Intro to Skin Creation
Hello everyone. Today I will teach you the basics to Skin Creation, with personal premade stuff to get you started quickly. This is the final surprise of Sona Week.
Names and Letters used in this Tutorial:
- PS / PSCS6 = Adobe Photoshop / Adobe Photoshop CS6
- YSCP = Yurixy Skin Creation Pack
- UU3D = Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro
- PSD = Photoshop File
- SKN = 3D Object League of Legends File (usually used together with the SKL)
And never forget – you can always click the images to see them in full size.
Before we start, you should know that a lot of methods exists to create skins. We won’t compare which method is the best. My method involves cutting the skin into layers and quickly working in that stuff. I will try to cover my method here as best as possible, but keep in mind: the final result depends on you. Let’s jump on the requirements to this tutorial.
- Art Skill: None
Tested on – Windows 7 and Windows 10 (should work on Windows 8 as well).
If you don’t have Photoshop CS6, I recommend you look for a official ISO in the internet, which you can use free for 30 days trial.
Premade stuff – YSCP
Create a folder somewhere and extract the contents (extract zip => extract 7z) inside your new folder.
You can open the PSD with your Photoshop. This tutorial should work with any Photoshop version CS4 or above (if they accept Nvidia DDS Plugin), but only CS6 support/interface will be covered here.
I will teach you how to create a Sona Skin in this tutorial, but you can easily use what you learn here to make any Champion Skin.
Skin/Texture vs Model – 2D vs 3D
Before we start, you should know the differences between a skin and a remodel. By creating a custom skin, it doesn’t mean you will be adding parts to your hero. In fact, you cannot add or remove any parts unless you use a proper 3D software with a working League of Legends import/export plugin (don’t ask me about a working plugin because I don’t know).
While you can’t add any parts to the skin, it’s possible to make some parts “invisible” with an Alpha Layer. I will cover more about this further in the tutorial.
Ultimately, this tutorial will only cover 2D – Skin/Texture edits.
As a way to make your work much easier and accurate, it’s highly recommended you download Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro (Demo) with SKN Plugin (you can find the SKN Plugin in the same page of the software downloads), to be able to see the changes made to your skin in real time. Extract and place the plugin in “C:\Program Files\Ultimate Unwrap3D Pro (x64) Demo\plugins”. If you opt to not download and use UU3D, you will have to create a custom game every time you update your skin to see the results of your editing.
The Demo has everything the Full has, except a functionality that we won’t use – the export feature. We won’t export anything from the program, because we will use only for previewing your work.
UU3D also allows you to find which areas the polygons and meshes are attached to in the model, so you can quickly find if that part is a piece of cloth or weapon or something else from the Champion.
To prepare the Skin Viewer to show the Sona (contained in the YSCP), first extract the YSCP in a separated folder, and you should have the SKN/SKL and the PSD file. You will need a Sona.DDS file too (note the extension is uppercase on purpose, for better compatibility with UU3D), so when you load the Sona.skn file, it will auto-load with the texture integrated in the model.
If the texture is not appearing on your model (if the model is gray), make sure of two things:
- Sona.DDS is in the same folder as the Sona.skn
- The textured view is enabled on UU3D (in the perspective view, right click the Perspective name, and select Textured > Smooth)
You can test now opening Sona.skn in the UU3D and seeing if everything appears correctly. Any edits you do to Sona.DDS file will update in real-time inside the UU3D viewer. I recommend you work with two views, the UV Editor and the Perspective, split vertically in the center, but you can adjust other types of views and other number of views based on your tastes.
