File->Place to put a rendering of the top (or bottom if you like) view of the mesh into a new Illustrator document (this is also a good time to place a top view of the 'studio model' on another layer if you have/need one). You can use this same .ai file later on to add other details (windows, markings, etc..), so it's a good idea to have your reference background.

2. Make a new layer called Grid. Draw a circle matching the edge of the saucer, and use the circle and pen tools to divide the saucer into a grid of radial and concentric lines (you'll need to decide how dense you want the grid lines to be now, figure.1). Use a circle even if the saucer is oval shaped, you'll stretch it later (in some cases you may need to draw an oval pattern, in which case you won't be able to take alot of these shortcuts). Consider one of these 'pie slices' to be a 'section' of the pattern.

figure 1
Figure 1
figure 2
Figure 2

3. Make a new layer (it makes things easier if you lock the bottom layer) called Black. Choose a 'section', and draw your pattern over it in black. Thankfully, you'll only need to draw it once. Keep in mind that the pattern will repeat in negative on the adjacent sections, so try to keep the level of black to background even (I could have done better on this one). You can save some time by not actually drawing all of the edges , use the 'stroke weight' to make lines thinner or thicker as needed (figure 2).
4. With the Black layer locked, use Ctrl-A (select all) to select what you've drawn, and copy and paste it into a new layer (name the layer White). Change the color of the new pattern to white. Now you'll need to rotate it the white section so it fits the grid section adjacent to the black part you drew before. If you've forgotten your geometry, here's how to figure it out:

Each quarter of the saucer has 90 degrees, so if you need six 'sections' per quarter, just divide 90 by six, which is 15 degrees.

After rotating it, you can put it in exactly the right spot with the 'snap-to' if you unlock the Black layer (figure 3).

figure 3
Figure 2
figure 4
Figure 2

5. On the White layer, draw a line around the pattern (use 'snap to' to make it fit perfectly), fill it with black, copy it, delete it, and paste it into the black layer in exactly the same spot. Now you're starting to see what the pattern will look like, as the black piece under the white layer brings out that Escher effect (figure 4).

6. Unlock the Black and White layers, select and copy everything, and paste it all either layer. Rotate it twice as many degrees as you did before (30 degrees in this case), and use 'snap-to' to put the new sections into place. Repeat this untill you have filled the entire 360 degrees (figure 5).

7. If you have an oval saucer section, select the entire pattern, and use the 'scale' tool to stretch it to fit the saucer (figure 6).

figure 5
Figure 2
Part Two: Photoshop

figure 7
Figure 2

1. Select your entire pattern in Illustrator, copy it, and open a new file in Photoshop (it will automatically make the new image the correct size for the clipboard data). Make sure to choose RGB mode, as CMYK sometimes converts strangely, and Illustrator uses CMYK by default. Paste the pattern in to Photoshop (you want anti-aliasing on). You can save your file and close Illustrator now.

2. Fill the Background layer with the basic shade of grey your ship will be (figure 7).

3. Switch back to the layer with the pattern. Set both fore and background colors to white, and use Select->Color Range to select all of the white on this layer. Hit Delete on your keyboard to delete it (you might want to duplicate the layer just in case you botch something).

4. You should be left with a black, alternating pattern over a gray background (figure 8). If you decrease the transparency of the black layer to about 5%, you'll have a pretty nice looking aztec pattern! (figure 9) You can also tweak the color of the layers for different effects, the black can make things pretty drab (I usually crank up the brightness and blue on the black layer).

figure 8
Figure 2    

figure 9
Figure 2

You could save it and use it as is, but you can easily improve the texture quite a bit. Duplicate the black layer, use Ctrl-I to invert it, and rotate it 1/2 of the number of degrees of the original rotation (you can rotate it a different amount if you like, but it's best to make sure the rotation divides into the original rotation amount in some rational way). Increase the transparency to around 20-30%, and the pattern has doubled in complexity, as well as gaining some new colors.

You can do all sorts of other things to make it interesting. Try making a few more duplicate layers, or switching around the layer order. Another good trick is selecting everything one one of the layers, switching to another layer, and deleting the selection area, which creates some new shapes that can in turn be rotated, or you can stack different aztec patterns on top of each other. Add some layers with panel lines, windows, markings, and you've got yourself a handy dandy texture (don't forget to make the 'shininess strength maps'...coming soon...).

If you have any comments or quesions, feel free to email them to me, or better yet, post them in our Forums so everyone can benefit from them. :)
Peter Savin -

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