By Kirk Nelson
What You’ll Be Creating
Filter Forge 5 is an Adobe Photoshop plugin and stand-alone software that gives you the ability to create your own complex filters and textures. Its node-based Filter Editor is powerful and intuitive. One of the most useful features is the export of Render Maps which can be used to craft 3D materials and shaders. In this tutorial we use Filter Forge to craft custom 3D materials to create a “Wood vs. Metal” chess set.
1. Create a Custom Wood Texture
There are several wooden textures available within the Filter Forge software, and even more available through their online gallery. But the process of creating your own custom wooden texture is an excellent way to learn how to use the various features and capabilities of the Filter Editor.
Open Filter Forge 5 and go to Filter > New (Control-N). This will open the Filter Editor with a blank workspace. The only node is the Result node, which is the required finishing node for every texture network.
Open the Components panel and drag a Cells component from the Noise group onto the workspace. Then make the following settings:
- Contrast: 13
- Scale: 246
- Stretch: 59
- Enable the Vertical Stretch option
This will create the start of the wood grain.
Wood grain is more convincing and realistic when it includes knots. We’ll use another noise component to add knots to the grain. Add a Perlin Noise component and make the following settings:
- Noise color: AEAEAE
- Roughness: 0
- Contrast: 15
- Scale: 246
- Stretch: 7
- Angle: 90
- Details: 52
- Variation: 3935
Add a Bezier Curve component from the Curves group and connect the output to the Profile input for the Perlin Noise. The noise will have a noticeable increase in splotches.
Click on the Curve thumbnail in the Bezier Curve properties to open the Curve Editor. Adjust the curve to look similar to the figure below. The result should show the Perlin Noise as mostly dark with just a few spots of light gray.
Add a Blend component from the Processing group. Attach the output of the Perlin Noise to the Foreground. Attach the output of the Cells to the Background input of the Blend component. Then change the Blend’s Opacity to 100 and the Mode to Screen. This will combine the white spots of the Perlin Noise with the grain of the Cells.
Add a Noise Gradient component from the Gradients group and make the following settings:
- Base Color: C4A16A
- H Range: 0
- L Range: 26
- S Range: 7
- Roughness: 41
- Contrast: 17
- Scale: 162
- Enable the Vertical option
- Enable the Randomizable option
This gradient will create the basic coloring for the wood texture.
Add an Elevation Gradient component from the Gradients group. Attach the output from the Blend component to the Elevation input and the output from Noise Gradient to the Gradient input. This will add the grain pattern to the gradient color, and the texture is finally beginning to look like wood.
Add another Perlin Noise component from the Noise group and make the following settings:
- Noise color: 9E9E9E
- Background color: 373737
- Roughness: 100
- Contrast: 0
- Scale: 300
- Stretch: 42
- Angle: 90
- Details: 100
- Variation: 3444
- Profile: Organic
Add another Blend component node from the Processing group and attach the output from the Perlin Noise to the Foreground input. Attach the output from the Elevation Gradient to the input for the Background. Set the Opacity to 100 and the Mode to Overlay. This adds the finer, noisier grain from the Perlin Noise to the wood texture.
Attach the output from the Blend to the Source input of the Result component. At this point the texture is a simple filter and can be saved as such. But if you want to create Render Maps to use in a 3D material, continue to the next section.
2. Add Depth to the Wood Texture
Change the Result node from Simple filter to Surface. You will need to reconnect the Blend output, but this time attach it to the Surface Color.
Add a High Pass component from the Processing group. Attach the output from the Elevation Gradient to the Source input. Do not move the current connect from the Elevation Gradient to Blend, but just add another connection, as each component can have multiple outputs. Make the following settings to the High Pass component:
- Contrast: 52
- Radius: 10
- Enable the monochrome option
Add another Blend component from the Processing group. Attach another output from the second Perlin Noise component to the Foreground input. Attach the output from the High Pass to the input for the Background. Then set the Blend’s Opacity to 100 and the Mode to Multiply. This should create a dark gray version of the wood grain.
