This is a tutorial on using excisting Dom3 graphics to make new units. If one has artistic talent, he probably is able to create good looking sprites from scratch (see some mods by Amos, for example), but the rest of us will have to do with what we have got. When I first started modding and tried doing my own artwork, the results were.. not too encouraging. Then I decided to take a easier route and even managed to get some compliments for my artwork. In this tutorial, I'll show step-by-step on how I edit the humble Peasant into a fierce Rabble Rouser.
I use GIMP. So if you prefer some other image edit program, you might have difficulties following on what tools I exactly use. However the stuff I do is quite basic and should be able to be reproduced in all-image altering programs.
There are some things you should have done before starting to make a unit.
1)Have the spritedumps. If you don't have them, you can load them from this post (they're in the Spritedumps3.21.zip) They are large pictures which contain most unit sprites in the game. They are a must-have tool when editing, allowing you to easily skim large amount of graphics for intresting poses and equipment. Organized sprites are also a must have. Orginally done by EricM and expanded by other users. I've added the combined download to this post.
2)Have a clear picture on what kind of unit you are making and how it will look like. You'll notice that not having a proper plan cost me some extra work in the making of the Rabble Rouser.
3)Be prepared to quickly view the unit ingame. Use a modded SP game and alter one of the mods so that you'll replace some unit graphic with your own.
So the we'll be making today is a Rabble Rouser for my Holy War mod. Thematically speaking, he is a charismatic and religious peasant, able to recruit fellow peasants into the service of the awakening god by their immense charisma and fiery speeches alone. Artistically speaking this means that he is dressed like a peasant, unarmored, but he will have an inspiring pose.
I decide that the attack sprite of the regular dom3 Peasant will work as our base. Why the attack sprite? Well, this guy will be summoning regular peasants and thus be often seen with them ingame. It will help to differentiate him from regular peasant if he has different pose. The regular attack pose isn't too inspiring though, so we'll use a random guy I found in a spritedump as a help.
Our starting point. When doing size 2 troops, I usually use a 64x64 canvas. The extra space is useful, especially when using parts from several sprites. Let's start by ”removing” the pitchfork. He'll have a pitchfork, but he won't be holding it like that!
Since I'm going to need the Pitchfork for later use, I first select it by lasso and copy paste it for later use. Then I remove the pitchfork with black pen (expect on the parts where it overlaps with the guy).
Now let's put that random guy to use. I'm actually only intrested in his left hand, so I select it and fuse it with our peasant. After removing the peasants orginal left arm, we have a lot more inspiring pose, with slight miscolorings.
Now were going to start recoloring the new arm. I first pick the lightest shade of white in the arm and do a box of it. Then I take the second lightest shade and make a box of it right next to the old one. Repeat until you have done a box with the darkest shade. This will give us a nice thick line of showing us the the different shades in the white arm. Now, since we will recolor the arm to the ”Peasant Brown”, I'll create a same kind of line but it will feature the shades of brown from the peasant garb. This line will be placed exactly beneath the old one.
Okay, we have lines. What now? We can use the lines to easily view which white colors will be replaced by which brown colors. This way we can recolor it and still have the advantage of the shading in the orginal work! I usually fasten the job by using ”select by color” and ”fill with color” tools.
Let's see how the arm looks after we have replaced 3 lightest shades of white in the arm with the 3 lightest shades of brown from the garb.
See the difference? Let's go all the way baby!
Done! There are some pixels untouched, but we'll get to those later.
When I stated doing sprite works I constantly used this ”boxing” method and slowly got the hang of shading by seeing how KO had done it.
Enough rambling, onwards! Let's finish his pose and outlook. That Pitchfork has been laying around for too long. Let's give it back. I select it and rotate by 90 degrees.
Ta-Daa! The pitchfork still has the fists of the orginal peasant sprite, but we will tackle that later.
This guy still looks a tad too much alike the orginal peasant. Beard will be a good way give him some authority. There are many well-haired inviduals in Dom3, but after some pondering I decided to use...
* drumroll *
But, look! It's your friendly neighborhood EA Philosopher. Let's take his head before he starts to wonder where his legs went..
Just in the spot! Remember, with beard comes great authority.
You're probably wondering about that torso of an Rhuax Anointed. To tell the truth we are not intrested in the guy itself, just his flaming fist. You see, the pitchforks and torches are clishee weapons of your average angry peasant mob. Making this guy wield both at the same time will give him ”the champion of peasants” look we are going for.
So what we do is make a makesift shaft and put the Spenta's flaming fist (after mirroring it) on top of it.
Look at that, it worked! The shaft is a tad too long, but we'll fix that later.
That peasant head is there to provide his hat back (which I accidentally lost when replacing his head).
Hatless man no more, our Rabble Rouser is starting to shape up. There a numerous clitches on him thought. Let's start to fix those.
Let's remove the extra fists from the Pitchfork and give him a proper grip on his large tool.
Now that he is wielding his trusty pitchfork, our trusty (a)Rouser will be safe from any nearby Igors.
His right hand looks odd thought. Probably because it still has part of the orginal horizontal pitchfork shaft on it. Let's draw some peasant brown on top of it..
His right arm is okay now. But the shaft of the old pitchfork still haunts us! His waist has that odd dark line because of it. Let's draw some brown on top it..
Waist? Check. Remember how me missed some spots when recoloring his arm from white to brown? Let's fix that now.
Now we are getting into fine detail, but he has that odd vertical dark line in his chest (it's from the orginal peasant sprite). Let's fix that.
