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Basic Guide to Graphics Modding


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The first thing you need to know is that C&C/RA/TS/RA2 graphics of the SHP type don't contain colours, at all. They only contain palette indices, meaning, they just show in the colours given to them by the game. For that reason, it's vital that you use the game's colour palette when making your graphics.

This means that instead of having its image information saved as "this pixel is blue", it instead has "this pixel is index 144 on the colour palette", and the pixel will show up as whatever colour is at that index on the palette you give it. This means that if you give it a colour palette it wasn't meant for, it can look totally messed up.

However, it also means you can edit your graphics with adapted palettes, and it won't have any real effect on the final SHP file :)


This is the basic way to convert and edit units and structures: (taking Red Alert as example. Obviously for C&C1 and TS/RA2 you need to use the other palettes from the purple palettes pack. Note that the purple palettes are useless for editing different things than the units and structures)

  1. Get my purple palettes set. It can be found in the downloads, here. This is a special palettes set for modding and converting graphics. The normal game palette has black as (transparent) background colour, and yellow as unit team colour, but since those tend to mix up with non-transparent black and normal real yellow, I made palettes that change them to more distinct colours. Since the final game graphics as SHP only contain the palette indices anyway, and not the actual colours, you can perfectly use custom palettes like that :)
  2. Put the purppals-xcc.mix file in a game folder. Any game folder XCC knows will be scanned for usable content. If XCC doesn't recognize any game folders, go to View -> directories in XCC Mixer and set them correctly. I usually cheat my way around it by setting the XCC folder itself as "TD Secondary" and dumping stuff like this in there. Note that you need to restart XCC Mixer after changing any of the folder settings, since the scan only happens on startup. Also note that on modern OSes, XCC Mixer always needs to be started in Administrator mode, or it won't be able to access its own settings.
  3. In XCC Mixer, press ctrl+p, find  purppals-xcc.mix, and from it, select the Red Alert conversion palette "raprconv.pal". (rapwconv.pal is the same but with animated water colours left intact)
  4. Use "Copy As PNG" to convert the graphics to PNG using the current palette. You'll get a range of numbered frames.
  5. Edit the frames in your favourite image editor! Preferably one that allows you to view and use the internal colour palette of the image. As the example image on the purple palettes download page shows, the purple colours in the palette (range 80-95) are the ones that adapt to the player colour ingame.
  6. Save the graphics, keeping the original palette. Make sure to disable any saving options that would convert it to high colour or optimize the colour palette.
  7. In XCC Mixer, right-click on the first frame of the range, and use "Copy As SHP" (not "SHP (TS)") to convert it back to SHP file.


If you don't have any editor with palette support, make sure to save/re-save all frames as high colour images, and then enable the XCC option [View] -> [Palet] -> [use for conversion]. Then, make sure you have the same raprconv.pal selected when doing the "Copy As SHP" action. This will convert the graphics you have to the palette you got selected at that moment. Note that from what I've seen, this only works for high-colour PNGs without their own palette.
Hint: MS Paint can only save in high colour png, so simply opening the frames in MS Paint and saving them does that conversion for you.

If you don't have any way at all to view the palette in the editor, but want to make use of the team colours system, simply open the purppals-xcc.mix file, select the raprconv.pal in it, scroll down in the colours view until you see the purple colours (index 50-5F, since XCC shows it hexadecimally), and press print screen. You can then paste this in your editor and use the colour picker to use the correct purple colours for the team colours.

Other special colours you can use that way are the bordeaux-pink on index #0, which is transparent colour, and (in RA1) the pink on index #67, which is the glowing red used in RA's damaged buildings.

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  • 9 months later...

I just... you know, made it? Frame by frame...

The TIE fighter is based on the flat version of the C&C1 rocket launcher turret, first expanded to a rotating cube, then resized to twice the size, and finally, of that, I then used the sides, dividing the top and bottom in 3 equal parts on each of the 32 frames, connecting these 4 points to the middles of the height at the sides, and thus cutting out the hexagon you see in the final SHP. Then I added the ball in the middle, with fading colours to make it appear round, and added the window and guns on it manually.

It's a lot of work, though, and you kinda need to have a feel with the lighting of the game. I've had lots of practice in animating C&C/RA (and even TS) buildings, though :P

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  • 7 months later...
  • 4 weeks later...

If you go to the graphic entry, you'll find some of my own SHPs. (Anything started by "White).

Many of them as slight edits of other SPHs, some heavy edits and some stuff still is almost entirely scratch built.


Making a new building or Unit can be as easy as finding something which is close to what you want to make and then bit by bit changing it. Having a bit of an understanding as to how light falls can help a lot. I suggest using the SHP builder only for rocking the frames back and forth to see if animations are smooth. Other than that I actually use MS paint (I know, wow... lol) and Gimp for saving the data to keep the quality of the pixels.



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  • 3 years later...
  • Nyerguds changed the title to Basic Guide to Graphics Modding

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