Recently I made the bold statement that I would learn Photoshop and at the same time attempt something that I've always wanted to do. Create my own livery in F1 2012. If you look around the web and places like Race Department you'll soon realise that there are some exceptionally talented and skilled moders out there that have created some beautiful skins. My goal was never to reach those lofty heights but to just be able to make small changes and give the cars just a little personalisation.
Before we begin I’d like to emphasise a few points on what the content of this tutorial is about and what to expect. First and foremost it will not be a guide on how to use Photoshop (or editing in general) because frankly my skill level is fairly rudimentary (especially since I'm still learning myself). While basic editing skills is all you really need a certain level of knowledge is implied. You definitely don’t need to be a guru in Photoshop in order to take advantage of this guide because I’m certainly not. In fact I’m far from it.
This guide is really intended for the person who would like to make or edit their own car skins, but doesn’t know which files to edit, which utilities they’ll need to achieve it and how to get it to all work once they are done. The creative aspect of editing, using Photoshop etc, I leave to you, however were necessary I will point out important or useful information that will make things easier.
So firstly the scary disclaimer:
This tutorial will involve editing game files that if not done correctly can break your game (or at least make it look really horrible). The following guide is supplied as is and it goes without saying you should make a backup of any game files you attempt to edit in the event you need to restore them.
What do I need?
You will need three pieces of software before you start.
- Adobe Photoshop (specifically any version of 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 7.0, CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS6.)
Any of the Photoshop’s from 3 to current should suffice, however I’ve only ever used version 5. There is no reason tho that this won’t work in older versions so give it a try. Alternatively you could use any editor that has the ability to read .DDS files (Microsoft DirectDraw Surface files if you need to know). I've been told that CoralDraw can do this, but that's as far as I can advise.
- DDS plugin in for Photoshop
Photoshop on its own can’t open DDS files. You’ll need a plugin that will enable you to open and save to the .DDS format. Luckily our friends at nVidia have you covered.
Download and install the one for your version of Windows/Photoshop.
- Ryders PSSG Editor
Ryder as he’s known has been active in the moding community for yonks and is the author of some of the best tools for Codemaster games. His editor allows you to open PSSG texture files, extract them for editing and then later reconstruct them. If you can throw the man a few dollars on his donation page, it’s worth letting him know we appreciate this work and it will keep valuable utilities like this going.
All done? Good so lets get started.
F1 2012’s directory structure is pretty straight forward, infact it hasn’t really changed since 2010 so if you’re familiar with how those worked, you could probably skip over this section. Navigate to your F1 2012 directory. If you installed it with steam's default settings, it should be within your steamapps/common/f1 2012 directory. If you set your own directory then head on over to that. Within the F1 2012 directory is a folder called 'cars'. Within that directory you'll see a bunch of folders with abbreviated team names. It's these folders that contain the car livery's. For the sake of simplicity I have given you the folder that corresponds to the team name here, tho it should be fairly obvious anyway:
ca2 = Caterham
fc2 = Force India
fe2 = Ferrari
hr2 = HRT
lr2 = Lotus
ma2 = Marussia
mc2 = McLaren
me2 = Mercedes
rb2 = Red Bull
sa2 = Sauber
tr2 = Toro Rosso
wi2 = Williams
If your wondering what sc2 is well that's the saftey car.
We are going to go ahead and edit the Ferrari for the purposes of this tutorial. Open the fe2 directory and inside you should find a stack of folders. The one we want is 'livery_main'. In that folder we have two folders, 'textures_high' and 'textures_low'. If for some reason you use low textures, then you'll be working with the low texture file, but for this we'll be working with the high one. Open the 'textures_high' folder and inside you should see one file called 'fe2_gen_high_main.pssg'. This file is like a container file. It houses the textures for the car. At this point you should go ahead and create a working folder somewhere on your HDD. Any folder were you will save all your files that you will then work on. Go ahead and copy 'fe2_gen_high_main.pssg' to this folder.
