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[Skyrim] Texture Sets


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Retexturing with Texture Sets



This tutorial will explain how to retexture anything in Skyrim without touching the actual .nif models themselves to change texture paths.


What is a Texture Set?
A Texture Set is a record of a defined set of textures using the Creation Kit. It is then linked to a model in the model's edit window.

Why use a Texture Set?
Bethesda uses texture sets to change colours of various things (clothing is a good example) so that there is variation. It is a quick simple way to do this without touching the nif files themselves. In cases of wanting unique retextures, it also mitigates the need for duplicate nif files, reducing the bulk of extra files in your mod.



Step 1: Create the Texture Set


1-1: Create new texture files. For this example I'll be using my Apprentice Mage Outfit texture set released in the TESA Skyrim Resource Kit. The file can be downloaded here - Hana's Apprentice Mage Texture Set.


Place the new texture files somewhere in your Data\Textures directory.

TIP: It's always best to create an organized directory structure for all your projects so they are in one place. For all my projects I have a unique directory called Hana, with subdirectories for each project. This is an easy visual way to keep track of your files and pack them up.

Make sure you have a texture file for each piece of armor/clothing you want to retexture. Unless you drastically change the topology of the texture itself there's usually no need for new normal maps, re-using the existing ones will work fine. In this example I have a robe and a hood texture.


1-2: Open the CK. In the Object Window find the Texture Sets category (under Miscellaneous) and click on it. On the right side we see all the existing Texture Sets Bethesda created, such as variants of the Barkeep outfit and Blacksmith outfit.




1-3: Click anywhere on the right side and select NEW. This will open up a new TextureSet box. This is where we define our new textures.



1-4: In the first box, where the cursor is, you'll want to name your Texture Set. Following logical naming conventions, name it something you'll remember, possibly prefixed with the initials of your mod name or your name.

I've named mine HanaRedMageRobeF.

Hana = My name
Red = I'm using the red texture
MageRobe = It's a mage robe
F = Female version


1-5: Now to define the textures being used. Highlight the line named Diffuse. Below that, beside the box labeled Texture is a button named Edit. Click on that Edit button. In the explorer window, browse to your directory and select the texture (.dds) file for the female robe. Click Open. The Filename field beside Diffuse should now be filled in, and you should see your texture in the preview window.




1-6: Highlight the next line named Normal/Gloss. Click the Edit button again and browse to the location of the normal map (whether it's in the existing Clothes directory or if you have a new one in your own directory). Click open. The Filename field beside Normal/Gloss should now be filled in, and you should see it in the preview window.




Depending on what you're working on, you may need to continue filling in the other texture files such as defining an Environment map or Glow map. To keep this simple, we only need the diffuse and normal textures.


1-7: Click the OK button of the Texture Set box and the robe is done. For the purpose of this tutorial no other fields in this box need to be changed.

1-8: Repeat steps 1-3 to 1-7 to create the Hood Texture Set. Make sure to give it a different name (Mine is HanaRedMageHoodF).


TIP: The CK does not read bsa files, so any "re-used" texture files you need, such as the normal maps must be placed in the proper directory in your Data files. Once the Texture Set is created and the file path defined, there's no need for the normal maps to sit loose in your Data directory any more. They can be deleted and the game will find the path in the bsa.

1-9: Repeat steps 1-3 to 1-7 to create the male texture set version. Remember to give it a unique name. I used HanaRedMageRobeM and HanaRedMageHoodM. When finished we should have these new records.






Step 2: Create the ArmorAddon Set

2-1: Determine the pieces of armor/clothing that are being retextured. In this example, only the Apprentice Mage robe and hood. In the Object Window, find the ArmorAddon category (under Items) and click on it. On the right side of the window, scroll down until you find the appropriate pieces.

We need;

 -- MageApprenticeAA
 -- MageApprenticeHoodAA




At this point we can go two ways. We can create a "Standalone" mod by creating a new unique outfit, or we can create a "Replacer" mod, by changing the texture of all the existing mage outfits. In this tutorial, I'm making a standalone mod.

