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Thread: Skins Wanted (& Offered) - The Aristocrats - Now includes tutorial

  1. #1
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon

    Skins Wanted (& Offered) - The Aristocrats - Now includes tutorial

    I've noticed that there seems to be a shortage of custom skins for the folks we're all trying to steal from. Bystander can be just as important to good mission design as guards, and while new skins for peasants are fairly common, it's hard to get your hands on a new skin for a nobleman or woman.

    This occurred to me as I took inventory of my own set of custom aristo skins and found it quite lacking. After spending some time dredging through old threads here and seeing dozens dedicated to guard repaints and new zombies, I realised that this is a very common issue.

    My current project requires quite a few... it's a very bystander-heavy setting, and requires a great deal of pompous louts strutting their finery, both as targets for pickpocket and flighty messengers to guard-laden flee-points. Many a time I've told myself, 'Okay, just use the T2 set. They're boring, they all look the same, they don't even look like noblefolk from any era, but you've got better things to do than sit around making a half dozen or more fancy skins.' In the end thought, my dissatisfaction for the default set got the better of me. It's true though - I don't have time for this, and neither does anyone else currently on the team. That's when I started poking around for skins people posted, to see if there were any I could use. I'm empty handed. So...

  2. First of all, just to be clear on this - does anyone know of a good skin or set of skins that's already done and released that I could use? Does anyone recall a skin released with an FM that I could possibly gain permission to use? I assume the second is more likely, after my fruitless search, but I am not taking anything for granted.

  3. Secondly, does anyone want to jump on this and try their hand at skinning some aristocrats? At this point I really don't want to start headhunting for a new team member to churn out some skins for my exclusive use - I think it would be far better for how much free time I have and for everyone else if this were treated as a "free for all" mini-project, with hopefully a wide range of contributors making skins for anyone to use in their FMs.

    To get the ball rolling on that, I've decided to contribute the two I did myself to the cause. I don't want to be the one who says, hay guys let's do this, and then stand around tapping my foot waiting for someone to show me the money. I invite anyone who would like to use these (with proper credit given of course) to help themselves, as a show of good will and an indication that I am serious about this. Okay, maybe it's also to let people know both that I am not asking people to do something that I couldn't also do myself, and to give an example of the quality of work that's expected. Nothing fantastic, but certainly decent.

    Download them here.

    Again, nothing fancy, and mostly in keeping with the established "style" of the Thief 2 nobles, though a bit more visual interest. I am less concerned with custom faces, as most players see these characters either from afar of from behind anyway, though I did try to give the lady a pasty-pampered-madeup look. I'm not sure how happy I am with how that turned out though. The gif of her skin I posted is for display only - I decided to go with a tga skin for her in-game. I was going to switch the man over to the tga as well, but then I realised that I couldn't find my original layered full color psd version of his skin, and much gnashing of teeth was to follow.

    I think I am going to keep it at that for now. If there's interest in this, I'd like to go into both skinning techniques (finding reference photos, working with the photos in photoshop, etc) to maybe help along those interested in doing this, but with less experience, and hopefully also some discussion on what these aristocrats really could or should be wearing - as the bland, nondescript T2 designs are quite uninspiring. If we're very, very lucky, maybe some talented mesh editors (I am not) could step forward and we can discuss the possibility of coat tales, frilly collars and cuffs, oversized dresses, and shoulders for the women that don't make them look like they're trying to make a touchdown. What I really wish would be to see an eclectic variety of Tudor to Victorian outfits for these colorful balls of "please pick-pocket-me" glee. That would require some serious mesh work though.

    (Before someone says it, I am aware of Targa's (?) T3 style female noble. While I certainly love it, I feel it also presents a problem of simply standing out too much - she's rather too different, too high detail and finely crafted to really fit in with the rest of the T2 set. I tend to think that a consistency of quality - even if it's a lowered quality, is more important than having on extremely good looking example amidst a sea of normal. Until someone steps up and tries to redo all of the T2 meshes, ss2rebirth style, with that level of quality, I feel they'd end up being more of an immersion killer than an enricher.)

  4. #2
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    Those look good, though the link's dead.
    We could definitely do with some new noble skins.

    I have no 2D artistic talent, but I might be willing to help out with making a few minor modifications to the existing meshes.

  5. #3
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Toronto
    Digi those are excellent, and I certainly hope you manage to recruit people to make more of the same caliber.

    The question that pops to my mind is: do you have comparably good guard and other AI skins aswell? I know there's been a few excellent ones floating around, but I don't recall seeing any with photrealistic meshes (correct me if I'm wrong).

