Tutorial: Palettes and Hue Shifting

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avatar the_soup
Retired Moderator
Level 71 : Legendary Button Pusher
Palettes and hue shifting. These two simple things are absolutely necessary for making your skins look professional. Would you believe, then, that most skinners have no idea how to do these? Well, it's time for that to change. In this blog, I will be teaching you the basics of creating palettes and hue shifting. I will be using MCSkin3D for my examples, but the concepts can still apply if you are using programs like Paint.NET, GIMP Photoshop. If you are using a browser-based skin creators like MNCS, Skincraft, etc, I HIGHLY recommend upgrading to MCSkin3D. Anyway, onto our first topic: palettes.

To put it very simply, palettes are 'lists' of colors that you will be using for coloring and shading your skins (see an example here). Effective palettes will greatly enhance the color harmony and shading depth of your skins, so knowing how to create them is extremely important. To begin to craft your palette, you should select a base color and then go to the HSVA tab of the MCSkin3D color wheel gui:

Here, I've selected a base color with a hue (H) of 0, a saturation (S) of 80 and a value (V) of 80. To put it simply, hue is the color, saturation is the amount of white in that color, and value is the amount of black in that color. Now, I will begin to create my palette of shades and highlights around that base color.

There are many ways to create your palette, and I will demonstrate them. First, I will show what a palette looks like if you ONLY adjust the value:
Here, you can see what shading using ONLY differences in value looks like, with the palette I used on the left. As you can see, the shadows look alright but the highlights look oddly bright and saturated. Additionally, things shaded this way tend to look 'dirty' or like they've been 'smudged with charcoal'. Clearly, we need another way to shade.

Next, I will show you what a palette looks like if you ONLY adjust the saturation level:
This one looks odd as well. The shadows look flat, and the whole thing looks very unnatural.

Interestingly, while these two examples use the exact same base color, the differences in palette create very different effects. While these might be useful in certain limited circumstances, to create natural shading we need to move on to the next step: combining saturation and value adjustments.

In this palette, I have adjusted BOTH the saturation and value. Specifically, the shadows have had their value adjusted higher (a higher number) and their saturated adjusted lower (a lower number), while the highlights have had their value adjusted lower and their saturation adjusted higher. To put that in different words, the shadows are more saturated and darker, while the highlights are less saturated and lighter. Here's what the end product looks like:
Ah, now that looks better. The shadows have depth, and the highlights are not oddly bright. By combining both changes in value and saturation, you can create palettes that will produce realistic shading.

Hue Shifting
Now that you understand what value and saturation are, it's time to move onto the next topic: hue shifting. If you're like me, you're looking at the last palette example and thinking: 'While that looks nice and all, isn't it still a bit bland and boring?' Well, you'd be right. The examples given thus far have had no adjustments made to their hue. To put it another way, we've been adjusting the value and saturation, but haven't yet touched the hue slider. To make good palettes, though, it's important that we explore what hue can do.

In this example, I have adjusted value, saturation AND hue. Specifically, I have shades get more purple as they get darker, and more orange as they get lighter.
This palette is the best yet. It has depth like the previous one, and the hue shifting makes the color look much less bland and boring. When creating your palettes, you should strive to integrate changes in value, saturation and hue.

Knowing how to hue shift colors requires a basic understanding of the color wheel. To illustrate this, I have created examples of hue shifting for multiple colors as a guide. These aren't by any means perfect, but they will illustrate how to hue shift each color.

Red: If your base is red, colors should get more magenta (purple) as they get darker and more orange as they get lighter

Orange: If your base is orange, colors should get redder as they get darker and yellower as they get lighter.

Yellow: If your base is yellow, colors should get more orange as they get darker. Colors should not get green as they get lighter, though. Instead, they should get purer yellow.

Green: If your base is green, colors should get more cyan (blue) as they get darker and more yellow as they get lighter.

Cyan (light blue): If your base is cyan, colors should get more blue as they get darker and more green as they get lighter.

Blue: If your base color is blue, colors should get more violet as they get darker and more cyan as they get lighter.

Magenta (purple): If your base color is magenta, colors should get more violet as they get darker and more red as they get lighter.

