Sunday, 26 June 2016

Are Your Reference Images applied to a Plane in 3DS Max 2016 (Nitrous 11) blurry and pixelated???....

For modelling in 3ds Max I like to use image planes textured with reference images of my object.
Since switching to 3DS Max 2016, I found that I was unable to alter the display resolution of textures applied to those plains resulting in bad image quality. It's hard to work from reference that is blurry and distorted. If you are currently in the same boat as me I recommend you go here and download the following script...

Follow the installation instructions on the download page. Its really simple to install. It wont mess with your current project in anyway. If you're dissatisfied with results, simply close and reopen without saving. I myself have had no issues, it works perfectly and has been a bit of a life saver.

Whilst I'm on the subject of scripts and plug ins I also use this on a regular basis..

The scrip is called Drag and Drop Reference images. Setting up those planes is time consuming,  as you have to create a material for each and then a plane with the right aspect ratio. This script automates all this, by giving you a little window where you can drag and drop any common image type onto. The reference planes will then be created on a line and you can specify whether to align height/width of all images. You can also choose a material type and the gamma value that the images are loaded with. Again I have used this with many versions of Max and I've had no issues.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer - The Game Developer Conference 2011

Killer Portfolio
Portfolio Killer

Greg Foertsch – Firaxis Games
Jeremy Bennett – Valve
Justin Thavirat – Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
Shawn Robertson – Irrational Games
Wyeth Johnson – Epic Games
Alison Kelly - Moderator

The Game Developer Conference 2011

Portfolio Don’ts

Don’t complicate or slow down the portfolio website with complicated layouts, sluggish flash menus, annoying music, excessively large images, etc. Get to the art quickly. The person reviewing your portfolio website is short on time.

Don’t passwords to protect the entire website. Just use passwords to protect the confidential imagery.

Don’t use any file compression or unusual video codecs. Keep it simple.

Don’t be unfocused. There is no need to see figure drawings when you are applying for a level builder position.

Don’t include concepts if the model and textures don’t match.

Don’t present a cumbersome traditional portfolio, but if you’re sending one in make sure it’s not too physically large (20 images max @ 11x17). It should be in a portfolio book and should not have loose images floating around. Also, do not include original art as it will not get sent back.

Don’t use poor quality photos of your work. Try to use a scanner.

Don’t make me work to get to your portfolio. An Art Director will want to see your art work, not how well you know HTML 5 or how many star wipes you can use in After Effects.

Don’t send a DVD, if possible. Physical things get lost easily. It’s much easier to send around a web link than it is to pass around physical media.

Don’t email a 50MB zip file. It most likely won’t get past the mail filters. Websites are best.

Don’t list that you are an expert in every software package available. Your proficiency maybe questioned in an interview, so only list it if you really know it.

Portfolio Do’s

Do make the portfolio website extremely easy to use and easy to navigate. It should load images fast (skip the flash) and require as few clicks as possible to get around (no deep menu nesting).

Make sure the portfolio website works on different browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari).

Do include your best work at the front with a strong focus on art samples that demonstrate your capability in the position you’re applying for in the art style applicable to the company you’re applying to. (i.e character modeling, environment concept, etc.)

Do edit your portfolio and include only your best work. Less is more. 10-15 strong images are plenty. Too many duds included in an otherwise strong portfolio will bring into question your ability to judge your cream from your crop.

Do keep your portfolio website simple with just a “professional art, personal art, resume, and contact” menu.

Do be sure to put your name and contact info on every page and image.

Do list what you did on each image even if you did it all (concept, modeling, texturing, lighting, etc.)

Do edit your portfolio. Five great images are better than ten images made up of five great images and five poor images. More is not always better and being able to edit your portfolio is important, so remove any content that is inconsistent in quality.

Do pay attention to presentation. Good presentation can make a mediocre asset look fantastic. I’m not asking you to try to fool me by hiding modeling mistakes in a carefully lit render, but seeing how you choose to present an asset is important.

Do consider creating just one scrollable page with your best portfolio pieces on it.

Do choose appropriate music for your website or demo reel. Overpowering audio can either enhance or detract from the viewer’s experience.

