WoW skinning Tutorials and files











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Preamble

  • If you’ve been linked directly to this page from somewhere else, welcome to my blog. Please see the main page of this blog to see the latest skin creations, and other info that might be useful to you.

    WowSkinner’s Blog – Main Page

  • If a bit in this tutorial is confusing to you, please leave a comment to that effect. I want to refine it so as to be clear to the widest range of people possible.
  • The default text size for the skin on this blog is itty bitty. I’d suggest hitting Cntrl and the Plus sign together to make it bigger and save your poor eyes. I’d make it bigger here, but it’s an irritating process with wordpress. So do it yourself. =P To make tiny again, hit cntrl and the minus sign together.

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Why Modify?

Some may wonder why one would bother doing this sort of thing. Traditionally, this technique has been used to modify the way characters look when all their clothing has been removed, but it has the potential to do so much more. Perhaps you’ve always loved the look of the Winterspring Lavender riding tigers. Well, as long as you aren’t concerned about what your friends see in-game (no notoriety, no glory) you can have one! Simple skin switch. Do you have the Red Whelpling pet, but wish you had the blue? No problem. Perhaps you need to use the uber (Uber Ugly, that is) shoulders you have, but you don’t want to LOOK at them. No problem, make them invisible! Or make them blue. Whatever. Give your kitty pet rainbow stripes. Or a bald spot. See a ghost cat, owl or wolf instead of your real cat, owl or wolf. The possibilities are without end.
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Modifying the colors and designs of things is fun, and once you get all the tools and understand the process, it’s tolerably easy! Let’s get started.
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Definitions:
Model: This is the polygonal construct that Blizz uses to build things in 3D in the game. It is invisible, and has no outer shell. The motions a character or mob or item can do is programmed specifically for that Model type. It is not advised to mess with the models in WoW. Word on the street is that it’s detectable, to a certain degree, and can cause account bannings.
Skin: A Skin, (Otherwise referred to as a texture, or a .blp file) is the outer covering that is stretched around the model of a thing in WoW, that gives it visuals and colors, etc. Like throwing a (very tight fitting) sheet over an invisible person. You can extract these texture files, these ‘skins’ and recolor or redesign them to your liking. This is more or less undetectable by Blizz, and I’ve been modifying them for years without the slightest incident, and so have countless others.

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Tools you’ll need:

(This only works with windows, sorry mac people. (I feel your pain, I’m a mac person, too.))

mywarcraftstudio.doc My Warcraft Studio (program)
This program serves the purpose of extracting the .blp texture files out from where they’re stored on your computer. This is actually a zip file. You must download, and rename it to read “.zip” instead of “.doc”. Then unzip.

wowimage-blp-0991.doc (executable .jar file/mini program)
This mini app converts the .blp textures into a .png file that you can open up in photoshop (or other photo manip. program that can handle transparency) and edit. It also will convert it back into a .blp file when you’re through. This is actually a zip file. You must download, and rename it to read “.zip” instead of “.doc”. Then unzip.

mywinmpq_246.doc (program)
This program is the largest of the three, and it takes your .blp files and consolidates them into a patch file that wow will recognize and utilize. This is actually a zip file. You must download, and rename it to read “.zip” instead of “.doc”. Then unzip.

Wow Model Viewer (click to visit official download site)
You can ‘test drive’ your textures in here, see what they look like. For example, if you’re working on making a texture mod for an Ancient of War, you can see the results here, instead of actually going in-game and trying to find an Ancient of war, just to see what your work looks like. Also this program is useful for trying on armors that your character doesn’t actually own, taking pictures of your character against a clean background, etc. Scroll to the file that claims it’s the “Newest Version” and download.

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Setup

Install MyWinMPQ in your Program Files directory, you can unzip the rest of them wherever you like. I left them in my “Downloads” folder, personally.

