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A No-Talent-Hack's Guide To Art


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So you want to make a mod but your art talent is somewhat lacking?


Let me share some secrets that I as a no-talent-hack use and go through the process of creating a inventory image for my mod as an example.


First you will need the following programs, they are both open source and completely free.

Inskape is a scalable vector graphic editor, Gimp is a raster editor. Raster files are what you think of normally as a picture file, jpg, png, or bmp and these raster files are made up of different colored pixels. Scaleable vector graphics or SVG's are not stored as pixels but are mathematical expressions, one way you can make these files is to script them, luckily for us that is not necessary as Inskape lets us draw an svg file much like a normal graphics editor lets us draw a jpg file.


The next step is to open up Inskape where you will hopefully do most of you work, because it allows you a lot of flexibility and most importantly scalability.


It should look like this



You will likely want to expand the program by clicking and dragging the bottom right corner or hitting the middle square button in the top right corner. While not necessary it makes it easier to see all the buttons and options.


It should now look like this (minus the highlights).

Picture: 1.2 


  • The red oval encompasses your regular tools which a few of i will go over later.
  • The purple ovals encompass two places you can manipulate layers. You may not know about or may not use layers, later I will show you why layers are the most important tool to make good art, even if you have poor art skills.
  • The blue circle shows the Fill and Stroke editor which you will use extensively.
  • The green circle show the document properties which will allow us to change the dimension of both the picture and the grid which will help us to line up our creation.
The first thing you should do when making any computer project is to save your file as something so as some name you will remember though in this case preferably the name you will want the eventual tex file to have. I would also suggest having a separate folder for all the files for this particular project as it makes it easier on you in the long run. In this case i will be making a picture for my wacky food candied butterfly wings so I will name it candied_butterfly_wings.


Now you will want to make the picture the correct size as the default size if far to big for what we need. To do this click the document properties button (green circle) which will open up another window.



  • The red ovals encompasses the size and units of the picture which in this case should be 64x64 pixels(px)*. You may have to hit enter after typing in the dimensions for it to change.
  • The purple oval encompass the background color which by default is set to white at full transparency which is what you want.
  • The blue oval is the tab for the grid option which you want to click after setting your picture dimensions. It may or may not upon clicking the tab create a default grid. If it does not, click on the "New" button.
* Yes SVG files don't store in pixels but when you output a raster file from the SVG file it will be in pixels.


The screen should now look like this.



  • The red ovals encompasses where you set how many squares are between major grid lines because each square by default is 1 px so since the picture is 64x64 px to make it easier to split the picture up evenly put this number at 8. This will evenly spit up the grid making it easy to center your picture.
You may now close that document dialogue box. Now using picture:1.2 as reference do the following.
  • Click on the top purple oval labeled "Layer," you will get a drop down menu at the bottom click on "Layers". This will open up a layer menu at the side.
  • Now click on the button surrounded by the blue circle this will open the Fill & Stroke editor, again on the side.
The last thing you might want to do to set up your canvas is to rename the starting layer you can do this by clicking on the name (layer 1) in the side panel, then enter a new name in and hit enter. You do not have to do this but as you get more layers it can be useful to have easy to remember names.
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At this point your canvas should be set up now some things you need to know about inventory images in Don't Starve.

  • You want to do a 64x64 image, you can do bigger and as long as they are a power of two (128x128 for example) they may work but they will cause issues selecting other inventory items next to them.
  • The first 2 pixels around the edge will be covered up by the shading in the game so you don't want anything in those pixel unless you don't care if it shows.
  • For your inventory image to display properly, especially in regards to spoilage, you have to have the background be transparent.
Now for making the drawing itself some things to keep in mind about the game art work if you want to have a similar style.


Fair Warning: What I am about to say may be incorrect but this is what i have noticed.


In general the art work consists of solid colors with bold black lines that are somewhat ragged. Shading consists either of more black lines or if, light shading, splotches of slightly darker color within the regular color. Finally if you are drawing a character the heads are disproportionately big.


So with the above in mind, I will start by thinking about what i want my picture to look like. Being candied butterfly wings I think what I want is one or two butterfly wings that look like they have a sugar coating. The coating that I think will look the best is a crystal sugar coating so to start lets make a butterfly wing.



Not being a very good artist what I'm going to want is a reference picture. This is fairly easy, simply search in a picture search engine such as Google. In Google chrome you can just drag the picture to your desktop (in explorer or some other program you might have to save the picture).


Now you want to make a new layer in Inskape you can do this by clicking on the + button in the layers panel on the side. Then name that layer if you wish and lower the layer to the bottom by selecting the layer and clicking the down arrow button to the right of the new layer button. You now can drag a picture from your desktop into the Inskape program which will ask you if you want to link or embed the file, either works but embedding is safer. Resize the picture and place it where you want and then click the padlock symbol on that layer, this will make it so you can no longer click on or add to that layer making it easy to draw above it. It should now look something like the following.





Something I noticed at this point is there are two wings on a side so it might be easier to do two separate wings on two layers so i will add another layer for each wing.



Now to start drawing...


First I chose the ellipse tool and made sure my fill was red and my stroke was black you can change these in the Fill & Stroke editor that is now open to the side.Making sure I'm on the layer I want to draw on,  I then simple clicked and dragged an ellipse onto the canvas. What I want to do here is get a general shape similar to what I want. I'm drawing the top wing first so if you look at it its similar to an ellipse that is rotated. so after you draw the ellipse you can click on it with the select tool (top tool on the tool bar) this will bring up arrows at the edges that allow you to re size it clicking it a second time will bring up further arrows these allow you to rotate the ellipse.






