So I've found what I think is a great method to making great looking skins, that's not a lot of work. NOTE: I personally use Photoshop CS4 to create my skins, but this method should work in Paint.NET and GIMP, as well as any other image editor with layers, layer opacity, and blending modes.
IMPORTANT: If something doesn't make sense, or you need help finding the correct button, please simply just ask me! I'll be happy to help to the best of my abilities! You can either put a reply in the thread or PM me. As well, if someone with Paint.NET, GIMP, or other programs can confirm that this method is usable in those programs (as well as people that use other programs!) as described, I'd really appreciate it.
Edit: More edits will be coming along in due time to hopefully alleviate the massive, scary wall of text and better organize this into a better, easier read. No current ETA, but keep your eyes peeled.
Things you will need:
1. Your skin. Use a very basic skin. Only apply flat, base colors. If you are using MCSkinEdit, do not apply noise to the image. We will do this on our own later.
2. SchnitzelKiller's beautiful "ambient occlusion map". An AO (short for ambient occlusion) map is a map (which is essentially part of the skin) that applies self-shadowing to the model. This will allow us to make the model look great in full light. The character's base skin appears to use an applied AO map as well. The AO map is available here. Save this somewhere you will remember it!
3. Any stock/vanilla/unmodified version of the terrain skin. I personally use Dropshock's because it was the first one I found that fit what I needed. That specific image is available here. However, any stock/vanilla/unmodified version of the terrain skin will work, granted that it has the white cloth. Save this somewhere you will remember it!
4. Basic to intermediate knowledge of how to work with your image editor of choice. You will need to know how to create new layers to work in, make and adjust selections, adjust the opacity of the layers we create, and tweak the blending modes of the layers we create.
Instructions: Examples will be included - I will be using the skin I just finished, for Success.
1. Open your skin. If you're creating the skin in your image editor, save it once you have the base skin completed.
At this point, you should have something roughly like this:
2. Open the AO map you should have saved, select the entire image, and copy it. Return to your skin, create a new layer, and paste the AO map into the new layer. Adjust the map as needed to fit the image (sometimes it won't paste in the exact spot you need, so don't fret!). Once the AO map is placed correctly, you may close the AO map image, as we won't need it again.
-[Addendum] Some programs will have an "import" or "place" feature, which will allow you to directly place the AO map image into a new layer without opening the file and copying it. Feel free to use it, because it hastens the process!
3. At this point, the AO map should be completely overriding the base skin. This is normal, because the AO map layer is set to 100% opacity on the "normal" blend mode. This means that the AO map layer is fully opaque and is not blending with the skin layer beneath. Adjust the AO map's layer properties so that it is using the "Multiply" blending mode, and the opacity to roughly 50%.
At this point, your skin should be looking about like this:
-[Addendum]What we are doing with the blend mode and opacity is changing how the AO map layer interacts with the layer beneath. The "Multiply" blending mode causes brighter colors on the AO map to become more transparent - white is fully transparent, whilst black is fully opaque. This doesn't always looks good on a skin, so we simply adjust the opacity down so that the black is slightly transparent as well. You don't have to stick to 50% opacity, it just looks good on most skins. Feel free to play with the transparency until YOU like it!
4. Even with the AO map correctly shadowing your skin, it's still a little flat. This is where the terrain image comes in handy. Open the terrain image and select only the white cloth. Copy it, return to your skins, and create a second new layer (you should now have three total layers!). Now you need to paste the white cloth texture until it covers what you would like. You may cover the entire layer, or save the texture for just the clothing your character wears. Again, edit the layer properties to 50% opacity and the "Multiply" blend mode. Save your image, your skin is complete!
In the final stages of skinning, your skin should look like this:
-[Addendum] What we're doing here is basically the same as with the AO map. However, instead of creating shadows on the model, we're simply giving it texture, so it's not completely flat. Again, you can play with the opacity until you decide you like it, you aren't required to stay to 50%!
-[Addendum 2] Getting more advanced once more, some image editing programs allow you to create "patterns" that you can save for later use. This again simplifies and hastens the process of creating the skin. Simply select the white cloth and find the "Create Pattern" button. (In Photoshop, it's under Image>Define Pattern). From here, allow the program to create the pattern from the selection. Now it should be saved, so you never have to open the terrain image for this tutorial again! Merely create a new layer, and fill it with the paint bucket. Instead of using a color, you need to set it to use patterns. Select the white cloth pattern we made, and fill away! It's also a good idea to make your selection for where you're going to place the pattern, rather than go back and erase areas you don't want.
Here's a comparison of each stage of this tutorial. You can see how it evolves with each step. View the image on its own to see all of it.
-THIS IS REALLY ONLY A GUIDE. You do NOT have to follow it letter by letter!
-When creating your base skin, try to stay away from pure white (RGB 255, 255, 255), pure black (RGB 0, 0, 0), and other "pure" colors (values being 255). The reason? Pure white will never get any brighter - that's the brightest it will go. It will always be very bright, and can make an otherwise pretty skin look average. Pure black is the same, although it gets no darker - when night falls, black won't get any darker. So try to use "almost white" or "very light grey" and "almost black" or "very dark grey". Other "pure" colors can seem extremely bright and vivid. I understand that Minecraft is very cartoony, but I personally prefer staying away from "pure" colours if I can. For instance, if I want a bright red, I use RGB 224, 0, 0 rather than RGB 255, 0, 0. You don't have to listen to me, though.
-Sometimes, certain colours are hard to achieve if you're trying to use HSB or RGB values. If you don't have color swatches and would like a color, feel free to ask, I've got a plethora of swatches with RGB, HSB, and hex values that I don't mind sharing. I know flesh can be kind of hard to get right. :smile.gif:
Interesting method. So far I've hand-picked colors for shading my skins without ever once considering to use layers, which is strange for me, now that I think of it, since I tend to use lots of layers for other kinds of artwork. I'll have to give this a try someday. It should help with making nicely shaded skins in half the time it would normally take me. Thanks for sharing! :biggrin.gif:
But if you look at your avatar, there is the same, sharp change in light from the face and side of the head to the underside of the head. They may be a gradient underneath in the shadow itself, but that's because Blender's lighting engine has a much higher resolution than minecraft.
The shadows in the ambient occlusion map were also made with Blender. However, unlike a render such as in your avatar, they are a static shadow and can only be as large as the character skin, which gives them a much lower resolution.