[Tutorial] How to shade skins!

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Retired Moderator
Level 61 : High Grandmaster Skinner
So browsing through the skins list, watching the comments on my rant, and just generally talking to novice skinners, their main issue is not even knowing where to start when they want to shade. So, here I've decided to share my method on shading which is, in my opinion, the most important part of a skin.

All you need for this tutorial is Gimp! You can download it completely free from right here.

Alright. We need a skin, right? Let's draw one out. No shading at all, yet, just the semi-limited palette. It helps to keep the colors simple for now.


Now we have our simple skin. This is the stage where most people (unfortunately) think it's done and upload it here. But nope, the skin's hardly started. Let's do a bit of shading now...
Take your dodge/burn tool (to get to it, click the little black bulb on a stick icon, or just press shift+D)
Set the "exposure" (it's a little slider bar) to around 50-70. That's what I use, set it to however much shading you want. Now, you can either click the little dodge bubble to switch to it, or the burn bubble to switch back. Dodging is making it lighter, burning is making it darker. Also set the "Range" depending on the brightness of your skin. "Shadows" is for dark skins, "Highlights" is for really light ones, and obviously, "Midtones" is for general/middle shade colors. I used midtones for this skin. For my Clone Trooper skin, I used "Highlights" since it's light.
Make it darker wherever shadows fall, around curves, and on the corners to make it look a bit more 3D. Use dodge to make it lighter wherever direct light shines and reflects. For example, highlights in hair, wrinkles in clothing, etc.
Here's the result of the first step of shading on my skin.


Here, I've added more shading on the corners.


And finally, added highlights and lowlights in the hair.


Alright. Now as you can see, the head looks much, much better than it did before. Now notice where I shaded at; around the hair line, the corners of each face (front, back, sides, top, etc.) to make it look a bit round, and then around the face. I used dodge and burn to make the eyes stand out more, to make the mouth look a bit better. Also notice how I made underneath the head darker, since it would be shaded.

Now I'm going to go ahead and shade the rest of it using the same technique.

Here's the leg finished. Notice how I made the wrinkles stand out; I made a lighter line, then a darker one under it. Also notice how I made the light shine on the right side of the front of the shoe.


And the torso finished. Notice how I added the wrinkles again, a light line above a dark one. Also notice where I shaded along the lines of his tank top. Look at how I shaded the shirt that's untucked from the belt. (Also, I added the belt and loose shirt before I shaded it. I forgot to do that at first). Study the shading here.


Now finally, the arms. This one was pretty simple. Notice how I made vertical lighter lines, then darker ones on the sides of the light ones. I did this to each of the 4 sides. It makes it look a bit more rounded, and keeps it from looking like a single, solid color.


The finished skin!



-Don't use pure black or pure white while using the "midtones" range. You will have to change range to shade them.
-Think of how this would look in real life. Shade accordingly.
-Do not ever use bright or obnoxious colors. They're really annoying, and don't make a good skin.
-You can hold down Ctrl to instantly switch between dodge and burn. It really helps!
-Never use stolen skins, or even pieces of them.
This includes mob skins and steve skins, you steal them from Notch.
-People have different opinions. Personally, I like higher contrast with more shading, while others like less eminent shading. It's a matter of opinion, shade however much suits your own.

Here's the skin that you saw being made here!

Thanks for reading. If this helped you, return the favor and hit the diamond button! It's just one click, and you have nothing to lose! Help it get noticed so more people can learn how to shade!

Tags:Skin, Shade, Shading, Shader, Dodge, Burn, Zombie, Tutorial

Comments :

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1 - 50 of 76

Level 21
Expert Robot
June 30, 2014, 6:33 pm

THANK YOU SOOOOO FRIGGIN MUCH!!!! (lol now i know what dodge and burn does)
Finally going to make "good" skins now.

Level 1
New Miner
June 28, 2014, 2:27 pm

I cant take the new shaded skin i made and upload it to minecraft :(

Mine Master 01
Level 1
New Miner
June 7, 2014, 3:36 pm

Thank you for this tutorial! It really helped! (:

Level 8
Apprentice Explorer
May 24, 2014, 7:46 am

This is one of the most confusing tutorials I've ever seen.

Level 20
Expert Pixel Painter
May 24, 2014, 11:09 am

Agreed, is there one you've found simple?

Level 19
Journeyman Network
December 31, 2013, 5:35 pm

This looks really realistic. I mean, I wouldn't use it, but if you were making a skin for an adventure map or something, since they don't have to be perfect; i'd use this. nice.

Level 24
Expert Pixel Puncher
December 17, 2013, 3:02 pm


Level 1
New Miner
December 14, 2013, 8:20 pm

nope I failed hard so confusing you need to like skype with me about it cuz it so confusing!!!

Nina Gillespie
Level 1
New Explorer
January 18, 2014, 6:48 pm

Try this tutorial out?

