New Spriting Tutorial - Angled Weapons Up!

by Eriance Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:35 pm

From the original post:

The old monster spriting tutorial is very old now, and badly outdated in both technique and quality. Since I've been motivated once again to sprite Doom-stlye (all thanks to GvH :D), I think a more complete and useful tutorial might be useful? Since i don't know excactly what people are generally interested in seeing, please make a list of a few important things you would want me to include. Currently, this is all i'm planning on doing.

  1. Weapons:
    1. Basic Weapon Design (concept-wise).
    2. Weapons Basics 1 - Centered and Angled.
    3. Weapons Basics 2 - Types of Weapons.
    4. Weapons Basics 3 - Animating and Effects.
  2. Monsters:
    1. Basic Monsters Design
    2. Reference Sheet
    3. Reference-to-Sprite
    4. Design choices (colors, anatomy, movement style, etc)
  3. Projectiles and Effects
    1. Basic Projectile Design.
    2. Fake Explosions.
    3. Realisitic Explosions.

Note that this will take existing/planned Demon-Eclipse monster ideas as bases. I wont be taking any "I want my monster sprited for me" requests. I'll get started once I get a good list of additional material other people want to see, so I dont have to go back later and add the stuff.

Section 1A: Centered Weapons Tutorial

  1. Design and Concept: Before you go and sprite a weapon, it's important to get an idea of what you wanted. Do not just go off and randomly draw shapes and then color it before you know rather or not the weapon you're gonna work on will actually be useful for your project. Since time is important, and is always in short supply, maximize it by drawing a concept and then laying down some basic colors. The image below is just a design I made for this tutorial, i kept it basic and simple to show the process clearly without too much cluttering of more in depth art concepts.

    tutgun1x (189K)

    As you can see, this is a sci-fi themed weapon. Since most weapons used in mods will be of Sci-Fi nature, i'll show the process' basics first using one. Everything I show here can be adapted to all forms of weapons and other areas of spriting. Since FPS almost always views the weapon from an above field of vision, the most and probably the only area you need to worry about conceptualizing is the top and side of the weapon. If you cannot draw the weapon in perspective, you may skip what I did in the third image. I, personally, just like to see if the 2 views of the angle fits together. I recommend Graph paper for concepts, since the units makes it easier to keep the different views of the weapon consistent in size and shape.

  2. One-Point Perspective: If you are satisfied with your design, it's now time to proceed to the second and much more lengthy step - spriting it. This tutorial shows everything using Photoshop CS, but almost any semi-complex programs will be able to replicate all the effects. A Tablet with make this process easier, but a mouse will also do just fine.

    Before we begin, you must learn the very basics of perspective. In 2D art, perspective is keen and getting the right/convincing sense of perspective will solidify your piece. Without learning this fundamental concept, you might have a hard time getting your weapons to align right. Since the concept is very broad, i'll stick to only the parts you need for weapons spriting.

    Since FPS games is focused on pointing your crosshair at the enemy, one-point perspective is all you will need. In one-point perspective, all parallel lines converge to the vanishing-point, in this case, the center of the screen where the crosshair is. In FPS games, you may treat the crosshairs as the vanishing-point. Below is the Doom Plasma Gun, as you can see, the parallel sides of the weapon all point roughly to the single red dot (center of the screen).


    Although this is the technically "correct" alignment, not all weapons point there. The BFG below has 2 vanishing points. But since they still converge towards the enter, they look "correct" to the viewer.


    Since spriting for doom generally uses low-res images, as long as your perspective is close to the correct way, it will look fine in-game. Sometimes, the incorrect perspective might look better, especially for centered weapons. Keep in mind that as things go farther off towards the VP, they will get smaller, and apear to get compressed in both X and Y axis. Below is what I mean.


    Keep in mind that because the original doom used a resolution of 320x200, it's weapons might align better with a grid using that or multiples of that resolution. However, since most (if not all) modern ports allows you to use 4:3 resolutions without the status bar, you should use a grid that fits into the 320x240 screen (such as the ones i used here). The perspective tutorial will only work if you are using a consistent grid of 320x240 (or multiples of it, depending on your weapons resolution - 320x240 should be used to keep the weapons' sizes consistent with doom's).

