View Full Version : Acquiring and using textures creatively

28th Dec 2003, 21:54
So here I am on my Christmas holiday and I'm not much inclined to do any work on my FM's, but I did think about trying my hand at tutorial writing. Well this isn't exactly a tutorial as such... more of a cute idea I had and thaught would be fun to demonstrate. I hope some of you will find this useful, or atleast fun to read, and maybe others can contribute their ideas. If you want more help with some of the techniques discussed below, try doing a search for texture creation on Google, or check out the nice tutorial written by Alexius which can be found here (http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=71559&highlight=texture+tutorial).

The Idea
I hit upon the idea of aquiring textures from DVD movie screengrabs. I bet you can make a list of films in your head right now that would provide some tasty textures! The newly remastered version of Raiders of the Lost Arc may indeed hold a treasure trove of nice possibilities, but as far as the legal side of things are concerned I'm already on thin ice, so I have decided to demonstrate this idea using an older (personal) classic, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Besides, it was the movie I was watching at the time the lightbulb came on! :)

Like I said, it's an older film and the print is a little grainy, but it should do fine as an example. I used PowerDVD to capture screens, IfranView to crop and save them, a combination of Texture Edit Basic and Corel Painter 8 to edit the textures, and Paint Shop Pro 7 for final colour manipulation and DromEd family conversion. I used these programs becouse they are what I had at hand, but other software will do the job just as well... if not better.

Diving In
My favorite part of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is the fight scene with the six-armed Budda figure in the shrine of the savages. What I wanted to do was create a complete mini texture family using screengrabs from this scene, so I could build the shrine in DromEd loosely basing my design on that of the set. First of all I went through the whole scene with my finger poised over the screengrab hotkey looking for shots worth using. To be able to roughly recreate the shrine using only textures from the film, I needed a few key shots of the cave walls, the sandy floor, various column and trim detail, and a statue or two. Here's how I got on...

The above example shows how I loaded the picture up in Ifranview and selected areas I wished to crop. Even if you don't end up using everything you grab, it's probably a good idea to get as much as you can. As you will see later, I combined a number of individual textures to create single usable ones.
Here I found a nice bit of trim and the best view of the main Budda motif that circles the pillars. Notice how Sinbad's hand obscures part of the lower band. No problem. I simply cropped the motif in half and flipped the texture later.
Ahah... A quick overhead shot of the statue falling gets me the perfect ground texture.
There's that oh-so important cave wall texture I was looking for. Note how the actors are kind enough to step aside for me. ;)
And would you look at that. The camera man is even nice enough to pan left so I can grab that rather impressive looking statue! :D

That should do me for now. I have all the main bases covered, so it's time to move onto the editing.

28th Dec 2003, 21:55
Getting Your Hands Dirty
After I had cropped and saved all my textures, I viewed them individually and made minor crops to cut out any details I didn't want. Each texture was then shrunk to fit the nearest compatable texture size for DromEd, so that my cave texture for instance, was shrunk to 512x512. As a rule it is not a good idea to make textures bigger at this stage, but at the same time, I wanted them to stay as large as possible. Time to chuck them in Texture Edit Basic.

In the above picture, we can see our little statue friend again. I copied the original image, then flipped it horizontally and copied that across next to the original. The good thing about Texture Edit is that it was originally made for the Tomb Raider level editing community, so it uses a tile based system to build textures. Each tile is 64x64, so is perfect for our needs. And as long as you import your textures in incriments of 64, you will always get them aligned perfectly. This can be done with any number of image editors, but with TE, it's easy as pie.

Once I had all my textures fitted to size, I used Painter 8 to do a little tricknology. Above you can see our friend again, only this time I have pasted him onto my cave textue and got rid of the background. I then tweaked the colour and contrast a little to match him up with the wall, before finally tweaking the transparency to help him blend in better. Other textures were tiled and the edges blended to make seamless joints.

In the above example, you can see how I used a number of textures to create the various parts of the pillars. I then cut the pillar into two seperate textues and saved them. Once I had edited each texture to my liking, I then added a slight paper texture effect to them so they wouldn't look so flat. Too much can mess up your carefully blended seams, so be careful.

Lastly, it was over into Paint Shop Pro for a final colour and contrast tweak. I find it best to have all the textues in view so I can manipulate each textue and see how it stands alongside the others.

So in a little under 2 hours I had a nice new 8 piece texture set to play with. It's not perfect by any means, and I will be spending far more time tweaking future sets. But for the purpose of this demonstration I think the results are great. Here's a quick mock-up screen of what the finished mission might look like...

