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Texture Studio - Creating New Skins


WHAT'S OUR GOAL? We are going to take the official model viewer released by BioWare and create a new skin for it using only free programs. Skins for models are much like your own skin; they are images that wrap over a model to give them the appearance of texture.

Tools you will need:

  • Official model viewer - To view your masterpiece
  • Infranview32 - To convert images to and from TGA
  • Any paint program - We are going to use the one that comes with Windows call Paint

Note: There are several freeware and shareware graphics programs that don't properly save the .TGA format and will result in your model having a streaks of color where you can't recognize anything or worse will crash the model viewer. We choose this method as it is free and relatively simple, but more importantly it works. Users of Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro will not experience these glitches.



Step 1) Make sure you have downloaded and installed both the model viewer and Infranview32. Start the model viewer and decide which model you would like to change. This tutorial will use the Jaguar as an example.

Step 2) The first thing we need to do is convert the Jaguar skin from the .TGA format to .JPG Format. So start up Infranview32 and go to the directory where the model viewer was installed and open up the c_cat_jag.tga file. The default directory for the model viewer is "C:\Program Files\NWN Model Viewer".

The reason for this is because the program Paint only understands a few formats and .TGA isn't one of them. Btw .TGA stands for Targa and .JPG stands for JPEG.

If you were using Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro you would skip this step.

Step 3) Now hit "s" on your keyboard or go to Infranview's menu and choose "save as". In the type drop down choose "JPG- JPEG files" and hit save.

Step 4) Start the Paint program but hitting Start->Programs->Accessories and the choose Paint. Now hit Ctrl+O or go to the file menu and choose "Open". In the File of Types dropdown, choose "Jpeg".

Find the same directory you used in step 2 - the ones with the skins in them - and open the c_cat_jag.jpg file.

Step 5) Ok, now the fun stuff, but first let's get a closer look at the image by hitting Ctrl+Pgdn or going to the menu option View -> Zoom -> Large Size. Because the Paint program is not a very sophisticated piece of software, things make look quite blocky but we will persevere and work through it.

Step 6) Now we're going to give our Jaguar a red nose because he's been drinking too much lately. So first choose the color red at the bottom of the screen and carefully paint his nose red using the pencil tool. Look at the example to your left to find his nose.

As you can see skins can be a little confusing at times to understand what everything is. The reason for this is because to save on memory, BioWare only creates half the texture they need and copies it to the other side. This is called symmetrical texturing and when you add up all those halves, it saves a lot of space, making things leaner and faster. You can create asymmetrical models and BioWare's Art Director, Marc Holmes gives a brief overview on how.

In your future endeavors if you can't figure out what something is, simply use this exact same procedure that we are doing today, but place a bright color dot on certain parts of the skin and when you view it in the end, you will know by looking at the bright dots what all the different parts are.

Step 7) Ok, we now have Rudolph, the red nose Jaguar, so let's save it by hitting Ctrl+S and saving right over the original Jpeg image. Now go back to Infran and open up the Jpeg image, and you should see our Jaguar with the red nose.
Step 8) We're almost done. Now go to the file menu and choose "save as" and this will bring up the dialog. Choose "TGA-Truevision Files" from the drop down below and you will now see the original Targa files. So that we don't lose our original work, click on the c_cat_jag.tga file and you can now rename it. I usually change the extension to ".old" but you can choose whatever turns your crank. Click "ok" when it asks for confirmation to rename.

The benefit of clicking on it before changing it is we only have to hit "save" and you're done!

Step 9) Start up the model viewer again and you will see that the Jaguar has a split red nose. Remember this is because the model is symmetrical, so when while we changed the color of one nostril it created the other side in real time.

For a greater challenge, why don't you try changing the spots on his back to a different color? Also note that if oou plan on going back and forth a lot, it's probably a better idea to use a format like BMP instead of JPEG so you maintain better image quality. (Thanks to Mark Fairchild for the suggestion)

Also, if you're not happy with Paint in doing your work, here are some fine and free graphics programs to use. Keep in mind that you will probably have to use Infranview to do your transfer if your model ends up with streaking rainbow colors.

  • 20/20 : Professional quality image editing tool with heaps of special effects filters. Advertiser supported.

  • Satori PhotoXL : Professional object-oriented paint photo-editing and 2D graphics design program features dockable palettes and toolbars and support for multilayer images. 1024x768 True color or higher recommended.

Also here are some more comments by Marc for advice on creating skins that we'll cover in more detail in future lessons:

Shiny Armor : If you want to remove the 'shiny' effect you have to edit the alpha channel in the texture. Pure white is 'opaque' to the environment map, and will give you matte textures - pure black is 'transparent' and will give you completely chrome creatures...any greyscale art in between will give varying results, including cool glossy patterns or areas of shiny and not shiny (as done with the bugbear).

Texture Sizes : Just a comment on creature textures...we have shipped smaller than standard textures in this mini-viewer to keep the download compact...if you are getting serious about creating a custom texture and want really good results, try a larger power of two size like 256 or 512 square...



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