WIZARD TUTORIAL - SKIN PACK

The skin pack wizard in the Mod Builder can be used to generate the appropriate file structure for a new Skin Pack. This guide will walk you through its usage. Also, don't forget to have a look at the paired Skin Example.


Running The Wizard

  1. Launch the Mod Builder.
  2. Click File and select New.
  3. In the New Mod dialog, select SkinPack for Type and click OK.
    • SkinPack.png
  4. Click the button beside the Mod File text box and select a location for your mod. You can save your mod anywhere, but it is recommended that you create a folder for it, e.g. C:\mods\my_skin\my_skin.mod.
  5. Enter in a Name and Description for your skin. This is the name and description that will show up in the Steam Workshop.
  6. If you have a Steam preview image for your skin, click the button beside the Preview Image text box and select it. It should be a TGA image with a resolution of 280x280. You can add this image later time if you do not have one.
  7. In the Attribute File text box, type an attribute file name e.g. My Skin.xml (Include the .xml extension on the file name. This file will be located under your Mod File path after you generate the mod.)
  8. In the Icon Path text box, type an icon folder name: e.g. icons. (this will be located under your Mod File path after you generate the mod.)
  9. In the Skin Path text box, type a skin folder name: e.g. skins. (this will be located under your Mod File path after you generate the mod.)
  10. Check the Clone checkbox for each skin you'd like to include in your skin pack. Typically a skin consists of a seasonal variant (summer/winter) of all the vehicles in a vehicle class (light/medium/heavy). Note: Several units are shared by the German factions. Be sure to look at the other faction to select all the required units.
  11. Click OK to complete the wizard.

If you do not specify a full path for any paths other than the Mod File, the paths will implicitly be relative to your Mod File path.

If you are editing a German faction (using units from both), you can limit which faction you intend your skin pack to be used for in the attribute editor when you are hooking up your icons. More information is available in that section of the wiki.

Your completed wizard might look something like this:

SkinPackWizard.png

Creating The Skins

  1. Expand art\armies\<army>\vehicles\<vehicle>\skins\<mod>_<season> then double click your skin folder.
  2. Edit your skin files. This should be where the majority of your effort is spent.

Source Files

By default the wizard extracts the textures that shipped with the game. These can be difficult to edit. The source PSD files can be downloaded via the Company of Heroes 2 Tools Data tool. To install Company of Heroes 2 Tools Data:

  1. Launch Steam
  2. Click Library then Tools.
    • If you cannot find the Library menu, you may be in the wrong view. Click View and select Game Details.
  3. Right click on Company of Heroes 2 Tools Data and select Install Game…
  4. Complete the install wizard.
  5. Once installed you can launch Company of Heroes 2 Tools Data which should automatically open a folder containing the files you need.

Most files are PSD format, however the British Army source is in Substance Designer Format. A 30 day free trial of Substance Designer is available here, feel free to make and share PSD's from these files.

Meshes

Relic does not provide models or vehicle source at this time. However community member Valias over at Polycount Forums has kindly extracted the models so you can paint in a 3D application to save time.

Note - Due to imperfect extraction methods, the meshes vary significantly compared to their in-game counterparts, some more than others. You should check the results in-game and then correct in a 2D painting program, such as Photoshop, afterwards. Consider importing a normal file into your 3D program as a reference to reduce unexpected errors.

These are external links for 3D model downloads:

Understanding Skin Input and Outputs

Understanding the Different Layer Types

When you open the Photoshop files, you will discover several different layer groups that all have separate functions:

Layers for Beginners

HELPERS - Flattened out polygons that help you determine which areas to paint for each section of the vehicle. This group does not get exported. It is purely there to help you identify the constraints of vehicle painting areas (i.e. when you are just painting over unused gaps). Not present on some DLC units. Consider 3D painting if you need more help understanding the image in 3D context. Other programs such as 3D Max can also help you examine your progress in a 3D context if you prefer 2D painting.

DIFFUSE - How a surface looks from all angles (The standard colours and patterns of your skins). This is your main editing area.

This group often contains a huge number of layers, many of which appear to add 'age' and realism to the vehicle. You may find it easier to turn them all off at first (there are shortcuts for this), import or create your custom layer(s), and then turn them on one-by-one afterwards to see which effects you like. Sometimes they have slightly useful names, but a lot of the time you have to visually examine them to determine their purpose. Note: Understanding masks will greatly help you apply 'worn paint' appearance.