Next, get an explorer (File Folder) window up, and, with the folders listed in the left sidebar, navigate to the Program Files\World of Warcraft\Data folder.
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Go up and grab a copy of myWinMPQ.exe (hit control as you click and drag it) and drop it into the Data folder.
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Next, create a plain .txt file, and paste the following text into it, no formatting, use the notepad.exe program to do this:

REM **********************************
REM Rename the MPQ in the line below if desired
REM **********************************
@echo n patch-t.MPQ > script.txt

@echo a *.blp /r >> script.txt
@echo c >> script.txt
@echo x >> script.txt

REM **********************************
REM Set the path to WINMPQ.EXE below, or leave it as is, if it’s in the Data Folder.
REM **********************************
WinMPQ.exe s script.txt

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Save it as MakePatch.txt in the Data folder.
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Look at the Data Folder and change the name of the file from MakePatch.txt to MakePatch.bat
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This will change the file to a Batch File.
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As you can see in the Purple Batch File text above, I had chosen to call my patch “patch-t.MPQ” but you can call it whatever letter of the alphabet you like, Wow will give preference to the final patch it finds, so if you have a white owl file referred to in both patch-a.MPQ and patch-z.MPQ, it will use the white owl file version contained in patch-z.
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To edit the batch file in the future, right click on the file, and choose “Edit.” When you are done, just choose “Save” to save it.
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Next, create the correct folders under Data that will match the exact path that the files will be looked for by wow. For creatures, this is:
Data\Creature\officialNameofcreature
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See the folder tree in MyWarcraftStudio to see the exact names that the folders need to be. See following example of proper Data folder contents and folder nesting:

skinningtutorial1.jpg

Next, again in the Data folder, create a folder called “Working”. This is where you will store your Native (original from Blizz) textures, as well as your altered textures. It’s a good idea to keep your files tidy, or you will find yourself digging through huge piles of files and it will get very difficult, trust me. I’d nest them in a way that’s identical to the folders in Data.
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Under “Working” I have “Creature” and this would be the place to put “Character” etc, for each category of texture that you work on. To see the proper names of the categories, again- see the folder nesting in MyWarcraftStudio. I also have two folders for each type of thing or animal, Native files for original starting texture files, and Altered files for your working modification files. See example.

skinningtutorial2.jpg

It would be a good idea to keep these folders also the correct names that MyWarcraftStudio uses, to keep everything uniform.

Ok, so now! Time to go over how all this works, and explain why you just did all that. =P

Blizzard’s texture files are kept sealed up in .MPQ files, a filetype that is proprietary to Blizzard. The two main .MPQ files you’re likely to have right now in your Data folder are “common.MPQ” and “expansion.MPQ” These two files contain all the texture (skin) files that you’ll need to start from.

But obviously you need to get in there, to extract the texture files you need.

You use My Warcraft Studio for this.

Let’s run through an example of taking a texture file through the whole process.

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Extracting the texture file

Open up My Warcraft Studio and click the little yellow folder button to Open a file. Choose “common.MPQ” in your Data folder. It will take a minute to think about this, then present you with a rack of folders on the left hand side of the screen. THESE are the folder names that you must pay heed to, in your Data folder, and in your “Working” recordkeeping folders. They must be named and nested exactly like this.
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Next, look at the very bottom of this left column. If it does not say(*.blp), then make it so. This step might be important to remember later if you’re becoming frustrated trying to find a .blp file and it doesn’t appear to exist in the spot it should be in.
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skinningtutorial7.png
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Let’s locate the cow. Like the one that wanders around outside the Stormwind gates?

Here’s a pic:

skinningtutorial3.jpg

You see what they did there? This image is stretched in a very specific way around the model of the cow and its bell. There are 3 colors of cow in WoW presently, the ‘regular’, the black, and the brown. Each of these skin files is applied to the exact same Cow Model, and they each have their own unique texture file name. (clearly.)