Standalone mod:

2-2a: Double click MageApprenticeAA to open the ArmorAddon record. Before doing anything else, change the ID name. Make it meaningful so you'll remember it and click OK. I used HanaRedMageRobeAA, same name as the Texture Set created above, with AA (for ArmorAddon) at the end and without the M or F to make it generic. When asked if you want to create a new form, click YES.




Replacer mod:

2-2b: Double click MageApprenticeAA to open the ArmorAddon record. Continue to next steps without changing the ID name.


2-3: Find your new ArmorAddon record and double click to open it. There are two places that we need to change. Under each section named "Male" and "Female" there's a box labeled Biped Model. This is the path to the nif file used by the Apprentice Mages. Beside that is a SELECT button where you can edit this information.




2-4: Click on the SELECT button beside the Male one to open the Model Edit box.

Let's take a look at what's here.




At the top is the Model File Name, which is the nif path.
Below that is the Alternate Textures chart. This is what we're changing. But what does it all mean?

Look in the 3D Name column. There are three entries here that are probably meaningless at this point. Each name here relates to a NiTriShape branch in the nif model. So how do we know what to change? Most times the names are fairly logical, sometimes you can guess. Or, you can open the nif model in NifSkope so you know exactly.

In this example, we need to change robe:1 and robe:0. We do not want to touch robe:skin, as that is skin texture that we haven't changed.

Look in the New Texture column. When there is no value here then the model uses the textures defined in the nif itself, or 'default'. This is where we add our Texture Set info.


2-5: Double click anywhere on the line robe:1. This opens a new box Select Form, which is a list of existing Texture Sets. Find your Male Robe texture set and click OK.




2-6: Double click anywhere on the line robe:0. Select the same texture set file as in 2-5. Once you've defined your Texture Set here, the preview window in the Model Data box should change to your new texture.



The Male Robe is done. Click OK to exit the Model Data box and return to the ArmorAddon record.


2-7: Click on the SELECT button beside the Female Biped Model box to open the Model Edit box for the female set. In this case, there is only one line 'robes' that needs to be changed. Double click on that line to open the Select Form list again, find your Female Robe texture set and click OK. The Female Robe is done. Click OK to exit the Model Data box and return to the ArmorAddon record.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Normally the boxes labeled "First Person" would need to be changed as well, to see our new textures when playing in 1stPerson mode. However, there is a bug in the Creation Kit that will not save any texture changes made to 1stPerson models. So don't try to change them. If it will bother you to see the default textures in 1stPerson mode, you can make copies of the 1stPerson nifs of the Apprentice Mage outfit and change the textures in NifSkope. THEN change the file path in our ArmorAddon to point to the new models.


2-8: Click OK in the ArmorAddon record to exit. The robes are done. Repeat steps 2-2 to 2-7 for the Hood record.



Step 3: Create the Armor Set


3-1: In the Object Window, find the Armor category and click on it. On the right side of the window, scroll down until you find the appropriate pieces.

We need;

 -- ClothesCollegeRobesApprentice
 -- ClothesCollegeHood




Standalone mod:

3-2a: Double click ClothesCollegeRobesApprentice to open the Armor record. Before doing anything else, change the ID name. Make it meaningful so you'll remember it and click OK. I used HanaRedMageRobe, same name as the Texture Set created above,  without the M or F to make it generic. When asked if you want to create a new form, click YES.




Replacer mod:

3-2b: Double click ClothesCollegeRobesApprentice to open the Armor record. Continue to next steps without changing the ID name.


3-3: Find your new Armor record and double click to open it. There are a few things in this record we need to change. At the bottom center is a box called Models. This points to the ArmorAddon record that this armor/clothing uses. Right above that, at the top is a box called Male with a box labeled World Model. Below that is the Female equivalent.




Anything else you want to change is optional. Change the Name of the outfit, the value, whether it has an enchantment or not (Enchanting box), the Armor Rating, etc if you so desire.


