Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2

249 ratings
Basic Weapon & Item Skinning / Re-texturing
By LucK_
This guide will serve as a very basic, simple and easy to understand tutorial on how to add custom textures to weapons and items in Left 4 Dead 2.
Introduction and things you'll need before we begin

Before we begin there are some programs you will need to download and install.




All of these programs are essential. You can use other programs instead of Paint.net, for example Photoshop or GIMP but for this tutorial I will be using Paint.net as it is simple to use and free, meaning that it is readily available to everyone.

This tutorial will be split up into several steps and will include screenshots and small amounts of explanation to keep things simple.
Step 1 - Locating your files
For this step we will be using the program GCFScape so make sure that you have it installed, if not there is a download link above.

Now first you must decide what item or weapon you would like to edit. For this tutorial I will be using the M16A2 assault rifle which is a tier 2 weapon in the game. Weapon and item files can be found in the games "materials" and "models" folders. Now to get here follow this path: Steam/Steamapps/Common/Left 4 Dead 2/Left 4 Dead 2 and scroll down to the bottom of the list.
Locate the file named "pak01_dir" and right click it. A list of further options should appear. Click "Open with" then "GCFScape" like in the screenshot below.

Now to find the M16 skin that we want to use for this tutorial follow this path: materials/models/v_models/weapons/rifle Below you should see a list of the three tier 2 rifles in the game, like the screenshot below.

Now there are three files here that we need.
- m16a2.vmt
- m16a2.vtf
- m16a2_world.vmt

Hold down your Ctrl key and click each file to highlight them. Now drag the files to your desktop - this is where we will keep them for now. So far you have located the core files you need for your skin. The next step will show you how to open the .vtf file and get to the image within.
Step 2 - Opening the vtf
Now two of the files that we have moved to the desktop are .vmt files which are material files which contain all of the information needed for the Source engine to simulate the surface visually, aurally, and physically. For this tutorial we do not need to know anything about vmt files or what's inside them, we just need to know that they're there.

Now the file you actually need is a .vtf file and within it contains the image of the M16a2 weapon texture that we want. The next steps are important.

1. Locate the file "m16a2.vtf" and double click it. This should use the program "vtfedit" to open up the file. You should be able to see your weapon texture loaded in a square window to the right hand side. If you have accidentally opened the .vmt file you will see a white background filled with some text. If so, close the window and open the other file.

2. Now that you have opened up the .vtf file it's time to export it as a Targa or TGA file - this is so that our photo editing software (Paint.net) can open up the file type. To to this click "File" in the top left corner and a drop down menu should appear. Move down and click "Export" and a new window should appear. See the screenshot below.
This new window will ask you where you would like to save the file, for now we want to save it on our desktop. Make sure that the file type is a Targa or TGA file and then click save.

3. Close vtfedit as we do not need it at the moment. We now have two .vmt files and one TGA file on our desktop. We will only need the TGA file for this tutorial so don't worry about the others. The next step involves Paint.net so make sure you have this installed. The download link is above in the introduction if you need it.
Step 3 - Adding your new texture
Now that you have the TGA file on your desktop we can open it with Paint.net. To do this simply double click the TGA file, or right click - open with Paint.net. This image should appear.

If you are new to Paint.net I advise you to read or watch some tutorials to get yourself familiar with this software but generally it's fairly simple and straight forward. Now that you have your texture for the M16a2 the next stage is to find a new texture that you want to put on the gun, for example a weapon camouflage. The easiest way of doing this is to go to www.google.com and search your desired texture under the "images" tab. For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using an arctic weapon camouflage. You can add anything you want to your weapon, for example blood splatter, scratches to give it a worn effect, or a new colour. For this tutorial we'll focus on the camouflage.

