Making your own custom portraits for NWN2 is actually fairly easy if you know a few tricks. I'll go through some examples and try to give you some tips that should make this easy enough for anyone to do it.
Almost any decent photo editing package will do the trick. The one REQUIREMENT of the software is that it MUST allow you to save your photos as 24 Bit Uncompressed .TGA (Targa) Format. In addition, it's helpful if the software provides a wide variety of photo-editing tools such as SOFTEN, SHARPNESS, PAINT BRUSH, AIRBRUSH, CLARIFY, and color palettes. If you are simply going to crop artwork, those aren't necessary but they give you a lot of options when editing. I use COREL Paint Shop Pro X for all of my editting, but there is freeware software available on the internet if you look hard enough.
Keep the end in mind
Your finished portrait is only going to be 128 pixels by 128 pixels, so trying to squeeze a full body shot into an area that small is simply not going to work. If you want a portrait that really stands out, you need to focus on the head and a portion of the shoulders and that's about it. Anything more and the picture will simply be too small. In addition, the in-game portrait will be framed with a graphic that cuts off a portion of the upper right corner (see illustration to the left), so try to crop your artwork with in mind.
Portraits must be 128 x 128 pixels in 24 bit depth Uncompressed Targa (.TGA) format. They should be placed into the C:MyDocumentsNevewinterNightsportrait folder.
File names should be 16 characters or less. I typically save mine as nwn2gddddnn.tga, where g denotes gender, dddd denotes the character class or race and nn is a numeric index (such as 01) so I can keep portraits having similiar classes or races separate. That's simply my naming convention - choose something that works for you.
Picking a photo
Again, the face of the character is going to dominate the picture so pick one with character. Any little details that help to distinguish the character class are an added benefit. Try to stick with artwork that is large enough that you don't have to enlarge by more than 10 to 15% if possible, as small photos tend to get too blurry when over enlarged. Starting with a much larger photo is even better as you can do all of your edits on the original size and then reduce it to fit the 128 x 128 size. Always try a couple of dry run size reductions and crops to make sure the reduced image is going to fit the frame without seriously cropping too much of top of the head or the chin.
Let's get Started
Here's a great looking piece of fantasy art (figure below on the left) that I found at Epilogue.net: The potential portraits are highlight in red and yellow respectively in the version on the right:
Two potentially awesome portraits but the darn things are overlapped. Still usable? You bet! You can leave them just as they are but if you really want to make a great portrait, here's how. The first step is to crop out the selected portrait. Let's start first with Mr Mohawk on the right. (Note: All figure that follow are enlarged by 50% to make viewing easier.) Using the crop tool on the red outline above gives us figure 1a below:
That's not a bad portrait by itself, but it would be nice to get rid of the fragment of the female's head in the lower left (see arrow). We can do that by cropping out a portion of the picture on the right (red box in the figure above) and overlaying it's mirror image onto the previous portrait as in figure 1b below:
The yellow box in figure 1b on the left shows where the previous cut and paste was performed. The female head is gone, but we have two slight problem areas left (indicated by the red arrows). To get rid of the one on the left, I used the PUSH and SMUDGE tools to fill and blend across the sharp boundary. To fix up the the area below it and to the right, I used the PAINTBRUSH tool at a 1 and 2 pixel setting. We end up with the results in figure 1c
We're almost done. Although you could stop here and have a great portrait, I decided that I wanted to enlarge the portrait just a bit. I selected the area outlined in red on the left, enlarged it by 10% and used a mild sharpness filter to produce the final result in figure 1d:
Figure 1d: Final Portrait
All that's left to do is save the image out to 24 bit Uncompressed .TGA (Targa) format and we're done.
Now what about his female companion? Well let's start by going back to the original portrait and cropping out the section highlighted in YELLOW to give us figure 2a below:
This portrait has the same issue as our previous portrait of Mr Mohawk did. A portion of the male figure is still in the frame only this time on the right (see red arrow in portrait on the left). We'll use the same trick we did last time. First we make a duplicate of this image and take a portion of the duplicate, (this time from the left side - see the red box in the figure on the left) and CROP it out. Now take a MIRROR IMAGE of it and COPY and PASTE it back onto the original portrait. What we end up with is the next portrait in figure 2b:
The yellow box in the figure on the left shows where the mirror image copy has been overlain. Notice that the duplicated area is slightly shifted upwards to make sure we blend the overlay with the fight hand curve of the robes. We still have a small problem area at the back right hand portion of the collar of her robes and another where the top of her shoulders disappears behind that large raised collar. The area between the collar and shoulder is handled with the PUSH, SMUDGE and SOFTEN tools (set at 3 pixels). The area at the tip of her collar is fixed with our CUT and PASTE mirror image trick. We select the area highighted in RED in the figure at the left. CROP it, MIRROR IMAGE it, and then CUT and PASTE it on the right. We end up with the portrait shown in figure 2c below.
