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Pitcher

Decals and objects that receive decals

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I was wondering if it would be possible to create a decal that had a transparent background and to apply that decal to a transparent model. For example, I am creating a pine tree, and I am concerned about the needles. Probably, I could create the needles as hair on the pine tree branches, but that takes a lot of computer memory. Could I instead make a decal that had a transparent background and apply it to a part of a sphere that was transparent and then attach the part of the sphere to the branches? I have taken a photograph of pine needles to which I could add color for the needles and make the background transparent. Attached is my photograph. I was interested in opinions. (Be kind!)

DSC01431a.jpg

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Yes you can do that. That is a frequent strategy for Cg detail like leaves.

It is tricky to do with something that has such thin lines.

i gave it a try here...

PineNeedles.tga

Apply that to a patch and set it to Cookie-cut mode.

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Thanks! I'll work on it. I appreciate the support. It's nice to know that it isn't totally unthinkable.

 

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One way to get the decal exactly right is to model one clump of needles such as you have pictured there, render that with alpha channel, then use that render as your decal.

I'll also note that very fine lines tend to render better with multipass.

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That sounds good! I've heard something about alpha channel several times, but I have never learned how to do it. Also, in case I forget while we're talking about how to pursue this objective, I hope you have a very happy Thansgiving!

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24 minutes ago, Pitcher said:

That sounds good! I've heard something about alpha channel several times, but I have never learned how to do it.

What do you have for a paint program?

 

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About all I have is Microsoft Paint. What are some of the leading paint programs? I used to buy software that was interesting when they were giving rebates that made the software free. Maybe, I have something better and haven't thought of it. I was just looking, and I see that I have Draw Plus by Serif. I haven't ever used it. I also have an old Macromedia Creative Suite 8. I used that once upon a time for web site development, but it might have other parts that would apply. I don't even remember what the subprograms are.

 

 

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You want something that can do "channels" and Photoshop-style "layers".

It needs to be able to save in TGA format

"GIMP" is often suggested but it is unnecessarily complicated if you are new to paint programs.

 

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I've looked at the book that came with Draw Plus. It does layers. I don't know if this has anything to do with channels, but I saw in the index where it does Alpha-edged bitmap. The program is from a British software company. I have several programs from the company, and some of the others are not very user friendly, but they are fairly comprehensive. Is there any other name they might use what what you are calling "channels"?

 

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Channels in paint programs are typically labeled Red, Green, Blue and sometimes Alpha.

If it doesn't let you access those ,it probably doesn't have channels.

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I was checking a little more on the Internet, and found that Serif's Photo Plus does work with Channels. You can find the Photo Plus user guide here:  http://dl.serif.com/pdfs/photoplusx5-uk.pdf   The part on Channels begins on page 127. The Draw Plus user guide is also online and can be found here:  http://dl.serif.com/pdfs/drawplusx5-uk.pdf      I happen to have Photo Plus, as well as most of the other Serif products that I picked up for free after rebate a few years ago. I think they all work together like a suite. Apparently, Photo Plus has some drawing features also. Perhaps, Draw Plus lets you do more with drawing, and you can take your products into Photo Plus to save them in various formats. I don't have a drawing pad. I guess I'll have to draw with a mouse, unless my new computer works as a drawing pad also. I have a touch screen and stylus. Obviously, this is something I have never explored before.

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Photo Plus looks like it has what you need!

It has Layers, it has Channels and it can load/save TGA, JPG and PSD

Try loading that PineNeedles.tga file and see if you can see the separate channels in the Channels Tab like they show on pg. 103.

It should look something like this...

image.png

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When I installed my program, I noticed that the Photo Plus is X4 but the rest of the Serif programs are X5. I have ordered an X5 which will be delivered soon. I saved a targa of the pine needles into the Photo Plus X4 program and clicked on the "Channels" tab. My channels don't look like yours above. My program was designed for 32 bit, and I have a 64 bit computer. I'm not sure if that is the reason, but the display in the Channels tab is tiny. When I click on each channel, the picture in the main viewer changes. The main difference between the different channels is that the background is a different color. Also, there is no alpha channel listed, but there is a RGB channel.