Getting Started to the Skin Creation
So, let’s finally begin to create your own Champion Skin now. Extract the YSCP file somewhere (if you didn’t already) and open the PSD file. You will see this screen:
The skin is divided into meshes/polygons which you can see and check inside UU3D. We have several folders, each one with a name of a Sona Skin. If you open any of the folders, you see a lot of layers for each one, approximately 28 layers per folder. Each layer is a part of the skin. Don’t be scared by such numbers, because I will teach you how to quickly edit all the layers with a simple method. First off, to create your own and first custom skin, you need to copy one of these folders, to do this in Photoshop, you just drag and drop the folder to the “new layer” button, displayed in the picture below. Create a copy of the Safari folder for this tutorial:
Rename your new folder to “My New Sona” or something else and open it. You should have this now:
Learning about Styles and Creating your own
The layers were named after my personal style of layering them, but you can name them as you wish, like more specific names, or names that make more sense to you. If you double-click a layer, you will be presented with a window called Layer Style. This is a very important window which will be extensively covered in this tutorial. Let’s check the Eye layer, double-click it and select the tab Color Overlay. You should see the window below:
You will see the Blend Mode as Color 100% with a kind of yellow color chosen. That is a color mask that will change the eye color. The Blend Mode is a feature very commonly presented nowadays in any good image editor. You should try a lot of different Blend Modes to get used to them, explaining each one in theory won’t help at all, but you will understand how they work if you try lots of modes and colors. Make sure you check the Blend Mode of the other layers from my PSD, because they are sometimes different depending on the meshes and the skin.
Ok, now let’s check the Hair 1 layer, double-click it and you shall see that this time, a Gradient Overlay is being used instead of a Color Overlay. A Gradient is a smooth transition between two or more colors, rotated by a certain angle, in this case we are using a brown gradient, linear with 58º angle, this will make our hair not look a “pure brown” or a boring single color. The Gradient Overlay is an extremely useful Layer Style that you will love to use to make beautiful skins.
Now, let’s see about implanting patterns, very useful for clothes. Double-click the Cloth 1 layer to see the Pattern Overlay being used in the cloth. You can use your favorite patterns to create cloth material, or objects, like iron material, stones, jewels, fabric, wood etc.
This feature is ultra important to learn how to properly use, you can create many types of materials and beautiful skins for your champions using the correct patterns and correct Blend Mode for them. Most of times, for black and white patterns, you will prefer to use the Blend Mode: Overlay. This blend will generate the best results for most monochromatic patterns, as a way of implanting the material, like stone, fabric or wood for example. Also, you can adjust the Opacity and the Scale to make the visual better looking, for example, if you are using a big pattern for a small piece of cloth, a Scale of 50% or 25% would have the best result, instead of using the full Scale of the pattern (100%).
Important note about patterns – Seamless. You should always use seamless patterns for your skins (all the pre-included patterns from Photoshop are already seamless), this way you can assure a good looking skin without strange breaks or lines in the middle of your pattern.
There are many websites where you can download free patterns, for example, DeviantArt. Some patterns are paid, but you can find most of them for free.
Patterns can also be used to create map skins! It can be material for turrets, ground, mountains, anything you want. There are patterns of everything you can imagine and it’s one of the most strong features from Photoshop. There are patterns for many types of grounds, walls, rocks and more.
All right, let’s move on to the Border layers. Open (by double-clicking) the Border 1 layer to check it out. For this champion, the borders means the border of the clothes. In this case, you should see the border below:
Now look how interesting. This Layer has two styles, one blending with the other, how is that possible? Thanks to PS, you can create styles mixing more than one Overlay at the same time, and checking the result to see if you are satisfied with it. In this Border 1, you can see the use of a Pattern plus a Color Overlay above it. In practice, I’m multiplying a brown color tone over an already implanted pattern to create a dark brown pattern over the border of the cloth. Imagine this like an alchemy of styles, blending and mixing overlays to create your own personal style, how amazing is that? Try to play with them, modify them to anything you wish and see the results on the screen, they will appear in real-time with the little box “Preview” (enabled by default) and you can see if you are in the right track.
More examples of the alchemy blending in the images above and below.
Saving your Skin
So, your skin is looking awesome and you want to save it? I got you covered. Go to File > Save As, then you need to save as DDS (this option will only appear if you installed the Nvidia DDS Plugin as indicated in the beginning of the tutorial).
