The Making of SHARC – part 2 – rendering & photoshop

Eric Lay works in 3D modelling, architectural drafting, rendering and graphics. In this tutorial, he shows us how to create this futuristic aircraft or as he calls it, ‘Super High Altitude Racing Craft’ (SHARC). In this second part, Eric shows us his render settings using Twilight Render, FotoSketcher and final Photoshop work. The first part (modeling) can be found here.


1. I used Twilight Render to create a base image to paint over. I assigned the Paint [Gloss] setting to all the airplane materials except the canopy glass. For the glass I assigned Architectural Glass [Common]. I did not assign any material settings to the pilot.

Settings Airplane Material & Glass

2. For the render settings I used a width of 6000 pixels with preset 04. Metropolis Light Transport (BPT) which is found in the Tech preset under Progressive.

Render Settings

3. I used the simple tone mapping filter, set the exposure level at 1.100 and the Gamma Adjustment at 0.350.

Exposure level and Gamma Adjustment

4. For the lighting I used a Spherical Sky (Tokyo_BigSight_Env.hdr) which I found free on the internet. I lucked out with the orientation of the hdr image as it gave me a nice background color to render with.

Used Spherical Sky for Lighting

5. I let the rendering run overnight for a fairly clean image. It took 8 hours to do 41 passes at 6000 pixels wide. Not too bad I think. Here is a reduced image of the final rendering.


6. I then did an alpha mask rendering at the same size. The Alpha Mask preset is under the Express / Advanced / Clay tab. This I used in the painting process to easily select the outline of the airplane.

Alpha Mask Preset

7. Here is the Alpha Mask rendering.

Alpha Mask Rendering


1. Now to start painting. I opened up both the rendering and alpha mask in Photoshop and placed them both in the same file. I used the alpha mask to save a selection and cut the background out of the rendering. Now I have a background layer and the airplane separated.

Airplane Separated

Background Layer

2. I then created a new layer and used the brush tool to paint reflective edges on the panels. Color white, layer opacity down low. Around 40% for this example. This step may take a while depending on how many panels you have.

Paint Reflective Edges on Panels

3. I copied the rendering layer twice. The first one I set the blending mode to Color Burn then set the opacity at 27%, this darkened up the rendering and made it more rich. The second one I ran the noise filter at 20% then set the opacity at 16%, this gave the overall look a bit of an edge. I placed the layer between the color burn layer and the rendering layer. You can have fun with the filter settings at this point.

Run the Noise Filter at 20%

4. Next I started painting rivets and screws. I created a new layer, set the color to black, set the blending mode to Multiply then started painting. You might have to rotate the brush to match the light direction.

( There are tons of free brushes on the net. I got mine here).

Start Painting Rivets and Screws

5. Next I added another layer and started painting some dirt. I set the layer blending mode to Multiply, used a dark grey color and used various brushes to add the dirt.

Add Some Dirt

6. Finally I found a background to fit the scene and lighting and placed it behind the airplane.

Final Render With Background


1. For this next image I ran the final rendering through FotoSketcher using the following settings:

FotoSketcher Settings

2. I then opened it up in Photoshop, added a few more stars and lightened up the image a bit.

FotoSketcher Image


1. For this last image I rendered out the airplane in Twilight Render, the same as described above, only I used the preset 04.Medium which is found in the Express/Easy preset. I also only made it 2000 pixels wide as I did not need as much detail for the final image. I also rendered out an alpha mask.

Render & Alpha Mask

2. I then used the alpha mask to cut the background away then create an outline for the airplane. I saved it as a png and imported it into a new background. I did this with a couple images.

Create Outline for the Airplane

3. Finally I exported a couple of Hidden Line style images from SketchUp, removed the background and imported into the final image. I then added some text and tweaked the border out a bit.

Final Image

Thanks for reading.


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