Making Palace Pics with GraphicConverter

What is The Palace?
What about Scripts?

This page is a close parallel to the Photoshop Version.

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.

Making a Copy of the Palace Color Map

The first thing any GraphicConverter user should do with Palace, before actually creating any pictures, is store a copy of Palace's custom color map. You can do this by opening most any Palace room GIF ("pgate.gif" is prefered, since it's guaranteed to have the complete map). The room pictures should all have the same color map, and your avs should use that same set of colors.

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.

Looking at the Color Map Indexed on Different Qualities

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

Using the Color Map

For any picture you want to use with the Palace, as a room background or an avatar, you need to make sure it uses that color map. Unless the picture started as a Palace image (like the room GIF, or something pasted from the Place prop editor), we'll need to convert it. There are essentially three kinds of pictures we will convert:

For both grayscale and indexed-color images, you must convert to RGB color via the "Picture->Colors->Change to 16.7 Mill. Colors (32-bit)" menu first, before converting to indexed color using the Palace color map. GraphicConverter will always assume that grayscale GIFs should be mapped to exactly 256 grayscales; and it has no good way to directly convert from one color table to another. A short time in RGB mode is the neccesary in-between step.

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

Transparent Areas

Pictures are moved back and forth between GraphicConverter and the Palace Prop Editor by using the clipboard. If you can open both applications at the same time, great if not, you'll need to use the Scrapbook as a go-between. Personally, I prefer using the scrapbook even with adequate memory to run GraphicConverter and Palace together I just find it easier to keep track of everything that way.

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.

Original Grayscale Cropped,
Contrast Extended,
Green Masked
Scaled Down to 44 Pixels
& Sharpened
Palace-Palette Image
Once the picture is in the Palace Prop Editor, you can easily delete the odd-colored areas with the eraser. Holding down the Control key while erasing will quickly fill-erase large areas of contiguous color.

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:

  1. Since you've been saving a copy of the original prop in GraphicConverter, you may have also saved the mask. You did save the original pic, didn't you? Didn't you?
  2. Put the prop on some flat-colored background other than black, and do a screen grab. The illustration here was made in the "Onyx Room" I painted a blue blob behind the av, then hit the Mac "snapshot" FKey (Cmd-Shift-3). The resulting (RGB) picture is then cropped-down to just the region I need, and I can select the blue with the magic wand, invert the selection, and voila I get just the av.

Picture Sizes

Palace uses two basic picture sizes for avatars. The basic prop size is 44 by 44 pixels. It's small, but bigger than a Mac finder icon. The second size is the actual avatar area: 132 by 132 pixels, or three props by three props. Large avatars are built out of smaller props by tiling them together.

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:

Building That Big Avatar

When you have a picture that's bigger than 44x44, you will need to tile it. There's an automatic way to split large pictures into smaller pictures in GraphicConverter, so it's an easy process (In fact, I usually use GraphicConverter for this process, even for pictures I've initially prepared in Photoshop).

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....

  1. Click on the window to select it.
  2. Hit Cmd-A for "Select All."
  3. Hit Cmd-C for "Copy."
  4. Click on the Scrapbook Window
  5. Hit Cmd-V for "Paste"
  6. Click back on the GraphicConverter window.
  7. Hit Cmd-W for "Close."
  8. Hit "Don't Save" in the little warning dialogs, we haven't really made any changes to the image.
Okay, now we can Quit GraphicConverter entirely, leave the scrapbook running, and start up Palace.

Click on the Suitcase to open the Prop window.

Now, for each of our Scrapbook bits...

  1. Click on the Scrapbook Window
  2. Hit Cmd-X for "Cut."
  3. Click on any Palace window.
  4. Click on the Prop Window "New" button.
  5. Hit Cmd-V for "Paste"
  6. Click the "Save" button in the Prop Editor window.
On the Palace side, you will need to adjust the locations of these props. In the prop editor, you need to shuffle the props to their various locations. The arrow keys will move the prop relative to the core face area in one-pixel increments you'll need to hit the arrow 44 times to move it a full prop-width to the side or up and down (Mac power users need only hear one word: "QuicKeys"). Pick the center prop and designate it a "Face Prop" while editing (In the Prop Edit menu, visible only while editing).

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!