If you want to save for previewing with UU3D, just name it Sona.DDS (attention to uppercase here), or if you want to see it in game (as a final product) you need to save as sona_base_TX_CM.dds. This second is name is the original Sona file and it will be read by Wooxy (our skin installer) and the game.
Once you choose the name, you will be prompted with the screen below, to adjust DDS settings:
Now pay attention to this screen. There are several types of DDS which you can save. Let’s learn a bit about each one.
- DXT1 – This is used for textures that doesn’t have Alpha (Alpha means transparency), in the case of Sona here, you can choose this option because this texture does not have an Alpha Layer. You can check if a original Riot DDS file has an Alpha Layer by checking the second tab (right from Layers tab, there is a tab called Channels, the Alpha layer will be there, if it exists). More info about the Alpha Layer will be explained soon.
- DXT1a – Here it appears as DXT1 ARGB, this is the simplest form of alpha possible, a 1 bit alpha, to consume less space and memory, but it will look very ugly in game depending on your alpha transitions.
- DXT3 – This is for explicit alpha. For transparency transitions this will have a much better effect than DXT1a but still won’t be as smooth as DXT5.
- DXT5 – This is for interpolated alpha. This is the most smooth alpha you can achieve for the game. You can create beautiful transitions of transparency, including gradient transparency – perfect for particles for example, with this option.
If you are saving a Sona skin now, you can use the DXT1 option.
About Mipmaps – this option will generate mipmaps for your skin, which are smaller versions of the image to use, for example, with lower definitions settings (very low, low, medium). However, this is uncertain if will have any effect for you, since each graphics card (GPU) out there will make its own interpretation and reading. It would be complicated to enter in details about this now, but an easy rule for you regarding mipmaps is: for Champions, Monters and Particles, use mipmaps, if you are creating map skins, do NOT use as it will make your game crash because of memory handling.
Preparing the real-time Skin Viewer
Now that you know how to save a skin, let’s learn how to make this process easier for the UU3D (our Skin Viewer), since we don’t want to manually save it again and again each time you wish to view your “real-time” progress, right?
This is also an introduction for automation with Photoshop. I won’t explain the many fantastic things you can create with this as it would take a book to read. Instead, I will just teach you a small automation to save and preview your skin with one click.
First, check if you have the Actions window activated (Alt+F9 inside PS). Then check the image below:
You will need to replicate the Action above with your folder path. This is very simple to do. With your PSD file opened and saved, click the new action button (5th icon in the panel above – in the inferior bar of the Actions panel), click the record button (2nd icon in the panel above) then Save As > Sona.DDS (attention again to extension uppercase, and make sure you are choosing the same path you have the Sona.skn, otherwise UU3D won’t find it), choose DXT1 and save. When it’s done, use the stop button (1st icon in the panel above) to stop and save your Action. Now, just let your action selected and when you want to preview it in UU3D, just click the play button (3rd icon in the panel above) and alt-tab to your UU3D, and it should refresh instantly.
Intro to Particles
This is just a short introduction to particles. You can easily recolor particles adding a Hue/Saturation layer above the default Background layer. Then you just adjust the Hue to left or right until you get your desired color for the particle. You can also do the same thing with the method I explained before in blending mode, double-clicking the layer and adding a Color Overlay with Hue blending type.
Particles, in most cases, will have a transparency layer (called Alpha Layer) which you will see in-game as a transparent effect. In the image below you see the Alpha Layer inside the Channels tab. The name of the layer in this case is Alpha 1.
Therefore, particle files must be saved as DXT3 or DXT5 (the latter is preferred), otherwise you will see a bunch of black squares (sometimes blue) when casting the spell in-game.
Finding particles to edit is harder than actually editing them. This is not a joke. For the previous Sona skins of the Sona Week, most particles I used were from the same folder from Sona, with the path indicated in the picture below:
However, even with all those particle files, some spells and effects won’t change in-game, even editing them, and most of times, there are many particles you will only find in the Particles folder when extracting files from Wooxy. It’s like a nightmare folder with zillions of files, and many particles can be used for multiple heroes, so it could be very hard to find the exactly particles you want to edit for your champion.
