Introduction: How to Recolor Sprites in Gimp for Beginners

Picture of How to Recolor Sprites in Gimp for Beginners

Ever wanted to change the color of a video game sprite character’s outfit, their eyes or  their hair? It’s very easy and simple to do using pretty much any art program and even beginners can make nice color changes!  For this tutorial I will be using Gimp which is a free art program. Follow along as I turn Elli’s dress from blue to pink.

You will need:
-Gimp
-Sprite to recolor (I am using Elli from Harvest Moon DS  - you can find the sprite here)

Step 1: Selecting the Color You Want to Change

Picture of Selecting the Color You Want to Change

Open up your sprite in Gimp and zoom in about 800%.  You want the sprite large enough that you can easily see the pixels (picture 1).

Using the Select By Color Tool (it looks like a hand pointing to a bar colored blue, red and yellow and is generally in the top right hand corner of your toolbox) select the lightest color of the object you want to change.  It’s important to start with the lightest color as you can then easily darken the color bit by bit for the shading (picture 2)

Step 2: Fill in With Your New Color

Picture of Fill in With Your New Color

Using the Paintbucket tool, fill the selected areas in with the color of your choice.  You can quickly fill in all the areas by holding down Shift while selecting one of the highlighted areas – this will automatically fill them all (picture 1). While this is a great time saver, sometimes you will have to select each area individually if the color is used in other areas you want to leave as-is (for example, if you are changing the color of the sprite's clothing, there may be other places on the sprite that use the same color you want to change only on the clothing.  In this case, you will need to fill each area individually).

Once again using the Select by Color tool, select the next-to-lightest area of the object you’re changing.  Then, using the color selector, pick a color that is darker than your original color.  Make sure it’s the equivalent darkness to the shade you are replacing – if it’s too light or too dark, it will look odd. This might take some practice to get good at, but keep trying! (Pictures 2 and 3)

Step 3: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Repeat the process to fill in all the remaining shades until you have completely replaced the old color scheme with your new one (picture 1). The most important thing to remember is to match the shades that you’re replacing, otherwise the shape and shading will look off.

Zoom back to normal magnification and see how your sprite looks now (picture 2). There, she’s looking pretty good! Now I’m going to quickly repeat that whole process to change her bow to a more fitting color to match her dress (pictures 3, 4, and 5).

Step 4: Comparison and Advanced Coloring

Picture of Comparison and Advanced Coloring

Now let’s compare our original Elli next to her new version (picture 1).

And there you have it! You can use this method to change any color on a sprite, but be aware that the more colors you are replacing, the more attention you have to pay to replacing the shades exactly. 

Hair is one of the most difficult things to change because there is generally so many shades to replace and often the color of the hair is used elsewhere on the character, meaning you have to be careful exactly what you replace.  Elli has the same brown color of her hair outlining her face – changing her hair would be quite a project.  The easiest color to change is one that isn’t used elsewhere on the character – for example, Nami (picture 2). Her red hair is easy to change because the colors don’t blend into her face or outfit.  So it’s easy to make her, say, a blonde (picture 3).

Finally, remember to save your work often!  If you successfully change the color of a character’s shirt, save your work before you try to tackle another object.  That way if you mess up, you won’t have lost all your recoloring work.

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