    All forms of perspective is based on rectangles and only works well within the confines of the rectangle (square too). The image on the left is what something looks like when viewed from the top. As you can see, the red lines connect 1 corner to the opposite corner, where they meet is the center of the square/rectangle (the blue line marks this). Using this knowledge, we can now adapt it to one-point perspective. The image on the right is the square in perspective. As you can see it shrinks towards the top. Keep in mind that the red lines still connect the corners the same way as they did when the image was flat. Using this, the center of the square, in perspective, is still where those two red lines meet, as it's marked with the blue line. As you can see, the blue line is closer to the top than to the bottom. Using this, you can divide and sub-divide the rectangle in any way you want, since the red lines will always meet at the center of their respective rectangle.

    Since perspective only works with rectangles, how would one place something that is not a rectangle of square into perspective. Simple, imagine that there is a rectangle around it and use that to align the object. The image below shows this.


    The black square on the left is the "imaginary rectangle (you can make it the same height as the object, it really doesn't matter). The Blue trapezoid is the object you want to allign. As you can see, if we extend the slanted sides of the trapezoid, they meet at about the middle of the top of the square. Using this, we can now align the trapezoid. The image on the right shows this. There are a number of ways you can do this, this is just one of them.

  3. Getting Started: Now that you've seen one-point perspective, it's time to put it to use. Before you start spriting your weapon, you must first decide on it's size on the screen. This should be based on how powerful the weapon is and compared to an existing doom weapon. For mine, i scale it slightly bigger than the plasma gun.

    Keeping to the perspective-grid i used earlier, i placed down the base in several colors. It's important you have this based as it will make your process much easier in later steps.


    As you can see, I've only drawn half of the weapon here. Since my weapon is symmetrical, i can just copy-pasta the other half later after I check it for accuracy. Below, I checked to see if the weapon aligns correctly with the vanishing point.


    As you can see, the parallel sides and top of the weapon all go to the red dot. The blue lines are just there to help me get a clear idea of where the horizontal lines are on the weapon. They aren't needed, but they help. If everything is satisfactory to you, then continue to the next step. If not, then refine your base more until it looks ok. Note that you should try to use colors within your respective game palette when spriting to keep the image as well adapted for that game as possible. You can rip the palette out from the PLAYPAL lump for that game. Or you can just take a screenshot when viewing the PLAYPAL from XWE or something. Up to you. Also, save a BMP image that uses the color palette of that game, you will need it later. You can do this with WinTex just by saving a image using EDIT->SAVE ENTRY TO FILE. There are plenty of other ways to do the same thing, though.

  4. Coloring Time: Now that your base is finished, it's time to get some real work done. Open the image with your game's palette to keep it handy. Before you color, make a new lay to apply the colors ON TOP of your base. Lock Lock your base image so that no edit can be made to it. You want to keep this for layer selection uses as well as to keep areas of your weapon separated when you color. Name your new layer; i used "color" in the following screenshot, go figure.



    The following requires you to know light and shadow, something that takes a while to learn and is too artsy for this spriting tutorial. If you dont know how to place down basic shading, look it up on Google, as there are plenty of websites with it.

    Select a light source for your weapon. I generally use a top-left light-source for blocky weapons, and a centered one for rounded ones (you'll see why when i get to the magic and hell weapons). Because the light is coming from the top left, the weapon is brighter towards and darker towards the right. Below is the first layer of colors I used to put down some very basic lighting. To smooth out colors. just use the Smudge tool and rubbed the edge of one color into another color to smooth them out. It's pretty easy to do. This way you don't have to place down every single color you need to make your image smooth.


    Once satisfied with your first layer, lock it and make a new layer for further coloring. This keeps your images neat and lets you easily undo mistakes should you mess one of the layers up by deleting that one layer, and not be forced to redo the whole thing. REMEMBER TO LOCK YOUR UN USED LAYERS!

    Continue adding layers until that area you're coloring looks solid.


    When coloring, note that every part of the weapon will reflect light. It's up to experience and aesthetics to know how much reflected light you put down onto the other parts of the weapon. Generally speaking, the lighter the color, the more it reflects, but it will also have to do with the material of the weapon. Smoother and glossy materials such as glass will reflect more than rough things.