The yellow box in the figure on the left shows where the last overlay area was added. Well, we're almost done again. There's still a small matter of the edge between her hair and the collar on the right and some small clean up in a few areas but nothing major. What's missing is some definition of her hairline on the right side of her head. Another cut and paste, followed by a 10% enlargement and crop to 128 x 128 and we get the following picture (Figure 2d):
All that's left is to save the image as 24 bit uncompressed .TGA format (TARGA) and we're done. (Note: I actually decided to further edit this portrait as I felt the upper right hand corner of her collar was too high but for the purposes of this tutorial, we can stop at this version.)
Fade Correction and Mirror Image
Here's a great looking elf that I found (below left), but the sepia tone is a bit overwhelming for me. Simply by applying the Fade Correction, we get a much different looking portrait (below center). If you're worried about the in-game graphic obscuring the upper right corner of her head, we can do a mirror image (below right).
Before: After: Flip:
Using the PUSH and SOFTEN tools
Here's an image from NWNVault. A cropped version of the original is in the lower left. Great face, great color, but there are no eyes and she has a set of ears that would make Dumbo green with envy. Let's see what we can do. Looking around through my artwork I found a portrait with a great set of eyes. A simple cut and paste gives us the portrait in the lower center. The ears are going to require some more work. Setting the PUSH tool at 3 pixels, we start at the lower edge of the ears and simply push the edge of the ear up to the upper left in a line until it just intersects the upper edge See Step 1 below.
Then using the push tool a second time we broaden the gap between the two segments of the ears (see step 2 below left). Now we switch to the SOFTEN tool (setting 3) and smooth the rough left edge of the left ear to produce the results in step 3 (below center). Now we need to get rid of those stray ear remnants on the right and left sides of the portrait. Repeated applications of the PUSH tool gives us the figure in step 4 (below right).
Step 2:Step 3:Step 4:
Finally we use repeated applications of the SOFTEN tool along the hair line on both the left and right sides to give us the final image below. It's not that difficult, it just takes a little practice.
This next example will illustrate the use of the Colorizing (paint brush) tool. The elven figure on lower left has a great face, and actually makes a pretty good portrait on its own, but let's see what we can do with the colors. Using repeated applications of the Paintbrush tool set on Color mode, (with an opacity of 40) we can turn her archer's gloves from blue to brown (as seen in the figure below center). We can also modify the color of her tunic. Using a varying paint brush size (to make sure we don't colorize portions of the picture we do not want to change) we end up with the figure in the lower right. All three make great portraits. It's simply a matter of taste as to which color scheme you prefer.
Start: Ver 1: Ver 2:
Photo-compositing is simply a variation of the cut and paste technique, and involves combining two or more photos or pieces of photos into a single composite image. (Phaere's portraits on NWVault are excellent examples of this process.) One frequently used application of the technique is adding a new background to a portrait. In this example, we will start with our version 2 portrait from the previous example. In that portrait there is a large black area in the upper right corner. Since the figure is an elf, and an archer (perhaps a ranger) to boot, it might be nice to add some foliage to that area. Here's how to do that. What we want to do is somehow make that upper right hand corner turn "invisible" or more accurately "transparent" so that we can overlay it onto a background which will show thru and (hopefully) have the rest of the image still visible. To do that, we first need to make that area in the upper right a single color. By using the "eyedropper" tool, we select an area of the portrait immediately to the right of the figures hair and make that our active foreground color. Then using the paint brush tool we fill the entire upper right hand corner with that color. Using the eyedropper tool again, right click on that same area and make that color our background color. Now select that portrait, hit COPY and then paste it using the PASTE AS TRANSPARENT SELECTION option onto your selected background artwork (not shown). That will make all sections of the portrait that match the background color transparent as in illustration 1 (the white areas) in the lower left. Don't worry about the gaps around her neck, eyes or other areas for the moment, we'll fix those in a bit. When the PASTE is done, we will end up with illustration 2 (below center). The area to the right now has a nice section of foliage in it which fits well with our original image. To complete the composite image, we simply cut and paste areas from the original image and overlay them on to the image in figure 2. This restores the areas that we didn't want to make transparent originally and we end up with the portrait in Figure 3. It sounds complicated but it really isn't. The trick is getting the right background color.
Fig 1: Fig 2: Fig 3:
I hope that you have found this to be useful. If you are interested in trying this out for yourself just remember to be patient. Don't get discourged if the results don't come out the way you want on the first pass. It takes some time and a lot of experimentation to find out what does and does not work. Applying the various tools in small stages is the best way to achieve results and most photo-editors have UNDO functions that let you back up to one or more steps if you goof up. Have fun.