use rectangle tool to select around the Sim to extract from screenshots

Many artists like to make previews of their work on plain backgrounds, so that the details of their work aren’t overshadowed by the many things that appear in the background in The Sims 2. But even with Photoshop, this can be a time consuming process. So how can you make it easier for yourself? This tutorial will show you a way to make it easy to extract Sims out of in-game screenshots, so you can capture your Sims in unique and interesting poses for your preview pictures.

You Will Need

If you do not have an image editing program, consider downloading and familiarizing yourself with GIMP. It is a free download from: http://www.gimp.org/

Step 1 – Configuring FRAPS

By default, FRAPS uses the hotkey F10 to take pictures, and saves the pictures to C:\Fraps. This doesn’t suit me, because F10 is already used by the Sims 2, and I don’t really want it to save my pictures to C:\Fraps. So I need to configure it. Run Fraps, then find it in the task bar (it will have an icon in the bottom right corner of your screen, near the clock), and double-click it. I want to use F11 to take screenshots, but FRAPS already uses that for something else, so first we’ll disable that.

setting up FRAPS

The next thing we’ll do is customize the settings for the screenshots.

customize FRAPS for Sims screenshots

Step 2 – Creating Walls and Floors for our Backdrop

Now we’re going to create the walls and floors which will be a plain backdrop for our preview pictures. So, fire up HomeCrafter Plus (under Start > All Programs > EA Games > The Sims 2 HomeCrafter Plus > The Sims 2 HomeCrafter Plus).

creating wall coverings for extracting sims from screenshots

For this next section, I will tell you how it’s done in Photoshop, as that is the image editing program I use. If you use another one, you will have to work out how this translates to your image editing program.

Open Photoshop. When it’s loaded up, go to File > Open…

Navigate to My Documents (or [username]\Documents for Vista), then go to EA Games\The Sims 2\Projects\HomeCrafter Plus\Working Directory. There should be just one file in there, so open it. If there is more than one file, check where HomeCrafter told you to go (see above).

Wow that’s one tiny picture! You can zoom right in if you like, but it’s really not necessary.

First, hit CTRL + A to select all. Double-click the background color (the large white square in this case) to open the color picker.

open color picker in photoshop

Select the text here and replace it with “FFFF00” to get the brightest possible yellow. This makes a good color for your backdrops. Then click “OK.”

Hit CTRL+A to select the whole picture. Press “del” or “delete” on your keyboard to erase the whole picture and replace it with the background color, which you have just set as yellow.

refresh icon

Press CTRL+S to save. Close the picture, but leave Photoshop open. Go back to HomeCrafter Plus, and press this button to refresh.

You can write a title and description, and enter a price in the appropriate boxes if you want to.

Make sure you remember what category your wallpaper is in.

import wallpaper iconClick the icon to the left to import your new wallpaper, then in the smaller box that appears, click the tick to confirm. Wait a moment while your wallpaper is imported.

Click the middle icon towards the top of the HomeCrafter window to switch to floors.

browse floors icon

Again, choose a fairly plain floor to start from.

Just the same way as you did with the wall, export the texture, edit it in Photoshop so it’s all bright yellow, save it, refresh in HomeCrafter, then import the new floor.

You now have a bright yellow wall, and a bright yellow floor, which you can use as your “catwalk.”

import the new floor window

Step 3 – Taking the Shots

You should never ever release anything without having played with it in the game for at least a few minutes first. So, if you took all your screenshots in Body Shop before, time to change your ways! The game provides a much more interesting variety of poses and angles, the lighting is better, and also you can be pretty sure, even if you’ve only played with your work for a few minutes, that your downloaders won’t find any problems with them.

So, all that said, open the game and create a family to test your work on. Make sure you’ve got someone dressed in each thing you want to take screenshots of (or at least as many as you can). Move the family into an empty lot of any size.
Now let’s sort out your game graphics settings. Turn shadows off, smooth edges right down to “less,” and turn any other settings as high as your graphics card will allow.

Place two walls at right angles to one another, so that the darkest side of the wall is facing “outwards,” put your new wallpaper on, then fill the space in front of the walls with your new floor.

sorting graphics settings for extracting sims from screenshots

I also place a couple of objects in, such as the stereo pictured above (dancing poses are really interesting!) and also a dresser and mirror, to change clothes, hair, makeup and accessories.

Get everyone apart from the Sim who you want to model clothes to “watch clouds” on the outside of the wall, or keep the occupied some other way, otherwise they will keep walking into your shot. For a simple walking pose, get your modelling Sim them to walk from the “inside” corner to the “outside” corner of the walls and floors. Pause the game, and go into camera mode to get your shots.

Remember to press F11 for each shot, not C, as you would have done before. When you’re done taking shots, exit the game, and go into Photoshop. If you gave FRAPS a different folder to save to at the start, open the pictures from that folder. If not, they will be in C:\Fraps.

Use the rectangle select tool to select roughly around the Sim.

use rectangle tool to select around the Sim

Choose the magic wand selector. At the top of the window, make sure your settings are like these:

magic wand selector settings

Hold the ALT key and click on the yellow background. Press CTRL + C.
You can paste what is now on the clipboard over whatever background you like. I use a plain background, in a color which matches the color of my mini-site, but you could use whatever background you want.

For some hairs, you may find there are still some yellow parts, which you will have to remove by hand with the eraser tool. With some practice you will be able to make appealing, striking preview pictures. Don’t forget to always keep an eye on the previews made by other artists. If the previews attracted your attention, then you can learn something from them!

Enjoy creating your work, and making your striking new previews!

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