GIMP: Creating Inventory Icons

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Tools used in this tutorial



Introduction: Why Another Icon Tutorial?[edit | edit source]

We have a nice tutorial on this site for those wishing to make transparent weapon and other icons, and it's here.

But this tutorial, and most other retex tutorials on this site, are for Photoshop. Here's one for the GIMP which will give you nearly flawless-looking icons without the need for any drawing skills (an area where I myself am lacking). I've retextured game icons to look like my retextured meshes, but when I make brand new meshes, I need all-new icons. This method will give you icons that look exactly like your mesh.

Important Preliminaries: Your Modding Toolbox[edit | edit source]

For this method, you will need:

1. The Elder Scrolls Construction set (of course).

2. NifSkope, a powerful mesh-editing and retex tool. Get it here

3. The GIMP, a wonderful free photo and image editor that many consider as good as (or better than) Photoshop. Get it here

On general principles you need a BSA Unpacker, but if you're at the point of being ready to make icons I'll assume you already have that.

All right, enough of that! On to...

The Method[edit | edit source]

1. Open up your mesh in NifSkope. Double click the mesh itself (it'll be called something.nif) and it should automatically come up if you have NifSkope installed. Here's what my new cuirass from my upcoming mod looks like:


2. Before you do anything else, open up the GIMP. Double click the icon so you can see the aqua (or another color, if you use themes like I do) background come up. Open a new file by clicking File--New. It doesn't matter what size this file is or what it looks like, we just need it to get the additional toolbar.

3. Bring NifSkope back up again. Maximize it so that it fills your whole screen. Observe that you can change the view of your new item in the window by left-clicking it and dragging it around. You can zoom in and out by scrolling the mouse wheel, too. Practice this until you get a view from the angle you want for your icon; I'll use the one from the picture above. In the latest version of NifSkope, you can click the Render dropdown and uncheck "nodes" and "axes" to make those disappear, making a nice clean picture. Now press "print scrn" on your keyboard (it's usually in the row with the F1, F2, etc. buttons and is right next to scroll lock).

4. Nothing seems to have happened. Believe me, something has. Windows has taken a picture of your whole visible screen and put it on the clipboard. Now we're going to get it for our own use by doing the following. Go back to GIMP and bring up your little blank file. Now click Edit-Paste as new, like this:


Wow! A huge picture of your screenshot from NifSkope has just appeared in the GIMP. This is an image file like any other image file now, and we can do as we please with it. Mine looks like this:


6. Now use the rectangular select (press the R key) to select an area that is roughly square and includes all of your mesh that you want in the icon. (IMPORTANT EDIT: My friend Enigmatic informs me that you can select a perfect square by holding down shift while you click and drag the rectangle.) I'm cutting off part of the arms of my cuirass, because they would make the picture too wide. Then click on Image--Crop Image:


7. Now you have a square with your picture of your mesh in the middle of it. This will make a great icon, but it's got all this yellow in the background, plus the green/blue/red arrows from NifSkope (depending on the angle and whether you turned those off. The latest version of NifSkope generally has a black background instead of yellow). Now click on Select--By Color. Click the yellow background. Now click Edit--Cut. The yellow is gone. If your picture doesn't have an alpha channel, you'll see white. This means you need to go to Layer--Transparency--Add Alpha Channel, then repeat and delete the white.

If your picture automatically has an alpha channel, like mine, you'll see a grid:


Use shift-E to bring up the eraser and erase any arrows or other bits you don't want around.

8. If the arrows cover parts of your mesh, the way they do with boots, you can paint over them. Press O, then click on the nearest part of your mesh to the arrow. Close the annoying little dialogue that pops up to tell you what color that is. Now press p, resize the paintbrush if necessary, and paint over the arrow. You can smudge to make it blend better (s key), but usually the edges will be quite invisible after the next step.

Alternate method: if you want a "halo" like some game icons have, you can erase all but a thin aura around the shape of the mesh. The NifSkope background is almost exactly the right color. Or you can paint around the edge with a translucent yellow of your own choosing.

9. Once all the ugly background colors are gone, go to Image--Scale Image. Now you have a dialogue box showing how big your picture is (mine was around 650 by 687 pixels). Click the little chain next to the dimensions so that it will disconnect the height and width and resize exactly as you tell it to do. Now type 64 and 64 into the boxes. Click OK.

10. Now I have this:


See how nice it looks? All icons must be 64x64. Now we're ready to save. Click File--Save As. Icons go into the folder Oblivion/Data/textures/menus/icons, then whatever your item is. Mine is part of an existing set of meshes, so it goes under textures/meshes/icons/armor/Sickleyield/Syntyche. You might have to create some new folders if you've never made icons before, but this is easy to do with GIMP's save screen (just click "create new folder").

Make sure you save as DXT3 compression. I've been told you should check Generate Mipmaps, too, but the CS doesn't like that and I've never seen evidence that you can't do without it.

Getting the Icon Into the CS[edit | edit source]

1. Load up the Construction set. Now load up your mod that has the new item in it. I'll come back in ten minutes when you're done with that. :) If you don't know how to set up a weapon/armor item in the CS, look here:

Getting a New Shield Into the CS

2. Double click your item to bring up its dialogue screen. Over on the right is the area where you chose what meshes to use for it, and at the bottom of each part is one that says "icon." If it's a weapon, this may be higher up on one side. Click on the icon button and click through until you find your lovely new icon file. If you saved without mipmaps, you should be able to see it in the CS; otherwise you get an error message which you may safely ignore, and you'll have to look ingame to see the icon.

3. Save your mod. Playtest and admire your sexy new icons.

See Also[edit | edit source]