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Decal Tutorial (long with biggish images)

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Ive seen a few posts with people struggling with 32bit TGA files and how to make them


This is how I generally make decals; sometimes the details will change (don’t follow this slavishly :wink: ) and there’s many other ways to achieve it, this is just my way

Its not really step by step but hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything important :blush:


I use Photoshop, but roughly the same techniques work for The Gimp (open source), I don’t know about other imaging programs I’m afraid.


I’m assuming a basic knowledge of PS (selecting layers, dragging them around, turning them on and off etc)

But you should get a few hints from the pictures as well (I hope)



The first step is drawing in a clean image of your decal, I use Illustrator to create a vector image from drawings and photos but creating it in photoshop works nearly as well

I'm not going to go into the drawing I'm afraid




I like to have a bit of the underlying skin bitmap as a temporary background while making decals; it helps for sizing and gives a better feel for the final image

I always try to make the decal at least the same resolution as the underlying skin

Here the red square is 256x256 pixels and that will be the final decal size in this case




Here’s the image cropped to 256x256 pixels (3x zoomed) and I’m copying and pasting (ctrl+c and ctrl+v) from Illustrator my vector drawing as a smart object (allows rescaling with out losing any resolution)





Once I’ve resized it and hit enter (smart object are still vectors though and can be reedited from the edit-transform menu) I then duplicate the layer and give it a name(to save a backup) and rasterize the new layer (menu-layer- rasterize -smartobject)

Raterising a layer flattens it into a normal PS layer (bitmap)




Recolouring of areas is done by using the lasso tool and then filling the marquee areas (menu-edit-fill)

Use the preserve transparency checkbox to recolour just the painted areas

I’m not Recolouring this so I deselect again (ctrl-d)




Here I have filled the red background square with the final decal background colour

RGB(85,85,85) the exact shade is not important but a shade that is neutral and somewhat close (in tone) to the underlying skins helps in later anti-aliasing

Duplicate the stork layer (bitmap) again




With the new stork layer selected use the magicwand tool to select the transparent areas(outside the stork), then inverse the selection (menu-select-inverse) and contract it by one pixel (menu-select-modify-contract), Delete the selection (delete key) and deselect (ctrl+d or menu-select-deselect)

Selecting the transparent areas first and then inversing gives better anti-aliasing and lets you select multiple colours in one go




This leaves a layer with a one pixel outline of the original stork layer, fill it with black (menu-edit-fill) using multiply at 50% (darkens the outline)




Gaussian blur the outline layer (menu-filter-blur-Gaussian blur) with a setting of around 0.3 of a pixel, then set that layer to around 44% opacity and linear burn blend mode (softens and darkens the outline of the stork)




Making the alpha channel (transparency)


Duplicate that layer (the outline) and set the new layer to 100% opacity and normal blend, then fill it with white (menu-edit-fill) normal mode, 100%




Duplicate the original (bitmap) stork layer and fill it with a mid grey (menu-edit-fill) normal mode, 100%




This grey will be the opaque bit of the decal,

With alpha channels white RGB(255, 255, 255) is 100% opaque and black RGB(0,0,0) 100% transparent and all the grey scales in-between varying mixes of this

I use roughly RGB(150,150,150) for my “opaque” bits so the underlying skin shows through quite a lot, I usually bump up the colour saturation on my decal (the coloured stork) to compensate, but I still wouldn’t use pure colours especially pure black or white

There’s lots of scope for making different parts of the decal different levels of transparency (to simulate over painting for example or paint being worn off)

Just vary your levels of grey

The white out line layer we made will do this, giving a slightly stronger edge to the decal




Then create a new layer and fill it entirely with black and position it below the white line layer and the fully grey layer just from the last couple of steps

Select the white line layer and drop its opacity down to 50%




Shift select all three alpha layers (the last three made) and merge them down (ctrl+e)




Go to the channels tab and from the channels options arrow create a new spot channel, call it alpha1




Go back to the layers tab and with the merged layers selected select all (ctrl+a or menu-selection-select all) and copy it (ctrl+c)




Go back to the channels tab select alpha1 and paste the copied layer into it (ctrl+v)

Turn alpha1 off and the other channels on when finished(if necessary)




Go back to layers and turn off the alpha layer (the blackish-whitish one), and turn on the underlying 3 layers (grey background, coloured decal, dark outline) and save it as a 32 bit tga

save another copy as a psd if you want to come back and edit the decal later




All done (clear as mud) :wink:




Please if this is unintelligible garbage let me know and I can try to elaborate

heres the psd to look atstork.rar


hope this helps someone :)

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