As you may have read by now with Spriter’s “Character Maps” feature, you can set up your Spriter project to allow for real-time swapping or hiding of any of the used images in order to create large varieties of possible visual combinations, for alternate characters, outfits, etc. It’s possible to greatly expand on this level of customization by adding the ability to exchange and combine color combinations as well. Our RPG Heroes Art Pack uses this combination of Character Maps and Custom Color Palette manipulation to offer a massive assortment of possible character combinations to the user.  While this is feature does offer some great benefits, it’s much more complicated to use than Character Maps, and puts  much stronger technical demands on the artist creating the images. Another thing that is very important to keep in mind is that at the time this manual is being written, no Spriter run-time (plug-in) for any language or authoring system has support for using these Color Palette manipulations at run time. This means unless you confirm that the runtime you’ll be using for your game authoring system of choice actually supports the Color Palette features, then be sure you are using it only for creating exported full frame images or sprite sheets, or, to “bake out” the final Color Palette combination to all images permanently before using them in your game engine. Here’s how it works: The most important thing to know if you want to use this feature is the difference between “full color” images and “indexed color” images”:  Full color images contain the full color information for every pixel of the image, as well as the level of opacity for each pixel. This makes the file size much larger, but allows for absolute freedom for the artist at the time of creating the artwork. This is what’s typically used in modern games and web graphics. Indexed color images allow for a limited number of colors that all pixels must share from. This limited set of colors is often referred to as the color “palette”, and each color in the palette has an index (a number) color index zero would mean the first color, index 255 would be the last color (256 colors total).  This type of images takes up less file space because instead of having full color data for every last pixel, it simply has the color index from the palette that any given pixel should use. The other benefit of indexed color images is, that with programming tricks, tools like Spriter can allow users to customize these “color palettes” on the fly, so suddenly, the user is not just choosing from 5 different style of shirts for example, but can now also mix and match from an nearly unlimited number of color options for each shirt style as well!  On top of the limited number of colors however, there are other trade-offs when using indexed color mode. a) In most or all modern digital painting tools, the vast majority of features will not work in indexed color mode! For this reason, if you’d like to use the color features, we recommend you find and learn a pixel-art program, specialized for working in indexed color mode. The one I’ll be using in all the tutorials will be Pro Motion NG by b) because there is no alpha (opacity) level data per pixel, there’s no semi-transparent anti-aliasing around the edges of your art. This means you need to take your time and be more precise with your art- work and make sure the outlines are as clean as possible to ensure high visual quality of the final animations in game. HERE’S HOW 1) Use a pixel art program like Pro Motion, create your art, making sure all aspects/images for the animations you’ll be creating are using the same, organized color palette… for example, make sure all color ranges are from light to dark, make color indexes 1 through 8 the colors used for skin (color zero typically reserved for the transparent background color) Be sure to save your images out with color zero (the background color) set to transparent. IMPORTANT: Be sure to make sure you’re saving your images in indexed color mode and that you do not have the program set to “save in lowest bit depth” or “save with fewest colors” as these settings would destroy the order of the color palette. 2) Now that your Spriter project has images to use and you’ve started to assemble your animations, you may be ready to explore color palette customization options. In order to do this, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a folder called “_palettes” in the root folder of your Spriter Project. It must have that exact name. You can then set up sub folders (named whatever you’d like) within the “_palettes” folder. 3) Now you have to create special palette image files (in your “_palettes” folder) which will give Spriter the color data needed for the colors you want this palette image to change.  Let’s get back to the idea of skin tones.  In this example, lets say you had used the first several indexes (after index zero, which is transparent) for skin tones in all your images. To create a palette image to allow for applying a new skin tone, you’d need to edit those specific color indexes in an images to have the new skin colors. I highly recommend you create a custom 32x32 pixel image representing what the palette image will be effecting, and which uses those specific color indexes.  Look how for the RPG Heroes Pack, I made the skin-tone palette images look like a blank face. This allows the user to instantly recognize both what the image will effect, AND what the new skin- tone will look like. IMPORTANT: Aside from making sure all images use the same palette arrangement (same indexes being used for the same things, such as skin tones), the most important thing you need to remember is that ALL color indexes other than the colors you want your palette image to effect MUST be set to what is called “programmer pink”. This is RGB value 255,0,255 or hex(web) value: ff00ff  . This is how Spriter knows which colors to effect when the user selects that particular palette image. Once your Spriter project has animations or frames made of indexed images, and palette files ready to effect them, you’re ready to start applying the palette files to the current character map “stack” so that you can create custom visual variations for your animations. To do so, you‘d do the following: 1) Click the “Char Maps” button at the top right of the animations palette to bring up the Character Maps dialogue. Then click the small painting palette looking icon at the bottom right of the Character Maps dialogue.  This will bring up the “Color Palette Dialogue” 2) Now just navigate through the palette image files in the “_palettes” folder, left click on any image who’s colors you’d like to effect your animations. If you change your mind about a specific change you’ve made, just left click that palette image one more time and it will remove its effect. 3) Once you’re finished applying all of the image palettes you’d like, click OK at the bottom right of the “Color Palettes Dialogue”, then be sure to save the character file (scms), which will save not only the current color palette configuration, but also any active character maps into a single small file you can reload any time you want to edit or re-export animations for this specific custom appearance.  To save the character file, just click the small blue disk icon at the lower-left of the “Character Maps” dialogue, then choose the name and location for your file and click “Save”.   
Using Spriter’s Custom Color Features

Spriter Pro User’s Manual version 1.4