I'm not sure what program your display is from. It occurs to me that I also have Adobe Photoshop Elements 5. I don't see where I can choose channels in that program, but if you use Adobe, and if my Adobe Photoshop Elements will work, maybe that would be the better option. It displays normally on a 64 bit computer.

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45 minutes ago, Pitcher said:

 I saved a targa of the pine needles into the Photo Plus X4 program and clicked on the "Channels" tab. My channels don't look like yours above.

Are you sure you used the one I posted, not your original? Mine will have the alpha channel.

Quote

My program was designed for 32 bit, and I have a 64 bit computer. I'm not sure if that is the reason, but the display in the Channels tab is tiny.

That won't matter, 32-bit will run on your 64 bit computer.

 

Quote

 

I'm not sure what program your display is from. It occurs to me that I also have Adobe Photoshop Elements 5. I don't see where I can choose channels in that program, but if you use Adobe, and if my Adobe Photoshop Elements will work, maybe that would be the better option. It displays normally on a 64 bit computer.

 

I was using Photoshop. Photoshop Elements is a very stripped-down version.

If it has a "Windows" menu see if it has "Show Channels"

image.png

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My version 5.0 of Adobe Photoshop Elements doesn't have "Show Channels" in the Windows drop down menu. I made sure to use your version of the tga in Photo Plus X4, and it did not show an alpha channel. I'm attaching a screen print of what I see in the Photo Plus X4. I looked in the program help for Photo Plus X4, and it said alpha is opacity. Here is where it discusses alpha:

  • You can create a selection based on the active layer's alpha (opacity) channel using the Create from Layer Alpha command on the Select menu.

When I go to the "Select" menu, there is a "Create from Layer Alpha" selection that allows you to select. Then, the pine needles look active. They are showing that they have been selected. I don't see anything that allows me to show an alpha channel like the other color channels. Perhaps, version X5 when it comes will have that feature.

Screenprint Photo Plus X4.png

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So close, but yet so far!

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Here is a description of the part of the menu that concerns the alpha channel:

 

Create from Layer Alpha

Creates a selection based on the active layer's alpha (opacity) channel. Transparent areas become relatively less selected than opaque areas, i.e. more protected from changes.
Tip: You can also Ctrl-click the image preview next to the layer name on the Layers tab.

 

 

 

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When I get version X5, I see on page 129, there is a provision for Alpha Channel editing.

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FYI: I tried the original idea. My son helped me make the decal. I applied the decal to a portion of a sphere. The decal just showed the little stem and the pine needles. Then I tried to make the portion of the sphere invisible, and I hoped the stem and pine needles would remain visible, but it made the decal invisible also. A little disappointing!

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20 minutes ago, Pitcher said:

 I hoped the stem and pine needles would remain visible, but it made the decal invisible also.

Cookie Cutter mode is easiest for that. The alpha transparency in the decal will also  control the transparency of the surface.

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I looked all around the edge of the work space, but I did not see a button for cookie cutter mode. I have a decal that is transparent in the background with only the stem and pine needles showing. Will that control the surface to which the decal is applied, or is there more to it? I am attaching my decal.

DSC01431e.tga

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That clears up a lot. I think it would be quite useful to know how to do this, but I have tried little sections of a sphere with decals on the tree structure I have modeled, and I don't think they are going to have the volume and umpf I need to make it look three dimensional enough. I want to continue learning how to write on the alpha channel, however, so I will certainly let you know when I receive the next version of my photo program with the required feature. I also looked at an example of "cookie cutter" and alpha channel you participated in earlier, and I was a bit overwhelmed with that one. Today's video is much easier for me to understand. Thanks for helping be get my feet wet in this.

 

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You might get a more convincing result if you made several variations of the decal and put them on individual planes close together.

ThreeDecals.png

Also, particle hair can make pine needles. Roger made an animation a few years ago that did this...

