Give Your Hero A Personality
by Francisco Muñoz (fmunoz)
This tutorial details techniques for modifying existing wesnoth sprites in order to generate new, more unique images. This is especially useful when creating a "hero" character for a campaign, who behaves similarly to an existing unit type, such as the swordsman, thus needing to suggest the unit it is derived from, and yet look unique at the same time. Several of the techniques described herein, such as color transformations, are very useful for general work.
All instructions are given according to how one would use them in The Gimp, I'm sure that Photoshop users can easily translate them to equivalent commands. Attached to this message is a zip archive with the gimp file described in the tutorial.
1st Image, Edgar, the mercenary sword: Swapping heads
We want a variation of the swordman as our hero, thus we are going to use the easiest method, giving him a new head. We save the image file with a new name (to avoid accidentally overwriting the original one, one good way is to change the file format to the .xcf gimp original file format, rather than saving as a png). We open the swordsman image and change its mode to use more colours (Image->Mode->RGB). We delete the original head of the image by either selecting it and deleting the pixels in the selection (R and later Ctrl+K), or by using the eraser (Shift+E, but make sure to change the size to 1 pixel). We select the head from the head template, copy, and paste it over the body image, move (M) it to pick a place where it looks right. Then, we can just click again to merge it with the body layer or create a new layer for it (which is a better option) by clicking in the menu option under layer or in the layer palette. Now we have the 1st image of our new hero ready.
2nd Image, Harold of the horned helm : Layers
Lets do another one, this time we select the horned helmet head, and repeat the same steps again. If we used the multilayer approach we can reuse the body layer, after hiding the first face (click on the eye icon in the layer palette, if you don't have that palette, you can open it from the Dialogues mmenu). Looking at the image, we notice the horn is overlapping the sword. That doesn't look good. This time we are going to use another layer to fix it. We select the sword, copy, and paste it. This time we need to put it in another layer (not absolutely necessary, but a very helpful technique). We may need to change the ordering of the layers, to make sure that the new sword layer is placed over the head layer.
3rd Image, Victor, the Pirate Marine : Adding bits
This time we want more. We are going to use all the steps from the previous edit (and the same file too), but we are going to add minor extra bits here and there, a new sword point, a red gem in the shield, and extra shoulder padding. After adding the new head and our new sword copy (to lay over the red bandanna end), we change its point a bit to make it into a kind of boarding sabre. We create another layer, where we draw a bigger set of shoulder pads using the armour colours. You can copy a few bits of armour into this new layer to get the colours more easily later; just paste them at one side and delete them when you are done. Using the pencil (N) with a size of 1 pixel, we draw the new shoulder armour. Remember that you can use the CONTROL key to pick colours fast from the samples we pasted before. We paste a red bit over the centre of the shield too (again in another layer).
4th Image, Rufus, the Breathdrainer: Colourize and change hue.
We want an evil swordsman variation, and we have an evil looking hooded head (kudos to artist Neoriceisgood) but the armour and weapon don't look evil enough.
We create a copy of the body, hide all the unused layers, and add the head using the same method as before. We go to the new body layer, which we want to look like a dark metal, so we start selecting the blue bits using either the Rectangle selection (R, later we can use CONTROL to remove parts and SHIFT to add them), or the Select by Colour tool (SHIFT+O, later we can use CONTROL to remove colours and SHIFT to add them). We can mix the two methods of selection; the end result of our "target" being selected is the same. We remove the pixels of the sword, because we are going to change them later.
From the menu Layer->Colours->Hue-Saturation, we change the saturation (to something less) and brightness (also less), until we have a darker, more sinister armour. We deselect the pixels (SHIFT+CTRL+A), and try to select the yellowish bits of the armour. As the pixels have a really soft colour, the former method doesn't work really well now, so we have to use Layer->Colours->Colourize to add more Saturation. We change mostly the hue until we have a dark purple. Now we repeat these things with the sword blade and the its handle to make it look like a wraith's sword (We can also easily do things by hand with the pencil tool).
Take note of the colour settings used if you plan to edit all the other unit frames. An easy way to do this is to use special layers that store and perform those color changes (which photoshop calls "adjustment layers"), rather than applying the changes directly to the picture data. Another way is simply to scribble down the few settings (hue, saturation, brightness) which were changed for each part of the unit, onto a piece of paper.
5th image, Karina, the Firemaiden: All at the same time
In this last image we add a new head, edit the sword to look like it is on fire, and change the armour colour until it looks like it is made of brass. The sword has been done using 3 layers, the original one, a flames one done using the fire colours from the Wesnoth item-firesword.png image and another copy of the original, placed above the others, with a 50% transparency (change it in the upper part of the Layer palette). As a last touch we add the same red bit we used in the Victor shield as a gem in the breastplate.