HeroMachine 3 Custom Items

I've been very impressed with the HeroMachine 3 items DBlade and Zyp have recently submitted. Adding them to the program was much quicker than I thought it would be, and they look good on the figures. And of course, Mark has a long history of drawing a ton of fantastic stuff to flesh out our characters.

For those wanting to submit items, I wanted to put together template files that have everything in the proper layers. That should make it easier for you, and definitely will make it easier for me. After the jump, I'll get into the nitty-gritty details of how to do all this.

This is for advanced users who have access to and are comfortable using a vector-based drawing program, so be warned. If that's not you, then you probably don't need to read further as it's pretty technical.

First, the files I discuss can be downloaded here. It's a ZIP archive, so you'll need some way to uncompress it, which pretty much comes built in to most modern operating systems. The archive contains three files. The first is a Flash CS3 file that contains all the item placeholders and the default male and female template bodies as guide layers at the bottom. The other two files are flattened EPS versions of the male and female bodies in case you prefer to work in some other vector format.

And note that any item submissions must be in vector format, either EPS or Illustrator or (best of all) Flash CS3! Getting a bitmap drawing doesn't do me much good, as I then have to re-draw it anyway.

I'm going to give instructions for the absolutely ideal way (from my perspective) to get submissions. But if all of this is too much work or hassle or too confusing, then just ignore it and draw your item wherever and however you like. I can break it up into objects and name them and whatnot so long as it's clear what's lineart, what's color1, and what's color2. If you're feeling adventurous, though, here's the Grade A Gold Star Perfection Method.

Each HeroMachine 3 item consists of three distinct objects, corresponding to the parts you can color. There's the black line art, the big primary color1 area, and the (generally) smaller secondary color2 area. If you open the Flash file in the Template archive I mentioned earlier, you can see the four ItemRight items broken down into their parts in the Library menu:

The highlighted object in the screen capture is the placeholder for the first item in the ItemRight slot, in the Blades set. This is a placeholder object containing the three color objects, and is what actually gets placed onto the character. For organizational purposes, I name all the items as "[slot name][set name]-[item number]", and each of the color areas as "[slot name][set name]-[item number]-[colorAreaName]" as you can see.

There are thus four items in this screen capture, each of which consists of four objects (the placeholder and the three color areas).

So if you want to create your own custom item in Flash, here's what you'd do.

First, open the Flash file. You'll see what looks like just a hand floating in space -- that's the Character Template, and you'll need to double-click that to get into the meat of the objects. When you do, you'll see a long list of layers in the Timeline, one for each slot, along with a frame (so you know what'll show on the screen) and two figure templates at the bottom:

Unlock the slot layer you want to work on (ItemRight in this example). Double-click on the little movie clip holder that appears, or else click on the appropriate frame and go to Edit-Edit in Place. In the highlighted area at the top of the screen grab you can see that you should be in the Character Template clip, then in the "Items" clip (which is what ItemRight is named).

In the Library list, drag one of the existing placeholder objects onto the stage. In the screen capture above, I've dragged ItemRightBlades-1 onto the stage. You don't want to drag one of the color objects over, you want the first, placeholding object.

Note that the little "+" that marks the center of the object is not lined up with the "+" of the hand. You want them to match so you know you're drawing the item in the place where it'll appear when the user adds it to the character. So nudge or drag ItemRightBlades-1 around till the two "+" marks align:

Now double-click ItemRightBlades-1. You'll see the layout of the actual objects in the Timeline:

They're all aligned properly so you can cut-and-paste-in-place as you go. You won't need to worry about the actions or itemMask layers. Now you're ready to draw!

I start by hiding the color2 and color1 layers. Then I double-click on the lineart layer:

Delete what's there already and start your drawing. When the line art is how you want it, copy it all and go back one level to ItemRightBlades-1. Unhide the color1 layer and edit the object there. Paste in place the line art and fill it all with a light gray, so everything's the same color. This is also the object that serves as the pattern mask -- anything filled here will be where patterns show when or if applied.

I almost always have color1 be a fill of the entire object, it's just easier that way.

When you're done with that, unhide color2 and edit the object there. Paste in place your black line art again, and fill in the bits you want to be color2 with a darker gray than you used in color1.

That's it!