Add a Stones component from the Noise group and make the following settings:
- Roughness: 79
- Contrast: 0
- Scale: 228
- Stretch: 64
- Enable the Vertical Stretch option
- Details: 89
- Variation: 4919
Add another Blend component from the Processing group. Attach the output from the Stones component to the Foreground input. Attach the output from the last Blend component to the Background input. Set the Opacity to 15 and the Mode to Multiply. This adds a touch more roughness to the overall surface texture.
Attach the output from the Blend component to the Height input of the Result node. The preview won’t appear any different, but this completes the work of creating a wood texture that will have a convincing surface to it. Press the Save Filter button and name this filter “Custom Light Wood“.
Back in the regular Filter Forge interface, go to the Lighting tab and set the Surface Height to 10. Then go to the Settings tab and check the Seamless Tiling option. Then adjust the Variation slider until you get a wood grain arrangement that you like.
Go to Filter > Render Maps and choose the Diffuse Map. Then press the Save Image As button to save the diffuse map for the wood.
Do the same for the Bump Map.
And the Normal Map.
3. Customize a Brushed Metal Texture
Building your own texture from scratch is a rewarding process, but a lengthy one too. If you don’t have the time to craft your own complex network, consider downloading one from the gallery and modifying it to meet your needs. We will do that here with the brushed steel to create the texture for the metal chess pieces.
Launch Filter Forge again and use the top link for Filter Library: Download more filters. This will launch your web browser and direct it to Filter Forge’s online gallery of textures and filters.
Use the Search bar to search for some Brushed Metal textures. Select the Brushed Stainless Steel and Beveled Mirrors by ronviers texture. Click the Open this filter in Filter Forge button to download and open the texture in Filter Forge.
Go to the Settings tab and make the following settings:
- Bevel Depth: 0
- Bevel Width: 0
- Enable the Seamless Tiling option
Generate the same Diffuse, Bump, and Normal maps for this brushed metal by going to Filter > Render Maps and save each image after it is finished rendering.
4. Generate a Wood and Metal Checkerboard Texture
In order to make this Wood vs. Metal game look authentic, the chessboard needs to have alternating wood and metal squares. Fortunately, we have both texture networks already, and they just need to be combined into a checkerboard pattern.
The custom wood texture you created is available in the My Filters folder. Select it and press the Filter Editor button. When prompted, select the option to Edit this Filter.
Zoom out and draw a selection box around the entire network. Then go to Edit > Copy (Control-C). Hit the Cancel button to close the filter editor without making any changes to the filter.
Find the Brushed Stainless Steel texture again in the Techno folder. Launch the Filter Editor to edit this texture. The dialogue box warns that a copy will be created.
When the metal texture opens in the Filter Editor, zoom out enough to see some empty workspace next to the network and go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to add the entire network of the custom wood texture next to the network for the metal texture.
Zoom back in and find the Result node. Break all the inputs off it by just dragging each arrow away from the node.
Add a Checker component from the Patterns group. Set the Repeat H to 4 and the Repeat V to 4. Then go to Edit > Copy (Control-C) to copy this node before any connections are made to it.
Find the wood network’s Blend component that is combining the grain colors. Connect the output to the Color 1 input of the Checker component.
Find the Blend 1.017 node in the metal network; it has a Brightness Slider Control attached to it. Connect that output to the Color 2 input of the Checker component.
Connect the output from the Checker node to the Surface Color input of the Result node.
Go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to add another unconnected Checker node. Find the Blend node of the wood network that used to feed into the Surface Height of the wood texture. Connect that output to the Color 1 input of this second Checker node.
Find the Brightness/ Contrast 1.017 node of the metal network and connect that output to the Color 2 input of the second Checker node.
Connect the output of the Checker node to the Height of the Result node.
Go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to add a third Checker component node. Set the Color 1 to black and connect the output of the metal network’s Blend 1.017 node (the same node that is connected to Color 2 of the first checkerboard node) to the input of Color 2.
Connect the output of this third Checker node to the Metallic input of the Result node.
The custom wood and brushed metal checkerboard texture is finished! Save this filter as Custom Checkerboard and return to the main Filter Forge interface.
Go to the Lighting tab and set the Surface Height to 10.
Generate the render maps for the checkerboard texture through Filter > Render Maps. Generate a map for Diffuse, Bump, Normal and Metallic. The Metallic map is a new one for the checkerboard texture and will be used as a reflective map so that only the metal squares will generate a reflection.
