How to Make Skins for The Sims
"Hi Caddy!," says Carla. "Hey, try on this new outfit--"
"OK, sure" says Caddy. "Yikes! What is this?"
"It's a UV map for an outfit I'm working on. I added blocks of color so you can see which part of the texture ends up on different parts of your body."
"B'b'but ... I'm all triangles and points and stuff! You're not going to ask me to publish a picture of me in this outfit, are you?"
"Oh, don't worry," says Carla. "I wouldn't even think of it!" (But I might ask Adam to publish it!)
"Whew! OK. So what's with all these lines and colors? This is hideous!"
"Well, look what I did with the UV map for this outfit."
"The green part maps onto your back, and it shows up with left-to-right exactly as you'll see it in the game; but look what happens to the front."
"It's reversed!" says Caddy. "It's what you would see if my back were transparent and you were looking through me from behind!"
"That's right. Skinners have to keep that in mind if they put anything on the front of the outfit where it matters, like text on a school sweatshirt. The arms are reversed, too, though that's not so obvious because I didn't split the colors on the inner and outer arms."
"I can still see that the arm sections at the top of the image map onto my left arm, and my right arm comes from the bottom. And while we're on the subject of my bottom, I'd like to point out that I'm a lot more shapely than this sack of potatoes."
"Of course you are," says Carla. "It's just that the guy who made the original B300 mesh didn't bother to include enough facets to map your curvy contours very well. But don't worry, we can make up for it with shading and nobody will know the difference."
"You're sure nobody will know the difference?"
"I won't tell a soul!" (Of course, if someone happens to read this tutorial, well, there's nothing I can do about that, is there?)
"This is actually kind of interesting. It looks like my back doesn't meet my front in a straight line."
"Yup. That makes it really tricky to get a pattern to match up between the front and the back. That's why clothing with complex patterns is so impressive, and why you don't see much of it."
"I've heard you cussing out necklaces, too."
"That's an even trickier part. The SKN file has a section that defines how each pixel maps onto the facets of the body. A lot of skins don't have enough pixels in critical areas like the neck and the top of the shoulders, so what's there gets stretched out and it's impossible to include a necklace on the skin."
"The necklines on our swimsuits look pretty good," says Caddy.
"Yeah, right, with a neckline that plunges all the way down to our belly buttons. They're almost as bad as your tank top, Caddy. You can knock around the house in Bruce's underwear if you want to, but that's a bit too showy for my style. I keep distracting myself!"
"So that's why you decided to put on that boob tube!"
"Uh huh. I could spend all day trying to get the neckline just right on this body, only to learn it's impossible. There just aren't enough pixels in the neck region. I'd have to hack the SKN file and edit the UV map by hand to rearrange all the triangles. I just haven't had time to do that yet."
"Isn't it kind of dangerous to have your tube tucked into your shorts like that? If you raise your arms like this, you could fall out of it!"
"We're sims, remember? Our clothes just stretch along with our skin, no matter what we do. The texture map just follows the contours of the little triangles."
"Yeah. Your boob tube doesn't look right, either. It's stretchy, so shouldn't you be showing some cleavage?"
"Well, I wanted to, but the mesh doesn't support it. Richard promised me some cleavage, but he hasn't got around to doing it yet. So we have to make some compromises sometimes. I suppose I could have tried to work it out with shading, but I want to get on with making my toreador outfit first. So until then, just pretend this thing is glued on."
"I'm less stoic about these things," says Caddy. "Is it OK if I get out of this silly outfit now?"
"Sure. I think I've got enough pictures to show folks ... um, I mean, to use as references for making the toreador."
"Oh, thank goodness! This is so much better! I love you, Carla, but before you get any other weird ideas, I think I have something important to do! Maybe Bibi has new updates I can download, and I haven't tried out Dincer's airplane yet. Busy! Busy! Busy! See ya!"
* * *
"She's really a good sport, isn't she?" says Carla.
"So, now you've seen how the UV map goes onto the mesh, and learned about some of the nasty pitfalls of skinning. If you'd like to download the UV map that I had Caddy dressed in, click here! It's set up as a fafitlgt skin so you can try it out in SimShow and see it from all angles. The UV map archive includes both the normal and colored UV maps, plus the CMX and SKN files for the B970 mesh. (And if you'd just happen to like to use Caddy's head while you're playing with it, you can download her whole archive in the Tour Guides section.)"
"Now that we've learned all about UV maps, let's finally get on with making our lovely toreador!"
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