Discussion (0)How to make AmbTattoos
With the update of the 1.12 Base Game patch, or the installation of Ambitions, EA has introduced to us a nifty tattoo system. In order to utilize this system, we must adapt our way of making tattoos. The new tattoos--I refer to them as AmbTattoos--are now made similar to how patterns are made. They are comprised of three RGB channels and a fourth Alpha channel. I will explain more in-depth on how the channels are utilized as we proceed through the tutorial.
Author's Note

Like many other things when it comes to TS3 creation, I know the general "how-to" on creating tattoos, however my own personal textures are extremely rushed and lack-luster. This tutorial is simply to show the basics on how tattoos are made. Then, it's up to you to take my basic instruction and apply/adapt it to something beautiful.
What You'll Need
-- Adobe Photoshop (purchase) or GIMP 2.0 (free)
--DDS Plug-in for Photoshop or GIMP
--Tattooinator by CmarNYC

(I'll be using Photoshop 7.0 and giving Photoshop specific directions. So if you're using a different program the screen shots will be different, as well as some of the menus/tool names/commands, but the concept is still the same.)
Setting Up the Tattoo Image
Step 1

Open a new canvas in your imaging program. Set the dimensions to 512 x 512 pixels. Make sure the color mode is set to RGB and--if it's not already--set the background to black.
Step 2

I'll be using a stock Hibiscus flower image, and converting it to a tattoo. Regardless of what your source image is, try to center your image and have it cover as much of the canvas as it can without clipping occurring.
Step 3

If it's not already, spend a few minutes cleaning up your source image. This means deleting all unused space and leaving those areas transparent. Having a clean image with transparent negative space is very important, it'll make things much easier in the long run.

After doing a general clean up, next you need to simplify your image. Whether it's hand drawn or copy/pasted, you'll want to simplify your image into big shapes. Remember that you're only working with four recolorable channels, so you'll have to plan out your tattoo wisely. Don't get too intricate with details because they'll a) waste a channel for something more pertinent, and/or b) get washed out by the game graphics anyways.
Creating the Alpha Channel

In tattoos, the alpha channel can be used for one of two things: a black outline for your tattoos or as a fourth recolorable channel. Even if you are not going to use the alpha for outlines/channels, you MUST include one in your tattoo texture.

If you're not using the fourth recolorable channel, simply add a new alpha channel under the "Channels" tab in Photoshop. Make sure that the alpha channel is completely black. That's all you'll need to do.
Step 1

For the sake of demonstration, I added a fourth channel to my tattoo as an outline.

To create an easy outline, first you hit CTRL + click on the layer with your cleaned source image. This should fuzzy select all the area around your tattoo.

Go to the alpha channel you just created and fill the selected area with white.

Next, on the menu bar, click Select -> Modify -> Contract. When prompted, contract the selection by 2 pixels.
Step 2

Fill the new selection area with black. This should create a nice thin outline of the tattoo.

Note: This is a "quick and dirty" way to create an outline. Depending on the complexity of your source image, this method may or may not work.

Notice how in the upper right corner of our outline, a big section of it got cut off. When this happens you would go back and manually add it, but it's not that big of a deal for this tutorial.
Creating the Channels
Step 1

Using the magic wand tool select all the areas that will be part of one channel. In my case, the petals will be my first channel; the stamen and leaves will be my second and third.

Hint: You can select multiple regions with the magic wand tool by holding SHIFT.

Once you've gotten your region selected you'll want to split off this section into it's own layer. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the layer and select Layer Via Cut.

Repeat this process for your second, third and fourth channel (if applicable). If you have any left over "residue" from cutting out your pieces, simply erase or delete it.
Step 2

If you take a look at some tattoos, you'll rarely see big blocks of color. Instead, tattoos tend to have subtle shading that fades into the flesh color. To mimic this you simply manipulate the colors.

Hold CTRL then Right-Click on the layer of the region you're working on.

Without deselecting the region, create a new layer. On this new layer, paint around the edges of the region with pure red (RGB: 255 0 0).
Step 3

Again, without deselecting, create a new layer.

Remember that with RGB masks, pure colors (255 Red/255 Green/255 Blue) create fully opaque recolorable zones. However, darker hues of these pure colors create translucent effects.

Using this property to our advantage, fill the selected region with a darker hue of red. The darker the red, the more translucent the tattoo will be, and vice-versa.
Step 4

Merge down those two red layers--make sure you haven't deselected the region!

Go to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and play around with the blur radius until you get a smooth transition effect with your two red hues.

Hint: Blurring the regions a little, especially on the edges, help give the tattoo a more natural appearance on the skin.
Step 5

Repeat this process, if you wish, on the rest of the tattoo regions. I'm a personal fan of soft, blurred textures but if you're not, experiment with your own techniques!

After a few minutes of texturing, this is what my finished tattoo texture looks like.
Getting the Tattoo In Game
Step 1

Make sure that your alpha channel is NOT visible before we get ready to save our tattoo texture. Having the alpha channel visible may cause the tattoo thumbnail to be a black square in CAS. The tattoo will still function, but the thumbnail will be ugly.

Go to File -> Save As, and save your file as a DDS. When prompted, choose the ARGB 32 bpp compression. Normally you'd use DXT compression for sims 3 textures, but because of the small size of the texture image, ARGB is better suited.
Step 2
Tattooinator by CmarNYC
Tattooinator by CmarNYC

Load up Tattooinator and give your tattoo a name. Import the tattoo DDS texture file into the texture box.

Enable all used channels by clicking on the radio button next to the letter of each color. You may also at this time set your three color presets.

Note: If you only used the Alpha channel as a black outline, you do NOT have to enable this channel in Tattoinator. Leaving it disabled will keep the black outline, it just won't be recolorable.

The CAS order number can change the location of the tattoo in the tattoo catalog. Unless you specifically care where your tattoo will be found among the sea of tats, you can ignore this box.

Another neat feature of the Tattooinator is the preview button. You can use this to get an idea of how your tattoo will look . Remember though that when you actually do get the tattoo in game, it will look a little different due to your particular computer graphics capabilities.

The preview tool can also be used live during the creation process. Meaning that if you change something on the dds texture and re-save it, simply hit reload in the preview window and it'll load the new changes without having to start Tattooinator over.
Step 3

Once done with all changes, simply hit Create Tattoo Package and you're done!

This is my finished product, which is FAR from perfect. Of course, if this was a serious project you would go back and tweak your tattoo a bit. I should work on the leaves texture some more, and finish up the outline along the stamen part. But like I said, this is simply a demonstration on tattoo making and a few useful tips I've picked up on the way.

If you'll look at my tattoo in-game, you'll see some smudging and bleeding. You should expect a little distortion of your tattoo textures, no matter how crisp your texture was. This is simply a fault with TS3 graphics rendering, and there's not much you can do about it.
Tip: Reducing Texture Bleeding
  • With either the magic wand or the CTRL + click method, select the tattoo region only. Do not select the black area around the tattoo.
  • Go to Filters -> Noise -> Add Noise and play around with the slider until you get just enough noise to see the color separation, but not too much to where the texture starts to become terribly pixelated. A good rule of thumb is to lean back as far as you can in your chair and squint. If you can still make out the texture, then you've added the right amount of noise.

Adding noise pixelates the texture slightly, which breaks up the colors. In game, the game will then again *resquish* these colors together. So in theory, instead of mushing up the texture and causing smudges, the noise will help prevent that.


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Last change: 25-05-2011, 05:59 PM
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