How to Design Custom Minecraft Skins in Photoshop

Minecraft, a game still in beta but soon to be released on a huge variety of platforms because of its popularity, is partially so lovable because it is 100% creative expression. And what’s more creative than making your game look the way you want?

This guide will walk you through the creation of a character skin for your basic Minecraft character without armor on using Adobe Photoshop or a similar graphics program that can work with layers.

Minecraft Character Skin Tutorial Details

· Program: Adobe Photoshop (or compatible program that can work with layers) · Version: Illustrations show CS5 · Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate · Estimated Completion Time: Approximately 30 minutes-1 hour depending on knowledge · Prerequisites or Requirements: Basic knowledge of your graphics program & tool locations, an idea of the character you want to create (unless you want to just create the one in the tutorial for practice), and the skin layout template found here.

Step 1

Obviously, let’s fire up Photoshop. It’s important to discuss size here though. Many of the fan sites that are quickly popping up allowing you to share your textures, skins, and buildings require specific sizes – others don’t. What is important is that your Minecraft Character Skins will work for you before you worry about anything else.

If you downloaded the skin template, you’ll notice that it’s 640 x 320 pixels in size. However, the game loads skins that are 64 x 32 pixels in size. So why are we doing this to ourselves? Simple: We like things easy.

It’s much easier to start with an image that is proportionately larger than the image you want to end up with because you can more easily see the pieces and because the quality will be so much higher when you finish your project.

So, our canvas is 640 x 320 pixels … when we’re done, it should be sized down to 64 x 32 pixels.

Step 2

Okay, so the most important thing to remember as we get started is that Minecraft is a very pixellated game. That Lego style of things is part of what addicts most of us. What this means for our skin, though, is that high-detail just won’t work without becoming all ugly pixellated once you’re playing the game.

So, we’re going to focus on solid colors, simple lines and simple shapes. I promise, you can play with more complex designs as you go on but this is the way to get started that will allow you to understand how the pixels stretch around the character once it’s placed in-game.

My character will be matching the theme of the project I’m currently working on in Minecraft: a Geisha. So the final skin I create should resemble a geisha as much as possible.

To start, create a new layer on your skin template and scribble out 3-5 colors that go well together that you can use as a color palette. If you have specific brush lines you want to do, these can go on that layer as well. This is our resources layer, where we can grab everything we need as we go along. On that same layer, choose a skin tone that you want on all the ‘bare’ parts of your skin’s body. Mayu22 from IMVU created the most beautiful skin tone charts that you can use freely. I will be using the 000 Base color. Reference the 2nd illustration attached to this article for my choices and an example.

Step 3

Now that our colors are chosen, it’s just a matter of piecing everything together. Just glancing at the skin template can be confusing because every piece of the Minecraft character skin (or sprite) is on a separate part of the image – sometimes separated in ways that seem to make no sense.

Remember that not only will your drawing be stretched to fit, but it will wrap around a 3D square-edged object. If you can try to see your flat drawing in this 3D sense, it will go a lot more smoothly for you.

Once again, because this is so important, you need to remember that the template you’re using is exactly 100 times the size that Minecraft will use for your character, which is only a 64 x 32 pixel image. So keep things as simple as you can until you’ve worked up the practice (and confidence!) to try something more complex.

Our first ‘coloring’ step is to fill in all the pieces with solid colors. So, where the hands go (since I’m not adding gloves), I need to draw in my skin tone exactly where it is on the template. Continue this process with each piece. Use only the base color – no decoration yet. View the 3rd illustration attached to this article for my example.

Tip: Create a new layer for each piece (right leg, left leg, chest, etc.) and name them for quick reference and editing.

Step 4

The face is, arguably, one of the most difficult things to ‘get right’ and you’ll probably spend a bit of time back and forth between Minecraft and Photoshop just trying to get it the way you want it. Then again, maybe you’ll get lucky and hit it on the first shot.

While making the face, try to keep everything to the center of the circle. Remember that everything displays pixellated so don’t worry too much about ‘realistic’ eyes or lips.

View the 4th illustration attached to this article for my example.

Step 5

Beyond the face (which you will probably have to load several times, adjust, and load again), it’s all down to finer details. Remember to start out without too much detail and work your way up – because the design gets stretched and then wrapped, it can warp designs in really weird ways.

Having said this, it’s really up to you and what design you choose to create. The pieces of the Minecraft character skin that will get the least stretched are the hair sides and the chest so you can get more elaborate with them.

Finally, remember that because pieces wrap around and connect with each other, you can get more creative as you go to create long hair (it will need to line up with the hair sides and back on to your arms and back piece) and a lot of other cool effects. Just remember that it’s all squares, so you’re never going to get totally realistic.

To view my final ‘flat’ skin, view the 5th illustration attached to this article.

With that, you’re ready to package your skin up and start using it! Isn’t designing grand?


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