Do treat your credits professionally. Thanking friends and family isn’t really appropriate.

Portfolio Specifications:
Concept Artist
Environment Modeler
Character Modeler
Level Builder
FX Artist
User Interface Artist
Tech Artist

Concept Artist

This portfolio often has a mixture of figure drawing, character concepts and environment paintings. It is extremely important that portfolio display an understanding of a difference between pretty pictures and useful concepts. Mood paintings (i.e. Mullins) are great for lighting reference and marketing purposes but can be difficult to model from. It is often difficult for young concept artists that are influenced by this type of concept to understand the difference between loose painting and simply being sloppy. Be sure to include images that have call outs and clear descriptions that can be handed to a modeler, especially with mechanical concepts.

Awe-inspiring creative ideation (your epic, mind-blowing, never before seen ideas) and technical execution should exist in the portfolio (your ability to sketch and illustrate so you can communicate your amazing ideas quickly and clearly).

The portfolio should be job related. 80-90% professional subject matter (sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) and 10-20% personal/fine art (and only if you feel your figure drawings and plein air paintings are awesome).

If possible, show a stylistic range but focus on the style you’re best at (hopefully it’s applicable to the studio you’re applying for).

Sketchbooks and thumbnails that demonstrate your thought process and the evolution of your ideas are great to see.

Environment Modeler

The ability to put character into environment objects is important. Show that you can make a trashcan with character and you’ll get someone’s attention.

With every aspect of environments look to imbue them with “maximum character.” Unless you can make a crate epic and interesting there’s no sense in trying to make a statue, building, shrine, etc.

Process images (Hi-res and Low-res) are very helpful because they demonstrate process and technique. UV layouts are huge, so it helps to see texture sheets for objects.

Include some environment renders that show a good understanding of how all the objects in environment harmonize together through color, value and lighting. It is also helpful if the scene references a concept image, so it is clear that they can translate 2D to 3D.

Provide scenes like a corner of a room that contains a few objects. This shows your models are cohesive and you understand the context in which the model is being used.

Possibly include images that display the ability to work off concept and adapt. There situations when concepts may not be ready; so find a photo of a grainy and out of focus image and make a portfolio piece from it.

Show your work in a few different ways (i.e. as a lit money shot, ortho view, and untextured model to show off the modeling)

Character Modeler

Figure drawing is important to be able to show a clear understanding of weight, gesture and proportion, but knowing how to express anatomy in 3D is also essential.

Process images (Hi-res and Low-res) are very helpful because they demonstrate process, technique, and topology that will deform correctly.

Show the side view of a character model. It is almost always neglected in lieu of the front or back view, but this immediately shows if the applicant understands weight and form.

UV layouts and texture sheets are important to see here as well. These texture sheets should show painting skill as well as a good understanding of color theory.

It is also helpful to see the concept image for the character, so it is clear that they can translate 2D to 3D.

Demonstrate awe-inspiring creativity with the character work and a solid understanding of anatomy, construction, gesture, etc.

Show something unique that hasn’t seen in a game before. Display not only technical chops, but a unique vision.

Many studios look for character modelers with strong traditional character art and illustration backgrounds and a strong understanding of contemporary modeling/sculpting pipelines.

Show a range of work that includes stylized work, realistic work, humanoids, creatures, robots, monsters, aliens, etc.

Show how you translate a concept to a sculpt, show your clean low poly models, texture pages, efficient UV layouts, final mapped asset, show it posed and lit and how you imagine the asset looking in the environment. Be detail oriented.
Level Builder

The level builder is a bridge between design and art. Most of the level builder's time is spent in the game engine, but they will also have the chops to crank out some models when the need arises. Show game engine knowledge, any game engine is fine.

Tell a story within the space.

Display and understanding of how to make a building feel like a real space and not like a bunch of random shapes that have been dumped down to create a paintball field.

Display an understanding of tactical space. How do you make a player move around your space in an interesting fashion?

Look up! Use that 3rd dimension everyone is going on about all the time.


This position requires a strong sense of character, timing, and weight, along with the technical savvy it takes to get your animation working in a real time environment.

