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Almost Normal



So there's been one glaring problem with my plan for making new textures for the UNP bikinis by sampling out the vanilla textures: I had no idea how to make normal maps. My initial thought was to just reuse the ones from the existing bikini textures, but the results there were... mixed. 




I mean, it can kinda work. Carrying over the inner stitching effect ain't bad, anyway. But the lighting texture clashes pretty badly with textile and fur patterns. I figured that if I wanted to do anything with those, I ought to actually do some research into how to build my own normals.


And immediately found out that there was a GIMP plug-in that handled it.


Which I already had.




Well, that makes things easier. 


Except that it doesn't quite. The plug-in's default settings give you a functioning normal, but it appears that it assumes for a substance that is basically high-gloss plastic:




It took a bit of fucking around with the options, but I eventually found that changing the alpha channel selection to 'height' got me an output like this:




...which gave me a significantly more matte result in-game, much more suitable for the things I wanted to do with it. 




Still want to do some fiddling around and try some tweaking to see what gives the best results for various materials, but this is good enough to be getting on with. And since it's a matter of a simple transform to the base texture, it's pretty easy to change things around as needed. One thing I did find was that doing things like cranking the filter up from the default 4-sample could get more depth of detail, but that also wasn't always a good thing. Going overboard with the pattern in the leather on the bedroll texture, for instance, produces something very disturbing to look at. I am a bit tempted to stick with this sort of imprinted look I stumbled across for the Elder Scroll pattern, though...




That Scroll pattern also kicked me into being a bit more methodical with how I'm building these textures. When I first threw it together I somehow managed to luck into getting the center of the radial design smack-dab over the nipple on one side, perfectly maintaining the pattern over the cone of the breast. The other side I was not as lucky with, and the difference was pretty jarring. But I wasn't sure of how to fix it with the methods I was using. My initial go at these was pretty slapdash, just a matter of roughly cutting a template out of the existing leather texture and slapping samples in underneath it as new layers. Then I found that I hadn't cut it generously enough and was getting scraps of the old texture at the edges of the new ones, so I had to go back and trim out some more. But that resulted in my losing any decent reference to how the new textures would be laid out on the actual mesh, which started to cause its own problems. Alongside all this I'm basically teaching myself how to use GIMP; I'd only used it for some basic stuff beforehand, and it works significantly differently from the last image editor I used to any real extent, some 15 years ago or so. It took me until about this point to find out that it did straight lines as a shift command instead of the dedicated tool I'd been failing to find. That embarrassingly belated bit of knowledge let me go back and build something very important: a targeting pattern.




The main edges I traced from one of the cloth patterns, while the centerlines for the bottom are based off the thongs from the skimpy sets. The large circles on the top are referenced from the super-skimpy top's areola covers, and are off-center from the nipple tip because those are as well. The actual nipple position was determined with the scroll pattern, by making various tiny, tiny adjustments and checking them in-game until things lined up right, then marking off where the pattern's centerpoint was on the targeting overlay. Which was all worthwhile work to do, because it makes figuring out how a texture's going to translate onto the mesh much, much easier. I don't even really need the templates anymore; I can just slap texture samples under this and end up with a usable output. Which gives me good reason to re-do and re-re-do some of the earlier variants I've done, especially since I keep finding other little GIMP tricks to make playing around with those easier, as well. Finding alternate textures for the straps, in particular, can be very useful on some designs...




My original reasons for starting all this still need some work, though, as I've found that the reason I'm getting more holes in the Dwarven banner textures than I expected is that the original alpha coverage is actually significantly more extensive than you would expect from the visible texture.





 I could probably get inventive with the positioning to get something that allows for this, but the problem then becomes the other Vanilla banners. There's a few more of them that I wouldn't mind using, but their alpha coverages are all set for 'maximum tatter'. Hell, the Mara banner's chops off almost the entire symbol! And since this seems to directly impact the result I get when sampling them for the bikini textures, I kinda need to figure out how to manipulate the alphas before I can do anything more with them.


But in the meantime I'm finding entirely too many other things to make bikinis out of. Many things with built-in patterns to take advantage of, and some things that need a bit more work. I did a couple variants sampling from the Dark Brotherhood robes, and found that it was pretty easy to do color selects there to isolate the texture's background so I could give one bottom a bit of a cut-out:




...but unfortunately it's actually turned out to be something of a rarity in that. Most of the Vanilla textures seem to use background colors that the color select tool will find all over the actual texture, rendering it pretty useless. Most of the cut-outs on the Prisoner Clothes texture, there, are transparencies carried over from the original, but the neck I had to trim out of the background color by hand. Still, the end result looks pretty good.




And as for that Dark Brotherhood set...





It's designed so you can interchange the tops and bottoms for varying levels of handsy-ness. 


Furthermore, we've got a Necromancer set (I quite like how the sampling on this worked out, and intend to duplicate it with some of the other robes):




A simple Wench set:




The blue farm clothes:




And something of a personal favorite, the Bridal set:




And this is just the stuff I figure is good enough to show off. I've still got to go back and re-do the Draugr sets, and touch up the Arch-Mage attempt, and maybe see what I can do about the edging on the bottoms so I can try out a few skimpy versions... Honestly, I've kind of hit the problem of having too much stuff I could do. My original intent was just to compile some of the existing UNP bikini textures into one place and maybe add a few of my own, but now I find myself examining the textures while I'm playing the game and trying to decide if they're worth sampling or not... 




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The diagonal fold on the necromancer top can be (mostly) removed, since we also have access to a version of the texture that doesn't have the skull printed on it.

  1. Load clothes\necromancer\robes.dds and clothes\warlock\robes.dds into GIMP.
  2. Make sure the necromancer robes are the top layer, then duplicate the warlock robes and put that layer above the necromancer robes.
  3. Set the blend mode of the new warlock robes layer to Grain extract.  At this point it should look like the skull and blood on a plain gray background.
  4. Merge the new warlock robes layer down with the necromancer robes layer.  It should still look the same as the above step.
  5. Set the blend mode of the merged layer to Grain merge.
  6. Now the skull/blood can be moved wherever you want on the texture!

Finished result (with the skull moved over the back of the robe):




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