 

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The idea of the intersecting panes is terrific! I will try and see how that looks. One of the reasons I'm thinking along these lines is that I normally stick with the tried and true I've done before basically modeling how we learned in the book that came with the program. The only difficulty there is that I end up with 1/4 million to 1/2 million patches in my model and sometimes a couple of million patches in my choreography. This is my effort to bring it in bounds. Thanks for your help.

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Here is a thread the covers some of the issues about making a decal with transparency.

 

There are also several possibly useful tutorials about decaling in the tutorial link in my signature.

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I've been using cookie cutters to provide the palm fronds for my palm trees. The only downside is that the surface of the frond has to be facing the camera or it gets lost. Works ok for stills, but I can see it potentially being problematic in an animation.

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robcat2075, I'm looking forward to reading through the tutorial. There's a lot I need to learn.

fae_alba, I appreciate the insight, and I'm hoping robcat's suggestion for the intersecting planes will help. I just found out that my new Photo Plus X5 program is supposed to arrive on Monday. I will be better able to continue at that time. I think the company that sells the program is way beyond this version, but I think this version will do it for me, and I got the program at a greatly reduced price from what they were selling it for four or five years ago. I didn't buy it then because the X4 version was fine for my needs then. I've become a bit of a miser since I retired. I really appreciate how Hash has kept the price of A:M at a reasonable level. It's a great value and can do so much more than I'm ready for at this time. (Thought I'd throw in a little commercial, because the program has provided me with thousands of hours of enjoyment during the past nine years or so.)

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12 hours ago, fae_alba said:

I've been using cookie cutters to provide the palm fronds for my palm trees. The only downside is that the surface of the frond has to be facing the camera or it gets lost. Works ok for stills, but I can see it potentially being problematic in an animation.

Try an aim at-constraint with an offset and attach it to the camera or a null object which is close to the camera (the null is nice if you want to for instance simulate wind in the plants. You can than move the null object around a little while keeping it close to the camera).

Best regards
*Fuchur*

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Pretty slick, Fuchur! That's a great idea for making sure the camera never sees the side that looks empty.

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I will have to try that out....just as soon as I finish my Nemo seagull...my room spanning monkeys in a Barrell...and...and..and

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robcat1275, I received my Photo Plus X5. I'm including a screen print of the channels tab to show you that for whatever reason, the program did not see the alpha channel in the copy of the pine needles picture you made. The book that goes with the program says that all the channels seen will be displayed in the channels tab by default. Any ideas?

Channels tab.png

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Try something.

make a new image. Fill it with red.

Add an alpha channel in the channels list with the plus sign,

fill that with black and draw something in white on it.

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I did that. Here is a screen print.  (I'm having to learn about the program and make some adjustments, because the display is affected greatly by the much higher screen resolution that my monitor has.)

Screenprint 2png.png

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I'm wondering why the red channel has something in it.

 

Try saving that out as a TGA. There should be some option to save it out as 32-bit (includes alpha channel) instead of 24 (doesn't include alpha channel)

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The program is saying that there are some features that cannot be saved out in a normal format. It wants to save as a Photoplus file.  Also, when I export it as a TGA, it does not ask whether I want a 24 or 32 bit. I saved it out as a TGA and closed the program and opened it in the program. The channels tab did not show the Alpha channel. Then, I closed the program again and opened the Photoplus format file in it, and the Alpha channel showed up.

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Damn.

Is there a forum for that program?

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Was there any sort of an "options" button when you went to save the file

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There were not many options. Actually, I had to "Export" the picture to get to other formats. As I might have said at one time, the Serif programs will sometimes do unexpected things that are not usually available in programs of their price but they are also, at least to me, mysterious and not user friendly. The book for the program in pdf format seems pretty straightforward, but when we try to do real things with the program, we must explore far and wide to find buttons that are front and center in programs we are used to. I haven't found a forum for the program and haven't been able to get in touch with technical support to ask them anything either. I have Googled several questions.

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Try this.

Make blank canvas with nothing but the background checkerboard.

Paint something with a fuzzy brush.

Save that as a PNG.

Apply that as a decal on a patch in A:M

 

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My internet seems to be going in and out. I wasn't able to get on for a long time today. I'll try the png tomorrow and get back to you.

