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How to Make Ambitious Sims 3 Tattoos with GIMP

how to make advanced ambitious tattoos for the Sims 3

Creating a tattoo is pretty much a simple as creating a pattern for TSRW. In fact, it’s even simpler since you don’t need to ensure they will tile seamlessly (being just a single image, after all). This works in Photoshop as well, I’m told, but I don’t know at all how to use Photoshop, so what you will need for this is:

  • An image editor to make your original image. You can use GIMP for this, but I like Inkscape as it is free and produces images which are a little cleaner to start from.
  • GIMP (or another image editor which can create DDS files). For GIMP you need the GIMP DSS Plug-in.
  • TSR Workshop 2.0

The tattoos created using this method will show up with the Tattoo tool and in CAS, and will be available to anyone who has the latest patches (that is, they’re not just limited to those with Ambitions installed).

Step 01: Create the image

You will, at most, be able to have four colors which change in the tattoo, so I like to create a tattoo that has (at most) four colors in it. This includes things like outlines—if your tattoo is to have a black outline, then black is one of the four colors. The image should be 512×512, which are the dimensions that TSRW works well with. Here’s the tattoo I created (using Inkscape) for my first try at making a tattoo:

Sims 3 advanced tattoo example

Step 02: Prepare the Image

This will be a lot easier if the image is separated into its four color parts. Above, you can see that my base image has a teal for the anchor body, a grey for its flukes, a sandy color for the line wrapped around it, and a black outline. The peachy skin color in the background won’t be part of the tattoo, so we can ignore that part. I’m going to have four layers to my image when I’m done: one for each of those colors.

I find Inkscape makes this fairly easy, and once I’ve got the four colors separated, these are the four layers to my image (the black lines between the images and the Layer labels are not part of them—they are here for illustrative purposes):

the colors of the advanced tattoo separated into layers

Step 03: Make the Layers into Masks

When we are editing the file that TSRW will read to make the tattoo, it’s going to be a lot easier if the above four layers are in black and white only. This is because the image TSRW reads is actually comprised of four “masks” which only show which part of the image is recolorable by each palette, not what the actual colors are.

In these “masks,” white indicates visible color and black indicates no color at all. A grey shows more or less of the color, depending on how light or dark the grey is. Since my tattoo here is very simple—four solid colors with no shading at all—this is going to be easy. Each of the four layers above needs to show its image in white with a black background.

When I’m done, I use Inkscape to export each of the four layers into its own PNG, so I have four PNGs that looks like this (the red lines between the images and the mask labels are not part of them — they are here for illustrative purposes):

tattoo layers in masks

Step 04: Using GIMP to Make the DDS Masks

Open GIMP now, and create a new 512×512 RGB image with a transparent background. Use the Colors menu and choose Components, then Decompose…, and when the dialog comes up, choose RGBA as the Color model. Make sure that the box for Decompose to layers is checked, and then click OK. What you should see is a black image and with your Layers dialog open, the image will have four layers: red, green, blue, and alpha. Open each of your four mask PNGs, and paste one into each layer of this image. Normally, the mask with the “most” color will go into the red layer, the second-most into green, third-most into blue, and least into alpha. For the above examples, I’ve chosen mask 2 to go into Red, mask 3 into Green, mask 4 into Blue, and mask 1 into Alpha.

When I’m done, these are the four layers shown on my Layers dialog:

the four color masks separated into channels

Step 05: Create the DDS File

When you’re satisfied, go to the Colors menu and choose Components, then Compose… When the dialog comes up, choose a Color model of RGBA. This will create a new 512×512 image which will look sort of odd—often a thick black outline with hazy red, green, and blue bits around it—but don’t worry, it’s supposed to look this way.

Use the File menu and choose Save As…, and when the dialog appears, give your image a new name, and the extension .dds. So as an example, mine is named The important part is the .dds on the end so that GIMP can save it in the proper format for TSRW. When you click the Save button, a second dialog will come up. Here you want None for Compression, and RGBA8 for the Format. Do not tick the box for Generate mipmaps, and if it is checked, uncheck it. Finally, click OK.

Step 06: Creating the TSRW Project

Now you’re done with GIMP, so we move on to TSRW.

Here, choose Create New Project, and under Clone an Item, select Clothing, then the Next button. On the Clothing Clone page, choose Adult and hum a little ditty while TSRW populates the right-hand frame with items, which can take quite a while.

Once it’s populated, scroll all the way down and you’ll see tattoos at the bottom of the list. Choose a four-color tattoo (I like the uutattoo Butterfly because I know it works for this), and then click the Next button. On the next page, in the fields for Project Name and Title, give your new tattoo a name that describes it, replacing the generic “New CAS Project” with something useful, and again click the Next button. When the Finished screen comes up, you can click OK.

Note that as of the writing of this, TSRW 2.0 does not support tattoos, so the left pane with the preview image in it will be mostly blank.

Step 07: Adding your DDS to the Project

Change to the Textures tab on the right-hand side, open the Core area, and click the Layer 1 Mask you can see there. On the right-hand side, click the little Edit button, and the Image Editor will pop-up showing the Butterfly. Click the Import button, and select the .dds file you saved in step 05. A warning will come up about your uncompressed DDS. Choose Yes to move on. The funny looking DDS image you made now shows up, and you can click Done.

Back in TSRW’s right-hand pane, be sure that under MaskInfo, all four say they are True for ColorEnabled (if you have four colors, otherwise you can remove the ones you don’t wish to use). Under the Color area, you can change each one to a set of colors you like, and this will be the preset for them in CAS.

Step 08: Other Considerations

Do you want more than one color preset for your tattoo in CAS? If so, this is place to do this. At the top of the Texture tab, there is a drop-down which (if you used the Butterfly tattoo) reads uutattooButterfly, and there will be three of them (one for each preset). When you drop down to the second one, you’ll see that it is still the butterfly, not the new design. If you wish to have more than one preset, you will have to repeat Step 07 for the other presets as well. If you do not wish to do this (and you want a smaller Sims3package file in the end), use the button to the far-right of the drop-down to delete the extra presets.

The other thing to consider is the icon your tattoo will use in the Launcher when people install it. If you leave the default image, the missing-body preview to the left-hand side is what will show. Since this is pretty ugly, you can import your own. I took the image that I’d saved for display in Step 01, and then overlayed the “created with TSRW” logo on it. On the Project
tab, under Extras, there is a place for the Launcher Thumbnail, and this is where it goes.

Step 09: Export the Sims3Pack

Save your work, using the File menu, and at this time save it as a .wrk, which is a TSRW project. If you wish to make changes later after previewing the item in the game, opening and editing this project will be the simplest way to do it.

Next, use the File menu and choose Export then To Sims3Pack. Give your project a name, and consider putting your TSR user name in there (since organizational freaks like me like that as it helps us keep our downloads straight). It also helps to give it a name, and say what it is. For this case, I chose crnn-tattoo-anchorsaweigh as my file name. Click Save, and when it is finished, close TSRW.

Step 10: Test in the Game

Copy your fresh new Sims3Pack to your Downloads directory, and install it into your game, then fire the thing up and get into CAS. If everything went according to plan, your new tattoo should be there, crisp and fresh, and right next to the Butterfly tattoo.

Things might look great, or you might want to tweak some. Don’t be afraid to make several goes at it, uninstalling the old one and installing the new one until it looks as good as you want it to.

finished advanced tattoo in game

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