Texturing a low-poly car: faking depth, shape and form?

What's the best way to create a car texture which also 'renders' depth, shape and form? Initially, I had thought of painting the original blueprints, to match in 3-D eventually, but stretched textures would ruin it. I want to paint all the cuts, extrusions and hard/soft edges. I'd like a technique of faking depth and detail in the texturing stage itself. The software platform will be Blender (for 3-D) and Photoshop or GIMP for painting.
you could fake depth by painting shadows and highlights on your texture.
ask yourself, from which direktion is your model in general mostly illuminated.
paint corners which are caught by this lightbrighter than the rest.
those, who are not darker.
you cold also use bumpmap. but these are a bit harder to create.
You can also opt to use the Normal mapping technique, since it will give more realistic results with low poly. But yes, the technique itself is pretty complicated and time-consuming. You will have to create a high-poly model first, render its normal maps and transfer them to low-poly model later for best effects. But yes, the results are pretty good...
Hope it helps! :)

there is also a photoshop plugin which allows you to create bump maps.
But i think it's not available for gimp.
There are also Programms like Cracy Bump, which allows you to create a Bumpmap from the textrure.
you could also get nice results but you've got less control.


Super Moderator
normal maps are the ideal way to go, and if you dont want to 'bake' a high poly model into the low poly one... just use the methods mentioned above like CrazyBump or photoshop plugin.

the diffuse texture should definatly include some slight highlight & shadows to give false depth & perspective. but ultimatly it depends on the end use, and what the desired poly count is. Just remember that textures can only do so much for you... if you have spare polys always use them wisely for detailing :)

edit - you could always try 3d painting, like 3dcoat, zbrush etc