 

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I'm not sure if I really know what to do. I may just be messing it up. But when I have just a checkerboard background, the program will not let me draw on it. It saves as a white rectangle. The png. when applied as a decal, does nothing to the patch. The patch looks like it did before.  While waiting on the Internet today, I modeled a stem and pine needles. You've mentioned several times that there is a way to model pine needles in A:M and use the alpha channel there to do the cookie cutter approach. That may be what we need to do since my photo program is as it is. I will attach the model file for the stem and pine needles.

Pine needles on stem.mdl

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Are you available on Saturdays, at Live Answer Time?

This would be dramatically easier if i could see you working in the program.

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Looking at that model, John. I'd say you'll run into just as many resource intensity issues by having so many CP's (Extrapolating an entire tree from that one stem) that you would have by using hair. 

I had a little stab at making a transparency map for the image you posted at the start of the thread. If you apply the first one as a decal and set it to colour, then add the second image to the same decal (Right click on the images folder in the decal and select add image) and set that to transparency it should cut out the white area and leave just the coloured portion.

 

needles experiment copy.png

needles experiment trans 2 copy.png

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I'm not really sure when the Live session is on Sat. I'll have to check the time. I will try to be available.

 

Wildsided, thanks for the idea. I will see if I can do that.

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Live answer Time is at noon CST.

There is a link in my signature.

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robcat1275, my son showed me how to make the picture. I was able to write on the invisible background and save it as a png. I applied it to a patch. It did not make the patch disappear. It looked like the picture I drew on the white patch.

 

Wildsided, I tried your suggestion, but I must have done something wrong. The pine needles showed up on the patch with a black background. A screen print is attached.

Screenprint for Wildsided.png

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Quote

robcat1275, my son showed me how to make the picture. I was able to write on the invisible background and save it as a png. I applied it to a patch. It did not make the patch disappear. It looked like the picture I drew on the white patch.

 

And you set the type to Cookie-cut?

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No, I did not do cookie cut. I went back up to the movie you made above, and now I understand where you are going with this. I will watch the movie a few more times and apply the information in your movie to the new picture. Also, since we are not doing alpha channel in the PhotoPlus program, but instead are doing a png, is it really important for me to use the PhotoPlus program? I am much more familiar with the Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 that I have. I could just go to that and make a png. I don't know if at some point we are going to try to use alpha channel again in the PhotoPlus program. That didn't seem to go well. I realize that I am a slow student here, but it is completely different from anything I have done before. Once I get it, however, I will take it to the grave. It seems to be of vital importance for more advanced modeling.

In the book that comes with the program, someone might want to add a page that says something like, "When you have learned these basic skills, you will need to explore: (LIST OF SKILLS REQUIRED TO DO AT LEAST A MID-LEVEL JOB WITH MODELING AND A REFERENCE TO ROBCAT TUTORIALS A-H)." All of this that I'm trying to learn now seems to be a whole different level of abstraction from the initial skills, and I am very grateful for your efforts in teaching it to me. By the way, I said Mid-level above, not because I think that's where your tutorials leave off. I think your tutorials probably show much more than I might ever learn, but I think learning this kind of thing to some extent is needed to get beyond the basics. Another idea is to include a list of additional software that might be helpful in doing the next level of lessons. When I read some of the discussions that have gone before, I see that someone takes the file out of A:M and puts it in Program X and does something to it there, and then might take it into Program Y and do something there and take it back to A:M to use it in a final project. I don't usually understand what Program X might be or how we know it is compatible with A:M files or what is special about Program Y and why it's needed. A little on ancillary software might be helpful for novices like me.

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I'm sorry this is not going smoothly. Hopefully, our interactions here will help solve the related software problems.

The problem for Hash in trying to explain how to use paint programs is that they all seem to work differently and not have standardized terminology.

If Photoshop Elements will let you save a PNG with background transparency that works as transparency in A:M, then that's most of what you need. Give it a try and see what happens

For me, for all the things i do, I still need to be able to edit the R G B and  Alpha channels individually.

I would still like to be able to look at this with you at Live Answer Time.

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