For a junior position, previous experience isn’t so important, but your reel really needs to stand out. Animation Mentor reels provides a good base-line of the competition.

Run cycles, attacks and idle animations are good to show, but there is a lot of narrative in games, and the ability to work with VO or craft interesting interactions between characters is important.

11 second club reels are great because they show your ability to make dialogue interesting.

Don’t worry about good looking models. Lots of free rigs are being used in reels.

Show strong gameplay animation samples within frame count requirements (creative runs and walk cycles, deaths, attacks, transitions, fidgets, etc.)

Show strong and expressive character acting that includes dialogue and lip syncing work.

FX Artist

FX artists need a strong understanding of modern game engines and how to efficiently achieve a wide range of FX efficiently.

Show a lot of range...realistic fire, smoke, and sparks along with creative stylized magical FX, epic explosions, and really over the top never before seen stuff with an eye towards keeping it in budget.

FX artists are like musicians with an amazing eye towards the visual tempo, rhythm, and timing, of their FX animations. Make sure even your simple campfire FX shows this.

User Interface Artist

Most UI candidates display a graphic design background with experience in traditional illustration, typography, user experience, and web design.

Tech Artist

Tech artists are broken into a few different categories, and can fall under the art or engineering departments, depending on the studio. They include things like:

o Rigging
o Maya tools (python)
o Max Script
o Custom tools (C++)
o Web development tools

The Art of Kevin Johnson - Gears of War 2 High Poly Sculpting Workflow

Whilst searching on Polycount I came across an amazing thread by Gears of War 2 Artist Kevin Johnstone For my own ease of reference I have edited out all of Kevins replies to questions regarding his workflow. Please see the following link for the full article

Workflow - by Kevin Johnson

I don't do anything fancy really, I do however do a lot more front-end planning than you might expect. I always work on the grid, even the bricks are on the grid with centered pivot points so I can reinstance them back in max to create variants and ensure heights between bsp tiling textures and static meshs that share the same bricks match up ingame.

Really, I'm a big planner, thats all I do thats different.I spline most of the basics of the design, shell it then when I know its all working on the grid like interchangeable lego bricks and will be capable of supporting multiple meshs I move on to equally subdividing each section.

Part of my planning here takes the form of thinking ahead with the design as to how to split up the large blocks into smaller elements so that they are easily manageable in Zbrush in subtool chunks that dont individually exceed about 2million polys (4 million tris) so that there is less polygrouping on the back end required to get all those pieces back out of zbrush into max to batch polycrunch and then use blues importer to bring them all into max and process along with the non zbrushed elements.

I work very simply in zbrush, I try to immitate how a stone mason or a carpenter might work, just pummeling away and scooping the forms out of the blocks with mallet fast and clay brush initially before relying on the other tools to refine once I'm done with the bold stuff.

I use alphas a lot, some of them rendered through height maps and gradient renders of forms I liked in max so I can stamp the deco on to things in zbrush and create more natural and worn looks. Other times I just export the modelled deco pieces and damage them in zbrush, sometimes I generate alphas in zbrush with grabalpha, edit with Crazybump for small details and cracks.

I use lazy mouse a lot and radial symmetry tricks but mostly I just bang on stuff with the clay brush until it looks right, I control everything through thinking ahead , planning it out, subtools and polygroups because I'm kind of anal retentive now.

Plus, as amazing a tool as zbrush is, its not got a grid system that I trust like max has so I tend to do more on the front end in max than most of you would think is necessary. I do this because I want to be sure of reuseability as often we have to work quite fast here and zbrush is as much of a help in that for me as reuseability in max is.

The steel plates are all instances rotated around the pivot point of the arch.

Everything that is original or damaged was blocked out in max on the grid and then the detail and designy stuff was weathered in zbrush.

The Snakes were modelled straight and plain in max, pretty much just smoothed cylinders until I detailed them out in zbrush, then when I exported them back I could unwrap them straight, before I then path deformed them into location. This is again, another symptom of my always trying to plan things out more on the front end so I get more use of things on the back end and can make the resolution higher ingame.

Hospital Construction Workflow - by Kevin Johnson

Working my way toward proper individual answers, spent the time on making a step by step on the hospital construction, a lot asked about workflow.