Now let's make that Torch more ”Torchy” by shortening it and giving some basic shading. We'll also fix the akward angle.
Ok. All the minor clitches from our little game of ”mix & match” have been fixed. Let's see what we have created. Hmm.. This guy looks a bit too meek and orginal to be a charismatic leader. Those shorts look pretty redicilious on a old man. Let's try giving him a robe.
I pondered on the possibilty of using the under-waist of an existing unit, but I'd also like to show some ”heavy” editing in this tutorial, so let's draw him a robe by expanding his under-waist areas.
Let's start by recoloring his bare feet into peasant browns.
Note that we could now easily go for leathry pants if we just erased his kilt. But I decided to do a robe and robe it shall be.
He has that empty space between his legs. Let's fill that with dark brown.
Much better. But as you can see, the shading is not quite right. That's because I used just a single shade of brown. I'll now improve the shades by using several shades of dark brown (the darkest shades are reserved for the middle and lighter shades to the edges of the are we just drew).
Ok, he now has a robe. At this point he felt confident enough to view this unit in-game. I can't provide a screenshot thought, because my laptop has a problem with that. Graphically speaking, he looked okay, but..
He still doesn't look too charismatic. It's probably his white hair. Why won't those damned young chaps of today listen their elderly! In my time I remember...
You see? Let's make him younger. But the Beard of Authority must stay. So let's just recolor his body hair. Ignoring Anime, we have 4 options for the color of facial hair. Black, Blonde, Brunette and Red. This guy is already too brown so brunette is out. And I'm not too hots on red hair myself. Black.. meh, he's not emo. So he'll be long beared blonde. Vikings for the win!
”Ok. You're going to make him blonde, but how will you know what colors to use in the recoloring? There are no blondes in the picture!” - Good Question. The anwser lies in the next pic.
Our decapitated Ranger will provide us with his lustry long blonde hair. Using his hair as a palette, let's recolor the beard.
Armed with the lustry blonde facial hair of a hero metal guitarist, our Rabble Rouser looks a lot more charismatic. But alas, his head looks a bit odd. Let's adjust it a bit..
A lot better don't you think? He's still hunching a bit (like the regular peasant we used as a base). But this rabble rouser is full of religious fury, he won't hunch! Let's make him a tad taller so that he can stand over his fellow Peasants.
I select his torso and move it up by exactly 1 pixel.
The path is clear! Let's clear that gap.
Lot better. You just witnessed an easy way to make a sprite taller by couple pixels. The shading in his waist and chest looks a tad odd, thought. Let's address that.
Now I viewed him in-game again and was happy with the results. Yipee! We're done! Call the dance orchestra! Let's paaarty!
Oh right... He still needs an attack sprite. But trust me, those are easy. The attacksprite is only visible for 0,5 seconds at a time, so you can slack a bit while doing the details in it. No-one is going to notice if the shading is a bit wonky or pose slightly akward. It's enough that there is some movement and that the sprite is ”attacky”.
We'll be using the basic Peasant pic as base. Let's go to business.
When making attack sprites, it's good to put the units next to each other like this so that you can easily compare them.
The peasant has the attackery pose but lacks the facial hair and robe of our Rabble Rouser. Let's do some copy-paste magic..
Ok. Let's ditch the pitchfork.
Now that the hands are empty, we can give him something to hold on to.
Torch? Check. Let's now give him his Pitchfork back.
Ok, looking good. Let's do some fine-tuning thought. I'll select his torso and move it forward by couple pixels.
Lot more aggressive, don't you think? Let's ditch the base sprite
I viewed this in-game and was pleased. Remember to always
test your sprites in-game. The different backround will usually reveal some graphical glitch that's hard to notice while editing the unit with a zoomed view.
And here are all the steps in a single pic.
Now that wasn't that hard, was it? If you feel like that was too hard, don't get depressed. When I started, I probably wouldn't have been able to make this kind of graphic, even with instructions from future me. Below are some pics of my earlier works and their base sprites. You can probably see how much simpler they are. I just wanted this tutorial to show lots of different tricks and perhaps even giving a tip or two to unit makers with some experience under their belts.
As a finale here are some tips on sprite editing
- The quality of KO's artwork has just gone up in the years. If you want especially high quality base sprites, aim to use sprites from newer nations, like Hinnom, Tir'na' Org, etc...
- Watch the sprites you are editing closely. Sometimes, do not copy-paste things right on top of the pic. Just take expample from the piece and reproduce it by pen. I learned to do shading by taking example from KO's sprites.
- From time to time, do small areas of sprites (arm, swords, jewelry) by yourself to hone your skills. Attack sprites are good for practice, since it won't matter too much even if it's not quite high quality.
- Your fellow modders have also made numereous good sprites. Don't be afraid to use them as base sprites (it would probably be best if you ask them for permission first.)
- Read all of this thread, there is some useful art discussion from page 2 and onwards.
- If some part of a sprite is proving difficult, ponder on options: Can you 1)copy it somewhere? 2) cover it with something (shield?) 3) Change pose so that the difficult obcejct is no longer visible? 4) Just change the theme of the pic so that you delete the difficult item (head proves difficult? Why not give it a helmet? Long hair? Hood?)
- If something just seem impossible and/or frustating, work on something else for a while to hone your skills and then try again. Try to keep it fun!
I'll also show my hearthful support for you soon-to-be editers out there. If you post your pics to this thread, I'll give some comments on them. Besides, it will be useful to have lots of that kind of discussion in single thread.