Once you have found your new texture, right click and "copy" the image. You can now paste it into Paint.net by going to the tab at the top named "edit". A drop down menu will appear, you want to click "paste". It is important to create a new layer before pasting your image, this allows you to edit and cut away your new texture and overlay it on the weapon. To add a new layer go to the top toolbar and click the "Window" tab. Another drop down menu will appear. This time click "layers". This small new window should open. At the bottom left hand corner of this new window is a "add layer" button. Click it like in the picture below.

Now that you have created a new layer you can paste your new texture into the document. If the new image is too large this message may show up.
Make sure to click the highlighted box and keep the canvas size the same.
Your screen will now show your new texuture on top of the original weapon texture. The next step will show you how to blend your new texture over the default weapon skin.
Step 4 - Applying your new texture
Now that you have your new texture in Paint.net and it's on a new layer, we can begin to blend it with the background layer. First of all you must look at the default texture behind, to do this go to your "layers" window and "uncheck" your new created layer. This should take away your new texture and leave you with this screen.

As you can see the weapon's texture is actually flattened out so that all the faces are visible. It can be especially difficult to locate parts of weapons so you'll have to use common sense and trial and error. Look at the textures in front of you and choose one you'd like to apply the texture to first. Once you have found it go back to the "layers" window and "check" your new layer. if your image is large like mine, you might want to scale it down. Do this by clicking the corners of the image and dragging them towards the centre. Once you have your new texture sitting over your desired location it should look like this - don't worry if it covers other things.

Now it's time to blend the layers together, and there are several ways to do this. Firstly go to the top toolbar once again and select "layers" and then "Layer properties..". This new window should appear with the blending options.

Now the choice is yours as to which method you'd like to use as all work in different ways, and with different background colours. For this tutorial I have decided to use "overlay". Click ok and your two layers should be blended together and you should be able to see your new texture over the top of the default skin like in the image below.

Now the image is a bit dark for me so I'll just tweak it slightly by changing the contrast and brightness under the toolbar "Adjustments" at the top.

Now that you have overlayed your texture onto the weapon you'll notice that it covers more than you want. To remove this excess go to the tools window (If it's not already open use the top toolbar "Window" then "tools") and select the rubber icon which is in the middle right column. At the top will be your "brush size" which you may need to increase or decrease. Now you can start to remove the excess textures on weapon parts that you don't want them on. All of this is shown in the below screenshot. If you need to zoom in, hold Ctrl on your keyboard and scroll in or out with the mouse wheel.

Continue this until you're happy that the weapon part you want is covered with your new texture.
Follow the next step to find out how to put this image back into a vtf format!
Step 5 - Creating a vtf, and sorting folders
Once you're happy with the new texture save it (File - Save as) a TGA and keep the name "m16a2". Save it to your desktop and replace (if needed) the file that is already there. If it asks you to "flatten" the image allow it. I would also advise you to save this as a Paint.net file so that you can come back to it and edit anything you don't like or that you want to add.

Now that it is saved as a TGA/ Targa file open up vtfedit. Click File - Import and find your new textured file named "m16a2". A window will pop up, but that's not important for this tutorial so click "ok". It should look like this once imported.

Now click "File - Save As" and name the file m16a2 - using all lower case letters. This may replace the default vtf file on your desktop. I would advise you to make an extra copy of this as you may need to go back to it later and start fresh.

Now you have your new texture in vtf format ready to be put into the game. First however you must create it's root file directory - this is similar to the first step. Once again go to your Left 4 Dead 2 folder via Steam/Steamapps/Left 4 Dead 2/Left 4 Dead 2 and find the "pak01_dir" and open it up using GCFScape. Follow the directory and make notes on where it goes. For example to get to the rifle it's materials - models - v_models - weapons - rifle Now you must recreate these folders on your desktop. (This will be different for other weapons.)

To do this create an initial folder, for example "M16 arctic Camo". Inside this folder create a "materials" folder, and inside the materials folder a "models" folder and so on until you reach the rifle folder. Open up your rifle folder and drag and drop your vtf file with the new texture in it. Also move the two .vmt files in here too. It should now look like this.