Locust Themed Sculpts and Questions Summary - by Kevin Johnson)

Ok, a lot of questions, I'm going to summarise if thats ok?

The Grid -
Everything the level designers build is built upon a grid in UE3, to ensure we create useable assets for them. The center point in max, the origin point, it defines the pivot point of the asset when it is exported to UE3 as as ASE file.

So if for instance, you are in a hurry and you make a blockpillar thats 64 units to the left on the X axis from the origin point, then the center of that object's base, the pivot point, will be defined as 64 units to the left of it in the UE3 editor and that makes the level designers angry.

So we respect the allmighty Grid, the Grid is God if you are an environment artist

It's a challenging thing the grid, it can obscure or prevent art, thats sort of the wonderful thing about Zbrush, theres no grid, its meant to create art

Instancing -

Each Brick has its origin point automatically assigned to the middle of it's self, thats fine when you are mechanically createing them on the grid, but once they have been taken into zbrush and brought back they are organic forms truly and their centers are off balance, so I return the pivots back to a mechanically central pivot point relative to the grid.
It just aids further manipulation, when you work in a studio with many other artists at some point down the line they are going to have to be modifying your work, keeping things clean and organized like this makes it easier for them and, for you!

Videos / Tutorials / WIP -

I am working toward a more comprehensive tutorial in the future, I will do mini vids inbetween now and then. There are some things I can't show or don't have anymore, generally I delete my WIP stuff, my pre Zbrush files often get deleted after confirmation that everything turned out right and is ready for processing. I'll look though.

Texturing -

I don't do it. I used to do it but stopped at the end of Unreal Championship2 when I had to learn how to do HIpoly modelling. When I got fast enough at modelling and capable enough with modular design, it made sense to just keep me modelling.

The joke here is that the reward for doing something well is you get to do it again... and again hahaha

Well , let me know what questions I missed, thanks again for the feedback, much appreciated.

Questions Summary Cont - by Kevin Johnson)

Thanks for the comments.Always more than I deserve.

My tutorial images are a little misleading, although I deformed those hipoly bricks in them, I normally do not do that because it is very hard to manipulate and prone to crashing max, it does not like real tris, i likes nurms or turbosmoothed quads which aren't as big a strain.

I use a 2.66GHz , Quad Core with 2gb of ram on win XP at home, the PC I used when doing the Hospital set at work was slightly less powerful than that.

This is easily powerful enough still to process all the hospital stuff and some of the locust stuff I've shown, but path deforming a million tris or so isn't a safe thing!

In the case of the brick and metal support in the hospital theme, I did force 1.4 of those bricks to bend and then instanced those mor heavily, counting on the metal work breaking up the obviousness, along with whatever additional normals were generated by the texture artist later.

The repeat is still too obvious to me when I look at the renders now, but its not something people were noticing ingame and thats what counts. It's also smart to know our machines limitations and work toward being frugal when we can.

I have a more powerful machine at work now, but I still try to be frugal for its own sake, so I get to choose when I put more of a strain on the thing, for a reason, rather than just because sometimes I know I can get away with.

Who knows when I will reuse a piece from before, if I'm always thinking toward an assets potentional for reuse, I tend to get caught out much less later one when I'm in a tight spot at the end of production and need to start banging things out 4 times as fast.

Markkens: I will find a way to make it clearer what steps I took.

More Locust Pieces - by Kevin Johnson)

Scorpion : I'm trying to get there, I've got the layout done and its all planned out but it's either pimping the Gears2 stuff, work or family that always ends up taking precedence

Jblack: Yeah the grid use is a real no brainer but most places I've worked ignored it too, its a hard sell sometimes as artists feel like someone is enforcing more restrictions on them.

I tend to get my stuff back out of Zbrush by firstly subtooling and then polygrouping each piece into chunks of what Zbrush reports as 250,000 polys which I know is half a million tris back in max. I use those numbers as a hard limit, but often the pillars in the Locust set would have about 4 million polys in zbrush for each chunk and I would have to mask select the pillars to polygroup them into chunks below 250k so I could export each of those chunks seperate as OBJ's.

