This page explains how to use Adobe Photoshop to create vRigger gear images. The instructions should also apply to the less expensive Photoshop Elements software, but they were written using Photoshop CS6. Watch a video about creating your own gear.
Photoshop is a powerful, yet undeniably complex, software program. Refer to Photoshop's Help for more information.
You will need a digital image of the gear. In many cases you will be able to find an image on the internet (e.g., try Google's Image Search). If you do use an image from the internet, make sure that you don't violate copyright laws.
If you photograph the gear:
(This step will remove the padlock from the layer.)
Set the color to yellow:
Fill the background with yellow:
The next task is to erase everything except the gear itself. These instructions explain several Photoshop tools that you can use to erase the background. The eraser tool is the easiest, although some of the other tools are more powerful. Note that these instructions summarize complex Photoshop commands--please refer to the Photoshop Help for details.
Perform these steps regardless of which Photoshop tool you use to erase the background:
The goal is to erase everything on the Gear layer except the gear itself. Take your time, be careful, and zoom in very tight. Undo your changes if they aren't perfect.
The eraser is the easiest of these Photoshop tools.
To accurately use the eraser, you should be zoomed in (press "+") more than the example shown here. That makes it easier to move the eraser along the edge of the gear.
The magic wand is a powerful Photoshop tool. It is the tool we usually use. However, it does take experimentation to get it to work correctly.
The magic wand is an awesome tool, but be careful. If the Tolerance is set too high you may accidentally select part of your gear (usually near the dark edges of your gear). If it is set too low most of the background may be erased, but not the crucial area where the gear and background meet. Sometimes it is helpful to use the magic wand to erase areas where the background and gear are very different in color (because it is quick) and then use a manual tool (like the eraser or the polygonal lasso) to manually erase areas where the gear and background have similar colors (often in the gear's shadow).
The polygonal lasso lets you manually select a non-rectangular area. The polygonal lasso selects the area as a series of small, straight lines. If the magic wand doesn't select the area, we usually use the lasso.
The marquee is an easy way to erase rectangular sections of the image.
This command is only marginally helpful. It doesn't let you erase close to the gear's edge (unless the gear has vertical and horizontal lines).
At this point, the gear should be displayed on a pure-yellow
background (i.e., 255 red, 255 green, and 0 blue).
Choosing the optimum image size is difficult. In general, you should size small items so there are approximately 50 pixels per inch. For example, if a carabiner is 3 inches long, the image should be approximately 150 pixels long. When you create the gear using vRigger's Gear Builder, you'll use the Gear Builder's "gear sizing" options to set the final sizing. If you use 50 pixels per inch, you'll end up setting the "reducer" to approximately 75 percent. (So you can set the pixels per inch in Photoshop to 50 and then work in Photoshop using inches.)
You should make people and larger items, like a tripod, approximately 900 pixels tall and use a 50 percent reducer in the Gear Builder (they'll then be displayed in the Gear Builder as approximately 32 inches tall which is appropriate).
The downside of larger imager is they make the vRigger files larger and may cause vRigger to run more slowly.
Sometimes gear that you create will display in vRigger with a yellow outline. This can occur if Photoshop uses anti-aliasing around your gear (e.g., the carabiner). This causes the yellow background to bleed through the gear. Because the yellow is no longer "pure," it is not treated as transparent.
This next step ensures that the yellow cannot bleed through your gear. We suggest that you skip this step initially and then perform it only if your gear has a yellow outline.
The goal of this step is to remove any yellow from behind the gear which might "leak" through semi-transparent pixels on the gear. If you used the optional "Step B" (above), the image should now look similar the carabiner shown here. The optional step created a small space between the carabiner and the yellow background. (Photoshop displays a checker-board pattern to indicate that this area is blank,) This area will be automatically changed to white when the image is saved as a bitmap.
This step saves the image in the bitmap format. This is required by vRigger's Gear Builder.
You now need to create the little icon image. We don't want these changes to overwrite our existing Photoshop file.
Choose Save As and save the file with the original name
plus "-Icon" (e.g., "Carabiner-D-Icon.psd").
This should default to saving in the Photoshop format.
The area behind your gear should now be white.
You should now have a 32x32 pixel image of your gear on a white
background. The image should not be distorted (which will happen
if you confuse the Image Size, Alt+Ctrl+I with the Canvas Size,
You are now done working with Photoshop. It is a powerful program, but it certainly has a steep learning curve!