A Guide for Windows and Mac Users
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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 Adobe Photoshop.
If you are not a Photoshop user, don't turn off this page
yet! There are some tricks that everyone may find useful
when editing av pictures.
If you are a Mac user without Photoshop,
try this page instead, for a look at
how to build props with the shareware program
Windows users without a copy of Photoshop
are urged to follow along here and to look for the latest version of
the shareware powerhouse
- Press here for the step-by-step recap.
- Press here for an Advanced Tutorial.
- Press here for more Photoshop fun - like
Raytracing in Photoshop!
Making a Copy of the Palace Color Map
The first thing any Photoshop user should do with Palace 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). They should all
have the same map, and your avs should use the same set of colors.
Once you've opened the GIF, select "Color Table..." under the
Photoshop "Mode" menu. A dialog will pop up, showing you the
color table. Hit the "Save..." button. I saved mine as
"Palace CLUT" (Color
LookUp Table). Once the CLUT is
saved, you can just hit cancel on the dialogs and 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 Photoshop (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
Of special interest here should be the block of colors at hues of around 15
or so (easily found in Photoshop by using the color picker). 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.
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), 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 "Mode" menu first, before
converting to indexed color. Photoshop 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 RGB mode is the
neccesary in-between step.
- RGB (24-bit or 32-bit) full-color images (such as color JPEGs)
- Grayscale (8-bit) images (such as B&W Photos, JPEG or GIF)
- "Alien" indexed-color images (such as GIFs you might
find on the net)
Remember: Save Your RGB Image. You may need it later, for changes or
To convert an RGB image, you select "Indexed Color..." under
"Mode." A dialog will pop up. In the "Palette" box, press
the "Custom..." button. In the "Dither" box, press whatever
you like "None" will generally give you the smallest file
size, "Diffusion" the nicest tonal gradations. Now press
Another dialog will come up, showing you the color table. If
it's still the Palace table (after a while, you'll get to
recognize it!), just press "OK." If not, press "Load..." and
load our "Palace CLUT" file. Now look at your image: it's
living in the Palace world.
Not sure about that "Dither" option? Just hit "Undo" and
convert it again in several different ways. Or duplicate the
image and convert each copy a different way, to compare
Pictures are moved back and forth between Photoshop 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.
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]. This is a color that's in the Palace
CLUT, so Photoshop will never dither it.
In PS 3.0, I put
this falt color in a background layer, and leave the av in a
transparent foreground layer, "flattening" only when
converting to indexed color.
The transparency channel for the Palace is one bit. That
means it's or of it's off. That's not the same as Photoshop, which
allows 256 levels for soft edges (feathering) and other effects. So
you'll have to stomp on that transparency mask use the PS Levels
command to force it. Select only the transparency channel (usually
#4), select "Image -> Adjust ->Levels..."
and try typing in the values 127 1.0 129 in the
Levels Dialog Box. The grayscales should pin to black and white.
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
Antialiasing Avatar Edges
- Since you've been saving a copy of the original prop
in Photoshop, you may have also saved the mask. You did
save the original pic, didn't you? Didn't you?
Put the prop on some flat-colored background other
than black, and do a screen grab. This 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.
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 can be built out of smaller props by tiling
Personally, I 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.
Photoshop lets you resize pictures. GIFs and the like should
be converted to RGB before being resized. Sometimes resizing
really destroys the line quality in GIF drawings small
lines turn to mush. This is a generic digital-picture
probem. Fortunately, it's only occasionally serious. There are
only a few recourses:
- Redraw the problem lines by hand in Photoshop, after
- Beef-up the lines by hand in Photoshop, before resizing.
- Convert a copy of the image to grayscale. Isolate the
lines by pinning all non-black areas to white using
either fills (magic wand useful here) or the "Levels"
command. Build yourself a beautiful line mask, convert
it to the same size as your resized color image, use
"Levels" to beef-up any failing line densities, and use
it as an overlay (or multiply the images together, if
you've the chops for that sort of thing).
- Copy the image to Adobe Illustrator using Adobe Streamline,
then save as an EPS file in Illustrator, then convert back
to a raster image in Photoshop PS will let you force the
image to a particular size. This is definitely the premium
professional approach, but not for the casual non-artist.
Building That Big Avatar
When you have a picture that's bigger than 44x44, you will
need to tile it. There's no automatic way to do this in
Photoshop, but Palace's prop editor can do it for you.
For Windows users, things are easy a large prop can be
automatically cut-up and positioned with a single keystroke. Instead
of just hitting Ctrl-V, press Ctrl-Shift-Insert to
paste the image into Win Palace. The parts will be broken up and
dropped into the prop lister boxes. It's then a simple task to go
through the list and name each prop something
Similarly for Mac users, things are easy large
props can be automatically cut-up and positioned with a single
keystroke. The trick is in when you hit "Paste"
(Cmd-V). If you paste into to prop lister,
the image will be correctly broken and tiled. If you paste in a
prop-edit window instead, the entire large prop will be scaled down to
fit 44x44 (probably not what you want). Again, go through the list
and name each prop something appropriate.
You've saved your original picture, right?
Now to assemble the entire avatar: hit "naked" in the prop
window, then add all the props, one at a time, by double-clicking them
in the prop window. 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!