5. Going 3D!
All our node networking is done, the filters are tweaked, and the Render Maps are created. It’s time to start applying these textures to a 3D model in Photoshop. To save time, I’ve provided the 3D file with everything set up, except the textures. You will need to look for the
3DChessBoard.zip file attached to this tutorial.
If you care to set up your own 3D scene to match this one, here’s the resources that were used to create it:
- 3D Chess Set
- HDRI image for the environment lighting
- Park Background
Download the 3DChessBoard.zip file attached to this tutorial. Unzip the 3DChessboard.psd file and open it in Photoshop. Switch to the 3D workspace if Photoshop doesn’t automatically prompt you to do so. In this file the lights, environment, model and camera are already all set up, so we just need to apply the custom textures.
In the 3D panel, use the icons near the top of the panel to filter by Materials. Select the Wooden_Pieces material. In the Properties panel, use the folder icon next to the Diffuse color chip to Load Texture. Select the diffuse map you generated for the custom wood texture.
Load the Bump map in the same way, and set the Bump value to 10%.
Load the Normal map (located toward the lower left of the Properties panel) in the same way the Diffuse and Bump maps were loaded.
Switch to the Metal_pieces material and choose the following settings for the material properties:
- Specular color: H:0, S:0, B:64
- Ambient color: Black
- Shine: 19%
- Reflection: 16%
- Roughness: 20%
- Refraction: 1.35
Load the Diffuse map for the custom brushed metal texture. Then click the same icon to Edit UV Properties. Set the U/X Offset and the V/Y Offset both to 50%.
Load the Bump Map created for the brushed metal and set the Bump amount to 52%. Likewise load the Normal Map too. Set the UV Properties on both to match the 50% settings on the Diffuse maps.
Next, select the board_tex material and make the following settings:
- Ambient color: H:0, S:0, B:59
- Shine: 100%
Use the folder icons to load the checkerboard maps for Diffuse, Bump, and Normal. Then use the Metallic map for the Reflection texture.
Now it’s time to render! Save your file first and go to 3D > Render 3D Layer (Alt-Shift-Control-R). Let Photoshop cook on the file for a while. The rendering process may take up to a couple of hours, so be patient.
6. Final Effects
The most advantageous thing about working with 3D elements in Photoshop is that all the post-processing features are right at your fingertips. Don’t feel as if the render must be perfect—it’s much faster to create finishing effects with the more traditional Photoshop features.
Once the rendering is finished, switch back to your preferred workspace configuration as we are finished with the 3D tools. Create a merged copy of the final render with the background by holding down the Alt key while going to Layer > Merge Visible.
Switch over to the Channels panel and verify that there’s a channel called BlurDepth. This is included to assist in creating a convincing focal blur effect. Go back to the Layers panel and Duplicate the merged layer with Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Control-J).
Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and make the following settings:
- Depth Map Source: BlurDepth
- Blur Focal Distance: 3
- Enable the Invert option
- Iris Shape: Hexagon (6)
- Radius: 20
Add a Curves adjustment layer and set the curve shape to be a very slight “S” shape to enhance the image contrast.
Create another merged layer by holding down Alt while going to Layer > Merge Visible. Then set this new to be a Smart Object with Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.
Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter, and in the Basic tab make the following settings:
- Exposure: +0.15
- Highlights: +40
- Blacks: +29
- Clarity: +18
- Vibrance: +5
Then switch over to the Effects tab and set the Post Crop Vignette Amount to -13.
Add a new layer with Layer > New > Layer (Shift-Control-N) named Flare and fill it with black using the Edit > Fill command. Then change the blending mode to Screen so the black disappears entirely. Then go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare. Move the flare epicenter to align approximately with the top of the queen piece.
Once the flare is rendered, set the layer Opacity to 50%. Then reposition the flare layer to refine the placement of the flare onto the very edge of the queen piece, as if it’s a glint of sunshine reflecting off the metal edge.
You Are Done!
Congratulations on your Wood vs. Metal chess game! You’ve created a custom wood texture, modified a metal texture, and combined them into a new texture. And you’ve applied all the Render Maps to create a fun and compelling final image. Nice work!