Right click on the file that’s selected in the image, “Cow.blp” and choose “Extract To…”

Navigate to Interface\Working\Creature\ and create a new folder there called “Cow”, just like it’s named in the image above, in MyWarcraftStudio. Now two new folders inside THAT folder, call one “Native files” and the other “Altered Files”. Double click on “Native Files” since this is an original Blizz file, and hit “Save” to extract the file to this new folder.

Ok! You may shut down MyWarcraftStudio now, if you like.

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Converting the Texture file

Fire up the executable .jar file, “wowimage.jar”.

Put it up into the corner of your screen, and pull your explorer window up in front. Find the Cow.blp file we just extracted in your Interface folder. Click and drag the Cow.blp file up into the left hand side of the Image Converter window. This will convert your Cow.blp file into Cow.png , an image file, in the same folder as the file you just dragged.

skinningtutorial4.jpg

Ok! go ahead and leave the converter .jar program up in the background. We’ll need it again, in a minute.

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Editing the Texture file

Open up the Cow.png file in the most robust image manipulating program you have. I use Photoshop, others use Irfanview with no problems, there’s also a few others. Paint Shop Pro 4 is awesome too, but not as flexible as Photoshop. Get version 4, it’s free. The 30-day trial is fake. I’m up to 500 some days on mine. =P

Make changes, usually mostly under Image|Adjustments|Brightness&Contrast,
Image|Adjustments|Hue,Saturation,Luminance,
Image|Adjustments|Color Balance

to make color adjustments.
You may also find it useful to use selection tools to mask off just a bit of the texture to change.

Here, I just altered the color balance of the entire texture file:

skinningtutorial5.png

Hit save as, and save the file as “Cow[ALTERATIONDESCRIPTION].png” (example: CowGREEN.png ) Use all caps for any letters you add. This helps you keep track of what the file’s original name was. Be sure you’re not changing the file type or color mode (Greyscale, 8bit, 16bit) or anything. Go back to the explorer window. Drag your freshly made CowGreen.png file up to the right half of the jar file to convert it back to a .blp file.

Now, drag your two CowGREEN files over to the “Interface\Working\Creature\Cow\Altered Files” folder, since they aren’t native original files anymore. Nice and tidy.

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Creating the Patch

Next we have to set up the altered .blp file in our Data folder with exactly the right path and name, in preparation for creating our first patch. Tiny homemade patches are how we communicate to the game that we want it to use our new modified skin instead of the native one. Make a copy of your CowGREEN.blp file, (Holding down Ctrl while dragging makes a copy in the new location) and place it into the Data\Creature\Cow folder. Change the name of the file to just plain Cow.blp when you get it in there, as this is what WoW is going to look for, naturally.

It should look as follows, ignore the gryphon and sheep bits:

skinningtutorial6.jpg

Now, because you set up your MakePatch.bat file already, it should be ready to go. What it’s going to do, is tell the MyWinMPQ program to look in the Data folder, see the folder structure in there, and create a patch that contains that structure, and any .blp files that happen to be inside, too. It will make this into a .MPQ file, and since we’ve called it a name that WoW will recognize as a valid patch name, WoW will load your changed textures instead of the native ones, in the game.
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Double click on MakePatch.bat. Wait until you’re sure the program is totally finished, and ‘patch-X.MPQ’ has shown up in your Data folder.
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At this point, you should be ready to test it out! Either outside Stormwind, (bear to the right just a bit, off the road, there’ll be a cow there to see) Or in Wow Model Viewer.

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Configuring WoW Model Viewer to see your patch files

Open WoW Model Viewer, and navigate thusly: Options/Settings and check the “use local files” box, and then hit the ‘add’ button, find your new patch, highlight it, hit “Open” and then X out of the Settings window. Then shut down WoW MV, fire it up again, and you should be able to navigate to your recently changed creature and see your new coloration.

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More than one texture modded?

