Metal is the most intriguing and difficult substance to simulate.  Fortunately, there are tools to automate the process, although few of them create realistic looking images.

 

Metal is fascinating - it's reflection characteristics make it so wonderfully complex.  A few years back, I worked on metal imaging for several months - trying to create a simple block of chrome from scratch.  I WAS NEVER SUCCESSFUL !!  The truth is, that block could have taken on millions of different looks and would have appeared realistic - since there are millions of reflective environments.  Metal depends on the surrounding objects, light, etc. - to reflect.  So as an artist, you must be able to draw those reflections, that have flowing black, grey, and white areas (for chrome).  In addition, the reflections change dramatically at the edges and corners of the object.

 

Painting Metal

 

Artistically, without the help of tools, painting metal is next to impossible.  It requires complete mastery of the airbrush and the ability to mimic reflectivity.  How could one possibly draw the following image?  Yet somebody did . . .

 

 

So obviously, there are some good stock metal artists, but only one person has truly mastered it  .  .  .  the one and only  .  .  .  the genius  .  .  .  yes, of course, I am talking about Sorayama  -  "Hajime Sorayama" (http://www.sorayama.net).

 

His stuff is simply incredible.  Much of it is adult-oriented, but who cares?.  His series, "Sexy Robots" includes about 30 images of female robots . . . with gleaming Chrome and Gold.  No computer tools were used - just his steady hand.  Here are a couple of his masterpieces :

 

robot-male1.jpg (89912 bytes)                                srobo009.jpg (107787 bytes)

 

(Click for Full-Size Images)

 

Computerized Metal

 

This is the only type of metal that you and I can create.  There are many variations, as the header at the top of this page shows.  Nevertheless, with the right tools, you can do incredible things.  From my early failed attempt at metal, I can really appreciate the professional look these tools can yield with a single click of a button.

Computer-generated "liquid metal", as it is commonly called  -  gained instant fame with the release of Terminator 2.  You can only imagine the complexity of creating a moving, metal man - where the video consists of 60 image per second, and each image is different than the one before.

 

 

Make Your Own !!

 

Most graphics applications with metal capability are very expensive, since it requires high-end functions to for conversion.  There are a few cheap packages that boast 3D metal, but the results look more like Bronze and Steel, instead of Gold and Silver.  You want your metal shiny on the edges and corners - you want your metal to gleam !!  Here are two methods of acheiving that goal:

 

1)  Web 3D is a discontinued but awesome product by ULEAD, that makes the most impressive 3D metal that I have ever seen

 

2)  Photoshop presets take the mystery out of creating virtually any material with Photoshop 7with a single click !!

 

These two techniques work, and work well - so I stick to them exclusively.  They even look better than the expensive 3D Studio Max package.

 

Web 3D

 

I make extensive use of a ULEAD 3D utility called "Web 3D" - which has been discontinued, unfortunately.  The full application is a couple hundred megs because it includes two huge libraries of 3D scenes and image models.  I was able to zip down the base files, which are all you will need for 3D text.  

 

Click HERE to download (2.8 MB).  There is no setup routine - just extract the files to a folder.

 

I am including three sample scenes and the image files required for these scenes - you may get an error that it can't find the image files for the scene - just click Browse and find them.  Then play around with your own.  You may also get an error about the "Learning Center" which you can also ignore.  To use this utility:

 

  1. run Web3D.exe

  2. open any one one the three "scn" (scene) files

  3. you will see the edit Window with the scene - here right-click on the Text and edit it

  4. to show the lights and edit them, click View/Scene Contents

  5. to change the position, size, and orientation of the text, click to select the image (a white box will surround it) and use the tiny "Position Pallette" ans select the tool that you need, then click and drag on the image.  For angular orientation, I usually click the down-arrow at the right and click on the tiny arrows to move it one degree at a time - you can do this to resize also.  This allows finer granularity.

  6. hit F3 to bring up the Snapshot window

  7. go to Snapshot settings and select the image size, Quality (Raytraced is best), etc.

  8. click OK to create the image

  9. click File/Save as  .  .  .

  10. DONE !!!

NOTE:  you may want to edit the final image in Photoshop to add brilliance with the Image/Adjustment/Levels control

 

This utility is wonderful for 3D text, because you can apply different surfaces to the front, sides, and bevels.  You can also vary the depth and the bevel size.  One effect in particular, is stunning - gold sides and faces, with chrome bevels (see the "M" in the header of this page).  Here are two samples - note the unique blue-gold refection in the second image - what a gorgeous effect !!  The download includes both scene files for these two samples.

 

                       

 

Photoshop 7 Presets

 

For 2D metal made to look 3D (but without "sides"), I use some presets with Photoshop that came on a CD that was included with the book, "One-Click WOW for Photoshop 7".  It includes all kinds of presets, but I make extensive use of the Styles (for Chrome, Plastic, Glass, and Liquid) and for Gold I use a recorded Action set.  There should be no copyright issues, since all they are is macros that execute a series of Photoshop filters on an image.  

 

Click Here to download the Style presets, and the Gold Action.  There are many more great presets with the "WOW" book's CD, but the files are too large to include all of them - so the download includes only the best ones.

 

  1. Copy the Preset file into Photoshop\Presets\Styles

  2. Copy the action file into Photoshop\Presets\Photoshop Actions

  3. open photoshop

  4. click the tiny arrow to the upper-right of the styles pallette, and select "Load Styles"

  5. go to the Actions pallette and click the tiny arrow to the upper-right of the styles pallette, and select "Load Actions".

  6. create a new Photoshop document

  7. click Layer/Create new Layer

  8. type in some large text   -   OR create any solid object, select with magic wand and fill it with any color

  9. click the layer2 to select it in the layers pallette

  10. now begin to click the Styles to see which one you want or run the Gold Action to create gold

  11. select Layers/Flatten layers

  12. Image/Adjustments/Levels . . . and slide the sliders to get the proper look

  13. save the file as a JPG

Here, at the left, is a plain, solid, medallion.  Using the presets - the middle image was created by simply clicking on the Gold action, and the right image was made by clicking once on the chrome preset.  Once they are made, you can edit the drop shadow, or the inner and out glow settings.  Or for no shadow, dump the shadow effect in the trash - this gives a clean, solid appearance.  A few plastic presets are also included with the download, as shown below : :