    Anyways, good on ya - those are great

  6. #4
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon

    and I fixed the link, too

  7. #5
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Fields of bluegrass
    I am at a conference in Los Angeles at the moment and the evenings are pretty dull, so I may try to do a few tonight. I have no way to upload them, even screenshots, until Friday, however. Digi, if I get anything respectable done, I'll email them to you if you want and let you post them until this weekend. I'm fairly adept at recolouring existing skins, but have less practice with actually changing the textures in a skin - so this is a good chance for me to work on that even if I don't produce anything worth releasing.

  8. #6


    Is there anyway to up the resolution of the textures used for api's..? or are we at the limit of dromed atm..? I have seen leaps and bounds in the object texturing of late, and would hope we could do the same for the api textures etc.


  9. #7
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    APIs? I'll assume you mean AIs.
    Most of the AIs already use 256x256 textures, but there's no reason why an AI can't use more than one 256x256 texture.
    Using them would mean redoing the UVMapping on the models though, and it would almost be the same amount of work to create high-poly AI meshes and UV-mapping those while you were at it.

    Oh, and the multi-texture (higher resolution) AIs would stand out as being too detailed unless all AIs were improved.

  10. #8
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    Thank you for your interest Yandros. Maybe this post will help you along and encourage you to experiment.

    I thought I'd go on a little walkthrough on the process of making one of these, and hopefully someone will catch the bug along the way and try it for themselves. The first step, really, is to figure out what you're going to do.

    I always start by searching for an example photo. This photo is less for an idea of what to make the character look like, and more as a source of bits to cut and paste into the skin. There's lots of places you can look, but I started my search tonight on ebay. I typed "tudor costume" into the search box and away I go.

    You'll get dozens of options right away, but it's easier in the longrun to find something with many high-res close-up photos of it. This will do. Looks like we're making a long-dressed noblewoman.

    I'm using Photoshop CS2.

    I like to start with an averaged base skin. It's a combination of many existing skins which I devised because, on the one hand, I need a base to follow, and on the other, I want to make sure that I am not following it too closely. This also helps me with things I may not have considered when choosing a mesh for the skin.

    First, the colors need a bit of work, I believe. I'll start off by doing a Hue/Saturation shift to the base photos to make them a bit brighter and more golden - it needs to really pop when it's on the character in the game. I did a +10 to both hue and saturation.

    This one should be really easy...

    Just lasso the parts you want, paste them into the skin, transform tool it into shape, and when you're done, run a sharpen filter to bring it back into focus.

    The dress is different from the top part, because on the mesh it's stretched to cover about three times as much area as the top, so be sure to scrunch up the texture so that it will sort of look right. When you're distorting parts and want them to line up with others, just overlap them a little and touch it up with the eraser to blend them in a bit better.

    Now for the back - remember, the player will see this side much more up close than they will the front. We don't have a back view of the dress, so we make it up. Duplicating the front is fine, but do something to change it up. Here I ran a filter over the pattern in the middle, and then blurred it. Then I played with the hue & saturation a bit.

    For the upper part I just copied and flipped the lower, transformed to fit, and then used the eraser to blend them together.

    Looks like we can use the existing dark cloth from the averaged skin after all. But it needs some hue/saturation work to make it blend properly. There we go...

  11. #9
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    Use the eraser to smooth out any edges that clash too much.

    I don't like the pattern of the average texture at the top on the front though. I'll paste in some of the cloth from one of the photos and then fit it in. The eraser again comes in handy to blend it all together.

    The arms are very simple on this one. All I'm doing is cut&paste from one of the photos, and then using the transform-warp to fit it in place. Some bright/contrast will make the folds of the fabric stand out more. Finally, we cut it to fit.

    The poofy shoulders will go well with the mesh, but the way the mapping is on the mesh it could either go well or look like crap. We'll have to see. Experience has taught me what usually works though... I'm not actually going to cut and paste from the shoulder on the photo though, I'm going to use a sample from the dress. I'm going to make it much bigger than you see in the photo, since that's how the mesh is. Transform, fit in place, trim it to shape.

    The way the texture mapping is done, the top of the back is smeared haphazardly over the shoulders in a horrible mess of slop. So don't fight it, just make the top of the back the same as the shoulders - sort of. The shoulders are so distorted, it's impossible to get anything to line up anyway. It's very likely we'll have to revisit this after a test.

    That bit will also work for the cuff. Let's also bring in yea-old-t2-hand.

    That covers it for the arm. Most of her leg is colored... I'm just going to grab a T2 foot and change the color. I hate these feet, but they're so hard to see on the mesh and so unnoticeable when you're playing, that there's no point in spending time on it.