Level 11
Journeyman Goblin
December 5, 2013, 2:31 pm

Somehow, all shading tutorials seem like rocket science to me...

Level 6
Apprentice Dolphin
October 20, 2014, 2:42 pm


Level 2
Apprentice Hunter
February 4, 2014, 8:48 am

Same here!

Level 23
Expert Ninja
June 4, 2014, 2:57 am

well same here too!

Level 5
Apprentice Pony
June 21, 2014, 5:56 am

Same here too!

Level 18
Journeyman Taco
November 9, 2013, 7:21 am

This was very useful

Level 35
Artisan Sailor
October 17, 2013, 12:03 pm

This is a very useful tutorial, I was good at shading but wanted a different style.
More like Deadlox's new skin (I spoiled it but it's true).

Level 25
Expert Geek
May 28, 2013, 2:30 am

in gimp i cant how to get the mc skin palet how?

Level 1
New Pixel Puncher
May 26, 2013, 11:07 pm

Can you make a skin that is transparent so people can do it on websites (instead of downloading gimp) like novaskin

Level 4
Apprentice Explorer
May 7, 2013, 2:54 pm

That's really good. Going to use this on my next skin

Level 20
Expert Spleefer
April 23, 2013, 2:29 pm

This is really going to help me! Thanks!

Forum Moderator
Level 54
Grandmaster Senpai
April 15, 2013, 6:22 am

Thank you. I hope my skins get better.

Level 2
Apprentice Explorer
March 23, 2013, 8:24 am

I'll...I'll TRY!!!

Level 1
New Explorer
February 13, 2013, 12:15 pm

Thanks, that really helped!

Level 14
Journeyman Dragonborn
January 27, 2013, 3:34 pm

I've been searching for an hour for a tutorial like this. One thing DIAMOND FO' YOU

Level 3
Apprentice Miner
December 23, 2012, 8:28 pm

ok i downloaded gimp now how do i open the page

Level 23
Expert Creeper
December 21, 2012, 6:01 pm

Thanks helped me alot

Level 1
New Dolphin
November 28, 2012, 6:23 am

can u make a skin for me?

Level 30
Artisan Pixel Puncher
November 22, 2012, 6:03 pm

3 words:

Diamond for you! XD

Level 38
Artisan Goblin
October 30, 2012, 10:54 pm

What brush size do you use?

Level 3
Apprentice Skinner
October 1, 2012, 1:34 pm

sorry to sound like a noob but how do i change the range??? what do i click on to get to the part to make it highlight, midtones, etc.

Level 6
Apprentice Architect
September 27, 2012, 2:30 pm

that was a good work!
thanks for helping!!

Level 1
New Explorer
August 7, 2012, 4:18 pm

very great tutorial it tought me how to shade within a few minutes diamond for u =D

Level 17
Journeyman Narwhal
July 26, 2012, 6:41 am

Wow this is an awesome tutorial. You should enter it in minetorials contest *if you haven't already*

Retired Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Skinner
July 26, 2012, 6:59 am

This is an old one which isn't very good. My new one is much better, and I entered it in the contest. You can see the new tutorial via my profile.

ze_minecrafterz 101
Level 6
Apprentice Skinner
October 22, 2012, 6:10 am

hey can u make a TUT of shading with paril's MCskin3D please i use that skinning program and i have NO idea how to shade with it here is the link to the MCskin3D


Level 2
Apprentice Explorer
July 19, 2012, 2:07 am

Really awesome tutorial i can finaly start making some decent skins and by far i think ur tutorial is one of the best. Diamonds for u :D!

Level 31
Artisan Creeper Hugger
July 11, 2012, 12:58 pm


Level 31
Artisan Creeper Hugger
July 11, 2012, 8:27 am

how do you change it to Png

Retired Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Skinner
July 11, 2012, 12:43 pm

If you're using the latest version of Gimp, instead of using save you need to use File>Export.

The Great Soul
Level 38
Artisan Vampire
June 26, 2012, 5:23 pm

Can i use this method with Paint.net? I can't afford any other program like photoshop.

Retired Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Skinner
June 27, 2012, 3:33 am

Gimp is a completely free program which is very, very similar to Photoshop. That's what I use for everything, even though I do have Photoshop Elements (a dumbed down version of it, I suppose).

Paint.net should work, although I haven't used it in many years. You can get Gimp at gimp.org though.

The Great Soul
Level 38
Artisan Vampire
June 27, 2012, 9:12 am

I know Gimp is free, but my laptop is almost out of RAM so I cant download new programs.

I can't really figure out how to use paint.net to do this...

Level 1
New Explorer
June 24, 2012, 4:21 pm

Thank you very much! I've been needing a sufficient way to do this, and yours is one of the methods I use most. Thanks, yet again, and Diamond for this submission!

