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Creating backpack icons with TFMV & Photoshop for workshop items
By BANG!
Easily take screenshots and create backpack icons with TFMV for your workshop items.

Why use TFMV and HLMV?

TFMV allows you to load workshop compiled items (or .VPK .MDL .QC) and automatically setups and loads the model(s) in HLMV without having to do any silly registry edit or copy/edit a single file.

HLMV allows you to have more control to take a screenshot of your item (FOV, camera, background color, ambient light etc).
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Loading an item in TFMV
Before we start, if you are not familiar with the tool TFMV you can download it and check the detailed guide here, if you want a quick overview watch the videos first.

You can load workshop compiled (.zip files) items into TFMV which you can find in the directory: ...\SteamApps\common\Team Fortress 2\tf\workshop

TFMV will automatically load and setup the model and materials ready be loaded in the model viewer (HLMV).

Loading the model in TFMV

To load your compiled item simply drag and drop the workshop zip file, or any other format (.vpk .mdl .qc) into the TFMV item list box marked in orange here:


  • If you wish to load the model alone, click "use as main".
  • If you want to load the model attached to a TF2 character select a class, with the buttons below.

Loading the model in HLMV

Click "Loadout to HLMV" or "Loadout to HLMV + Load Paints" if your item uses paints (you can setup the paint color in the "paint items tab").

HLMV should load, press F5 to refresh and load the model.

Taking screenshots
Setting the FOV

Once you have your item loaded in TFMV and HLMV you might want to change the FOV to get a better shot.

By default the FOV is too large, I recommend setting it lower around 25 to 40, depending on how your item looks figure out what's best.

Setting HLMV windows size

Preferably set the HLMV window size, in TFMV set it to 512x512.
Click "Update" in TFMV.



HLMV's windows should be set for taking square screenshots of your item:




Taking screenshots for backpack icon

Now that the item is loaded and the HLMV size set to square proportions, we just need to take two screenshots.
One with a black background and a second with a white background, this will help creating the transparency mask we need for the backpack icon.

In HLMV set the background color to black: Options > Background Color...
Select the TFMV window and press F5 to take a screenshot.

In HLMV set the background color to white: Options > Background Color...
Select the TFMV window and press F5 to take a screenshot.

Go to the TFMV screenshots directory: Settings > Screenshots Directory > Browse

You should find the two screenshots:





Finishing the backpack icon in Photoshop
I have created a TF2 backpack icon template PSD file for creating backpack icons, it has rulers and a few top layers to delimit the zone of the icon which should be black.



Open up the PSD in photoshop:



You can press CTRL + H to show/hide the blue rulers, these are simply there to delimit the area in which your item's screenshot should fit, in the center.

Loading and placing the icon

Backpack icons contain the icon color image in the RGB channel, the transparency for the icon is defined by the Alpha channel, we need to create it.

Load the two screenshots in Photoshop and add them in the template PSD layer's:


Make sure both layers are aligned and that they are betwen the background layer and the "bounds" group.

Select both layers of the white and black background screenshots.
Use the move tool (V) and the transform tool (CTRL + T) to move and scale the icon so it fits properly in the center without going out of the bounds.

Creating the transparency mask

Once you have placed your icon properly we can create the alpha, at this point you should no longer move or scale any layer!

Duplicate the layer of the screenshot with black background and disable its visibility, we will need it later.

In order to create the alpha mask, select one of the screenshots layer, the one on top and set its layer blending mode to "difference".
You should get a black and white image:


Select both layers (white/black background screenshots).
Merge the two selected layers: CTRL + E
Invert the image colors: CTRL + I (the item should be in white, in alpha black = transparent)

And here is our alpha mask! you should get this:

Now we just need to fill the empty space around it.
Create a layer below and fill it with black, select the mask and the black layer and merge them.

There's a catch here!
The TF2 item importer does not like left over non-black pixels, so we need to do a little cleanup.

You might notice (in the previous image) that there's some brighter pixels on the edges of the mask layer even after we merge it with a black layer.

In order to fix this, use a black brush with the color set to black and paint over to get rid of these non black edges, you should get this:


That's it, we have our Alpha mask for transparency! =)

Now we need to copy this to the Alpha channel.
While having the mask layer selected, press CTRL + A then CTRL + C to copy.
Next to the "Layers" tab select the "Channels" tab.
Select the "Alpha" layer and hit CTRL + V to paste the alpha mask in the alpha channel.


Select the RGB Channel.
Return to the Layers tab.
Select the hidden layer with the screenshot of the item in color with a black background and make it visible.

Finally we just need to flatten the image.
In the menu Layer > Flatten Image.


File > Save as...
Make sure you have the "Alpha Channels" checked:


Next you will get a popup, make sure you have these settings:




Done!
Your backpack icon is saved in TGA, ready to be used with the TF2 importer.



6 Comments
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Vipes May 1 @ 6:46am 
I'm guessing it's supposed to be common knowledge, as no tutorial has ever told me this. Thanks very much.
BANG!  [author] May 1 @ 6:45am 
Yeah that's just how the HLMV camera works, you'll need to export the item mesh at the center of the scene and recompile it as a model just for the backpack icon.
Vipes May 1 @ 6:34am 
I have a small problem, when I load items without a playermodel, they are in a position that is impossible to move out of so I can take a picture of.
RagnaWolf The Guardian Feb 24 @ 2:53pm 
can you tell me how to make a BP icon in Paint.net? i cant get Photoshop
Encounter [2] Dec 22, 2013 @ 7:01am 
nice
Hitman47 Dec 19, 2013 @ 7:07am 
TC TC TC ;D