    To add highlights, select your highlight layer (yes, use a different layer for light and another for shadows) and change the blending option to "Screen". For The shadow layer, change it to "multiply". "Screen" makes brighter colors more opaque, and darker ones more transparent. So White is fully opaque, while black is fully transparent (invisible). "Multiply" does the opposite. The image below is how you can quickly change the blending options.


    Continue doing this for the other areas of your weapon. This is wear the base layers come in, you can easily use the "Magic Wand" tool to select only the area with that base color, without having to load and save selection areas (but that also works).

    Once your think you've colored your image well enough, it's time to test how well it works in the game you're modding. Copy-Merged your image be selecting your image and then CTRL+SHIFT+C it to copy all the layers as 1 flattened image. Now open that game-palette BMP image i told you to save earlier from your game to see how the image looks with the game's palette. I used the Doom palette for mine. If it looks satisfactory, continue working, if not, make some changes with the colors.


    Now that your basic coloring is done, add some highlights and shadows. Again, where to place them is decided through experience. Generally, the place that is closest to the light source will be highlighted, such as a corner of the weapon. Shadows are harder, since every part of the weapon has the potential to cast a shadow on another part. I suggest practice if you know where where to put them.

    Let's now continue to adding the "texture" of your weapon. Lock your color, highlight, and shadow layers and make a new layer on top. Name this something like "lines" or "Texture". This step is very simple, based on your earlier sketch, you'll just have to draw in the lines on your weapon. You may decide to add more to make your weapon look less blan. With your lines done, add in some new highlines and shadows to add more depth.


    Now it's time to add some "paint". You've noticed that my weapon sketch had areas with "warning tape" on it. It would be too much work for a slacker like me to actually draw those out individually. There is a cheap way to add the colors. Lock your old layer and make a new one on top. Now, change the "paint" layer to "color". In this mode, everything below the layer will be converted to that color, while preserving the tone (brightness vs. darkness). I chose yellow for this to place down the warning tape.


    If your colors are too bright or too saturated, either change the color or turn down the opacity for that layer. The yellow looks fine for this so far, so i kept it. Continue working on your weapon and finish up the effects. Remember to use multiple layers.


    Now that your weapon's first frame is done, time to check how it looks in the game's palette.


    Looks decent, but there is still plenty of other things do do before the gun is finished. I'll save those parts for the final section of the weapon's tutorial with the effects and animation.

  5. Section 1B: Angled Weapons Tutorial

    1. Now that you've seen how centered weapons are done, it's time to move on to the slightly more complex angled-weapons. The two main advantages of having a angled weapons is that; 1, you show off your weapon's design much more effectively; and 2 it allows you to flip it around to make akimbo-weapons better. The process of making angles is the same as centered ones. I will show you how to convert a centered weapon to one that is angled.

    Let's start with the centered gun I used before. As always, we begin with the base-image:


    The small red line at the top of the two views is there for size reference. As you can see, the tip of each gun in the two views are identical in length. Although one-point perspective causes options to shrink in the vertical direction, horizontal sizes remain the same. This is very useful to keeping the size of an object from 1 view consistent with another. Things also align in the horizontal direction exactly. The image below shows this.


    The blue lines are are used to align the horizontal components of the weapon, as you can see, you can just make it go strait across the screen. Keeping to the same vanishing point as the centered weapon, the red lines align the angled view correctly. As you noticed, there are a lot more things to align properly.

    Now that your base is to your liking and all of it is aligned to the vanishing point and the centered weapon, we will not begin the coloring. Since i've already shown you how to do the coloring in the first part of this tutorial, i will skip all the way down to the finished product. Keep in mind that you should keep the same light source as the original weapon (although it's not necessary unless both views are used in the same game). Keep the original weapon next to the angled view you're working on for both easy access of colors, and references to light and shadows, as well as other details.

    Repeating the same process as before, I've used several layers to get the colors down where i want. As always, keep the base-image locked. Here's what the finished product looks in photoshop.


    To see if everything will look good within your game, paste the thing into the BMP file containing your game's palette. Here's what it looks like in Doom's palette. Get used to losing quite a bit of detail unless you're planning to use true color PNG images.


    If everything worked out well, you're good to go. Below I will show the some short cuts when spriting other types of weapons.

    Last edited by Eriance on Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:54 pm, edited 6 times in total.