3-4: Down at the Models box, tick the Show All box (in case anything is hidden). Highlight the existing MageApprenticeAA line, right click, and delete it. If any other ArmorAddons were hidden, delete them too.

3-5: Right click anywhere in the Models box and select New. A Select Form box will open with a list of all existing ArmorAddon records. Find our new RobeAA and select it. Click OK.




3-6: Click the Edit button beside the Male World Model path. This will open the ground model of the Apprentice Robes. Follow the instructions we did for the ArmorAddon to change the texture by adding our Texture Set. Do the same for the Female World Model path.




3-7: Repeat steps 3-3 to 3-6 for the Hood Armor.



Step 4: Rejoice

4-1: Place your new Armor in a cell and go see it in-game.






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i found that changing 1stperson textures on male models works quite well. leaving the female entry empty forces the game to use the male 1st person model for female, too. in some cases this can give good enough results.

in all other cases, at least the male players get to enjoy a unified experience.

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They're released. Link at the beginning of the tutorial.

Haven't you consider to release this robe and hoods resource as a replacer mod?


If not then I've a humble request to make.  Please Hana could you release it as a replacer and if you don't have the intention then could you assist me when I create it with a step-by-step guidance. :)

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Well, since there is many textures within the resource, no. You can make a simple replacer yourself by choosing which color texture you want, and renaming it to the regular default apprentice mage texture file names.


If you'd like, tell me which particular one you like and I'll recreate it to a nice HD quality version for you. :)

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I assume you mean both gender.


If so well the third one from the left above the yellow robe for females in the linked picture on TESA and as for male robes I like the second one from the left on the top in the second linked picture.  Both of them matches quite well. :)

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...

I know this is an old post, so not sure if I will get a response or not, but wanted to ask if you could do a texture set tutorial for other things like building walls and such, as I am making a house mod and wanted to use texture sets so I didn't replace the vanilla textures of the houses, so that I can use the vanilla wall meshes where applicable so I can keep the mods meshes folder small with only the ones I edited.  Or if you know of another tutorial that does this I would appreciate any info you could provide.

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7 hours ago, NWelf said:

I know this is an old post, so not sure if I will get a response or not, but wanted to ask if you could do a texture set tutorial for other things like building walls and such, as I am making a house mod and wanted to use texture sets so I didn't replace the vanilla textures of the houses, so that I can use the vanilla wall meshes where applicable so I can keep the mods meshes folder small with only the ones I edited.  Or if you know of another tutorial that does this I would appreciate any info you could provide.

Hi there, welcome to AFKMods.

The steps would be mostly the same for any other type of object, with just some minor differences.

Step 1; Create the Texture Set - exactly the same.

Step 2; Instead of creating an ArmorAddon, you would create a duplicate of the architecture mesh you want to use, then go into the Model box of that. You'll want to keep the same model open in NifSkope as well while you do this, so you can tell which TriShape name (3D name) you want to replace the texture on. There will be a lot of them so it could get confusing.

Step 3; you obviously won't need.

And that's about it. Try it, and you can post any other questions here. I'm always around.

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  • 3 months later...

Relative modding noob here; I've dabbled in modding and retexturing for a few years, but have never released a major project. I've decided that I will never release one if I don't learn some stuff first, which is why I'm here in this thread. The problem I'm having though is that I can follow this tutorial and get a texture set working for armor easily enough, but using a texture set for a weapon doesn't seem to work. I've looked for help in various places, Reddit, the official Nexus Discord, etc and have had no luck. So am I doing something wrong? 

My process consists of this:

1. Extract vanilla textures from the bsa

2. Using GIMP, modify the texture and export as dds with the default file options on compression and quality and so forth. I'm not entirely certain what the different types mean and the default has always worked for me with pure replacer textures.

3. Open the CK and duplicate a vanilla weapon by opening its form and changing the editor ID and saving as a new form.

4. Open any vanilla texture set and change its ID and the linked textures to those in question for the mod, keeping in mind which is the diffuse and which is the normal map etc. Save this as a new form.