Intro to Presentation
This is a short intro to presentation. You created an awesome skin and you want to publish it? No problem! I will guide you how to package your skin with Wooxy and publish.
If you are familiar with Wooxy, you will know how to install a new custom skin in Wooxy, or if not, open Wooxy, go to Skins > Import Skin, then drag and drop your files or folders inside the window to add them. For testing purposes, you can drag and drop your sona_base_TX_CM.dds inside the window. Once you finish adding your modified files, you can save a new WXY file with the name of your skin, the name of the author (your name or nickname) and the version number. You can even insert a custom picture for your skin!
After it’s saved, a WXY file will be generated in C:\Wooxy\Skins (if you installed Wooxy in the default path). You can then copy, zip or share it around as you wish.
If you wish, you can also post your work on our website (mapskins.com) to make it available for our fan community. There are some benefits if you like to create these skins as a hobby. To create your presentation, make sure you get some screenshots in-game of your custom skin, optionally a UU3D screenshot would be nice too for a close up of the skin. A video is not required, but it can make your presentation more rich to viewers.
[Advanced] Making parts of your skin transparent
This is a bonus tutorial which may make your custom skin very different from the others. We are not editing the 3D models, but we can still remove “parts” of our champion by making them artificially transparent. This is a technique which uses the creation of an Alpha Layer and saving the final skin as DXT3 (if removing a complete part) or DXT5 (if creating a transparent transition or smooth transition).
To get it started, let’s create a new layer inside the Channels tab. The new layer will be automatically named “Alpha 1”. After that, you can select the layer and paint it as you see fit. You can paint it with colors ranging from white to black (including tones of gray). White means visible – the area will appear in the game. Black means the area is invisible, it won’t appear in the game. If you use a 50% gray, the area will be semi-transparent in game, and it will have 50% opacity, cool to use for ghost effect or special fabric (transparent silk).
Here in the image above you can see the alpha layer (appearing as a red mask). I painted those parts of the cloth in black (inside the alpha layer), it will appear as “red” like a mask if you let all layers visible. Otherwise, if you hide the visibility of the RGB layers, only the alpha layer will appear, displaying the black and white parts:
If you save it as DDS (DXT3 or DXT5) for preview, it won’t appear in UU3D. I personally didn’t find an option to show the Alpha of the DDS inside UU3D, but you still can use it to preview what parts you can select and remove:
But it will still have effect in-game. Now we can see those parts of the cloth were properly removed:
The shadows are not influenced by the Alpha as we can see in the picture above.
You can make awesome different skin creations using this technique, the possibilities are endless.
Don’t forget to save your DDS as DXT3 or DXT5, otherwise your skin won’t have any transparency in-game. Avoid using DXT1a (with 8 bit alpha) because it will appear very ugly in-game, unless the parts are very solid and far away from other parts of the skin.
[Advanced] Drawing or painting introduction
As this topic is infinitely complex as digital art goes, this is just a very basic and short intro, so you can try yourself more professional stuff for your skins.
You can use the brush and pen tools from Photoshop to create your own designs or paint over your custom skin. If you don’t have the skills with the brush, you can use the Pen Tool to trace lines and curves, and then stroking or filling the paths with colors. I made a video in 2014 showing a speed-skinning for the old Blue Golem (before the new Summoner Rift was launched). The video shows me using the Pen Tool to create the “hi-tech lines” of the futuristic Golem. Back in the days, I used Cinema 4D to preview the skin, but nowadays, you can use UU3D to achieve the same thing, and more easy to learn and manage.
Check the video to see the use of the Pen Tool in action. Also note how you can insert designs and images to your custom skin using overlays and other blend modes.
You can safely ignore the first part of the video (you can skip to 1:30) because nowadays you can just use UU3D to see where the parts of the skin are, making your life easier.