If you want to make more than one object, the easiest way is to place a previous object in the right place. Duplicate it, renaming it to the next number up (so from ItemRightBlades-1 to ItemRightBlades-2, for instance). Open it and rename the itemMask, color1, color2, and lineArt objects to match the new item name (so from itemRightBlades-1-color1 to itemRightBlades-2-color1 for instance). Note that the itemMask and color1 objects are the same, so after you duplicate one of those you can use Swap Item on the other. Hopefully that makes sense.

And remember, if all of that's too much work or hassle, then just ignore it and draw your item wherever you like. I can break it up into objects and name them and whatnot so long as it's clear what's lineart, what's color1, and what's color2.

56 Responses to HeroMachine 3 Custom Items

  1. Arioch says:

    I don’t understand any of it, but, again, thanks a lot to you and all the guys that do this wonderful work.

  2. CKnap says:

    Thats a great idea, hopefully now we can get some new items a little quicker without you getting overwhelmed. Im not sure if i can do it but i know i have a lot of ideas

  3. dblade says:

    Feel free to post ideas. I can’t guarantee that I can do everything you might ask for (I’m no Jeff Hebert, that’s for sure) but I can handle a fair range of assets. And there might be some other talented Hero Machinist who can accommodate.

    Side note: I will probably make a angry/crazed looking cyclops eyeball to give the other a companion in the program. I kept the first one more neutral in attitude so people could use it for other applications (such as the third eye on the forehead).

  4. dblade says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for posting the how to. I would like to eventually transition to Flash to make it even easier for you. I’m more comfortable with Illustrator but I can adapt. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of CS3 lying around here though. CS5 won’t save down to CS3.

  5. CKnap says:

    Im having troubles opening the file, i extract it and what not but when i go to open it and it doesnt work. Im not sure if anyone can help i dont know what program is best to use with it either

  6. dblade says:

    What program are you using to open the EPS file?

  7. CKnap says:

    i think it was opening in paintshop pro

  8. CKnap says:

    dblade, if you get some spare time the item i wanted to to attempt at was a rocket pod, somethig like you see in body/ Mech on the arm but smaller and can be shoulder mounted, I wanted to create a war machine like character all tricked out with weapons. If you or anyone gets some time thatd b great if you want

  9. Solander says:

    Hello there DBlade! Like your creations. I have a few suggestions for ideas:

    – Ichabod Crane’s steampunk-like glasses from “Sleepy Hollow”:


    – Steampunk bracelet:


    – Cinqueda blade:


    – Kris blade:


    – Machete:


    – Main-Guache:


    – Tomahawk:


    – Fire axe:


    – Pick axe:


    – Great axe:


    – Battle axe:


    – Blowgun:


    – Harpoon gun:


    – Needle gun:


    – Tranquilizer gun:


    – Flare gun:


    – Crossbow pistol:


    – Spiked chain:


    – Hand blade:


    – Glaive:


    – Military fork pole-arm:


    – Claymore mine:


    – Flash bang:


    – Welder mask:


    – Demon shield:


    – Space helmet:


    – Holy symbol:


    – Gem stones:


    – Holy handgrenade (old Worms classic):


  10. dblade says:

    Here is a preview of the angry cyclops eye http://forums.ugo.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=77116&d=1304124343

    I have sent it to Jeff so if it’s okay to go it will make a nice companion piece to the other cyclops eye.

  11. dblade says:

    @ CKnap (9): This might be a good challenge for me. I will see if I can manage a tech item such as that.

  12. Worf says:

    @dblade: That eye would be awesome in a beholder type monster.

  13. MartianBlue says:

    I have a couple suggestions/requests
    1. a goat head
    2. a hawaiian shirt(flowers)

  14. Hammerknight says:

    I would be all over this if I had Flash. If anyone that does have flash, and would like some designs let me know.

  15. CKnap says:

    Some ideas id like to see from anyone is
    1. The missile shoulder pod
    2. An actual werewolf body and head
    and possiably more patterns to mask with

  16. dblade says:

    Here is a first draft of the War Machine inspired shoulder-mounted missile pod. Tell me what you think…nicely please πŸ™‚

    Version 1 (Missiles showing) http://forums.ugo.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=77128&d=1304210849

    Version 2 (without missiles showing) http://forums.ugo.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=77129&d=1304210858

  17. dblade says:

    @Worf (12): The beholder was an inspiration for the look. I was hoping it could be put to multiple uses.