5. Go back to the custom weapon and on the "Art and Sound" tab, click "edit" next to the model filepath box.

6. Apply the custom texture set to the weapon in the "Alternate Texture" part of the preview window.  

7. Save esp and enable it in Mod Organizer with all requisite textures in the proper file structure to be read by the game. 

8. Load game, and the texture set does not work. 

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Hello there, clockworkmurderer, and welcome to AFK.

I'm not aware of texture sets not working for weapons, though I'll admit I've never tested it myself. Your process sounds right.

Can you be more specific about "it doesn't work"? What are you seeing in game? Are you sure you have the correct new weapon (the duplicate you made) and not the vanilla weapon?

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I was eventually able to figure it out. First of all, by "it doesn't work," I meant that the custom weapon and the vanilla weapon were both using the vanilla textures. For illustrative purposes, I created a ruby/blood red stalhrim sword texture for use in my mod. I applied this texture to a texture set and applied it to the custom weapon. After saving the esp, the sword used the vanilla blue stalhrim texture. The part I was missing was the 1stPerson part of the weapon. I had never needed to create one before for my texture replacer mods because I've never used texture sets until deciding to resurrect my weapon pack mod. Now that I've created the 1stPerson part for the weapons, I can apply the texture set properly. Thanks for the tutorial!! 

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  • 1 year later...

It really needs to be said here that all of this is much, much easier and faster to do in TES5edit than in the CK, and there is no 1st person bug in the former.  TES5edit puts all the resources by mod, alphabetically by resource type under the mod, then individual resources within the type's section arranged by FormID (arrangement of specific records within each resource is a bit less user-friendly, but is consistent between mods).  This makes it very easy to find stuff, especially given the table-sorting feature (by column), plus search (which works as a "find it in the list" not the CK's "make everything else invisible" behavior).  You can duplicate a resource with a right-click option, and easily rename things.  When you change the ID of something, TES5edit updates all references to it in other records automatically.

To re-texture something in TES5edit:

* Start TES5edit, which fires up about 10x faster than the CK, and does not load a bunch of Steam junk into memory.  Right click in the list and pick "Select none", then select the specific mod(s) you want to work with (put a checkmark next to it).

* Create a new Texture Set record (or copy and modify an existing one), in the current mod you're working on or a new one, as you like/need. (Right click the resource in the original mod, in the left pane, and pick either "Copy as new record into ..." or "Copy as override into ...", rename the Editor ID as prompted, and either pick your existing new mod you're working on, or the option to create a new one).

* Adjust the texture paths to what is needed for that retex. If any record type you need is greyed out, then right-click it and pick Add.  To edit the data in a specific  record, right-click and pick Edit - or slow-left-click it twice and wait a second for the field to become editable. This applies to pretty much everything in TES5edit's right pane.

* Copy the Armor Addon record you want to retexture as a new record into your mod (if it's an add-on) or as an override (if you're doing a replacer), and right below its male and/or female world model (biped mesh - some items have both, some have just one if they're female-only or whatever), you point its Alternative Textures record at the new Texture Set's ID (and set the proper "3D name", i.e. NiTriShape or NiTriStrip ID from NIFskope). If it has no such record yet (greyed out), right-click and pick "Add" to create the record type, then do it again to create the specific record, the Edit to edit it.  Complicated items with multiple NiTri[whatever]s that you are changing the texture of will need one of these for each node you are changing.  Really complex ones may even use multiple separate texture file sets, e.g. a set of metal parts for the armor and another set of cloth textures for an underlying shirt below the metal parts.  The item is going to need one Alternative Textures pointer to a Texture Set record per NiTri[whatever], even if you only changed one of them with something custom.

* Repeat this Alternative Textures pathing process for the 1st-person mesh if it has one (typical with gauntlets/gloves and long sleeves on a cuirass/robe).