Layers for Experienced Modders

NORMAL - These are the bump mapping layers. They make low polygon models look more detailed by displaying reflection of light the way a higher polygon model would.

Unless you are experienced, you probably don't want to edit these layers. However, if exporting, you should select which ones are applicable to your skin. The main one you may want to enable/disable is the 'snowbuildcrunch' layer, depending on whether you are making a winter skin. Not all files will contain snow/mud normal data (usually light vehicles), so either leave it off or create your own.

If you do want to edit a 'normal' layer, you should use a program such as Substance Painter 2 that has useful paintbrushes (such as basic shapes and dirt/snow patterns) and creates height data automatically.

SPECULAR - Determines which parts of the skin show light in a reflective manner, such as a shiny metal surface.

Changing this may be best achieved with a program like Substance Painter 2 which paints multiple corresponding data types at the same time (so that scratches and bumps line up between all layer types).

If you are applying mud/snow to your vehicle, check for possible corresponding layer additions in this section.

GLOSS - These layers are similar to Specular. They determine how much light the specular layers actually reflect (ie, How glossy are the tanks? Factory new paint? Covered in dirt and mud?).

Changing this may be best achieved with a program like Substance Painter 2 which paints multiple corresponding data types at the same time (so that scratches and bumps line up between all layer types).

If you are applying mud/snow to your vehicle, check for possible corresponding layer additions in this section.

ALPHA - Transparency. Can be used to make certain areas of the texture transparent so that you can see the vehicle parts behind them. This can be useful for styling things such as side skirts, or hiding unwanted items "attached" to the vehicle.

White means no transparency, in that you can see the whole vehicle (most vehicles have completely white alpha groups), and black areas mean transparency, letting you see through materials.

Required Inputs

The default burn settings produced by the wizard will produce up to two (_dif,_nrm) output files from up to five (_dif,_alp,_nrm,_spc,_gls) input files. This is done to maximize texture compression in the Essence Engine, and is the format the engine expects.

If you are only editing the diffuse files (the colours and patterns), the you will not have to provide any other layers (except alpha layers with black on them).

If you wish to edit any other input files, it is recommended to also save all the input files that are used by the input file's output file. Failure to do so may result in incorrect looking lighting.

Input files should be saved as 32 Bit TGA files, though only some of the channels of each input file will be used (see table below):

Input File Post-fix Channels Description Output File Post-fix
_dif.tga RGB The diffuse texture. _dif.rgt
_alp.tga R The alpha texture. _dif.rgt
_nrm.tga RG The normal texture. _nrm.rgt
_spc.tga R The greyscale specular texture. _nrm.rgt
_gls.tga B The greyscale gloss texture. _nrm.rgt

The wizard looks for the whole default filename, not just the above post-fixes, so do not use custom file names. The TGA files the wizard automatically creates in your skin folders will show you what to call your files. For example, 'panther_dif.tga' will work, but 'mypanthermod_dif.tga' will cause your skin to not appear in the game.

Setting the Correct Burn Settings

The Mod Maker uses the correct default burn settings for diffuse files (although you may wish to enable Texture Sharpening to improve visual quality for people on lower graphics settings).

Unless you are editing normal/specular/gloss files, you don't need to worry about their burn settings. Unfortunately, some units will appear lighter than they should, such as the IS-2, or Sdkfz 250 half-track, due to the mod maker using unsuitable default files for the normal output. If you want to correct this, you will have to extract the specular, normal, and gloss layers from the Photoshop files (probably after making them darker) and burn them. This means that you may need to set the correct burn settings for some units.

In Mod Maker, expand expand the art folder to the relevant unit and right-click on it to edit the required burn settings.

How to find burn settings:
Edit_burn_settings%281%29.pngRecommended burn settings for gls/spc/nrm files:
nrm_burn_settings.png

Creating UI icons and Preview Renders

Icons

These are the icons your skin pack will display in the games inventory screen and in the in game store.
skinicons.JPG
  1. If you wish to change the inventory image for your skin:
    1. Expand data\ui then double click your icons path.
    2. Edit icon.png. Download a Photoshop Template PSD file of the icon swatch to create high quality, standardized icon images.
  2. If you have multiple inventory items and you wish each item to have its own icon (hint - you do if you are making a full skin set):
  • Expand data\ui then double click your icons path to open the folder with your icon(s) in.
  • Create an icon for each inventory item. You should have 7, 1 per skin + 1 to represent the whole set.

