Cutlass Isle Tutorial: Modifying Flags and Sail Emblems

(Tutorial by Wolfwood)

This is a short tutorial for the modification/creation of sail emblems and flags. The emblems will be handled first, since they will introduce the concept of Alpha channels. Flags are easier to make and will be discussed at the end of this document.This tutorial will be modified and added to if and when new information and tricks are discovered.

Required tools

First, you'll need an image editor. I use Paint Shop Pro, but Photoshop and Gimp should work just as well. All you need to be able to do with it is to save in .bmp format. Second, you'll need a program called DXTbmp, which you can download from here.

Sail Emblems : Step 1 - The image editor

Part 1 - A suitable image

1. You need to pick an image that you want to use as an emblem. Simple images are of course the best, and I'd prefer not to have photographs as emblems (as they will stand out from the other game graphics). Here, I've picked a picture of a howling wolf:

2. In case your image has some background, you'll need to erase it. In this case, the wolfhead is already on a pure white background.

3. The image has to be either 128x128 pixels in size, or some other multiplier of number 2, like 64x128 or 256x256 pixels. The larger it is, the less you will see pixelation in the final emblem in the game. The size of the emblems already in Pirates! is 512x512 pixels and flags' dimensions are 256x256.

4. Save the image in .bmp format.

Part 2 - Create the alpha channel

5. Now, we need a second image to be used as the alpha channel. We'll use the original image here, so we need to make a copy of it (don't save over the original file).

6. First, you select the background (most programs come with an option of selecting an area based on its colour, so that's why a single colour background is handy here). With the colour selector of the paint program set on black, you turn the entire background into pure black.

7. Now, you INVERT the selection (in PSP you'd select Selections - Invert), which effectively selects everything BUT the background (i.e. the emblem image). Now, with your background colour selector set on white (or some light shade of grey), you delete whis part of the image, leaving only a white space. You should end up with a following kind of an image:

8. Save this image also in .bmp format. You're finished in the image editor now. Close it, and start the DXTbmp program you downloaded earlier.

Sail Emblems : Step 2 - DXTbmp

9. Open the first image (the one we made first) normally by selecting File - Load.

10. Then select Alpha - Import. The program asks you to confirm that you really want to load a new Alpha channel. Choose Yes and we'll come to this phase:

11. Save the final emblem by selecting File - Save as - DDS texture. Select either DXT1 or DXT3 as the Save type. This is important, because the program defaults to NOT saving the Alpha channel. Try out which format (DXT1 or DXT3) one works best for your particular image.

Attn!: You want to save this image under My Documents\My games\Sid Meier's Pirates!\Custom\ . Make this Custom directory if it does not already exist. Give the image an appropriate name, so that the game recognises it as an emblem, starting with "", where the XXX is the name that you want to give the emblem. You need to have the start of the name exactly as typed here for the game to recognise it.

Final emblem:

Sail Emblems : Tricks for two colour images

Since the above wolfhead is a greyscale image and the purpose of the Alpha channel is to let through colour depending on the darkness of the various pixels on the Alpha channel, the following trick will produce nice effects, as it lets more of the sail's original texture show through:

1. Take a black and white image, like the wolfhead above in the first post. Open it in your pain program.

2. Now, turn the image into its own negative (In PSP, you simply select Colors - Negative Image). Note that you may have to make your original image slightly darker to achieve the best result and you need to make sure that the white background in the original image is true white (RGB: 255, 255, 255), so that the Alpha channel's black is also true black. You'll have something like this:

3. Make another image in plain single colour, like this:

4. Save them both in .bmp format

5. Open DXTbmp program.

6. Load the plain image as the main picture and the negative image as the alpha channel.

7. Save in DXT3 format, giving the appropriate name.

8. The final result could be something like this:

The Flags

Unfortunately, unlike with the sails, the flags don't have any background texture, so instead of using the black Alpha channel to show this texture, you must have it in the picture of the flag itself.

1. The simplest way to get a ready texture is by opening one of the existing flags, like the French one, since their lily is conveniently small and can be covered with your own image. You find these in the Pirates! subdirectories. Open the flag of your choice in the DTXbmp program and save it as a .bmp image.

2. Then open the image in Paint Shop Pro and paste your own art work over the original French Lily. If you want to, you can modify the colour of the background with the normal PSP tools. Then save this image.

3. Open the .bmp in DTXbmp and save it in DTX format. Give it the appropriate name, "flag_xxx.dtx", so that the game recognises it as a flag and place it under the same subdirectory as the sail emblems.

And here's the final result:


If you encounter any problems making your own emblems and flags, please post a question about it, and a description of your problem, on Cutlass Isle's Customization & Modding section.