    Okay, now for the face. I could spend another three to four hours hunting for a face and then editing it in (it can easily take longer to do the face than the rest of the skin) but for the sake of this I am just going to grab a T2 one and paste it in. I already had noblewoman 4 open for her foot, so I'll use her head too.

    Oops, I made the front of the dress too high. Let's fix that... Need to be able to see that necklace.

    The black of the new dress doesn't go high enough on the far right, got to touch that up. The smudge tool will work fine there.

    Almost done... let's put a mechanist's face on there just for fun though.

    Going to need some work. Putting it to half opacity and moving it around to line up the eyes and the mouth usually works, when you're transplanting a face from an old skin to a new one. The eraser will smooth out the edges.

    Skin tone could use some work... This takes some jumping around between HSL and Bright/Contrast to get right... pretty tricky, but you'd be surprised how close you can get it with some patience. Once I get it as good as I think will do, I touch up some more with the eraser, and then I use the blurr tool to work at the edges even more and try to blend the new face in with the existing head.

    Since you have the blurr tool out, and we're making this a RGB TGA rather than a 256 GIF, touch up some of the jaggies on the face and smooth her out.

    Now it's time to test. Remember when saving it as a TGA, do 16 bits per pixel.

    In dromed, I set up a gallery just for testing skins on meshes. It's all of the suitable female meshes (including some guests) with the same texture, so I can browse through and decide which mesh my new skin works the best on.

    I'm going to get this posted though, and come back with that as a part 2.

  12. #10
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon

    Here's the wimminfolk. I am not 100% sure that they're all different... there may be some duplicates.

    These are the ones we want to focus on... I think it looks best with the dress coming all the way to the ground. Coincidentally, these are the four noblewoman meshes.

    I think this one works best with the face. We'll go with her. The height is irrelivant - swap out the cal file for the desired height and you're good to go.

    Now for the problems. As you can see above, the top of her dress right below the belt is a nasty mess. I am not sure that can be helped. I could change the pattern of the dress in that portion to something that looks okay as a smear.

    Naturally, and as expected, the shoulders are borked. I can either try to make them both have the gold or both have the black.

    Ah yes, the left underarm. This looks like it's from the top of her back, which gives a strong argument for removing it.

    Finally, the "belt" area on her back is also fudged. I checked the other meshes, and some of the serving girls don't have this problem - neither does the pagan girl. I thought of switching to one of the serving girls for this skin - one even has a dress down to her toes, but the shape of the face is simply all
    wrong for the one on the skin. Better to just deal with the problem rather than pick a new mesh.

  13. #11
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    First, the front of the dress. A cut & paste from the back to the blurry area will work fine. Give it some character. A drop shadow also helps, makes it look a little more like part of the dress and not just a pasted in texture.

    Now for the top of the back. I'll try to minimize it and see what happens. Another oversight from before was the hair - it should have gone on top of the clothes, not under.

    Not much I can do for the back other than hit it with a sledgehammer - or in this case, that bit that I was using for the top of the back and the cuff and put it on the belt-line, and hope that it looks better distorted than without.

    I don't know if I can fix the underarm problem yet or not. I'm going to bring her back into the game and see how those fixes worked.

    Hooray, the back is still a mess.

    The front on the other hand looks much better. I think that solved the problem nicely, and added some new visual interest. But I have bigger fish to fry now...

    Did I mention something about the texture mapping of the shoulders being a sloppy bag of poo? Yeah.

    Okay, working on the back some more. I decide that a field of black is the only way to deal with those shoulders. Why do I go through this every time? I pulled the details on the back down, and it reveals a nice mess below.

    No problem, a cut and paste will fix that.

  14. #12
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    The front now looks much better - I can still see a little bit that's not supposed to be there though - above her shoulder on my left.

    The back looks so much better - only now it sort of looks like she's got a golden hood there... whatever. Her belt area is still borked.

    I decided to also try and fix that underarm problem. Since I can't remove what's there - I'll try to make the other side match. I replicated it at about where it should go, and crossed my fingers. I also took a stab at re-aligning the belt area to try to make it match up. If screwy on the skin means OK in the game, so be it.

    The results are ... iffy...

    And what the heck is going on with the belt area? Then I realised that the texture mapping for below the belt is actually mirror of what it is above - I was pushing the details in the wrong direction! :P

    Try again. I lowered the back details down even more, to try to keep them from spilling over to the front, and to make it look less like a hood. I tweaked the underarm details so they also won't spill into the wrong areas, and to generally fit better. There was quite a bit of trial and error here - I'm skipping four attempts to get it right and cutting right to the end result.

    And the results...

    I think that will do.

    She's done. \o/

  15. #13

  16. #14
    Registered: Nov 2002
    Location: ColoRADo
    Very nice Digi!

