Once you get the hang of them, skins can be fun to do...but they take some patience in the beginning, especially for Mac users. It can be a complex process at first, but stick with it, and you'll enjoy your Sims game even more. (And it gets easier as you go!)
First, I highly advise you to download Sim Show from Aspyr. It's free, and it lets you view the skins before importing them into your game. As you've probably learned the hard way, if you import a skin with a cmx file that isn't optimized for Mac, your game will crash. (More on tricky CMX files in a minute...that's the basis of this tutorial)
I use Photoshop to make my skins, but you can use any graphics program. You must save them in BMP files, and they have to be saved in indexed color. This is the problem I kept running into when making skins on Mac, and it took me awhile to get that all figured out.
THIS IS IMPORTANT:
On Photoshop: Make your skin file, then:
1. Flatten the image
2. Change the mode to indexed color: Image-Mode-Indexed Color (256 colors)
3. Save a copy (not just save, but save a copy) as whatever.bmp
Here is an action file if you use Photoshop. Drop this into your PS actions file and once you're satisfied with your skin, run this. (No promises this will work; it's a copy of my actions file that I use to finalize my skins file....it should send the copy into your textures folder...but you'll need to rename it to reflect the body/head mesh you want it to go with) If you do it wrong, you may end up with everything white with a pinkish cast to it. That means you didn't do it right, so try again.
A quick note about how skin files are named: read the tutorial that comes with Sim Show. It's a little bit complicated, but a pretty detailed tutorial. Unfortunately, I don't think it fully explains how to save the file properly, and you'll end up with this whitish pink thing.
There are some great tutorials out there, and I have no desire to reinvent the wheel. Here are the tutorials that have taught me the ropes:
(note: simsformac.com has gone down - plus the making clothing and faces tutorials - but is archived at archive.org - I've linked to an archived version, but you should still be able to read it and (when working) download the files there - give it time to load all the graphics...it sometimes takes awhile)
Those Pesky CMX files!
Now, once you've made the skins, what if you've got something you want to make, and don't have the proper CMX file? Or you've downloaded a great skin, but it crashes your game?
The Sims game comes with some basic body/head files. These are the meshes, and the CMX file tells the game which meshes to use. The problem that Mac users have is that we have a limit on the filename size....31 characters. So when you download something that goes beyond that limit, everything gets screwed up. Here's why: the cmx file is saying "find the mesh called blahblahblahMySuperDuperSkinFileICreatedOnMyWindozeMachine.skn And Mac files have that limit, so when you download that skn file, the filename is truncated to read blahblahblahMySuperDuperSkinFile
Oops, where's the rest of the filename? It's gone, but the CMX file is telling your game to find it. It doesn't exist, so the game crashes. Ouch.
Here's what to do: (I'm going to use the Homer Simpson skin found at 7DeadlySims.com as an example - you may want to download the file and play along as I go) http://www.7deadlysims.com/download/Skins/sloth/homer.zip
1. You have the zip file and need to unzip it. I usually use UnZip, but I've found that I really like Dave Baum's little unzipper. Just drop the file on the unzipper and it gives you a nice tidy folder.
2. Now we've got the following files:
Notice the last three files. They're screwed up, and if you try and put these in your game files, you're going to have crashes.
xskin-b509mafat_Homer-PELVIS-BO should actually be xskin-b509mafat_Homer-PELVIS-BODY.skn but the filename is truncated because of the 31-character length limit. The remaining two files should end in .skn, not .sk
So we have to fix this. This is how I do it, and it works fine for me, with no crashes as long as I get everything right. That's why I recommend using Sim Show first - if you screw it up, Sim Show crashes too, and it's a lot smaller program to crash than the Sims game. (Plus faster)
3. Let's rename the files:
let's rename this to: xskin-b509mafat-PELVIS-BODY.skn
Notice that I removed the entire name Homer plus the _ character. Yes, it's nice to have all that info in the file name, but you have to take out some of the fluff.
You can play around as you go and remove what you need. I start by removing part of the personal name (Homer, Buffy, etc.) and take out a character at a time until I get it to the correct size. (31 characters)
Now let's rename the other files:
becomes xskin-c509ma_Homr-HEAD-FACE.skn (you'll notice that only the n was left off the filename, so you only need to remove one character)
Okay, we've renamed the offending files. Now we have to fix the CMX file, and this is where you can screw up! In this skin folder, there are two cmx files (with the file extension name .cmx) Open those using Simple Text.
4. Open your cmx file. The first one looks like this:
// Character File. Copyright 1997, Maxis Inc.
Since we changed our skn file names, we now need to make those changes in the cmx files. Don't change anything else!
We changed the pelvis-body name to: xskin-b509mafat-PELVIS-BODY.skn, so change that line, but leave off the file ext name.
That should do it. Save the file.
5. Next, let's move things into the proper folders in Sim Show. Since there are already a lot of files in there, I like to color label (File-Label) the new files to make them stand out. That way when you move them to your game, or you need to work on them some more, they're easy to find among the others.
In Sim Show, open the Game Data folder. Put your skn and cmx files in the cmx3 folder, and the BMP files into the textures folder. Then open your Sim Show program. If you haven't yet used this, you'll learn it takes a bit of messing around with it to understand what it does. (There's a decent tutorial on skin making, but no documentation AT ALL on how to use Sim Show! Dare I suggest that Aspyr hire a good technical writer? Their software ROCKS, but not their documentation!)
Read up on how files are named in their tutorial. The main things to remember are that MA stands for Male Adult, FA is female adult and then you have fat/fit/skinny and dark/medium/light.
Open your Sim Show program and look around at the choices. You can make the Sim bounce around, rotate and other things. I usually use a variety to see how I like my skin.
Now, we've moved Homer and his files into the correct folders, so let's see how Homer worked out!
Continue (heavy graphics to illustrate, which is why I'm making a second page)