well i have got pretty good with materials, the only thing i need to learn is how you guys make realistic textures for stills and animations. you usually make a seperate bump map and specular map. correct me if i’m wrong, first you finish the model then you mark a seam or seams then you unwrap it then export the unwrapped template to an external paint program like gimp, you hand paint the bump\specular map onto the template ,desaturate and then apply to the modell. is this all the steps involved. how do you actually paint the “bumps” in the paint program to get the bumps to gradually elevate in greyscale, what brush do you use? i should figure this out because stencilling has its limitations, like when you use more than one stencil texture in the texture pipeline. am i right with the steps to uv map? how do i hand paint the gradual greyscale bumps in a paint program? i cant seem to find a tutorial that covers the whole unwrapping process, including the hand painting in a paint program. so if anyone knows a good tutorial that will show me how to do the hand painting part, that will help too. thanks in advance.

you can get good base textures for bumpmaps from blender, and you can then combine those with other textures, including hand painted ones. like if you were doing bark, you might take a clouds or musgrave texture from blender, and combine it with a hand painted texture, of the layout of the bark scales. the clone tool in gimp, photoshop, or for that matter blender, can be helpful here. and if you want to spend a few bucks, there are softwares such as texturemaker, that are specialized for making bump maps, among other things.

you can also do texture painting right in blender, as Modron hinted at, that will at least get you started on exactly where you want your specific features. (I mean 3D painting in the viewport). Once you have that saved as an image, you can take it into your editor do add more detail, grain, etc. The blur tool might be really handy to get the gradient you’re talking about. Either the blur brush, or blue the entire image/layer. Also, if you can afford it, I would suggest a Wacom (or similar) tablet. I use mine for every computer function, not just painting (instead of mouse). It’s much less aggravating to my tendons in my arms, and the most ergonomic cursor movement method (many studies prove it).

To answer your other question, yes, bump and spec maps are important to make the texture look more real. you might want to consider the main diffuse (color) map to be UV instead of a raw color. This way you can add those slight color changes, smears, speckles, scratches, fingerprints, imperfections, etc to you paint. Unless it’s ceramic or powder coated, or straight off the assembly line, there are few instances where you want a perfect color (except for that polished car on the showroom floor).