Note how the video does not show shading, only a basic skin with use of patterns, pen and imported graphics. If you want to create more professional stuff you should search and learn about shading – cell shading or soft shading – depending on your style. Even without shading, you can still achieve a good look in-game in most cases because of the sun and shadows from the game.
[Extension] Creating skins for other Champions
The sky is the limit. Unless you are like me and love Sona, chances are you won’t want to create your own Sona skins. That’s fine, I won’t be sad. In fact, I will help you how to make skins for other Champions.
I assume at this point that you at least have a basic understanding of how Wooxy works, but in any case, let’s review this again:
Open Wooxy and make sure it’s totally updated (both your game and Wooxy), if it’s not updated, you will see a small button in the corner written “Update”, pretty straightforward if you ask me… Then go to “Creation tools” => “Get files”. You will see a list of folders and all the files from the game. Open up the small folders by clicking in the + icon before them, “lol_game_client/DATA/Characters/Aatrox/Skins/Base” like the picture below:
You will see some interesting files and folders: Aatrox_Base_TX_CM.dds, Aatrox.skn, Aatrox.skl, Particles folder.
This is an example of how to find the skin you want to edit. You will usually edit the files from the Base skin, unless you don’t want to distribute it to the public. If you edit a paid skin like Skin01 or Skin02, your viewers will need to have the paid skin from the game before they can use your custom skin, and chances are that only 1% will actually use your skin.
Select the files you want to edit and extract in the folder of your choice. Even if you are not working in the 3D stuff of the skin, it’s still important to extract the SKN+SKL so you can open it on UU3D, for a better experience editing.
[Extension] Separating your skin in Layers
If you downloaded the YSCP from this tutorial, you will see that the Sona PSD file has tons of layers. I recommend you go to the same process as I usually do to create your PSD, and to make it easy to create future skins for that Champion. To do that, you will use two important tools from Photoshop: the Zoom Tool (Z) and the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L).
It’s time for the boring part of the work! First, you zoom in a lot, like 300% at minimum, and you can zoom more depending on how the parts are smaller or touching each other. I can easily zoom 800% or 1600% sometimes, just to get the best selection possible, so it will look perfect in the game. Properly selecting and dividing your skin in layers can be time consuming, but it will save you a lot of post work and alchemy blending (as explained before), and you will be able to create tons of skins quickly.
The Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) has some tricks. With the tool enabled, you can shift-click to add a new area to the selection. You can alt-click to remove an area of the selection. It’s recommended you use it with Anti-alias checked. You won’t change the Feather (0px) unless you really know what you are doing, for smooth transitions, used for complex gradients and transitions (for example, a colorful jewel that radiates a blue aura over the iron material bordering it). To separate layers from a Champion skin, Anti-alias (ON) and Feather 0px is perfectly fine.
Once you have selected a part of your skin, you can right-click inside your selection and choose the option: Layer Via Copy. This will create a new layer for you above your current layer. You can name your copy with a name to remember later what are the parts you want to edit or apply effects. To change the name, just double-click in the layer name and write the name you want.
Video: If you want to see the use of the Polygonal Lasso Tool, check it out the video above (with the Golem skin creation), the first 1m30s (the same part I said it’s ok to skip) actually shows the use of the tool. Look how I zoom in the file before creating the selection, then I separate each part in a new layer.
Important: Make sure you have the correct Background layer selected before you start creating the selection area, otherwise your new layers will be empty. If you already created the selection and you are with the wrong layer selected, just select again the Background layer from the Layers sidebar and right-click inside the selection to copy the area to a new layer.
Thanks for everyone, my friends, my fans who always supported my works. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible.
Special Thanks to LGG and Chewy, to make us able to install our creations and enjoy in the game.
I won’t put a Donate Button here because I made this guide with love for you ❤️
If you like this guide, share it with your friends.
Thank you for reading my tutorial! I hope it helps you to create your own skins.