We’ve walked through how to make a patch for a single texture mod. If you have more than one, simply place them all in their proper folder under Data, and run the MakePatch.bat file again. Any texture you have in the Data directory will be saved, all in the same patch. If you’re making a patch for a friend, be sure to have only the textures they want modded in the directory at the time that you run the MakePatch.bat file. Maybe you like pink boars, but they may not. Be mindful of what’s in your Data Directory when you run the patch file, everything in there will be included in the resulting patch. To make varying patches, like one ‘set’ that recolors druid animal forms, and one set that leaves them normal, just swap your Data Directories around and run the MakePatch.bat file accordingly, being sure to change the name of the patch by editing the .bat file before running it.
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Tip:
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When you are creating texture files, it may be useful to have a label attached to a file that doesn’t change, no matter what the file happens to be named. This is useful because you have to change the name of the altered file (say, a pink boar) to the same thing a regular boar would be called in wow, in order to get WoW to use yours instead. But if you come back in 5 weeks, and look at your boar file in the data drive, how can you tell what color it is? After all, you recolored the ivory boar 8 different ways. If each of these files has a windows ‘comment’ attached to it, you will be able to tell at a glance.

Example: BoarSkinIvoryPINK.blp
You change this to BoarSkinIvory.blp and place it in the Data Folder to be used in a patch.
Now you’ve lost the information that told you it’s pink. But not if you have a windows ‘Comment’ attached to the file. See picture for example of a windows comment. If you don’t have a “Comments” column on your Windows Explorer window, you might have to right click and make sure it’s box is checked, so you can see the comments for each file.

skinningtutorial8.png

This can help you keep track of what color the current “BoarSkinIvory.blp” actually looks like in-game

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Credits

You know, I really meant to have people credited in here, but I then realized that it’s been like a year since I learned all this stuff, and I have no idea who to credit. If you feel like you would like a credit, no problem, let me know, and I’ll slap your name on here.
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I would say your tutorial is fairly easy to understand as far as technical stuff goes. I made a site for modding FFXI back when I played that did about the same thing and have been looking for an easy to follow guide for WoW because I didn’t feel like going through the whole trial&error thing again. Thanks for this. Keep up the good work and maybe see if you can get a model-editing tutorial up, rather than just texture swapping! >.o



wowskinner says:

Thanks! But I won’t be going into model (shape) editing or swapping, it’s too dangerous for my tastes, and I’m not even curious how it’s done. =)



canoke(wow) name says:

when i try to open mywarcraft studeo it asks me what to open it with plz help



canoke(wow) name says:

sorry i forgot to check the notify box



Silentkiss says:

I can’t seem to get it working 😐 I’m pretty sure I’ve done everything ( I repeated the process twice )

I’m using BLP converter instead of the image converter you suggested, because I can’t get that one working. Is this alright?



lionessa93 says:

But I’m guessing it doesn’t work with wotlk? 😐



Wolph says:

I was thrilled when I found this site and I plan to start skinning right away so gratz on a great tutorial. Secondly I do have a question? I love playing trolls and now I will be able to try out some of their other skins but one thing that bothers me is their feet are always out. Is there a way so that their feet are covered by the shoes and not out? I have modelviewer and if you click on the show feet then re click again they become covered by regular shoes so either this a glitch or its possible in some way. If anyone can help please let me know.



Evan says:

Awesome, I’ve been mucking around with this for a little while and your tutorial is exactly what I was looking for. The only problem I have is that I cannot open the .zip files you have provided except for MyWarcraftStudio and the Model Viewer.

I have been looking for wowimage for a while, but it’s apparently dead

Any help on the matter would be greatly appreciated



Matt says:

Needs an update. WoW skin files are no longer .blp files. Not sure what patch this happened in but now they are .skin files. Clearly an attempt to thwart those making nude patches. Any way, does any one know of a way to get those .skin files converted to .png?

Apparently WoW will still read .blp files as all the old patches still work. But i am eager to fix some of the mistakes made by those people that made the old patches.



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