Creating a Cosmetic Item

Since the dawn of time, man has sought new and innovative ways to survive and get a leg up on their competition. One of these ways being fashion. Say you wanted to attack your enemy, but they were too cunning and quick. The only way to distract them was to obviously violently rip off your bearskin pants and throw them up at the enemy. Your foe would be dazzled by your magnificent piece of art that was your stained pants, while you ran at him, looking to kill!

Even now in the 21 century, man still seeks to out dazzle each other in combat, whether in real life or on the Internet. No organisation seeks more to out dazzle the competition like Creators.tf. You see that they have put a call to all artists, young and old. They require those with a special passion: To make great pieces of art for their game. You, brave artist, are one of those few special people who have the passion to make these great pieces of (digital) clothing but do not know where to start. Well, lucky for you, this guide will show you how!

All great items start out as concepts, and the only way to turn those concepts into reality is to make art for the concept, called concept art. This allows the modeller to get an accurate representation of what the final version of the item should be. The way you create concept art for TF2 is a little different then what most might expect. You need to start out your concept on a reference, being an in-game model screenshot taken from different angles in order to get the depth of the concept itself and how big or small it needs to be. These references can be found here. For hats specifically, you can use DJ's head references pack found here. More detail about the importance of concept art can be found here.

It varies from what part of cosmetic creating you want to do. Heres a list from the Steam Workshop Item FAQ for Team Fortress 2

  • Maya (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
  • Photoshop (textures)
  • Zbrush (detail models, morphs and textures)
  • 3Dcoat (models and textures)
  • Mudbox (models and textures)
  • Wings3D (models only, but it’s free)
  • Modo (models and textures)
  • 3DS-Max (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
  • XSI (models, textures, skeletons, morphs, animation)
  • Blender (models and animation)

It is all up to a personal preference for whichever one you choose.

Team Fortress 2 followed an idealized 1950s-60s Americana looks back in its early days. Not too modern, hyper-realistic, or overtly cartoony. Over the years, however, the art style has evolved, breaking the original desires for the game. Creators.TF seek to keep it's cosmetics in the art style, preventing game-breaking and annoying submissions from seeping in. Here are some guidelines that you should keep in mind as you create your items for Creators.TF.

- The item should maintain the personality of the character. Examples of this Demo's Scottish origins, Scout's being obnoxious, or Pyro having a love for fire.
- Use flat colors that are close to the TF color family that the TF2 uses. Try and avoid full black, full white, or fully saturated colors.
- Don't worry about fine surface details. No scales, skin pores, fabric textures, super detailed normals, etc.
- Use a subtle vertical gradient and subtle ambient occlusion layers multiplied over the colors of the model, nothing too strong.
- TF generally has realistic proportions, with slightly exaggerated aspects to emphasise certain areas. For example, Heavy's tiny legs, or Scouts baggy pants.

Using these techniques, your submission will improve in quality, as well as becoming more visually appealing to those who observe it. It is important that your cosmetics and items in general follow these rules, as Team Fortress 2 has poly count limitations set in place since it is such a dated game. According to the Steam Workshop Item FAQ for Team Fortress 2, weapons only 6,500 polygons, and hats only 1,000.

An example of Leyendecker's artstyle as seen in Team Fortress 2.
Credits to Swizzle for the info. Link to the guide used here.

Team Fortress 2 has a very distinct style. Moby Franke, the lead artist for the game, based his concept art for Team Fortress 2 off of the art of J.C. Leyendecker. Leyendecker iconic artstyle was to use 1 or 2 base colour, then adding brush strokes of a much more darker hue. These base colors serve as a starting point to differentiate materials from one another. For example, the scout's scattergun has two basic colors; gray and brown. These colors are meant to show to the player that one part of the gun is wood and one part is metal. Everybody mutually understands that wood is brown and metal is usually gray, so that's how we understand the the weapons design.

The brush strokes are accomplished by using large, squarish brushes at high opacity. The strokes are applied over the base colors to give texture and interest while still retaining the general original hue. This results in large blocks of solid color which reinforce the original base colors. These strokes are applied over the base colours to give texture and an interesting feel, while still retaining the original hue of the base. This results in large blocks of solid color which reinforce the original base colors.

AO (Ambient Occlusion) is usually baked into the models of the game, as this grounds the modelled details on the objects by simulating ambient light. This type of ambient occlusion in TF2 also serves another purposes: To add another layer of texture and grain to an objects hand-painted texture maps.

To emphasise the form of the guns and show that they're not brand new, Valve tends to paint highlights onto sharp edges on their metal objects, as well as put some wear and tear on the metal to simulate use. Even though quite a few of the edge highlights are just thin lines along edges, wear and tear is often shown with large patches of color painted with those same high-opacity brushes as the shading previously mentioned before.

Normal mapping gives models the illusion of depth without having to increase your models poly count. Normal maps uses RGB values to simulate shading that would only occur on models with shape and form that would only come with high poly counts, high poly counts that TF2 cannot afford. Normal maps are used sparingly and only to enhance certain details. The folds of cloth on the characters' clothes are the only places on character models where you will find normal maps. The rest of the shading on characters is controlled with smoothing groups. Similarly to the characters, normal maps are used sparingly on weapons and most shading is achieved with use of smoothing groups and modelled detail. Before you create a normal map for your weapon, make sure that the details you're trying to put into the normal map can't be modelled into a low-poly weapon without going over the triangle budget.

  • en/content_creation/creating_a_cosmetic_item.txt
  • Last modified: 30/12/2020 01:12
  • by Alibi