Level 16
Journeyman Skinner
June 18, 2012, 4:41 am

This is what i made thanks to you :)

(its not that good but, its better then the previous skins of me xD)


Level 16
Journeyman Skinner
June 18, 2012, 4:10 am

thank you! (diamond)

Level 1
New Miner
May 17, 2012, 12:11 am

I actually created a skin that was based on a other skin 0.0
Is that really a problem?

Level 30
Artisan Blockhead
April 17, 2012, 1:03 pm

Thanks so much! But the problem is that i have no ideas for skins... XD

Level 39
Artisan Lava Rider
March 29, 2012, 10:19 pm

Thanks man but the problem for me is ideas on what to make

Miner Mooror
Level 15
Journeyman Narwhal
May 23, 2012, 1:21 pm

Its easy to get ideas :D just make a "Skin Requests Here" post for the forums,and ppl will come. i did that and about 5 came to me almost instantly ;)

Level 20
Expert Skinner
March 12, 2012, 10:57 am

50-th DIAMOND! :D I havent ever done a skin so good but i dont have much time eather. If u could RipClaw then check out my other skins and say the things taht are wrong with em :P Subbed too. Ohh.. and how long did u draw the skin out?

Level 1
New Miner
March 4, 2012, 7:50 am

Thanks helped me a lot!

Level 11
Journeyman Archer
March 4, 2012, 3:27 am

Thanks so much!Now i cna finally move on from novice skins :)

Level 28
Expert Caveman
March 3, 2012, 7:28 am

I used some of your tips to make my newest skin! Thanks!

Level 25
Expert Hunter
March 2, 2012, 6:24 pm

This is the result of my skin!
http://www.planetminecraft.com/skin/my-skin-with-some-shades/ Thanks! It worked! DIAMONDS TO YOU,GOOD MAN!

Level 41
Master Architect
March 2, 2012, 5:34 am

Diamond for you!

Level 41
Master Architect
March 2, 2012, 5:34 am

Thanks for the help.

Level 41
Master Bunny
March 1, 2012, 9:01 pm

Helpful thanks

Level 28
Expert Demolitionist
March 1, 2012, 3:26 pm

This is a lot like my method, good job.

Level 1
New Crafter
March 1, 2012, 11:55 am

WOW you are really good at making skins! :)

Level 33
Artisan Dragonborn
March 1, 2012, 10:42 am

Hey Rip, i was just testing using 3 Shading tutorials and i made 3 skins that are the same and i shaded 1 of them using this tutorial. Btw this worked well.

Chat Moderator
Level 1
New Network
March 1, 2012, 4:02 am

Thanks so much, I've been needing to learn how to do this. Personally, this is my favorite style of shading.

- Dino

Level 9
Apprentice Skinner
February 29, 2012, 1:55 pm

I am testing your skin shading technique. I have made a sketch and am now currently working a new skin based on your instructions, I however am not completely sure if I like it or not though. Have a Diamond.

Edit: I finished it, but I think I need more practice.

Retired Moderator
Level 64
High Grandmaster Hero
February 29, 2012, 7:59 am

I dont want to be the pretentious douche here but heres a few things,

You over shaded way too much, the wrinkles make it look like noise on the skin but on the texture map it looked fine.

And on bottom head and body, left and right body, top body and leg and left arm and leg are supposed to fade in darker since it drops a shadow. Theres not light source coming from the necks and that shines mostly to the middle of the bottom head.

But this was an insanely good tutorial for people who arent advanced skinners. I diamonded because more people needs to see this. :)

Level 25
Expert Architect
March 1, 2012, 11:41 am

I think he made a great tutorial

Level 33
Artisan Dragonborn
March 1, 2012, 10:32 am

Well, Sneeze i think i will have to try yours Shading tutorial too. I have 3 same skins and i will try diffrent shading on them.

Level 44
Master Skinner
February 29, 2012, 6:26 am

Diamond #10 for great justice.

Level 36
Artisan Blob
February 29, 2012, 6:15 am

hmm the final result as i can see is still prerry blurry :S

Retired Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Skinner
February 29, 2012, 6:24 am

What do you mean by that?

Level 36
Artisan Blob
February 29, 2012, 7:05 am

well i cant see a lot of shading. thats what i mean.

Retired Moderator
Level 61
High Grandmaster Skinner
February 29, 2012, 7:08 am

Well, this type of shading doesn't look good to everyone. I just think it looks the best.

Level 33
Artisan Steve
February 29, 2012, 5:48 am

Sir, you are a skinning hero. I am forever in your debt. *goes back to fix skins*

Level 48
Master Pyro
February 29, 2012, 4:51 am

You helped Pm a lot! Maybe some guys will make skins like this in the future ;D

Level 18
Journeyman Dragonborn
February 29, 2012, 3:32 am

1.2 is out!

1 - 50 of 76