How To Make Metal Decals Shine

In comics, metal characters and armor has always been given very dramatic visual treatment. If you go back and read Kirby’s original run on Silver Surfer, every page is vibrant and detailed, especially the metallic shine on the Surfer. DST has been adding more and more detail to metal minimate parts over the  years, both through sculpting and tampos. In this update, I am going to show you how to make your metal decals have the same look and feel as the official ones, and the comics they were inspired by. The decal is this post was designed in Illustrator using the basic concepts outlines in our Minimate Decal Design Using Illustrator Tutorial.

The star of our show is going to be Maximus the Mad, pictured above (click to view a larger image). I have wanted to make this classic Fantastic Four villain for a long time, and while he has had several difference costumes, I love this classic armored look from FF #83. I am going to focus on the chest decal for this post (not including the red necklace, which I will add later), and I will post the full set of decals at a later time once I finish the custom.

The decal above shows the basic details of the armor. Some lines are thicker than others, to indicate which are structural parts of the armor, and which are just surface details. While this decal looks accurate, don’t be tempted to stop here! There are still several things that can be done to make this decal really shine.

While the armor appears to be all made of the same metal, some parts are elevated while others are recessed, so by making these areas lighter and darker, it starts to give the armor a more three dimensional appearance. But we aren’t finished yet!

In the image above, you can see that I have added several lighter “shinier” areas. This was done by creating a solid white shape, and then setting it’s transparency settings or blending options to Soft Light. The largest areas were shaped to follow the curve of a male chest, which is how this armor is shaped.

Finally, I added a few black areas to contrast the lighter ones. This should be used much more sparingly than the lighter areas, as it can start to detract from the design if it is overused.

I hope this will help you the next time you need to design a metal decal. Remember that it is better to push the design too far, and have to delete things later, than to settle for a dull and flat appearance!

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