The reason for the hard limits is for ease of optimization through the polycruncher plugin, I beleive it is available for Maya too, I think there will be other really cool options in the future also.
Polycruncher has a Batch Optimize function, it allows you to just point to a directory full of your exported OBJ files from Zbrush and it will chomp its way through everything in that folder without requiring you to open anything in maya/ max and slow it down. It'll neatly export the optimized versions into a subfolder within that folder named 'results'

I often go as far as to optimize by 80%, its amazing how much you can get away with when its concrete. When its metal or super clean forms with only the occasional splots of damage or noise you need to be much more conservative with how you optimize as it doesnt do quite as well.

When facing problems with low power PC's, you can just export sections from zbrush in smaller chunks, I used to have to do this in the past. Sometimes even with a super ninja pc like I use at work now, I still end up having to export more chunks or split into multiple render files.

ie sometimes the scene is too heavy to process everything, so I split a pillar into 3 files, the base the top and middle and process seperatly when there is less of a drain on the system from holding so many tris in memory.

You get to read a lot more books while you wait for the the PC to render and process and optimize with next gen editing, I love that

Liam: I just set the pivot point on the base bricks I made to be locked on to a grid set up on the 16 times table, sometimes 8. Then I can just put the grid snapping function on and from the front view I can drag them across into different locations on the grid.
Doing that makes it obvious where it might be cool to add a different material to a line of bricks, or delete out a line and put in some bold or fine deco details, you make one, its on the grid, you can work out how many times it can be instanced in a straight line across the wall very easily with the grid as a guide.

You just learn to start thinking about designs on the 16 times table this way and it makes a flat tiling texture very useful for a level designer to only use part of where they want to as well as the whole thing in other areas.

So I carried over that mentality from when I did 2d art in the last generation of technology, now I build on the grid so the 3d designs work on the 16 times table so the whole design can be thought of as a modular thing that can be cut into different configurations where it has a variant of itself that has the blocky base and the top outcropping on a pillar cut off, this allows the level designers to place the middle beam of a pillar on top of some other pillar or base structure they prefer.

So this is what I call 'variants', designs where the base elements can be recombined in a different layout to process a new design, or designs that work as a collection of elements on one texture, that can be seperated into multiple designs by subtracting some or 1 of the elements, while still using that one texture.

It aids the speed of the games rendering time, because althought there might be thousands of objects in many of the scenes in gears, often they are only using a handful of texture smaller than you might guess.

The fine details on the staff, often I just draw splines in max on the grid based on sketchs Ive done or designs on other buildings or in books. Once I'm happy with the line work, I can make those splines renderable and control how many polys they have by changing the interpolation. I get an good base with which to then hand model part of it or skew and change the thickness of parts , maybe apply bend modifiers or twist to part of it.

As always, once I have one piece, I can instance on the grid or rotate around a pivot point and very quickly finish out a design.

With the door, well a lot more of the floral stuff had to be built unique , some elements are instanced duplicates of a simpler form that I warp into new forms by skewing, bending, path deforming, twisting modifiers and partly remodelling.

As you go forward, you beging to build up a larger collection of design or deco elements that you can group together in one file so you can merge that file with new assets and pick and mix reuse parts. We call it Kitbashing, its just a collection of bits that end up being reused to speed up production.

Why model the same bolt every time you make a model?

Same deal in zbrush, if you make a nice design element, press the grab alpha button in the alphas rollout, take a shot of the element you liked, tidy it up in photosho, black around the edges of the design part in the center of the image, resave it, build up a collection of cool design stamps to reuse for the sake of speed and also continuity.

Good environment design, like most of design, is built largely from the repitition of forms, so re use is good.

Questions Summary Cont - by Kevin Johnson

I started at Scion as a texture artist doing characters and environments. a little bit of modelling on characters amd environments on Unreal Championship2, some vehicle modelling and texture for UT4 ECE edition, then moved on to try hipoly on UT3, from that point on, being new to modelling still I got to focus on hipoly only as I had a lot to learn.

Since I learned to work modular like I do, they just keep me modelling now because thats where I'm most valuable. Sometimes I miss texturing, but more for that sense of finishing my work, I like modelling more as my stuff works better when I can see it and rotate around it.

