What is The Palace?
What about Scripts?
Every Palace user wants great avatars and props. Some want to draw them, some want to scan them, some want to steal them. This short document will tell you how to do all three using GraphicConverter, a very useful piece of shareware for the Mac written by Thorsten Lemke the fee is only $35US, and well worth it! You can even register on-line via Compuserve via the SWREG page GraphicConverter's ID code is 1634.
The version used in this tutorial is GraphicConverter 2.2.
The information here is very Mac-centric. Windows patrons should try Making Props with Photoshop or watch for an upcoming page on PaintShopPro.
Photoshop users take note GraphicConverter color table files are not in the same file format as Photoshop's. If you use both programs, you will need color table files for each program.Once you've opened the GIF, select "Save As..." under the GraphicConverter "File" menu. A dialog will pop up, showing you the image. Change the Format from "GIF" to "Color Table" (the name will change to "pgate.PAL") and hit the "Save..." button (I saved mine as "Palace.PAL"). Once the color map is saved, you can just close the GIF you won't be needing it any more.
The chart below shows the Palace color map rearranged in various strips. The top strip shows the map in the order it appears in the GIFs, and thus in GraphicConverter (The block of blacks at the end of the table is unused). Subsequent strips rearrange the color table, sorting on hue, on saturation, on brightness, on the red components, on the green, and finally on the blue.
Of special interest here should be the block of colors at hues of around 15 degrees or so. Sadly, this region is not well-repesented, and the colors in it are overly-saturated. Why is this region important? Because that part of the color wheel is where all the skintones (worldwide) live. It often makes it very hard to nail a good flat-colored "skin" region on an avatar face especially for flat-colored cartoon characters. Why this color map was made the way it was, I can't answer. As a general color map, it's good; only skintone variances are lacking
Remember: Save Your RGB Image. You may need it later, for changes or fixes.
To force GraphicConverter to use your stored Palace color map, you select "Colors->Options..." under "Picture." A dialog will pop up. Press "Use Custom Color Table" and the "Open..." button. In the "Dither" check box, press whatever you like "dither off" will generally give you the smallest file size, while "dither on" will give the nicest tonal gradations. Now press "OK."
Once the color table is ready, we can convert RGB images the Palace map. Select "Colors->Change to 256 Colors (8 bit)" under "Picture." Now look at your image: it's living in the Palace world.
Not sure about that "Dither" option? Just hit "Revert" under the "File" menu. You did save the original, didn't you?
|RGB Original||No Dithering||Dithered|
The transparency mask is not preserved when pasting pictures back and forth between programs. My method to deal with this is to place the picture on a background color that I'm sure I won't be using in the av picture itself. Usually an extreme green or blue ("bluescreen," heh). The color I usually use is [R51 G255 B0] (or [13107 65535 0] using Apple's Color Picker). This is a color that's already in the Palace color map, so GraphicConverter will never dither it.
Here's an example using a photo of singer James Brown.
|Scaled Down to 44 Pixels
Copying from the Palace prop editor, the transparent areas will go black. If your prop had black edges, you won't know where they are any more! There are two good solutions for this problem:
Personally, I usually like smaller, single-prop avatars. They are much faster to use when in the Palace. But it's easy to build bigger props, and I have a few big avs, too.
GraphicConverter lets you resize pictures, using "Size->Scale..." under the "Picture" Menu. Pictures can be cropped (before downsizing) by selecting an area with the GraphicConverter Marquee tool (on the floating tool palette) and selecting "Trim Existing" under the "Edit" menu.
GIFs and the like should be converted to RGB (or at least continuous grayscale) before being resized. Sometimes resizing really destroys the line quality in GIF drawings small lines turn to mush. This is a generic digital-picture problem. Fortunately, it's only occasionally serious. There are only a few recourses:
You've saved your original picture, right?
In the "Save As..." dialog is a small item marked "Split" that does just what we need. Pressing it will bring up a smaller dialog box. Turn Split on, and set the width and height to 44 and 44. Hit Okay and now save your picture. GraphicConverter will automatically save as many little bits as are needed to tile the image in 44x44 bits.
One cuationary note "Split" will stay on forever, unless you explicitly go back later and turn it off.Now we can drop them all into the Palace. My prefered method to transfer them is to use the scrapbook. Close the original image, jump to the finder, select ALL of the tiled bits, and hit Cmd-O for "Open." The Finder will bump you back into GraphicConverter and open all of the tiles simultaneously, as individual pictures.
The windows will be small, so go to the Apple Menu and start-up the scrapbook. Put the scrapbook window somewhere where you can see both it and the small GraphicConverter windows.
Now for each of the tiny GraphicConverter windows, all stacked one on the next....
Click on the Suitcase to open the Prop window.
Now, for each of our Scrapbook bits...
Always name your props, even partials it can come in handy later. Just type a name in the little box at the bottom of the editor window.
Now to assemble the entire avatar, hit "naked" in the prop window, then add all the props, one at a time. If you've placed them correctly, they will tile together to create your entire av picture. Save the appearance as a macro, and you're there!