Cutting and Pasting with GIMP (Step by step Improvement creation)

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Aug 23, 2005
The reason being, that tech icons are easier. I bust my bum in Bryce to make nice Icons, but I dont have to...You can make Tech Icons with pics right off the web...see below

Step 1:
Get GIMP. A free program that has all the graphic tools you will need for civilization 3 static graphics.

Step 2:
Select a pic of the Improvement you would like to create. I suggest 3D model sites for materials. (Turbosquid is my favorite)

Step 3:
open the pic in GIMP.

Step 4:
Copy (Edit --> Copy) the whole pic. Now you want to open a new, "Transparent" pic to copy into (File --> New). Make sure the dimentions are the same as the original pic. Then, click "Advanced Options". In the "Fill With" box select Transparency (And add a comment if youd like). Click OK, and a box full of black and grey squares should pop up. Paste the Copy of the original Pic into the new box (Edit --> Paste) and Anchor it to the bottom layer (Layer --> Anchor Layer). (see pic)

Step 5:
Now you have a copy of your original pic. On the GIMP tool bar, double click the black box under the tools (see pic).

In the pop-up box, select the Magenta color used by Civ3 as Transparent and click OK.(See pic)

Using whatever tools you find most useful, erase away the background from the Improvement. This can be done in a large variety of ways. I tend to use the Eraser, the Pencil (drawing in Magenta and then select by color and cut it all away), and the bucket fill tool (with Magenta as well).

Note: You dont have to eliminate EVERY pixel from the BG, but some will be noticable. I also find it best to magnify the pic to 400% ( View --> Zoom(400%) ) so that I can see each pixel and modify as needed.


Select everything that isnt transparent. (Select --> Select All)
Copy the Image to your clipboard (Edit --> Copy)
Open a New box. (File --> New) It should automatically be the size of your image without the extra blank space. Adjust the Advanced options as above, making "Fill With" box "Transparency". Click OK.
Paste the image from your clipboard into the newest box and anchor it down to the lowest layer. (edit --> Paste. Layer --> Anchor Layer)

[Note: you should still have the Improvement, on a transparent BG. You will need this later, so dont close it]

Step 8:
Bring the largest size of the pic, down to 128 pixels (Image --> Scale image). Click Scale (Final file will be 128X128).

Step 9:
Get Ukas' Blank Building Templates:

With GIMP open the one that matches the improvement you are making. Convert the template to RGB. (Image -->Mode --> RGB)

Now just copy and paste your pic onto the template(grassland) and anchor the layer down to the previous one (Layer --> Anchor Layer). Now you must "Index" the palette. (Image --> Mode --> Index). In the box that pops up, lower the number of colors to 254 and click OK. (see pic)

Step 10:
You should now have an icon that looks like a finished product. Its not.

on the GIMP toolbar, open the colormap/palette (File --> Dialogs --> Colormap)

You should still have color ff00ff selected in the foreground box, so on the color map, click the [+] until no more color is added (at least 2, possibly more).Close the colormap.

Save this file as (BuildingNameLRG.pcx)

Step: 11
reduce the saved file to 32X32 pixels (Image --> Scale image)

Save this File as (BuildingNameSML.pcx)

Step 12:
You have finished the Pedia Icons, now onto the Building PCX files...these are much easier because you dont have to Index them. They are copied into an exsisting PCX when used and will index automatically.

Close the finished Pedia Icons and leave the window with your improvement on a transparent BG (It may have been reduced to 128 pixels at this point.)

Open a new file. 50 X 40. Click advanced options and select Forground color in the "Fill with" box.

Reduce the size (Image --> scale image) of the Transparent BG to be either 50 wide, or 40 high, whichever fits properly (some are one, some the other depending on the shape of the improvement in question). Now copy (edit --> Copy) and Paste (edit --> Paste) the reduced version onto the pink one and anchor the layer (Layer --> Anchor Layer). Save this as (BUILDINGNAME_buildLRG.pcx)

Step 13:

now go back to the Transparent BG pic, and reduce it again (Image --> scale Image) and make it 32 pixels at the largest point. Often this means a barely visible icon, and there are better ways, but this is the quick and dirty way.

