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Tutorial: Perk Spreads in Paint.NET

Tags: #Tutorial  #soly pdn 
  • Member
    July 11, 2018

    I wrote this up like a year ago and apparently forgot to post it. Sooo here it is. If you need a refresher, #soly pdn has all the previous (two) guides and all the future (0, at the point of writing) guides. The important one for the refresher is probably going to be the Introduction to Paint.NET which covers all the important basic commands. I thiiiink I tried to include the important instructions here, too, but having written this a year ago my memory is slightly fuzzy on that.

    Making Perk Spreads in Paint.NET

    Everyone, I'm assuming, knows what a perkspread is. If you don't, it's an image that has a list of all the perks you're using for your build. They look pretty and let us see what key perks you have without having to click on Skyrimcalculator links. That's good, by the way. (It's also good to list them out in text form, if that floats your boat, but a bit harder to pull off well.)

    Since we have already 2 perk spread making guides (one with GIMP and one with Microsoft Powerpoint) I'm going to try to distinguish this one by discussing what, exactly, I think makes a good perkspread as well as actually making the guide. And since that's actually important to the first step of making a good perkspread (picking the image), I'm going to start with that.

    There's a cruel irony between good perk spreads and good pictures. You see, the key to making a good perk spread is that your perk spread focuses on the perks. It sounds obvious, but it's worth stating. On the other hand, when you make (or take) a good picture, the focus is on the picture – the subject, etc, which will often take up a lot of space, and there will often be a big mess in the background... So when you try to convert the latter into the former, you will quickly find yourself hindered by a lack of space to put your perks – that is, unless you're willing to put perks over the image focus. Which I am not.

    In other words, picking an image should be done with some amount of care. You want to choose an image that is 1) relevant to your build, and 2) has a lot of dead, empty space for you to put perk texts in.

    That's often a tall order, especially since most good images won't have that dead space. If you're desperate you can just take a big blank image that's only tangentially relegant and dump all your perks on it (The Volkihar); you can shunt your pretty picture to the side of the image, leaving a big blank space for perks (The Purifier). Or you can pick a small image and section it off in the centre, that works too (The Exorcist). All these are very good options, very effective and very, very easy to pull off. Often easier than finding an appropriate image with lots of dead space, as I've outlined above.

    You can always make your own image, but if you're inexperienced with the program it can be quite a bit of work – the background for the level 25 perk spread in my Mage Knight build took about 4 hours to make (with another 3 hours spent pushing perks around), while the level 50 one was a whopping 10-12 hours for the image alone. Granted, I started without image concepts, spent a lot of time just exploring what I wanted to do and generally screwing around, and was learning the vagaries of as I went along (those 16 hours are why I know enough to write a guide now). If you're experienced, you can probably pull off similar stuff in much less time. But then again, I'm assuming people who are experienced aren't reading this.

    In other words, I definitely recommend you grab an image off the internet and use that. Suitable images may be hard to find, but they do exist. Be sure to credit the artist!

    So! Today we learn how to use to make a perkspread. You have your image, carefully selected according to the above guidelines. And you have your list of perks.

    For this tutorial, I will be crafting a perk spread for the Chevalier build by Aidence.

    A ranking Imperial knight-commander, the Chevalier rallies and inspires his allies from the front lines of battle. Proficiency in two distinct combat styles gives the Chevalier complete command over battlefield engagement: unmounted, the Chevalier is a juggernaut in walls of steel with the ability to defend against and neutralise scores of enemies with ease, while on horseback, the long reach of the warhammer and swiftness of the Chevalier's steed allow him to run down his opponents in a cavalry charge.

    For the background image I will be using this gorgeous aesthetic of the White-Gold Tower, a fitting choice for an Imperial officer. (At least, I think it's the White-Gold Tower.) (I, uh, don't remember where I got the image from. It... looks like a screenshot from ESO, I think, but backsearching the image tells me it's from a blog by some people called ShoddyCast in 2013 who also produce YouTube videos.)

