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Andrew G Davis' (andrewgd)

Basic Skinning Tutorial

First off, I want to thank Irrational for putting out such an outstanding game. Great job guys! Secondly, we should all thank The Gryphon, because, without his base skins, this tutorial would have no place to start. Secondly, I'd like to ask that these tutorial pages not be copied, unless you ask permission. You may link to this page, but do not copy these images and use them on your site. This took a while, and I'd like credit. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I am using Photoshop 6.0. If you're using some other program, it very well may have the same features, they just might not be in the same place, and they might not even be there. Look around, experiment. But don't ask me, I haven't used other programs, so I don't know, sorry!

Also, I've been using photoshop for about 5 years now, doing illustration work, and 3d animation textures, so if this is too advanced, let me know what I should change, or clarify, and I may get to it.


Step Directions   Photoshop Character Tool

Alright, lets start. I'm going to use the male_belt mesh that you can download off of First we've got the base skin. I wanted to give this guy a belt, so modified the base skin and added a rectacle where the belt would be.

You'll need to find a copy of Gryphon's Male_Belt base skin for this.

  1 Photoshop 1 Character
2) Some of them start out in greyscale, some are skin colored, depending on who made them. The way I do the skins, it makes more sense to change them/keep them in greyscale.   2 Photoshop  


You may want to adjust the brightness and contrast of this, to make the lines of the muscles more pronounced, or less defined. Play around, and get the look you want for his muscles.

  3 Photoshop 3 Character
4) I find it very helpful to use the wireframe image on top of this, and toggle back and forth between the final skin, and the wireframe to see where things fall on the 3d figure. Most models come with a .jpg version of the wireframe skin. You'll need to convert this to a .tga, rename it, and put it into a "wireframe" directory in the skins folder. I then inverse it in photoshop (command is under beneath desaturate), so the lines are black.   4 Photoshop 4 Character
5) Now to set up the final .psd file to work on the skin. Drag the wireframe image on top of the greyscale image, and make sure it fills the image. Then change the layer passthrough mode from Normal to Multiply. What this does is adds the values of the layers together, thus transfering the black down, and making the white (in effect) transparent.   5 Photoshop  

This step is a little advanced, and you can skip it. But since you're now working with layers, you can only save it as a .psd if you want to preserve the layers. I do this, but then I create an action that hides the wireframe layer, saves the image as the flat skin .tga, and then reveals the wireframe layer again. This saves me a lot of time of having to go back and forth saving, creating a copy, renaming it...etc....

It also allows me to hit one button, then switch to the character tool, and see the changes I have done.

If you don't get it, just move on.

  6 Photoshop  
7) Ok now, who do we want to create? I'm going to go with one of my favorite, Savage Dragon's very own Star. Get plenty of reference. Depending on the character, there should be a lot online. (This guy was kinda hard to find though.)   6 Reference  
8) Now, in the .psd file, create a blank layer. Rename it "Color". Select the areas you want to fill in with a color using either the lasso or the polygon select tool. Fill them with the tone you need. Star's costume is mostly blue, so I started with that. If you have the wireframe visible, you can see just how far out you should bring your color, so it covers the skin.   8 Photoshop 8 Character
9) Continue doing this, until you've got all the areas colored you want. I try to make separate layers for each color. You don't really need to worry about the muscle texture at this point, if you're using the wireframe as your guide.   9 Photoshop 9 Character
10) Here's the layers that make up the image you see above. If someone really wants a copy of my final photoshop file, just for reference, I may post it, but I don't really see the need.   10 Photoshop  
12) Now, here's where the greyscale base skin comes in. Drag the layer up, so its the top layer of the image. Make sure your wireframe is off. Change the opacity to multiply, just like you had with the wireframe layer. You'll see that the muscle shades now pass through, down onto the textures.   12 Photoshop 12 Photoshop

You'll notice that his eyes and facial features show through, which I don't really want for Star. Also, parts of his costume aren't spandex, so the skin shading wouldn't show through. So I'll just paint those out with a flat color.

  13 Photoshop 13 Character
14) And thats it! Enjoy your skin! Final


I do want to strongly encourage people, if they have the time and skills, to make their own base skins. That way we'll have a much higher diversity of what characters look like. I myself hopefully will be doing some soon, only making them look more like comic book inking and shading.

Thus far, the only sericous skin I've created was Hellboy, which you can get here, and I like how it looks like something right out of the comic.


You can download my Star skin here.

"Some images on this web site are copyright Irrational Games, LLC and are used with permission. Others are copyright Erik Larsen."