Make sure they are named as follows if you plan to submit them as curated items: swatch_army_skinname_season_weight
e.g.
* swatch_british_desertrats_summer_heavy.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_summer_light.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_summer_medium.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_winter_heavy.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_winter_light.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_winter_medium.png
* swatch_british_desertrats_summer_all.png (to be used to represent the whole set)
(the skin name should be all 1 word with no underscores)

Preview Renders

Preview renders are the tank renders you see in the inventory tooltip and again in the in game store.
previewrender.jpg

Once your skins are made you can either make your own previews in a 3D package or use the Skin Preview Image Creator
Previews should be named as follows:
preview_army_skinname_season_weight
e.g.
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_summer_heavy.png
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_summer_light.png
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_summer_medium.png
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_winter_heavy.png
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_winter_light.png
* preview_west_german_3colorambush_winter_medium.png

Note the army names should use:

  • aef for US Forces
  • west_german for OKW
  • german for Ostheer
  • british for British Forces
  • soviet for Soviet Union

Hooking up the Icons

  1. Expand attrib\attrib then double click your attributes file. The Attribute Editor should start.
    1. Click Categories then select inventory then skin_pack. A skin_pack tab should open.
    2. Select each of your skins in the Tree View and expand skin_pack_bag.
    3. After the existing prefix, enter the filename for the icon for each of your skins (no .png extension).
    4. After the existing prefix, enter the filename for the preview image for each of your skins under icon_secondary (no .png extension).
    5. Additional: If you are creating a German skin pack, you can restrict which faction your pack is intended for at this point by expanding server_item, then races, then right-click on the one you don't want, and delete it.

Note: The attribute editor will already have information in the icon fields. These are prefixes necessary to find your specific icons. Simply remove the word "icon" from the end and replace it with your filenames, after the underscore (_). For example: ModIcons_eb18dd730e64467aba6837007de4fb8b_swatch_german_modname_summer_heavy

Completing The Skin

  1. If you wish to update the Steam Workshop name/description of your skin:
    1. Expand info then double click your skin's name. The Mod Info dialog should appear.
    2. Edit your skin's name or description.
  2. If you wish to add a Steam Workshop preview image for your skin:
    1. Right click on info and select Add Burn File…
    2. Browse to your preview image and select it. It should be a TGA image with a resolution of 280x280.
    3. Right click on your preview image and select Add Burn Settings then generic-image to data-rgt. This will compress the image decreasing the size of your mod.

Testing The Skin

  1. Click Build then select Build.
    • A dialog will appear informing you that the build is in progress, wait for it to complete.
    • If the build is a success, your skin will be copied to your Documents\My Games\Company of Heroes 2\mods\skins folder.
  2. Launch Company of Heroes 2 from Steam.
  3. Your skin should appear in your inventory (if you restricted your skin to a specific race you might need to change your race).
  4. Equip your skin and create a Custom Game to test it out.
  5. If you have special markings or symbols on your skin you may want to go to graphics options in the game's menu and set the Hide Decals option to ON. This will hide the team color decals which can get in the way of reviewing your work.
  6. There’s a very useful cheat mod you may want to use to spawn vehicles so you don’t need to play the game to test your work.
  7. If you are happy with your skin and wish to publish it to the Steam Workshop:
    1. Select the Modding HUB from the Company of Heroes 2 Main Menu.
    2. Select the Manage tab.
    3. Select your skin.
    4. Click Publish.

Publishing your skin to the Curated Workshop

Do this if you want Relic to consider adding your skin to the game, and possibly gain a share of revenue if it's added to the store.
There's more information on the curated pathway here.

All you need to do is select curated from the drop down menu in the mod builder before clicking build in Step 1 above.
curated.JPG

Note that your mod can either be curated or ready to use (release). It cannot be both curated and ready to use. You can achieve this result by making two different mods with identical content. Publish one as curated and the other as ready to use (release).