I'm not involved in level design beyond talking to the LD's and trying to find out what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. I mostly just make lots of fancy Lego pieces. Sometimes I put together little arrangements of pieces to demonstrate ideas I had about how to use a set together, but not often, the meshers here are so good that they don't really need any input from me.

I was actually using the Decimator beta while posting here before but couldnt talk about that until the Zbrush lads released it, its much better than polycruncher ( which is also a great program that helped me for years previously) for what I do because it tends to handle plain areas better, the transitions from plain to dense detail translate well and of course its internal to zbrush.

I've been a bit rushed this year with our youngest Nuala , she turns 1 tomorrow... when things calm down a bit, probably around the time of the xmas break, I'll make time to post more and show some tutorial bits and bobs.

Alpha Brushes - by Kevin Johnson

I mostly just made some tribal shapes in max to start with, rendered height maps, edited a little in photoshop and then relied on lazy mouse with the standard brush in Zbrush to trail forms like in the upper right , or the leafy ones at the bottom left, across the main forms.

Then I'd just follow through on top of that noise with the clay tools and mallet fast, pinch, standard brushes to more boldly define the forms that stood out most to me. I tend to work this way a lot, throw big bold forms in, roughly throw a string of medium patterns on top and then pick out the happy accidents by hand and refine them.

Texture Sizes Used In Gears of War 2 - by Kevin Johnson

(Question) Do you know what size textures are used - 512, 1024 or 2048?

(Reply) Generally 1024's ingame, I process at 2048 to allow the texture artist to author at that size before scaling it down manually or importing at size and allowing the engine to LOD is down.

Quick question About Brick Work - by Kevin Johnson

(Question) After making the bricks in max, touching them up in Z brush, decimating them, and importing them back into max, how are you getting the ends to tile? And how are you capping what you crop in max? I understand how to make the tileable textur ein Z, but I dont understand how you got it in max.

(Reply) Thanks for the comments.

Bipolar : Thats just a presentation thing I did for our artmeetings, I just made a copy of the side bricks and sliced in the middle and then split them neatly apart so I could convey that the scene I was showing translates into a tiling texture.

I try to be clear in what I am presenting, if I showed my 'processing' version of the scene with the bricks having jaggy outlines where the tiling seam is, it might look like a pretty useless model.

So I generally present what we call BSP models ( because when processed they are textures that are meant to tile along a BSP wall of the level designers choosing) in tidy squares like this.

As I mention though, when I process I make sure there are instances of the bricks extended a further 32 units outward from the area that I process my normal maps from. Sometimes I bang the bricks up too much in zbrush and reduce or enlarge their scale too much, so if I create extra at the edges of the process area I am ensuring I capture precisely how those bricks continue to repeat at the edge of the texture.

Not doing this sometimes results in seams where the repeat points are. If you made tiling 2d textures in photoshop on the last generation of tech, you know how invaluable the OFFSET filter there was to make sure the tile is correct at the seams, this is just the 3d version of that workflow.

rayo777: I don't worry about that, I work messy and nothing I do is just imprinted and left raw, I always merge, overlap , combine, add and subtract from what I imprint with alpha stamps.

I think, honestly, if I could generate perfect 1 stop alpha stamp designs, once I imprinted them on the mesh, I would feel kind of nervous to touch them more, sometimes imperfection pushes me to be more confident about trying to improve it.

maxmax20093d: I don't know, I do know that actually getting more than a front page up will come first

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Skyrim Creation Kit - A Video Tutorial Series From Bethesda

At long last the Creation Kit is here!. I've gathered together all the links for the new tutorial series from Bethesda (see below) and will continue to update this page as new information is released.

Creation Kit Tutorial Series - Episode 1: Introduction to the Kit

Creation Kit Tutorial Series - Episode 2: Basic Layout

Creation Kit Tutorial Series - Episode 3: Basic Layout II

Creation Kit Tutorial Series - Episode 4: Clutter

Creation Kit Tutorial Series - Episode 5: Navmesh

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Realtime Antialiasing and Smooth Edged Renders - A Zbrush Tutorial

This tutorial I've put together will allow you to set up your workspace in Zbrush to produce smooth edged renders, useful for stills of w.i.p and general presentation of your work.

