Lady R and Peter both pointed out how I neglected to really explain what my big texturing break through was...
So I'll take you through both my old and new manners of making Dinosaur skin.
The Old SystemOkay so I developed this back in late 2007 with some improvements brought in early 2008. Beyond that it hasn't changed. Meaning my texturing of 3D Dinosaurs has stayed the same for a year and a half. Mind blowing when you document my 3D modelling techniques, which have (especially this year) been changing ever month (and in a few patches week to week!!)!
The first step was to come up with a basic colour pattern for the animal. In this old system it could be remarkably simply (the one major advantage over the new system), and it would look way more impressive after then next two steps!
Once I had the colour scheme down (which could take several tries sadly, as the texture map could get really distorted and stretched), I'd add noise via Paintshop.
Next I would apply a tiling effect that would give me a scale like pattern across the colours scheme. If I skipped the previous noise step my tiles would be very symmetrical, and look like a bathroom floor except in areas where the different colours bordered each other. The noise made these nice non symmetrical tiling patterns, that mimic organic scales convincingly.
However in real life scales don't quite perfectly border each other like that. Plus the black lines were just a little bit too comic booky (which isn't nessecarily a bad thing, as I love comic books so much)...
The New System
So finally a year and a half later I have got drastically new system for texturing.
It borrows the key step of the underlining colour scheme, but that is in the middle, and I now fracture and compartmentalize all the different elements in their own layers. This now means I can more easily fix issues when a texture gets messed up on the model.
This isn't a huge break through per se, but it is just me applying common sense to methods and tools I've known about, so I use them way more effectively and efficiently. (Seriously the realization that layers are my friends, and not my enemies has really increased my digital art skills. Wanting simply jpegs lead me to the thinking that layers were counter productive, but of course I was being an idiot!)
The huge twist on my modern shaders is the manually drawing in the scales I want in the texture. This is slightly tedious, but once it is done I can accomplish some amazing amazing detailed effects in the texture.
Using the grid square sector detector, inspired by David, The scales and colour scheme are no where near as hard to line up or create now either. Plus with layers I can have all these elements in the same file. If I want to know where the scales or colour pattern are on the grid, I can simply cloak them or transparency them to see the grid underneath.
The Results...The "before" shot of the Brachiosaurus. In fairness this is my old Sauropod shader, which was the 3rd Dinosaur texture I ever did in the "modern" era. Still as a result it'll give you a serious idea of the serious leaps and bounds possible between then and now.
The "after" in the form of yesterday's prototype of the new system. The details may not be clear (as again blogger won't let anyone zoom in on things I upload... their original forms are more then big enough for it to be possible, I typically render at 2272 x 1704, but blogger just doesn't let you enlargen them for some stupid reason!), but you can also see even just my choice of colours for the colour scheme is getting more tempered in common sense/real world prospectives.
So welcome to yet a new "wave" of 3D Dinosaurs from the Weapon of Mass Imagination...