Now what you want to do is to transform this ellipse into a path so we can customize it easier. To do this go to the drop down menu at the top labeled "Path" and select the first option "Object to Path." Now select you ellipse with the second tool on the left tool bar "Edit Paths By Nodes."


The next thing we want to do is to go to the Fill & Stroke editor on the right side and at the bottom set the opacity to about half way this will allow us to see the picture through the ellipse so we can see both when we change the shape.




Now you can change the shape many different ways but the easiest is just to click and drag the lines between nodes you can also select a specific node and move around the handles (blue line with circles at the end coming off the nodes. I encourage you to play around with it a bit just remember control+z is the undo shortcut. In the end you should get something like this.




That is the basic shape so lets do the bottom wing before we go any further, however we should make to opacity 100% before we move on. Since we want to be able to see this wing but not draw on it the easiest method is just to lock this layer in the side panel (like we did with the reference drawing) then switch to the layer for the lower wing.


Now for the bottom wing I could use the same method but I will go over another tool you can use. The "Draw Freehand Lines" tool, this is the 10th tool on the left and looks like a pencil. It works just like a pencil just click and drag what ever shape you want it will end when you stop drawing and you can close a shape by drawing back around to the square at the start. You will notice after drawing with it there are way to many nodes to easily move around.




This can be somewhat helped by pressing control+L while in node edit mode, each time you do the program will simplify the shape eventually getting you something like this.




Now as before you can reshape the wing. You also may want to delete nodes or change what type of node each one is the tools to do that are on top, below the drop down menus. You can also re size the shape outside of node mode. Something to note is if you re size outside of node mode the size of the stroke will also re size so you make have to fix your stroke size.

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At this point we want to unlock the top wing layer and set both wings strokes to 1.6, the reason for 1.6 is somewhat arbitrary but it seems to approximate the size of the stroke the DS artists use. You also wan to hide the reference picture now, you can do that by clicking the eye on the layer it is on.
You now want to add a filter effect that will make the lines seem more hand drawn.
Using the drop down "Filter" menu open the filter editor. You also will likely want to enlarge this editor for easier use you can do this by clicking at the bottom of the editor your mouse icon will change and you should be able to drag it up or down.
Now making sure one of your wings is selected go back to teh drop down filter menu and select under "ABC's" the filter "Roughen."
This doesn't look very good yet but you can modify the filter. Click on the name of the filter on the right which either will say roughen or be some random letters and numbers. You can rename this which I suggest as it make it easier later. On clicking the filter you should be on the turbulence part of the effect switch the effect type to fractal noise and raise the octaves a bit. You then choose a seed that makes the wing look close to what you want (the seed is the random value that starts the fractal random effect).
You can now select the other wing and click the check mark next to your filter effect to add that filter to the other wing. you may have to move your wings a bit as the effect displaces the wings a bit randomly.
You may notice that you computer slows down with these effects enables because it is real time rendering unless you have a very good computer this may be the case you can disable filter rendering under teh drop down menu under "View" -> "Display Mode" -> "No Filters"
The next step would be to add a sugar layer. Do this just like adding the previous layers then select both wings. You can do this by dragging over both or you can click on one then hold down shift and click on the other. Now press control + D (this will duplicate what you have selected) and without deselecting you need to press Shift + Page Up (this move the current selection up one layer). You should now have copies of both wings on the sugar layer. To check first make sure the sugar layer is highlighted on the layer editor (this means your selection is currently on that layer) then click the eye one the sugar layer hiding it. If everything is correct you should still see the original wings. Now hide the wing layers and re show the sugar layer.
Re select both copies of the wings and go to the drop down menu for "path" and select "Union." This should create a single shape with the same outline as both wings. As the sugar coating needs to be subtle and surrounding the wings first I will reduce the stroke to 1. To make the fill larger we will go again to the drop down path menu and select "Outset." I will do this twice. The shape should now be larger than your wings to make sure drop its opacity to 50% and re enable the views of both wings, you may want to lock the wing layers however. 
The next part requires a bit of experimentation you want to start messing around with filters or shaping the copies of the sugar shape or anything else you can think of until you stumble upon something that looks how you want  it to. After some experimentation I decided to use a new "Roughen" filter at 1 octave .15 frequency and again at fractal noise this made a nice rough outline I then Changed the fill color to a pale pink and moved the layer below the wings. I then made a new layer above the wings copied the sugar shape and moved this shape to the new layer.  I inset this shape a 3 times and removed the stroke adding another rough filter at .35 frequency. and made the opacity 50% this looks like this.

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This is basically done in Inkscape.


Now we export the picture as a png file.




Now you want to open the png file you just made in gimp in this file you can do any finishing touches. In this case I need to add the wacky food symbol for my mod. Gimp uses layers (like Inkscape) and you definitely want to use these layers for everything you do so that if you need to change some part of what you are drawing you can change one layer instead of redoing the entire drawing.


In this case I also decided to rotate and use the perspective tool to make the wing look like its on its side. I did this on a duplicate layer so as not to have to remake the original if necessary. I also made a layer for the shadows behind the wings.


And after saving as a ping my item is done not to bad for a no-talent-hack.



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I'd like to add a little tip so people can have a clean GIMP workspace.

Simply close all extra windows and add tabs by clicking that arrow [<]




This will give you a bigger canvas to work on, really handy to users with small screens.

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