  18. Solander says:

    Nice job on that shoulder-mounted missile pod dblade, looks great!

    I just looking through the blades section in HM3, and realized that we’re missing some more axes. So I have a suggestion for making either a one-handed battle axe, or a two-handed great axe.

  19. CKnap says:

    Awsome job dblade, they both look great maybe jeff could add it in as a 2 piece so theres some customization with it

  20. dblade says:

    Thanks, CKnap. I might do a few tweaks before sending it to Jeff for approval.

    Also here is the working draft of the goat head. It’s not finished but I need to go to bed… http://forums.ugo.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=77133&d=1304230286

  21. CKnap says:

    I could only imagine what a goat head will be used for haha, but its good we are getting new items

  22. Fabien says:

    Suggestions :

    Old officer epaulettes (like that)

    Modern military jacket

  23. Kytana says:

    I have a suggestion too. Most of the long hair cover the face. The only option is to use things to hide like an insignia. Here a example:
    Here i have use four half moon to clear the hear.
    I think it Β΄s easier when a cheeks form exists that change it in the same way.

  24. Ogami Itto says:

    First, great work guys. I especially dig dblade’s shoulder-mounted missile pod.

    I don’t know if someone has covered this already, but I’d love a flaming sword (program item or recipe). My drawing skills are extremely limited and after trying to make one with HM3 I finally gave up.

  25. Chisoph says:

    Can I do this in Flash CS4?

  26. Worf says:

    @Ogami Itto(24): When you say “flaming sword” do you mean a sword whose blade is composed entirely of fire or a sword that is engulfed in flame?

  27. dblade says:

    @ Chisoph (25): I believe that Flash CS4 can save down to CS3. You might have to test it and see if Jeff can work with it.

  28. dblade says:

    MartianBlue and esteemed Machinists. Here is the first draft of the goat head. Please tell me what you think.


  29. Jeff Hebert says:

    I can’t open CS4 files, Chrisop, but as dblade said if you can save it down as CS3 that ought to work. If not, you can export it as an EPS or AI (Adobe Illustrator) file I believe, which I can also work with. CS3 is the ideal, though.

  30. CKnap says:

    I know this is a little random but is there a way to create shading on an object, like with masking or something?

    and has dblades missile pod been added in yet? and if so what catagory

  31. MartianBlue says:

    @dblade the goat head looks great. πŸ˜€

    @CKnap a goat head could be very useful, it’s associated with lots of things. Thor, Pan a fantasy satyr /or faun, Hades, dark rituals, etc.

  32. CPrime says:

    Yeah, I’ve been out of the loop for a little while. So this whole custom item thing is way foreign to me. But uhh… great job. Anything that adds to the capabilities of the application is a good thing.

  33. dblade says:

    @ CKnap (31): I submitted the missile pod and angry cyclops eye to Jeff and he will decide whether these assets should be added. Besides, I’m sure he needs to take a break on weekends even with us voracious Machinists clamoring for more updates. πŸ™‚

  34. dblade says:

    Hah! Scratch that. Angry cyclops eye is already there! Thanks, Jeff!

  35. Jeff Hebert says:

    Yes, Sundays are my off days, so no updates till tomorrow at the earliest.

    Having said that, if you clear your cache and check Eyes-Standard, I believe you will find that on SATURDAY I updated the file with dblade’s “Angry Cyclops” entry πŸ™‚

  36. CKnap says:

    Oh yeah i figured as much, i had already seen the eye, im still wondering if there are anyways to create shading on a object? any help would be great

  37. Hammerknight says:

    Does anyone know if I can do this with Photoshop Elements 6 or Corel Painter Essentials 4?

  38. Jeff Hebert says:

    CKnap, I am unclear on what you’re asking to do. There are several gradients in either Patterns-Standard or Backgrounds that you can Mask to any object and move around to get a general shading effect. Is that what you mean?

  39. Jeff Hebert says:

    Hammerknight: No, those are bitmap-based editors. Submissions have to be done in a vector-based editor, like Adobe Illustrator or Flash.

    The difference is that in a bitmap, every pixel is fixed. You dab paint there, it stays there and it stays paint. If you stretch it, the image gets pixelated and distorted.

    A vector image is based on math. It says “From point A to point B, draw a line that’s five pixels thick and pink.” No matter how you stretch or shrink the vector image, the line is always super sharp because it’s not based on pixels, it’s based on math.