    This is quite an ideal image for a few reasons. Firstly, the original comes at like 1920x1080 resolution, so it's a very big image even though we'll be sizing it down by like 2/3rds to fit the TamrielVault website. Secondly, the subject of the shot – the tower itself – is rather unintrusive, poking upwards at a near-vertical angle at the centre-left. This leaves us with the sky in the top left and the entire right half of the picture, as well as the base of the tower in the bottom right, to put perks and text in.

    Now the first thing you need to understand is that any images wider than ~900 pixels won't fit on your post, and I personally like to play it safe because I have a massive 1920 width PC screen – anyone on a smaller monitor will probably have... issues. 750-800 is a good maximum width to adhere to. Be aware that pictures viewed on Paint.NET are somewhat smaller than you'd expect them to be even at supposedly 100%, so if your image at 800 pixel width doesn't look that big don't be fooled. (Please give me a bit of feedback here if you have trouble seeing large images! There's an 800px width image at the bottom of the post for comparison.)

    Knowing, then, that I want to scale down to an 800 pixel width, I select the image as so. Note that I've chosen to cut out the space on the left, keeping the dead space on the right intact. It's worth paying attention to the bottom left of the screen, which tells you all sorts of things about what you're doing. In this case it's telling me that my selection area is 1600x1080, or just the perfect size to halve down into an 800 pixel width image.

    Normally, here we'd use the Crop to Selection tool (recall that it's in the top left) and then Resize (under the Image heading) to 800x540. However I'm not convinced yet that this is the cutting I want so I'm going to employ a dirty little trick – I'm creating a new layer and filling it with a bright neon colour with the Paint Bucket tool (green in this case). If I ever want the correct size, then all I have to do is select the green field with the Magic Wand. I've also created a second layer with a green outline of the correct size (so now the image has three layers total – the background, the bright green fill, and the bright green outline). I don't have a screenshotted image of the green layers, but you'll see them shortly.

    With that said, I like to work at the correct canvas size where possible, so we're going to go ahead and resize the image by half, to 960x540 (recall that the Resize option is under the Image menu, and make sure to educate yourself as to the difference between “Resize” and “Canvas Size”). One quick trick is to use the “Resize by percentage” option; just plug in 50% and will auto-fill in the blanks for you. No need to take a calculator and divide 1920 by 2.

    We are now going to put the perks in. Unfortunately, working with text in is more unwieldy than in Photoshop, Microsoft Powerpoint, and probably GIMP. In, once you finalise the text, converts it immediately to an image. This means you can't go back and edit text size or contents; you will need to delete the text and put it in all over again. Consider it wise, therefore, to have the perk list typed up beforehand, in a program like Notepad or Microsoft Word. That will allow you to simply copy and paste it in.

    It also makes perk spread making with pretty unwieldy, so do go back and read the other guides. Perhaps they'll be of use to you. Me, I'm stubborn so I use for everything.

    We'll now look at arranging the perks. Aesthetically, perk spreads look nicer when the perks are more evenly spread out. Before actually putting the perks in, we'll try to arrange them to see how they look. Generally, but not always, what you'll want to do is count the number of lines per skillset and try to arrange them so that there's a roughly equal number of lines per side.

    On this build it's a bit of a challenge because perk density per skillset is very high and we have an odd number of high-density skills. We could put Block, Two-Handed and Smithing together (14) and Heavy Armor and One-Handed together (16), then type them up on either end of the picture:

    This looks relatively pleasing so if it suits your tastes you can change the fonts, pretty the text up a bit, and you're done. I don't really like this arrangement, though. In any case you should play around until you hit a perk arrangement you like.

    I kinda like that last arrangement so let's go with that.

    One mistake I've made here is that I've used the (default) Calibri font for perk arrangement. In practice you will usually want to select your font and font size before arranging the perks – fonts have different text sizes even at the same font size, and the font I ended up using was slightly bigger – not to mention that I used font size 18 when deciding on perk arrangement but went up to size 20 for the actual perks.