It will also enable you to model in real time with perfect antialiased edges. For those that dont understand how to do this it can be a real pain trying to figure it out so i really hope the following steps help illustrate this relatively simple but effective process...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Creating Mod's For Skyrim

Like many artists I was inspired by the prospect of modifying and creating original content for Skyrim so I searched online for any methodology involved that is specific to the game.
I found it to be a bit of a minefield of information scattered across many forums so for my own ease I have decided to bring everything I've learnt here, together in one post. As i know better I will update any video links/written information.

Bethesda have promised mod tools in the form of a Creation kit. It was originally due to be released alongside the game but has now been delayed until January. For full details check out Bethesda's official forum announcement.

Until then if your interested in learning more about what can currently be achieved with the tools that are available read on, ill start with texture art.

How To Extract Textures From Skyrim

If you wish to re-texture items for Skyrim the first hurdle you will encounter is how to open the .bsa files. A .bsa file is a Bethesda Softworks Archive file, a package of compressed resources exclusively used by Bethesda video games.

If no modified textures are present the game will refer to the .bsa file and use the original textures. When you create a new texture the game will reference it first before the looking at the .bsa. If your unhappy with your new texture and wish to retain the original you can go back into your new texture file and delete or rename it so the game can no longer reference it.

The .bsa file you need to unpack could be in a number of directories depending on where you installed your copy of Skyrim.
I found mine at c:\programfiles(x86)\steam\steamapps\Common\Skyrim\Data\

See the highlighted image above for the exact .bsa file your after


download the Fallout Mod Manager (FOMM) and install - this unpacker seems to work best for Skyrim files. Using the start menu on your desktop, launch the BSA Viewer. Click open and navigate to the steamapps/common/skyrim/Data folder. Click on the Textures.bsa file. Select the textures you want to extract or click on Extract all. This will extract a series of .dds files which contain images for textures. Ideally you should extract these to a separate folder where you can edit and save them without affecting the game.

fig.1) Iron Helm Texture

To open .dds files you need an image editor, I use Photoshop and the Nvidia dds pluggin the pluggin allows Photoshop to recognize/open/save the .dds file format. Once you have opened your .dds file in Photoshop you are then free to edit the texture.

When you have finished your edit save the texture as a .dds and place it in the file path indicated by the BSA Viewer. For clothing this would be steamapps/common/skyrim/Data/textures/clothes/xxx where "xxx" is the name of clothing you wish to replace. Load up Skyrim and you should be able to view your new texture in game.

If your unclear on any part of this process see the video tutorial links below for further information or download the Skyrim Retexturing Software Tutorial by David Brasher here

How To Modify Textures - A Video Tutorial

Custom Textures - A Video Tutorial

Editing Armor Textures - A Video Tutorial

How To Extract Meshes

Skyrims mesh files are in .nif format. The NIF file type is associated with 'GameBryo' by Emergent Game Technologies. The Gamebryo 3D graphics tools and engine are primarily used to create gameplay and 3D content for games.

I use 3DS Max as my 3D software which by default does not recognize .nif files. To open them first extract them from the relevant meshes.bsa archive using the same method as I extracted the textures above. Then download and install the Niftools pluggin to allow your 3D software to open the file.

Niftools is still in the process of being developed and currently supports 3DS Max, Maya and Blender, check out the forums for technical support and download the correct pluggin for your software here.

Further Reading - Useful links and Videos

How to edit static meshes using tesnip and nifskope

Changing the size of armour

3DS Max Skinned Meshes Into Game, A Tutorial

NifSkope how to customise an outfit for beginners, A Tutorial

Three great video tutorials by Joe from

To follow Joes tutorials you will need the following software,

The Fallout 3 Archive Utility

Monday, 31 October 2011

UDK Electric Smoke Material - An EAt 3D Tutorial

In this easy to follow demonstration, Jeremy Baldwin shows you how to create a smoke material and particle system in UDK. Watch the full tutorial online free here