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Armour Studies & Material Spheres

I decided to spend some of my spare time the last few weeks doing some armour studies. This had initially started as just a bit of practice on the side, but after some really positive feedback and some requests for a tutorial I ended up making an entire collection of texture spheres and cleaned up a lot of the studies so people could better understand how to paint these types of things too.

Firstly we have the finished studies themselves. I had tried gathering a few different types of armour specifically to understand both their design, and their material properties, so we have things from clean plate mail to tanned leather and rusted metal.

These took some time on their own, but I then decided to create material spheres for as select few textures.

For those of you who haven't come across material spheres before, they are used as a way of studying and showing how light works on various types of textures, it gives you all the variables of having a strong focal light, secondary lights, shadows and transitions. They're not as simple as they look and it requires a detailed knowledge of materials in order to paint them effectively.

As you can see from the sphere below, even a simple sphere can have a depth of lighting and shadow. (I would suggest you try some yourself to practice painting materials and understanding textures)

And here are my takes on material spheres for the various textures found in a few in the armour studies:

Some of these material spheres have taken on the lighting properties of the image they're referenced from, for example, the dulled metal has the bright skyline as it's rim light, and the detailed metal has the warm tones of the earthen floor as a secondary light.

As a small explanation of some of the lights and shadows that are found in these images I've created a couple diagrams to help explain them:


Spectacular will determine how much light is reflected off the surface of a material, for example, Plate Metal is very reflective, and has a nice clean surface. and so lights will bound off of them very easily, thus creating a small ball of light on it's surface from the light source.

Dulled Metal however, whilst made of the same type of material, is not nearly as reflective as plate metal. This could be caused by damage, dirt etc. But because it's surface is so matte, it causes the lights to scatter off it's surface is all kinds of directions, causing the light to look a lot softer and less bright.

Dulled Metal (Left) and Plate Metal (Right)

I've ringed where the lights mainly reflect light on these materials to better show how much light can diffuse across a dulled surface compared to a clean specular one.

Because specularity has a way of reflective light so well, the materials also tend to have much darker darks and brighter brights compared to more diffuse textures.

Bounce Light

Padded Cloth
As you can see in the image above, the padded cloth texture has a main light source (1), and it's shadows from that source. However it also has the secondary light source (2), this is the light that is reflected from grey surface the ball is resting on. This is also called 'Bound Light', as it also comes from the main source of light and bounces onto the sphere. This creates a more three-dimensional image when painting an object and grounds it in the environment.

Plate Metal.

However, bound light is also subject to specularity, and so you can see our Bounce light (2) in the above image is much sharper, and brighter, reflecting the surface much more like a mirror than Padded Cloth would.

I also added a third, warmer light source to create a more detailed image for the Plate Metal texture, and as with the other lights, you can see it is quite bright and concentrated in one area.

Anyway, I hope this helps if you're still trying to get to grips with how light works. If you want to read more on this topic I'd strongly suggest buying James Gurneys 'Light and Color'  to better understand how light works in our world and how to paint it.


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