Creating skins for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is an opportunity to gain some virtual design skills but also make good money. If you create a good-looking weapon skin and put it in the Workshop, there is a chance that Valve will pay attention to it and add it to the game with the next update. After creating your weapon skin, it will be impossible to use it immediately. If your design becomes popular, you will earn money from it. To learn how to create and sell your first CS:GO skin — read below.
Prepare and Determine Your Goals
Before you start, you need to decide why you need to create skins in CS:GO. The high-quality design will require from you not only time but also the skills of working with a graphic editor, a sense of style, and patience. You will also need:
- The CS:GO game itself;
- CS:GO SDK or GCFScape;
In general, working on textures for weapons in CS:GO is almost the same as in other shooters. Creating a skin starts with an idea. The creators select references and then take them to work after dividing the responsibilities. You can create skins in various programs: some people use Substance Painter, Photoshop, and Cinema 4D. Others use Blender, Illustrator, ZBrush, and Maya. Skin creation starts with UV preparation. This is a representation of a model on a plane in the form of a two-dimensional texture. As you can see, before you will be able to sell CSGO skins, there are some stages to take to get the job done. Let’s discuss them in detail.
Create Your Design
In CS:GO, artists often work not with the UV map directly but with its 3D model in special programs and immediately paint the model itself. Usually, when you load a model into a program, you paint the model itself and adjust the little things on the UV: you edit the model or fix bugs.
Along with the texture map, the weapon model typically comes with a normal map. It is needed to create an illusion of texture depth on the weapon — for example, if the model has an ornament or engraving. Thanks to the normal map, highlights and shadows appear in places where the light changes — although the weapon model itself remains the same, without recesses and cutouts. Also, the normal map allows you to more accurately reflect the material from which the weapon is made — for example, so that light on a metal surface is reflected as on metal and not on wood.
From a technical point of view, all skins in CS:GO can be divided into two types.
- Skins with a fixed pattern. This is the most popular type of skin — the vast majority of them can be seen in the Steam Workshop. For example, the famous AWP | Dragon Lore has a fixed pattern;
- Skins with moving patterns. They still have a fixed texture map, but at the same time, with each drop of the skin, the UV is located differently — it rotates along the axis, shifts, increases, or decreases. One of the most popular examples is gradient knives. Depending on how the UV lays down, the color of the knife changes. The most valuable is the variation in which all colors are present on the blade at once.
Valve has provided a system for painting weapons in parts. Four parts can be painted separately: the forearm, magazine, handle, and all other parts. Thanks to this, the skin pattern can be applied, for example, only to the main part of the assault rifle, and everything else can be painted with other colors. The skin for the AK-47 | Gloss Blue was painted this way — the forearm and butt stock were changed and the rest of the weapon was made of the same colors.
How is the Wear Effect Achieved?
As soon as the skin drops out of the case, it is automatically given the wear effect. Weapons can be found both crystal clear and badly worn. It works like this: initially, all texture maps in CS:GO consist of four color channels. The first three — RGB, or red, green, and blue colors — convey the color of the skin itself. And the fourth is the alpha channel, which is just needed to give the wear effect. In places where the weapon needs to show wear, the RGB channels are turned off — and thanks to this, the gray color becomes visible.
The degree of weapon wearout is determined by a variable from 0 to 1, which is awarded randomly when the skin is generated:
- Factory New — from 0.00 to 0.07;
- Minimal Wear — from 0.07 to 0.15;
- Field-Tested — from 0.15 to 0.37;
- Well-Worn — from 0.37 to 0.44;
- Battle-Scarred — from 0.44 to 1.
Sometimes the wear effect is achieved differently, such as on the Empress skin. The paint of the skin is not erased — instead, a sand and oil coating appears on the weapon. As a result, the Factory New AK-47 is much brighter than the Battle-Scarred. The price of the skin changes accordingly: for example, the FN AK-47 | Empress may cost you up to $235 on DMarket, while the WW alternative is about $17.
How do Artist’s Skins Get into the Game? Is it Possible to Make Money?
All skins in the game drop from weapon cases, which can be obtained after the match or bought on the marketplace. Cases are opened using keys that are purchased within the game.
Custom skins end up in Community or Operation Cases, along with designs created by Valve itself. Developers choose which skins will be included in the game from the CS:GO Workshop on Steam — this is where you need to upload your weapon designs. If players want their designs to even be considered, they need to follow some rules. The first relates to colors — due to engine limitations, many color combinations can be read incorrectly or not read at all. For example, artists are advised to avoid completely black or white colors — otherwise, lighting or shadows start to work incorrectly. A similar situation occurs with pure red, green, and blue colors as they interrupt all other shades of the texture. Also, artists have to prepare a censored version of the skin if it contains bones, flesh or blood for the regions where their image is prohibited (like China).
For obvious reasons, skins should not contain plagiarism, nudity, references to politics or religion, or other provocative content. Additionally, Valve recommends creating a skin in several color variations at once to choose the best one. Players usually find out that their skin is in a new case from a letter in the mail. Sometimes, before adding a weapon to the game, Valve may ask you to make small adjustments to the skin, for example to correct the texture or the normal map. All skin authors receive royalties from the sale of keys from the cases in which their weapons fell. Royalties can be withdrawn either to a bank account or to Steam.
And even on one skin, you can earn a lot of money. For some, creating skins in CS:GO may well become a full-time job — and for this, you do not need to be hired by Valve. A skin can bring creators up to $40,000 within a couple of months.
Valve has its weapon painting guide that you should read before getting started. After that, you should save sketches of the necessary models located in the archive files of the game. For this, you need to:
- Launch the GCFScape program;
- Open the folder with the game and select the pak01.dir file;
- In the directory, select the models and materials folders and unzip them to any convenient place on the disk.
- Then, continue in VTFEdit. It converts sketch files from VTF to TGA format. After saving the desired result, proceed to direct work in a graphical editor.
Valve’s guide on how to make your skin in CS:GO describes each stage. Each skin is created in its way, and there are many options for it. After creating the design, it is saved in the TGA format, then it is converted back to VTF using the VTFEdit utility. To view the results in the game itself, the following steps are performed:
- Launch the game;
- Type the “Workshop_workbench” command;
- Select the menu item “Custom Paint Job” and the command “choose pattern” in the window;
- The created model in VTF format is selected.
The final step is submitting the skin to the Steam Workshop. To do this, the command “workshop_publish” is typed and then press Weapon — Add. To create a preview image before placing the design in the Workshop, you must save the image in JPEG format.
Anyone can try to create skins for CS:GO, and with due diligence, the chances of getting weapons approved by Valve increase. Do you think that the creation of skins can become a platform for entering game development? Or can it become a fully-fledged alternative to regular work? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.