Painting an unwrapped wire frame image in Photoshop. Copyright of Giulio Porta 2005, all rights reserved.

You must have a basic understanding of Adobe Photoshop (the version does not matter) to fully understand this tutorial.

This tutorial does not deal with the intricacies of painting a realistic image of a skin texture. For the simple reason that there are so many ways that can be done, from the type of brushes that can be used, to colors, and skin texture. There are too many approaches that can be used, making any tutorial dealing with painting human skin potentially too long.

What this tutorial deals with are the basic step that someone need to take to approach the painting of an image depicting human skin, or other.

Create a File > New document in Photoshop.

Go to Edit > Paste to paste the screen capture you have made in trueSpace.

Crop the image.

Make a copy of the white background layer at the bottom of the stack.

Delete the original Background image and drag the copy: Background copy on top of Layer 1 which is the screen capture.

Make the Background copy transparent by lowering its Opacity to 50% up to 70%. The idea is to see the wire frame image in Layer 1 and use it as template.

Now, the creative part: the painting

This is obviously done with a number of brushes, for the colors look yourself in the mirror, but a slight exaggeration maybe a good thing. Even though you have a lot of latitude in how you can paint this, there are some rule that you'll need to follow:

  • Keep the coloring as symmetrical as possible.
  • Do not paint major shadows areas, those will be created by lights in the 3D program you'll be using.
  • Do not paint major area of highlight, like I did, it will make the actual highlighted area even brighter then what they are.
Don't forget to turn off the eye of the layer with the wire frame image, you do not want the wire frame to be part of the image, as you can see here on the left.
Both the model and the skin texture applied to it, here, are in their rough stages.

No matter how long it may have taken you to get to this stage, you may still be a long way away from reaching the execution of your ideal head. This is simply not an fast process.

The wire frame needs to be turned off to see the actual value of the colors you are using and back on to see how the the painted skin fits the wire frame.

In my case here the color scheme is far from subtle, but they will be later on as I continue with it.

Painting a skin texture requires  good observation, lost of patience, painting skills and a basic understanding of digital painting tools.

Areas that require particular attention, in the painting process, are the edges of the eyelids and the area around the mouth. Those will require a perfect fit with the wire frame.

Don't forget to save this document in its native format first, if you are using Photoshop save it in its .PSD format. This will allow you to always come back and make improvements on the skin texture.

The format of the image that is actually applied to the model can be save in a number of formats, usually the .TGA and .JPG are the most commonly accepted by 3D programs.