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[RA2/YR] Manual shadow drawing, beginner's guide
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Joined: 09 Feb 2015

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2018 5:23 am    Post subject:  [RA2/YR] Manual shadow drawing, beginner's guide Reply with quote

Ok I figured I'd whip this up for people who make (or want to make) cut&paste buildings, or even for more advanced graphic artists like me who wlil even start with distorted Google Maps imagery, to get a better sense of the rules on how shadows are made.

Now I do want to preface this by saying Westwood seems to have changed their mind on shadow direction a number of times, you can see this in the tree art especially where (most) shadows follow TS-like cell angles, and many civilian buildings fall into between angles that aren't covered here. I mention this because as yet no one seems to have put in the work to homogenize all the Westwood art to conform, and thus there will always be variations and exceptions. Even some of the 3D tutorials seem to create a slightly more extreme or pronounced shadow angle than Westwood's dominant one. You could also look at it as you don't have to be perfect, as long as it falls within a given area, most people won't notice or care.

The first thing to note is that the shadow falls at roughly 45 degrees from vertical, this makes it relatively easy as a vector, with most drawing programs holding SHIFT will snap you to standard angles 0/45/90 with their line tool, but visually it is also easy to keep track of the pixel slope of 1 X 1. What you'll want to do is mark out these vectors for all the top/front/left corner features, this will provide the approximate spacing of elements, and give a sense of the overall image width you will require.

The next step is figuring out the tilt angle for the shadows, it falls between the dimetric view of 30deg and the horizontal 0deg. As noted earlier, this isn't a hard mathematical constant you must obey, but it should be approximately halfway between those two angles, if you end up with 13.2deg or 16.6deg, most people won't be bothered by it in the slightest.

Where these two vectors intersect is where the top faces (outlines of flat roof elements) will meet the ground. Note that the shape of the shadow for level roofs will be an exact match for the actual artwork, there is no shrinkage in shadows. If there are protrusions, work out the straight angles first, then manually add the details later, they won't need to be so precise. The two most important planes on a squarish or rectangular building will be the (bottom middle) vertical/corner edge and (bottom right) horizontal/roof edges. Repeat for each of these that isn't blocked (correct term is occluded) by other features, in the majority of cases there will be no need to find vectors for invisible rear features.

Once the basic shadow outline is complete, draw connecting shadow lines underneath the building itself to create an unbroken loop which can be filled with the fill tool. As a side note here, shadows do not have to be colour #1 in the palette, the game literally treats any non-zero as the shadow, I always recommend picking something high visibility for your palette like bright green or yellow.

When you become adept at this, you should be able to eyeball the shadow layout without having to resort to construction lines, but pitched/sloped roofs and non-rectangular buildings will take a bit more effort to learn.

Lastly, before finalizing your shp art, in SHP Builder, enable shadows and in the Tools->Fix menu select Remove useless shadow pixels! Not doing this will cause the shadow to render over the building with CNC Map Renderer, as well as FA2, but can also have weird side effects like hiding a portion of your damage/garrison frame in game.

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Key Words: #Tutorials #SHPs #Graphics #Media #RedAlert2 #YurisRevenge #Ares #OpenRA #XCCUtilities #Photoshop #OSSHPBuilder 


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