    Now obviously the red text is contrasting badly with the image so it's got to go, even though Imperial Red would generally be a good match for the build. Instead, let's go for a nice silver-gray that evokes thoughts of bright steel (fitting). This colour choice compliments the image a little too much – depending on the shade of gray the text will either blend in badly with the dark gray in the bottom right, or with the light grey of the clouds. We'll solve this by adding a text outline later. For now, we pick a nice font, a nice colour, and put the text together nicely.

    Be careful when picking fonts. The primary purpose of your perk spread is to share perks taken, so the most important thing is that the font should be clearly readable. Your perks, at least, should be quite clear. Skill titles are less important, and if you include it, you can probably go wild with “Perks, Level X”. (That last one is optional. I just like to include it.)

    Now because the grey text is hard to see against the clouds, I've elected to work on a bright green background – dark green for contrast against the light gray would have been better but it doesn't matter because the green will be removed later. This is the same green I used instead of the "Crop to Selection" option earlier. The pink is used to work with text alignments. In practice you can probably just align them by eye, but I'm kind of obsessive about things like this and will go the extra mile to get it perfectly aligned. At this point my Layers window also looks like what you see on the right – Block perks in one layer, left perks (Heavy Armor) in another layer, and right perks in a third layer. Perk titles I tend to keep separate from the perks themselves, because that lets me do fancy (or at least different) things with them later. I do merge all the perk layers with each other, and my perk title layers with each other. (The button outlined in red is Duplicate Layers, which we'll use later. To its right is Merge Layer Down which I used to merge the pink-group and green-group layers.

    It's time to do fancy things to the perk text – mostly, we want it to be visible against the grey background. Once again, if you have the Outline Object command (Effects > Object > Outline Object), put it to good use.

    If not, duplicate both the Perks layer and the Perk Titles layer (button highlighted in red above). Apply a small radius Gaussian Blur to the bottom layer/s (change the blur radius depending on how thick you want the outline to be, but keep it small). Then use the Hue/Saturation command to change the blurred layers' colours. You can strengthen the outline by duplicating the blurred layer a few times – but be aware that doing so will sort of strengthen the bits at the edge of the blur (so the transition from blur to no blur is more abrupt). It may be wise to play with multiple layers, each blurred at a different blur radius.

    If you're working with grayscale as we are, then the Hue/Saturation command won't be able to apply a colour. This is fine for my current purposes, as I'm only using a darker shade of grey-black that I can reach by dialling down the Lightness bar. If you want to actually apply a colour to grayscale, you'll have to use Adjustments > Curves (set the curves to RGB and play around; don't forget to check or uncheck the RGB boxes at the bottom of the Curves window) or the Adjustments > Colour Balance plugin.

    In the end, I applied Outline Object (radius 1 strength 4) > Gaussian Blur (radius 5) > Hue/Saturation (Lightness -40) for the effect for the perks, and Outline Object (radius 4 strength 3) > Gaussian Blur (radius 2) for the titles. I've also shifted the Block perks up and to the right by about 10 pixels each so that they aren't so close to the edge. Normally you'll want to do this before applying the outline – you can see, against a green background, that the bottom perks have had their “glow” cut off by the edge of the image. However against the White-Gold Tower itself it's not visible so I've elected to leave it (instead of doing up the text, text alignment, and outline again).

    Mock up some text that says Level 40; Perks, apply the same treatment – this time I've merely applied a five pixel Gaussian Blur, dialled down the colour tone with Hue/Saturation, then duplicated the layer thrice. Or don't, this bit is nonessential to a perk spread.

    Now we call up the big green layer – recall that it's exactly 800 pixels wide. Magic Wand, and Crop to Selection. Disable the green layer and save. And we're done! (This image is 800x540, so if it's too wide for your screen please let me know so I can tell people above).

    Hopefully this guide has been of some small use to you and I'll see you at the next guide. If it exists. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what there is to write next or if there's anything particularly important to write. I guess ideas are appreciated.



  • July 11, 2018

    This is pretty great, thanks, making the perk/stat spread images was always the strangest thing for me to wrap my head around, Ill use this more often in my Fallout 4 charater builds