Expressing your individuality online can be difficult, especially if you’re a gamer. While running and gunning your way through games like Counter-Strike: Source or Team Fortress 2 it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. But leaving your mark on the world is easier than you might think. Animated sprays are a great way for you to tell your enemy that, not only have they been pwned, but that you're the one responsible.
Custom animated sprays were limited to the most elite players in the days of Counter-Strike 1.6, but now that Source is here that’s all changed. So prepare yourself for a quick and easy way to make your own spray and let the lolcats run wild!
The hardest part of making your own animated spray is deciding what pictures to use. The choice is tricky, as the end result represents both your unique personal style, and your declaration of badassedness whenever you choose to use it. The choice can either be easy or agonizing.
Make sure that the background contents are transparent, otherwise when you load up your spray online there will be a big ugly white background!
For the sake of simplicity, we used a lolcat for our sample spray. The images are popular on the Internet, and occasionally even funny. Once you’ve chosen your picture, you'll want to place it on a transparent background using Photoshop. Open the original image, then press ctrl+a to select the entire image, press ctrl+c to copy it, and create a new canvas by pressing ctrl+n. The new canvas will already be the exact same size as the image on your clipboard, so you can simply paste it by pressing ctrl+v. It's a good idea to make a backup save of your image now. If you mess anything up, you'll be able to revert your changes much more easily if you have a backup.
Cut out the area of the picture that you want to be transparent by selecting it with the lasso tool, then pressing delete. Don’t worry about getting rid of everything at once, just remove unwanted background one chunk at a time. For bits of the image that are the same color, you can use the magic wand tool. This lets you select adjoining pixels that are the same color quickly and easily. When you've clipped out all the of the background that you want to, for each of the images you'll use in your spray, resize the image to 128 pixels wide using the Image Size panel (ctrl+alt+i), and move on to the next step.
Step 2: Create the backbone of your custom spray
Put your files side by side and make sure that they’re what you want other players to see. For me, this is right on the money.
Once you’ve got your picture(s) clipped, open them up side-by-side in Photoshop. This is the best time to input any text that you want in your spray. With the separate frames next to each other it’ll be easy to see exactly what your finished product will look like in-game. The one thing you can't do is create too many frames--due to the Source engine's 120KB spray filesize limitation, you probably won't be able to create more than five frames. Make sure everything looks the way you want it to and save the finished 128x128 images in one directory with names that alphabetize into the proper order for the frames (1 image.jpg, 2 image.jpg, etc).
3: Conversion, conversion, conversion
VTFEdit's import process asks you all sorts of scary questions. Fortunately, you can just skip over them by pressing OK.
Now that all your images are properly sized, you're almost ready to create the spray. Open up VTFEdit, and go to File -> Import. Control-click each of the images you want to use, and click OK. Select the default options on the Import screen, and wait while your images are converted. To get an insanely high-speed preview of your spray, you can go to the Image tab and press Play. If everything looks right, you can go to the Info tab and make sure that the overall size of the spray is less than 120KB. Then save the file in c:/Program Files/Steam/steamapps/<your username>/team fortress 2/tf/materials/VGUI/logos for Team Fortress 2, or your c:/Program Files/Steam/steamapps/<your username>/counter-strike source/cstrike/materials/VGUI/logos folder. Once you've saved the file, go to the Tools menu and click Create VMT file, then save the resulting file to the same folder.
All done! Mom would be proud if she knew the first thing about PC gaming. Or lolcats.
Now, your files should be in order, iand you can fire up your game and enjoy your handiwork. From the game's main menu, go to the options menu, and select the Multiplayer tab. Your new spray should be available in the drop-down list, for you to select. Before you venture into the wilds of the Internet, you'll want to test your spray in a private place, so why not create a server all your own, and make sure it works properly there. If you make adjustments to the spray, you'll need to disconnect and reconnect to the server in order to see any changes. Once you're happy with the way things are working, fire up your game and get spraying! Not Feeling Animated? Don’t sweat it! Stop yourself after you’ve cut out your picture and save it as a targa (.tga) Size doesn’t matter, so just place it somewhere that it’ll be found easily and import it from Counter-Strike: Source or Team Fotress 2’s in game menu.