Painting Tree Shadows

Painting realistic, dimensional looking trees is easy using Jungle DVD. The shadows cast by 2D trees often create another set of problems, however. When 2D trees are used as textures, the shadows can look too flat or thin. Problems occur in illustrations as well.

Tree textures just don't cast realistic shadows when the light source is overhead or angled to the side. Because the 2D tree is mapped to a flat panel standing on edge, the shadow depicts the narrowness of panel rather than the volume of a real tree. With illustrations, the problem is getting the shadow to define the ground realistically.

Tubes work great for shadows because they paint fast and ultra realistic. It's simply a matter of spraying the leaf shadows onto a layer and then applying the finished tree shadow as a texture like the one shown here. The principle works the same for 2D. Just distort the shadow to create the perspective 3D does automatically.

Most any version of Paint Shop Pro will do, whether it's version 6, 7 or 8. If you don't own PSP, download the latest, fully working evaluation version. We've provided the Jungle 3D tools you'll need, including a finished tree and shadow texture.

(We suggest completing the Painting Trees tutorial first, so you will have a tree to model for the shadow.)


1) Begin by placing the "Birch Shadow" tube in the Paint Shop Pro "Tubes" folder (located inside the Paint Shop Pro program folder).

2) Launch PSP and open a 512 x 512 image.

3) Select the Picture Tube brush. Double click on the brush icon to display the Tool Options palette and select the "Birch Shadow" tube.

4) Scale the tube size down to 23%. (You want the leaf shadows to match the leaves of the tree you painted in the Painting Trees tutorial.)

Increase the Step to around 160.

5) Display the Layer palette by selecting View: Toolbars: Layer Palette from the application menu.

Create a new layer by clicking on the Create layer icon as shown above.

6) Begin by trying to paint the tree shadow as if you're looking down from above. Use brief brush strokes or random mouse clicks to paint the shadows as randomized dabs of paint.

Tree canopies rarely grow in perfect circles, so you want the shadow to have an irregular shape and edge. Similarly, try to place the greatest density of shadows nearer the center of the tree.

If you don't like the result, use Undo (Ctrl+Z) or simply create a new layer and paint another shadow. This one took me six tries, or about three minutes. These shadow paintings should go quick in other words.

7) When you're done painting, select a blur filter.

8) If you're working in 2D, you can skew or distort the layer so that it establishes the perspective of a ground plane beneath the tree. Otherwise, you're done. Simply save the file as .psd to preserve the layer in a common file format.

9) If you plan to use the shadow as a texture in 3D, select Cut from the Edit menu (Ctrl+X).

10) After you "cut" the Layer, change the selected color to black and Fill the background using the Paint Bucket tool.

11) Now select Paste: As New Selection from the Edit menu or use Ctrl+E. The selection will appear attached to the cursor.

12) Use the cursor to center the shadow on the background. Click once to release it.

13) Pull down the Selections menu and choose Save To Alpha Channel.

14) You're done. Save the file as .psd or whatever 2D file format your 3D application prefers when applying alpha channels for texture transparency.

15) Launch your 3D application.

16) If you're going to use the shadow as a texture and you don't already have a scene created, create a ground or terrain model.

17) Copy and Paste the terrain model to create a duplicate of the original. The terrain copy holds the shadow texture so that it's visible on the ground.

18) Select the model's attributes and add a small positioning increment to the vertical offset so that the copy is slightly above the original terrain model.

19) Map the shadow to the top terrain model using the alpha channel so that the texture maps with transparency. Use a solid grass or ground texture for the lower model.

20) Since shadows are semi-transparent by nature, adjust the shadow's visibility to 80 or 90%.

21) Select the appropriate texture setting to make the image apply once to the model, as it appears in the examples below.

22) Adjust the texture size to make the shadow fit the scale of the tree.

23) That's it. You're done.

These foliage shadow textures have lots of possibilities. The shadow tubes paint great gels for casting realistic, soft-edged shadows onto 3D surfaces, or the shadows can be painted directly onto existing textures otherwise used for wall, pavement, cement or other model surfaces.

Painting Tree Shadows is the companion tutorial to Painting Trees. If you haven't done that one already, be sure to give it a try too.

To try other tutorials, or for more info on Jungle 3D, Tree Forestry and other products, please visit us at DigArts Software.


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