REMINDER: These are very basic guidelines to hue shifting, and it's quite possible to use other colors than those listed above. For example, if I was making a skin that was predominantly blue, green and yellow, I would hue shift the yellow towards green (instead of what's listed above, orange). Keep things like color harmony in mind when deciding how to hue shift.

As mentioned previously, this is by no means a perfect example. For instance, I still have not found an effective way to hue shift brown tones. That being said, an understanding of hue shifting is very important to making professional-looking skins.

Spending time and putting effort into creating your palettes is one of the best ways to ensure your skin turns out well. The best palettes include adjustments in value, saturation and hue. While this might seem like a lot of effort, with practice it becomes very easy to create basic palettes that fulfill all these requirements. With practice, too, you will learn how to create specific effects using these techniques. For example, skins with a high degree of saturation and hue-shifting will look cartoon-y, while skins with lower saturation and lighter hue shifting will look more natural. Experimenting with creating different palettes is a great way to increase your skinning skill.

1 Update Logs

Update #1 : 10/14/2012 3:31:54 pmOct 14th, 2012

added 'reminder' in hue shifting section

07/17/2019 9:17 pm
Level 32 : Artisan Pokemon
this is something I've been struggling a lot recently! Thanks a lot for this tutorial! :D
06/13/2019 4:18 pm
Level 22 : Expert Procrastinator
This helped SO much!!!

Thank you!!!

I just was recommended this, and it is changing my work already!!
05/14/2017 1:30 pm
Level 1 : New Explorer
bruh, this helped way too much! thank u
12/16/2016 8:11 pm
Level 15 : Journeyman Skinner
I still love to come back to this post every now and then <3
11/13/2015 9:54 am
Level 13 : Journeyman Warrior
Holy cow! I will never be the same shader after this! Thank you soooo much!
10/16/2015 2:47 pm
Level 23 : Expert Button Pusher
Soooooooo freakkiinnnng helpfull thank you ;DD
09/12/2015 10:13 am
Level 23 : Expert Dolphin
This helped so much! Thank you!
09/02/2015 10:20 pm
Level 35 : Artisan Pixel Painter
Thank You. This will help me alot now when making skins. :3 XD now i just got to get better at Shading.
08/10/2015 5:12 am
Level 1 : New Explorer
Thanks! It's really helpful! :D
06/29/2015 7:54 pm
Level 35 : Artisan Pixel Painter
BOok marking
09/12/2015 11:17 pm
Level 20 : Expert Artist
I understand the world now after reading 2 pallete blogs :oo
02/25/2015 7:10 pm
Level 6 : Apprentice Skinner
I use


What number should I put the colors on (S & V)

What number should I start with and how much lower should I get?
02/13/2015 8:38 pm
Level 27 : Expert Dragonborn
This is really helpful! Thanks :D
01/26/2015 1:13 am
Level 41 : Master Skinner
I've found that shifting brown so it gets redder as it gets darker often looks good
10/14/2014 7:22 pm
Level 49 : Master Grump
Really helpful!
09/18/2014 6:49 pm
Level 31 : Artisan Blockhead
Thanks! I've been looking int skining for some time now! ^-^
09/18/2014 6:43 pm
Level 5 : Apprentice Network
Flaming Apple
So thats why my skin goes from green to cyan! Even though that makes it look better thanks for letting me know. <3
08/22/2014 11:57 am
Level 43 : Master Lad
Helped so much!
07/30/2014 10:17 pm
Level 7 : Apprentice Skinner
Very helpful
06/10/2014 3:52 pm
Level 25 : Expert Unicorn
This helped so much. Thanks!
06/08/2014 2:58 pm
Level 34 : Artisan Pixel Painter
That is absolutely incredible, I made a shading tutorial but now I feel dumb not putting something like that in. Do you mind if I put a link to your tutorial in my blog? thanks!
06/04/2014 11:50 pm
Level 18 : Journeyman Programmer
Hue hue hue.
05/15/2014 10:54 pm
Level 16 : Journeyman Dolphin
this is great! you earned a new sub! :D
05/03/2014 11:05 pm
Level 11 : Journeyman Modder
03/01/2014 9:48 am
Level 1 : New Miner
Thanks so much! I finally understand hue shifting and saturation and values!!
12/16/2013 8:01 pm
Level 40 : Master Scribe
Ohmigod I love you. Thank you! This is a great tutorial for newbs like me!!! ; ^; Diamond, fav'd, and subb'd!
11/11/2013 9:00 pm
Level 28 : Expert Network
I know this doesn't exactly fit with the forum -- But Is there a way to zoom In on mcskin3D?

