Using Alpha Planes - Tutorial #7

The next technique will show how to create a new set of leaves for a tree. I will demonstrate with a Sweetgum leaf because I have used it before. I know the structure of this tree will not match the new leaf; but one could take fall Maple leaves, for example, and set them up creatively on the template that we will create and create a Maple tree for different seasons.

Step 1 - Take a leaf and scan it in into an image editing program. Or take a picture of a leaf. Then, select it to isolate it from the background. Do it the way you normally do it in your image editing program. You want the image alone on a transparent layer since you will be copying and pasting it a lot.

Step 2 - In Vue 5 Easel, load the Maple tree. Click on the Rural Maple Tree 2 materials in the upper right panel until you see the leaf, not the bark material. Double click on the leaf material to bring up the Material Editor.

Step 3 - Make a screen capture of the image of the Alpha Map. This will become a template.

Step 4 - Bring the screen capture into Photoshop or another image editing program so that you can trace just the branch structure on a new layer. Use the color that you want the branch to be. Make the template about 600 pixels by 600 pixels at 72 dpi. Once you finish tracing the branch part only, make the opacity of the middle layer (the layer that says "Vue Screen Captu...") about 25%.

Step 5 - Place the individual leaves on the new template (layer that says "Template") following the pattern of the layer below (the one that says"Vue Screen Captu..."). You can hurry the process by putting a few leaves together on one of the branches, flattening just the leaves, and then copying them to another branch on the template. The last step will be to delete the middle layer (the layer that says "Vue Screen Captu....") so you are left with the two layers as in the image below. From this, you will make your Image map and your Alpha map.

Step 6 - Follow the directions for making the two maps as you did in tutorial # 6; however, instead of using a black background, use a dark green one.

Step 7 - Once you have everything set, double click on the original leaf foliage to open the Material Editor and delete the old maps (put them in the garbage can underneath the image) and load both new maps that you just made. Click on the arrow.You now have new leaves.

Before we finish, lets go back to the original Alpha Plane we made in Tutorial #6 and add it to a scene in Vue. You follow the same process except the screens look a little different.

Step 1 - Go to Object>Create>Alpha Plane. A blank one will open.

Step 2 - Take your Color picture (which was called an Image map in the Material Editor) and your Alpha picture (which was called an Alpha map in Material Editor) and load them in the same manner as you did when you were using the Material Editor.

Step 3 - Notice the birds on the left are twisted out of shape. That is why it is important to check the Adjust plane proportion box. Click OK and you are finished.

For the bird to not appear too dark, I had to shine a spotlight on it since the sun was in back of it. I will discuss lighting in the Lighting tutorial

Go to Using the Material Editor to Create Water Textures - Tutorial #8