So now you have a working folder with a copy of the 'fe2_gen_high_main.pssg'. We now need to extract the textures so we can go to work. Fire up 'Ryder PSSG Editor', select open and navigate to your copied PSSG file in your working directory.
You'll notice three components to the 'fe2_gen_high_main.pssg' file. You can click on each component and it will display it in the preview.
- fe2_main.tga contains the main livery as you can see in the screenshot above. You'll notice it's a flat 2D texture that obviously gets wrapped around a model in the game.
- fe2_wheel.tga contains the wheel hub texture. There is really no need to ever touch this file.
- fe2_main_specocc.tga contains a shading file. You'll notice it's strange colors, it's a layer that sits underneath the main skin.
Down the bottom of the PSSG Editor you will notice a button that says 'Export All Textures'. Go ahead and press this and you should get a message that says 'Textures exported successfully'. Go back to your working directory and you should now see the three files you saw within the PSSG Editor all with the same name, but with the extension '.dds'.
Now it's time to edit. Open up Photoshop and browse to your working directory. Open the main livery page 'fe2_main.tgs.dds'. Photoshop will ask you about the read properties, so go ahead and just leave it on default. You now should see the livery within Photoshop ready for you to make changes. One tip I would suggest that helps identify what parts appear where on the car is to fire up F1 2012, go to a 'quick race', select Ferrari and let it load. As soon as your in the garage quit back to the main menu. The Ferrari should be in the main showroom page. As it rotates around the car, take screen shots (steams built in screenshot utility is good for this). Then quit the game. You can then use the screenshots as a reference to what it is your editing and where on the car it will appear.
Once you've made the changes go ahead and hit save, you should see this dialogue box appear:
Go ahead and change the first setting to 'DXT5' and leave the rest as default. Click save. It may take some time so give it a moment.
If you removed any of the logos then this next step is also necessary. If you don't edit the 'main_specocc.tga.dds' you will still see the logos as a sort of opaque layer and it will ruin your livery. If you remove no logos, or anything major from the livery then you could if necessary skip this part. But for the sake of completeness we will assume you removed some of them. Go ahead and open the 'main_specocc.tga.dds' in Photoshop. Once again leave the read settings as default. You will now see the 'Spec' layer. It will appear probably purple or bright. Go ahead an now edit this file to match your 'main_specocc.tga.dds' especially any logo's you removed. One tip is to edit by Channel. It makes removing things easier as you generally work with one color pallet.
Once that's done go ahead and save that using the same settings as above.
So now you have your edited files ready to put back into the PSSG file. Go to Ryder PSSG Editor and go ahead and open your copied 'fe2_gen_high_main.pssg'. Make sure that 'fe2_main.tga' is highlighted. Click on 'Import' and browse to your edited 'fe2_main.tgs.dds' file and hit open. You should now notice that the texture file has changed to the one you edited.
If you had to edit your 'fe2_main_specocc.tga.dds' file then go ahead, select that file within the PSSG Editor, and import the edited file like you did with the main file. Make sure you highlight the file you wish to replace in the PSSG Editor or else it will not work properly!
The next step is straight forward. Select file and go ahead and save your new PSSG file somewhere. Make sure it's named exactly the same as the original file. In this case it must be called 'fe2_gen_high_main'. Do not give it another name or else it won't work.
Once it's saved your new modified livery is ready to go. Go back to your F1 2012 directory and move your new PSSG file to the 'textures_high' folder. The same folder you originally got your PSSG file from in the first place. You may want to rename the original file rather than override just so you can go back to the original livery if necessary.
Once you've moved it you can now test it! Fire up F1 2012, if your main car isn't the one you edited, an easy way to see how it worked out is to go to a quick race, select the car you edited (in this case for us it was the Ferrari) and load a race. Once in the garage quit to the main menu and your car should be the one in the main showroom. Behold! You should be able to look upon your new creation with either awe, or disappointment (depending on how good your Photoshop skills were).
What I've done is fairly straight forward, however you can change just about anything via this method. Your only limited by your imagination!