    I thought I'd mention one possible fix for the 'smear' under belt (although your fix is great) would be to scale that portion of tex vertically half the size, copy/paste and mirror the vertical just like you did on the back.

    Then you have 2 squashed sections of tex under belt, these will stretch in game and be much closer to original. However they will be lower res and maybe kindof blurry. So your fix probably looks better overall anyway.

    That is a good way to get tex to fit on areas that stretch though, so I thought I'd give it a mention.

  17. #15
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    Thanks, Schwaa.

    Another thing I could have done was, since the upper and lower portions of the back are mirror of each-other, simply shifted the whole bit over in one direction until the two parts aligned naturally (each coming from the opposite direction). Those who wish to try this for themselves should consider that.

    But on that note, I am a little disappointed in the level of interest shown about this so far.

  18. #16
    Registered: Nov 2002
    Location: ColoRADo
    I'm sure it's appreciated by those who'll use it.

    I've just noticed a major slowdown in activity around here lately. Used to be you'd post soemthing and 20 taffers would respond within an hour.

    These days 20 taffers may never respond.

  19. #17
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Toronto
    I'm hoping it's just the summer weather - people are wanting to be out and about. But I did notice the same thing, that things are slowing down around here.

    Hopefully with more and more excellent projects on the go like this one, we can rejuvinate the community a little. Hopefully the Horror contest will do the same thing, as well as Yandros' HMDK.

    Anyways, keep it up Digi they do look amazing! I, for one look forward to swiping them for AA2

  20. #18
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: Formby, NW England
    Another reason for the lack of thread action is that graphics is hard.

  21. #19
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Fields of bluegrass
    Wow, Digi! I never got around to working on this yet (traveling took too much of my energy) but you've turned it into a really nice tutorial. You ought to HTML-ize this post and put it up at Dromesday, The Circle, or Dromed Central. Speaking of which, is Twisty ever going to finish updating it? If not, you may as well remove the "Sorry we're under construction" message that's been there for a few years now.

  22. #20
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    I'd say that two reasons that TEG is slow right now are: 1) A lot of people have exams at this time of year and 2) a lot of people are busy working on the Horror contest.

  23. #21
    Registered: Oct 2006
    Location: France
    Wow !
    Can I ask you where do you find your templates of clothes ? Or do you create them ?

  24. #22
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    He said so at the start of the tutorial:

    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Nightfall View Post
    I always start by searching for an example photo. This photo is less for an idea of what to make the character look like, and more as a source of bits to cut and paste into the skin. There's lots of places you can look, but I started my search tonight on ebay. I typed "tudor costume" into the search box and away I go.

  25. #23
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo

    Digi, that turned out to be quite a good tutorial on something I've been interested in learning about. Saved for reference. I can't work on it now, but if there's a plan of action here, I'd be happy to try my hand at skinning some AI when I have the opportunity later in the summer. I think it's a fun idea that we periodically give ourselves these little community projects.

  26. #24
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    I hope you're right, NV. I wouldn't want to see my favorite forum at TTLG fade to a crawl.

    Yes R, graphics are hard. I wasn't sure if my walkthrough would make people go, "hey, that doesn't look so bad, I think I might try it," or if they'd go "Ugh, that looks horribly complicated, no way am I getting into that!"

    I don't suppose it would help if I told people that I am a total noob at Photoshop.

    Yandros, you're right, I was considering putting this into Dromed Central. I just wanted to test the water with it here first. I'm also thinking of starting a thread to get some help from you guys on how to design a new Thief Editing front page for The Circle, of which Dromed Central would be a part, hand and hand with new entries such as the Wiki. I don't know if Twisty plans on doing anything more with central - I think removing the Under Construction tag after all these years is probably smart. Heh.

    Schwaa, can we expect to see a new noble skin by you?

    demagogue, I have a few other "community project" ideas bumping around in my head (such as the already mentioned redesign for the thief editing front page) ... maybe I'll give that and some others a shot.

    Nightstroll, there's many places online where you can find pictures of clothing like this. Photo galleries from renaissance fairs are common. The reason why Ebay is such a good target is because vendors often have a series of high-res photos showing closeup details of the products, which makes it very easy to get all sorts of samples for your work. However, I was doing this for years before I realised that Ebay was a great source, so there's certainly many other options out there.

    And finally,

    Sliptip, I want to see you make a skin. I am not yet convinced that there's something you can't do.

  27. #25
    Registered: Jan 2007
    Location: Germany
    I made some guard skins. makeing skins is not that hard as some peaople think
    Maybe i could do some noble skin's ( but it wont look perfect )


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