* Copy the Armor (item) record so you have added your new item, and point this at your new Armor Addon record as the armature to use.  If it has a unique ground mesh texture, then point that one's alternative texture record to the same retex (or to a specific file or set of files if the ground mesh has separate ones, e.g. for a silly gift box instead of the armor folded on the ground).  If you're just doing a replacer, then you won't have to do all of that, just change the extant item's ground mesh to point to your alternative texture set.

* It's basically the same for weapons, except you need to edit a Static (1st person) and Weapon record instead of an Armor Addon and Armor record. Depending on the item, you may have separate meshes for 1st-person, right, left, and sheathed, on a per-weapon basis. As far as I can tell so far, as long as you have a 1st-person Static record, the game should load these automatically and apply the same Texture Set (kind of how it does with the *_0.nif version of armor items specified in the ESP with paths that end in a *_1.nif filename).

* When done texturificating, close TES5edit, which will prompt to save the changed mod (and will auto-create a backup copy before it does so).

That's all there is to it.  You can do in 3 minutes in TES5edit what could take 15 minutes or longer in the CK.  The time savings are massive when you're doing a bunch of retextures, since you can block-copy entire sets of gear, and there are TES5edit add-on scripts for doing things like batch changing of texture paths.

The only tedious thing (and it's still less tedious than in the CK) is if you are block duplicating a whole bunch of stuff (like making a silver armor set also available in 5 other colors), you need to duplicate a bunch of Texture Set, Armor Addon, Armor, and (if applicable) Constructible Object records (and possibly others, if fancy stuff is going on like different enchantment spells and magic effects for each recolor). If you're doing this between mods this temporarily makes the original mod a master.  You then have to go down the list and customize the Texture Sets, point the new Armor Addons at them correctly, update your new Armors to use the new Armor Addons and new ground-mesh Texture Sets, then point all the Constructible Items at the correct new Armors, all by ID.  After this is done, remove the original mod as a master of your new mod (in the File Header record), then do right-click on your new mod's name in left pane, and run "Check for errors" to make sure you didn't miss any IDs you needed to change. (If you're retexturing something vanilla from Skyrim.esm, or from a DLC that your mod will permanently have as a master for some other reason, you have to be more careful, since you can't remove such masters without breaking your mod, and thus have to double-check record by record that you've used the proper new-record IDs and not left copied ones in place from the original resources you're trying to re-texture).

The only frustrating limitations of TES5edit for typical/basic modding are that it doesn't have a renderer (you need to use the CK, the game itself, or some third-party tool like NIFskope or Outfit Studio (with texture paths set up right) to view the item visually; and it doesn't have a script editor/compiler, so the Virtual Machine Adapter record group cannot be created in TES5Edit, and parts of it cannot be edited (though can be deleted).  It also doesn't have audio editing and various other stuff which most people don't need.  And it can't do the head exporting that CK does to make modified NPC faces actually show up in-game.  So, you can't throw the CK away. >;-)  TES5edit is mainly intended for cleaning/fixing mods, and doing non-audiovisual editing of mod data, and it truly excels at these things.

PS: It helps to pay attention to what things use the same IDs and paths and such, so you can make use of easy copy-paste from one resource to the next one. E.g., it's often better to do all the red gear, then all the blue, etc., than to do all the cuirasses then all the gauntlets, because all the red gear is likely sharing at least some texture files and will need to renamed to have consistent in-game names (and at very least, you keep them grouped and easy to keep track of).  If all the gear of the same item type also shares some textures file (e.g. normal map), if you use an Editor ID naming pattern like MyModderHandle_ArmorName_Curiass_Blue, you can then sort by Editor ID and get all the variant-color cuirasses grouped for easy pasting, one resource after the other. Similarly, it's better to do the crafting recipe resource and the tempering resource for each item, then the next item, than to do all the crafting recipes then all the tempering, because both types of Constructible Object resource for each item are going to want the same item ID to indicate the resulting gear item that the smithing produces.


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  • 3 months later...

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