And thanks, I used to be using paint.net and it was very hard to hue-shift on that.
11/11/2013 9:02 pm
Level 71 : Legendary Button Pusher
Use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out.
11/11/2013 9:04 pm
Level 28 : Expert Network
Thank you.
10/30/2013 1:50 pm
Level 23 : Expert Explorer
what about white and black? Just asking.
10/09/2013 7:29 am
Level 1 : New Explorer
Thank you, that palette will come in handy ;)
08/15/2013 6:32 pm
Level 29 : Expert Lumberjack
What would be a good program to you this without spending money and using a mac/apple laptop?

08/15/2013 10:11 pm
Level 32 : Artisan Skinner
08/15/2013 11:40 pm
Level 29 : Expert Lumberjack
Last time I checked it was
only for Windows/Pc's!

08/16/2013 12:22 am
Level 32 : Artisan Skinner
oh ._.

I thought it was for Mac... But oh well :/
I tried at least
08/16/2013 12:37 am
Level 29 : Expert Lumberjack
So it's not?


08/16/2013 2:14 pm
Level 32 : Artisan Skinner
I just read that Mac/Linux is still in progress ._.
07/05/2013 7:24 am
Level 14 : Journeyman Network
Yeah, I've been stuck on how to shade white/much lighter colors.
Please may I have some help?
07/05/2013 7:05 pm
Level 71 : Legendary Button Pusher
Well, if I were shading white, I would consider the overall color scheme around it. Here are a few examples: If I were making a skin with many dark warm colors like browns or red, I would hueshift the white towards a dark warm color, probably brown. If I was making a skin with many cool colors I'd hueshift the white towards a cool color, probably a grey-blue. This skin, for example, has a lot of cool blue in it, so Leostereo incorporates the blue color into the shading of the white color. This skin is made with warmer colors, so Leo shades the white color with a grey-brown color, instead of a pure grey color which would look too cool.

If I'm shading, say, a green shirt with white stripes, to make it look unified I'll just hue-shift the white stripes with a dark green-grey color. I did that, only in red, in this skin.
07/08/2013 8:07 am
Level 14 : Journeyman Network
Thank you so much! This has really helped me out and I appreciate that you took a long time to write that out. Thanks again, and god bless you! [Meaning your very helpful and every single time you make a skin you produce another amazing skin to add to your wonderful collection].
06/19/2013 11:08 pm
Level 52 : Grandmaster Toast
How do you make a white pallete?
05/03/2014 11:07 pm
Level 11 : Journeyman Modder
To put it simply, I would pick a color between the lightest white, and the darkest shade close to white, and use the techniques in this blog.
06/13/2013 5:34 pm
Level 52 : Grandmaster Toast
Thank you so much for making this. For teching me this Im gonna win a skin battle :D
05/23/2013 11:04 am
Level 18 : Journeyman Explorer
King Of Crazy
This was vary useful!
05/12/2013 12:02 pm
Level 18 : Journeyman Taco
This is absolutely brilliant!
05/12/2013 9:35 am
Level 53 : Grandmaster Gent
how do you use the color palette? is there a give color key in MCSkin3D?
05/12/2013 2:45 pm
Level 71 : Legendary Button Pusher
Use the eyedropper and the hue slider.
05/12/2013 3:03 pm
Level 53 : Grandmaster Gent
that is what i needed to hear, THANK YOU SO MUCH!
04/22/2013 8:34 pm
Level 46 : Master Turtle
do u know how to change the HSVA on GIMP for mac
04/17/2013 12:47 pm
Level 13 : Journeyman Pegasus
Oh my god - Thank you so much!! This have saved my life!! I can't wait to create expert looking skins from the knowledge I've picked up here!
04/05/2013 5:54 pm
Level 24 : Expert Spleefer
My question is where do u put ur palette to access it?
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