I felt that the forum needs a new skinning tutorial, since the old one has all the goodies buried inside too many posts. Step 1: Unpacking the resources Download the PakBuild program. PakBuild is a helpful utility that lets you unpack the .fpk files in which Vanilla Civ stores its resources. Start up PakBuild. Go to PAK-Unpack... (or hit Ctrl-U). Navigate to your Vanilla Civ Assets folder (mine is C:\Program Files\Firaxis Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\Assets). In it, you will find four different FPK files (or one if you're not using the latest patch). Double click on the first one, Assets0.fpk (or Art0.fpk, again if you're not updated). Select a folder that you want to extract the files to. This folder will be a skinning library for you, so I would recommend that you keep it in an easy-to-locate place, like C:\CivSkins or something. This is completely your choice. Now wait for the FPK to unpack - this takes a long time on my computer. After it's done, go to the next FPK file, and unpack it to the same folder that you selected above (such as C:\CivSkins). Do this again for the third FPK, and again for the fourth FPK. You should now have a folder with one subfolder, 'art', which contains all the resources we need in order to skin. For Warlords, all of the resources are contained within the Warlords Assets folder (mine is C:\Program Files\Firaxis Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\Warlords\Assets). Your skinning library for Warlords is, therefore, different from the one you use for Vanilla. Optional: An NVIDIA convenience NVIDIA has created several useful texture tools specifically for DDS files (DirectDraw Surfaces). They are very helpful in making DDS an accessible file format. The one that you will find most helpful is the texture previewer, which lets you view thumbnails of the DDS files in Explorer. After you install it, navigate to a subfolder in our skinning library which has DDS files in it. Go to "View-Thumbnails," and you can now preview the DDS files. Keep in mind that you have to do this for every folder for which you want to view the thumbnails. Step 2: Getting the GIMP We need something that can actually manipulate the images, so download the GIMP , then install it. If you're new to graphic editing, don't be disheartened by the strange-looking interface - you'll get used to it. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet. Step 3: Setting up DDS files with the GIMP The GIMP cannot natively import/export DDS files, so we'll need to add that functionality to the application. Fortunately, there is a GIMP DDS plugin which does just that. Download it, and read the readme.txt file to figure out how to install the plugin. After you've installed the plugin, try opening a few DDS files to test it out. You might get a heart attack because the skins look like someone literally peeled the skin off of someone, but remember that the skins have to look like that since they're getting wrapped around a model. You can open them in two ways: Navigate to the file manually using File-Open. Drag the file into the GIMP's toolbox window from Explorer. I haven't figured out a way to associate DDS files with the GIMP so that you can just double-click, because the GIMP uses a different syntax for command-line arguments. Step 4: Getting NifSkope Previewing a skin without running the application is often a skinner's dream. NifSkope is a wonderful utility that lets you view NIF files with their textures. Download and install. Step 5: Let's actually do something You probably want to get your hands dirty by now, so let's modify a leaderhead. Pick a leader that you hate. I personally am not too fond of Victoria, so I chose her. In your skinning repository, under "Leaderheads", navigate to the "victoria" directory. Let's test out NifSkope. Right click on victoria_nonshader.nif, go to "Open With", and choose NifSkope. The NIF should load and you should see the leaderhead. Why non-shader, you might ask? Well, there are two version of textures for each model - shader, and non-shader. The shader one uses in-game lighting calculations to make the model look realistic, while the non-shader one uses textures to make the model look realistic. Lazy skinners like me normally modify the nonshader file and use that only, so that's what we'll do too. You can also edit the "diff".dds file if you want to be proper, but that's almost twice as much work. Copy the whole "victoria" directory to the CustomAssets folder, My Documents\My Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 4\CustomAssets\art\. Or, if you're running Warlords, My Documents\My Games\Warlords\CustomAssets\art. Note: Copy it to the folder which corresponds to the folder in the skinning library. In our case, it's CustomAssets\art\leaderheads. Otherwise it won't load in-game. Here's the part where we cheat...delete the victoria.nif file, copy the victoria_nonshader.nif file and paste it as victoria.nif. Now, we can just deal with the victoria_nonshader.dds file, and not have to worry about victoria_diff.dds. This goes for all leaderheads - you can be lazy and still get good results! Open the CustomAssets version of victoria_nonshader.dds (you don't want to accidentally modify your library version!). Now take the black paintbrush, and paint lines all over the face, or something similarly distasteful. Save the file. Open it in NifSkope again - you can now see the changes that you made! If you followed my directions, then you can now run Civilization and see the changes in-game. If you don't like it, just delete the victoria folder in the CustomAssets section. Good luck, and happy skinning! Appendix: Some useful information The rainbow-colored textures, the "nrml".dds files, decide whether the model should be slightly raised or lowered at that point. This is useful for hair and fabric. The "spec".dds files are for specularity, which basically means shininess. The brighter it is in this file, the shinier it is in-game. You can edit the "bg".dds files to change a Leaderhead's background. Keep in mind that some leaderheads have animated background parts, so they may look strange if you reskin the static part. Appendix B: Useful source sites Camopedia: This sites has patches tons of camoflauge uniforms from all over the world over modern times. Wings Palette: This site has tons of great pictures of air units from around the world. Jet Aircraft Product Articles: Airplane Modeling database with reviews and color pictures of kits/decals/instructions. Air Combat Information Group: Articles and color pictures of air units from historical conflicts.