Open a new file (File --> New) 32X32 pixels. Click advanced options and select Foreground color in the "Fill with" box. Click ok.

copy (edit --> copy) the Transparent BG pic (File --> Copy) and paste it (Edit --> Paste) into the new pic and anchor layer (Layer --> Anchor layer). Save as (BUILDINGNAME_buildSML.pcx)

Step 14:

Celebrate, you just created an Improvement that you can upload to the Database and share with should be proud!! :goodjob:


  • Tech Icons For Dummies.txt
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I might be willing, but as of now I am ignorant to unit palettes...I am willing to explain what I know, but its not much...

I will spend a bit of time trying to figure out Unit be continued(in another thread)
Blue Monkey: Im glad to know its handy for some people. We cant all afford to get PSP or Photoshop or whatever...

anything you need help with, feel free to ask. Ive been using GIMP for a while now. I dont know everything about it, but I know alot.
well, this is one of those things that I can't do...I usually adjust pallets by hand, editing each color 1 by 1...

Exporting is pointless as Gimp uses a weird file type for Pallets...I haven't been able to import them from anywhere else...
I hope this is not considered an unnecessary bump (that this is info others hadn't already mastered). This tutorial was a great help in getting me started with the GIMP to convert civilopedia images, wonder splashes, etc. Now that I've started unit making, I've tried hard to answer the questions posed here. I can answer a few of them...

Importing Palettes: Open the palette dialog and then click on the Palettes menu (from the small left-pointing arrow at the top right). In that drop-down menu there is an option "Import Palette..." There you can either select a Palette from another image you are currently editing in GIMP or from a Palette file. I've found success with both .pal and .act palettes. Now, when indexing images, rather than selecting 'Generate Optimal Palette' click on Use Custom Palette and select your palette from the list.

Exporting Palettes: One can use the palette from another image that is open in GIMP as well as save the current palette for future use within GIMP but there does not appear to be a way to directly export a palette. However, with PEdit one can approximately do this. By opening the Colormap and taking a screenshot, saving it as a bitmap and then opening that bmp in PEdit, it doesn't take too long to transfer your GIMP-created palette to PEdit and save it in another format.

For Units: Paste all the storyboards into a single image in the GIMP, then click on Colors > Hue-Saturation and set the Lightness and Saturation values for Magenta and Blue to -100 (the lowest). Next Index the Palette to 160 colors. From there, open the Dialogues > Colormap and take a screen shot. Create a new image, paste the screenshot and save it as a .bmp Then, open PEdit, open the .bmp you just created and the Essential Colors.pal that is available for download and proceed to click on each of the colors from your screenshoted palette to load them into the spaces between the civ-colors and shadow colors in the Essential palette. Save that palette in PEdit under a different name for your unit. Go back to the GIMP, open the storyboards one-by-one and apply the palette you created in PEdit using the Import procedure above.
(This is a combination of Steph's "how to..." with the added directions by Vuldacon and some of Bjornlo's tutorial See Vuldacon's notes in that first link for how this may not be a perfect procedure for certain animations.)

I also have not found a way to adjust more than one color at a time, unfortunately...that would be quite useful.
This is by no means an unnecessary bump...In fact quite the opposite. Adding relevant info is always welcomed...As a matter of fact, you have helped me with one of the few things I had left to figure out...

Indexing by hand is a Pain in the Arse...knowing that I can import palletes from other pics is all I needed (tho cutting and pasting over the pic will also get you the pallette you want, its messy that way)...Great addition, and nixce to hear that this tutorial has helped you...
I use GIMP for the work with transparencies & layers for my icons, but am more comfortable with another progam for other parts of the work. I do the palette reduction in GIMP ( I like the way it handles the dithering) & finish up the last bit of pixel adjustment, etc., elsewhere. It's easy enough to customize the palette reduction to reserve 2 colors, as demonstrated above. When I open up the file in another program the "reserved" colors are not in their needed location. Simple enough to adjust, & no big deal to me as I sometimes need to adjust a shade or two elsewhere anyway. I just thought others might like to be forewarned.
Ive added a tutorial for Tech Icons in the attachments if anyone needs it...I wrote it before this one, but never posted it because Varwnos posted one at the same time...but I attached mine here for others who have already seen how I do it, and can easily follow...
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