After watching Matt Kohr's (http://ctrlpaint.com/) video on material spheres, I realized that I needed to start practicing better surface identification, especially since I've been really focused on different types of lighting lately. To reach that goal, I've created a template that I'll use to make multiple material studies of different surfaces under different lighting conditions.
I realized that I had been depending far too much on photo-textures on any material that wasn't skin or clothes, and so I hope that this will broaden my confidence when painting alternate textures under different lighting conditions.
The other goal of this project is to get better at color sampling visually (no eye-dropper tool allowed) and have a better understanding of the differences in value across multiple surface types.
These are really quite fun to make, especially because I'm able to make them quickly and get a MUCH better understanding of the surface I'm trying to render. If you'd like to use this template for your own material studies, it's available here.