Thanks for the kind words, folks.
Lesson 4: Text & fonts
Since lettering makes up such a big part of our textures, I've tried to put a lot of info in this lesson. Many of the methods here are also applicable to logos, stripes, or whatever.
EDIT: Need a font? Know a font? Share or seek font knowledge in my font geek thread.
Finding the right font:
If you have a sample image, and don't recognise what font is used, you can try asking in the forums, or searching yourself. I have samples of some common fonts below. Identifont lets you identify a typeface by answering a series of questions. WhatTheFont lets you submit an image, and then automatically searches its database. Just remember to crop your example image so that only the lettering is visible.
Note that not all lettering is necessarily a "font", and therefore may not be type-able. An example would be the scripted "Ford" in the blue oval logo. Such lettering would need to be "hand-drawn" (literally or digitally) in order to duplicate.
These are just some of the many fonts that I use for vehicles, in not-much of a particular order. When making licence plates, "Roadway", "Mandatory", and obviously "Licence Plate" are useful.
Click the thumbnail for a larger view.
Editing the text:
By this, I don't mean editing what the text says, but how it appears. When we input text with the text tool, GIMP creates a new text layer. We can tell it's a text layer by the 'T' icon:
While it's a text layer, we can change things such as the typeface (font), the font size, colour, whether each line is aligned left, center, or right, and the spacing between each line or between each letter. We can also change the word itself, in case we need to correct a typo. If you've closed the text editor box shown in the centre here, you can reopen it by right-clicking the text layer in the layers dialog and selecting "Text Tool".
Some editing techniques will alter the layer in such a way that it's treated like any other layer. From then on, we can't edit it with the tools in the text editor, such as changing font, etc. These methods may be used with things other than text as well, such as logos and stripes, but are especially useful here.
For example, if we need "slanted" text, and there's no italic version of a typeface, we can use GIMP's shear tool to angle it right or left:
After. Note how the layer called "POLICE" no longer has a 'T' icon:
Often, the text is either too tall or too short, relative to its width. We can scale the text either vertically or horizontally to achieve the proportions we want. Here, I've reduced the vertical size, in order to 'squish' the text:
Let's make a red outline to the text. I've selected red as my foreground colour, and created a duplicate of the text layer. To do this, right-click the layer and select "Duplicate Layer". The new layer is called "POLICE #1". Here' I've selected the "POLICE" layer to work on, you can tell by the blue in the layer dialog. Right-click the "POLICE" layer again, and select "Alpha to Selection". This puts dotted lines chasing each other around the text:
Now from the "Select" drop-down menu, select "Grow". Note that only the dotted lines grow, not the image. Here I've grown the selection by about 4 or 5 pixels:
We can now fill that selection with the bucket fill tool. To fill the entire selection at once, hold down the shift key, instead of filling each letter seperately. The black layer is on top of the red layer, but if they're mixed up, just move them around with the little green arrows in the layers dialog.
To make a fade between two colours, use the Gradient tool (just to the right of the bucket tool). Here, I've selected the outline again by using "Alpha to Selection". I have grey as the foreground colour, and red as the background colour. I've clicked the cursor at the bottom of the text, and dragged it to the top.
Here's a basic square to illustrate how placement of the cursor affects the gradient fade:
By going diagonally, it makes the fade go diagonally:
Like I mentioned before, these methods are also very useful for stripes, logos, or whatever you need.
Lesson 5: Normal Maps can be found on page 2 here.