Thanks for reading this. I hope some of you are inspired enough to have a go yourself. If you do, please post a few screenies in this thread. I would love to see what the more patient/tallented members can come up with. And if you have any more ideas on textures or unusual sources for textures, post them too.

Have fun. :)

30th Dec 2003, 21:01
Creating Custom Object Skins
Creating skins for AI can be very time consuming, particularly if you want the end result to be of a high enough standard for current games. Thief skins don't need as much time and attention, becouse alot of the fine detail is lost in the translation.
It is still rather tricky though, so let's start with some simple custom object skins. This will help you learn some of the skills you will need to tackle AI skins.

Skinning A Door
Doors are used in almost every FM. They are also a very important part of Thief's gameplay. Let's skin a door.

In the above picture you can see a set of wooden 4x8 double doors. I love wooden doors, but these pair don't really goad the player into wondering what hides behind them do they? Time to spice 'em up a little!

Finding What You Need
Your first problem is finding the original textures used for the object you want to skin. You can create a new copy of an object and skin that, but for now let's stick the simple stuff.

Firstly, you need to select your object and open up it's properties. Click on the objects name then on shape to find the model name. Our door is called door91.

Now you need to find the .bin file that corresponds with the model name. To do this, unzip the obj.crf file (if you haven't already done so) that can be found in the RES folder of your main Thief directory. I will assume you are already working with a full install.

Once you have found the right .bin file, open it up using Notepad and look at the mess. Near the top of the file you should see one or more words which you can actually read. These are the textures your object uses. Our door only uses two textures, DOOR12.GIF and DHANDLE.GIF. Make a note of the texture names then find them in the txt or txt16 folders. Copy them to your work folder, or make a note of their dimensions. The door textures are simple, but other more complex objects have textures that will need refering to so you know where edges are etc...

30th Dec 2003, 21:02
Putting Together Your New Skin
Now that we know the name and dimesions of our textures, we can start to create our custom ones. For our door, I want to find a nice solid looking wood textue with a heavy grain and some trim to manipulate. I also want to add some sort of ornamentation later on to give the door a more dramatic look.

After I had chosen my texture, I resized it to 128x128 and dumped it in TE. It's a good idea to have a texture that is around 2 or 3 times the size of the original. This makes it easier to work on, and looks better when shrunk down. I then flipped the texture vertically and pasted that below the original.

We now have our basic door, but there's a nasty black line across the middle of it, so let's crop and save a section of that crossbeam. Notice how I also include the shadow above the band.

Next it's into Painter where I place the cropped crossbeam over the black line, taking care to line up the slats.

Now we need some extra decoration to give the door more personality. I chose a brass lions head as this compliments the wood colour. By simply choosing the right decoration, you can give the player a visual clue as to what lies beyond. I intend to use the lions head as a motif throughout my mission, so it seems fitting to use it on the doors.

30th Dec 2003, 21:04
Zooming in a little, we can carefully eraise the lions background.

The brass looks a little dull and unpolished, so I decided to turn up the saturation a little. You can manipulate texture colours to suit the environment you plan to use them in. You can also change the colour of a texture to make it look like it's made of a different material. Experimentation is the key. Be creative.

The lions mane wasn't as prominent as I wanted it to be, so I selected one of the lighter brass colours using the ink dropper tool and carefully picked out the detail.

Once I was happy with the look of the lion, I used a negative (black) glow/hilight effect to add shadow and contrast below the head and under the middle crossbeam.

It's always a good idea to save your work multiple times during editing, and becouse I am working with layers, I can delete the lions head and have a basic door too. I used the same techniques shown above to do a similar makeover on the door handle texture.

Now let's get them Thief compatable.

30th Dec 2003, 21:06
Using Your New Doors In Thief
Next we resize and rename our textues to match the original Thief ones, and drop the colour depth down to 256 if it is higher. The first colour in an objects texture palette is transparent in Thief, so by using Paintshop Pro, I change the first colour in the palette to hot pink so I could easily see any bits of the door that would be transparent. Then I used the colour replacer to paint over the pink bits of the texture with the second palette colour. Finally I saved the textures as .gif's. Now the textures are ready for Thief.

Open up your main Thief directory and (if you haven't already done so) create a folder called "obj". Open this folder and create a second sub folder called "txt16" and dump your textures in there. It doesn't matter if the original textures were in the txt folder, just throw everything in txt16. Now load up your mission at take a look.

So there they are ingame. They certainly look alot more impressive than the standard wooden doors. Not bad for 20 minutes work (unlike all this typing :( )!

I'll be covering AI skinning next, but for now get cracking with some object skins. :)