Now the final step, adding it to the game!
Step 6 - Final - Adding your texture to the game
We're almost done, there's just a couple more things to do before you can try out your new mod!
Firstly we must turn your folders with the files inside into a .vpk file so that the game can read and make use of what you've just made. To do this we'll need a special program which I like to call the "VPK Maker". You can find this tool in Steam/Steamapps/Common/Left 4 Dead 2/Bin/

In this "bin" folder you'll see a lot of files, and the one we're looking for is called "vpk" which is an application file. Locate this file and then right click it, and select "Create Shortcut".

This should have created a shortcut to this application in that same folder, now simply drag the shortcut (not the vpk app) onto your dekstop.

Before the next little step it's important to give your mod/ addon a name so that you can locate it in the game. This is very simple to do. Create a Notepad document (.txt). Use this as a template

addonSteamAppID 550
addontitle "[Insert name here]"
addonversion 1.0
addonauthor "[Insert name here]"
addonDescription "[Insert description here]"

Copy everything above and insert it into the notepad document, replacing [insert here] with the names of your item / author. Once done save the document as "addoninfo" (all lower case letters without the speech marks) Place this .txt notepad file inside your first file with the materials folder, which in this case is "M16 Arctic Camo" Below is a screenshot of what it should look like.

We're almost done. Now that folder I named "M16 Arctic Camo" is what we're going to turn into a .vpk file. Simply drag the folder and place it over the top of the vpk shortcut file. This will turn your folder into a vpk (and keep your original folder). It should look like this.

Now you have the .vpk file and it's named correctly, it's time to add it to the game. Go to Steam/Steamapps/Common/Left 4 Dead 2/ Left 4 Dead 2/Addons and place your new VPK file here.
Using and testing
Final stage. Launch Left 4 Dead 2. At the menu screen you will see a tab named "Add Ons", click it. Search for your new weapon texture vpk file and make sure the box is "checked" and that the game will use it. See image below.

Time to test! As you can see from the image below, the colour is a little dull and I've only covered a small portion of the weapon. You can go back to Paint.net and edit this out, follow the same steps and try again.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found the tutorial easy to understand.

Update: Hey guys, it's been such a long time since I've done any of this myself so I might not be able to help you with your issues. I no longer play L4D2 either.
- LucK
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General_Freedom Aug 21 @ 8:02pm 
@Luck I can't get my .vpk files to open on VPKEdit. The file I can open only shows as text on a white background. I have a friend who's into modding as well and he tried helping me out, but his solutions haven't exactly worked. Any ideas?
Grandma Aug 20 @ 12:59pm 
Ok I fixed the issue, I was supposed to label my axe vtf 4melee_weapon.vtf
LucK_  [author] Aug 20 @ 11:33am 
Sorry, I have no idea. Your best bet might be to download a working fire axe skin, look at the folders they use and work backwards from there.
Grandma Aug 19 @ 10:38pm 
I am having the exact same problems using the exact same method as in this discussion. If you can help me and this person I (and probably they) would greatly appreciate it.
Dorito Headass Jul 20 @ 11:19am 
is there a more complicated tutorial? i wanna port over some firearms from bf1
Crosshair (El Tuailait) Jun 12 @ 9:07pm 
Now my gun is almost done... except now is all shiny... I've been scrolling for a while, and I saw someone with the same problem, so you gave a thing, and he did the thing and solve his thing, but the thing isn't there any more
Crosshair (El Tuailait) Jun 11 @ 12:11am 
Nevermind... I scrolled to hell an solved it.... Thanks
Crosshair (El Tuailait) Jun 11 @ 12:01am 
And yes... I exported it as a *,tga file
Crosshair (El Tuailait) Jun 10 @ 11:57pm 
It doesn't happen with the M16 though
Crosshair (El Tuailait) Jun 10 @ 11:54pm 
I was trying to do a skin for the desert rifle aka SCAR-L to give it the colors of the exclusive anodised blue FN SCAR 16S.... and after locating the file as you said, and this happened