    All HM art is vector-based. That’s why you can stretch it and it still looks crisp. If you send me bitmap art, I have to redraw it as a vector, and that ends up actually being more of a pain than if I just drew it myself in the first place, actually creating more work for me rather than less.

  40. CKnap says:

    Yeah i saw a post a while ago and i went and found it it simply used the backgrounds and changed the alphas to do it so i tried that out thanks tho

  41. Me, Myself & I says:

    OK everybody, here are the items I’ve drawn and sent to Jeff so far.


    I’m hoping they pass his inspection and that he can use them. I’ve played around with the effect and it really looks like it could work really well so I am excited to say the least.

    Now I should mention that I was actually in the same boat as you Hammerknight; having never worked with Flash before. Heck the fact is that, other than Paint and HM3, I haven’t even worked with any drawing programs before at all. I figured I’d try my hand at it anyway as it seemed like a challenge worth tackling.

    The good news for those who would like to try is that its not an insurmountable task. You can download free trial versions of the programs (for example: Adobe Flash Professional CS3) to test to see if they are worth pursuing so you can check it out before committing a bunch of resources if you aren’t sure.

  42. dblade says:

    @ MMI (41 & 42): Cool! Customization is always a fun thing. I hope you are submitting the eyelash piece too.

  43. Me, Myself & I says:

    I plan to but I wanted the basic deigns submitted first. You know, to see if they work the way I’m picturing before I draw all the rest.

  44. dblade says:

    @ CKnap (31): The missile pod is live and currently residing at Shoulder-Tech. (Just in case you hadn’t noticed yet).

  45. CKnap says:

    @ dblade (47): I saw, it look great i did a quick test to see how it looks and it looks great even sizing it up or down can create good effect.

    I also like that eye idea itll give for a nice variety of looks. If you guys ever get bored i can come up with some more ideas haha

  46. GtaMythMaster43 says:

    Hello Dblade, I got some links if you’d like to convert them for me, I sadly don’t have the tools to put these into HeroMachine.

  47. dblade says:

    @GtaMythMaster43 (49): Feel free to post the links. I can’t promise anything but I’ll take a look. These illustrations take a bit of time to do so I’m picky about what I choose to take on. I’m not the illustrator that Jeff is so even if I’m capable of making something it would take me a lot more time to get it right.

    If your artwork is complete with all of the colors (Black Line Art, Color 1, Color 2) clearly designated I might be able to do some conversions in Illustrator. Post the links and I’ll see what’s possible.

  48. dblade says:

    On a side note, I will eventually get back to the goat head that I started. I want to tweak some things before submitting.

  49. Me, Myself & I says:

    @GtaMythMaster43, CKnap, Solander, etc.

    dblade (50) has a point. These illustrations can take some time to produce; especially for those of us who never worked with Flash before. As a result, I’ve been focusing what I draw on items I suspect will that the most frequent and repetative use. Sort of like getting a greater return on the time invested (Geez, can you tell I’m in financial planning or what!). I may be willing to make a few items for others as well but have two main selection criteria;

    1) Is it something I am comfortable drawing with my limited Flash drawing skills?

    2) Is it going to be used regularly rather than for just one character per person.

    My one suggestion for dblade and zip (as well as anyone else who would like to give it a try) may be to let the others know if there is an object you are working on so the others don’t duplicate your work.

    For example; I am planning to make some Chinese Zodiac insignia’s using the Chinese characters. Also I was planning a Celtic Knotwork background.

  50. dblade says:

    Right now I’m focusing on facial features and head shapes. I want to help expand the number of base looks a person can choose for their hero/villain. So if your request falls in that range I am more likely to jump on it.

    Next up: Big Brain Heads (The Leader, Megamind, etc…)

  51. ams says:

    @dblade – Could you try a profile head item?

  52. BlackFalconKY says:

    Awesome! I love seeing what the others are now adding as well. I use HeroMachine 3 weekly making color 2D tokens for my tabletop RPG sessions. Seeing it expand like this makes me ecstatic.


    – A single shark tooth – could be used as jewelry or to line a club.

    – Implant Hoses – Like Dune or Warhammer 40K, just various hoses that implant in the body for various cybernetics.

    – Freckles – Pretty obvious.

    Keep up the amazing work!

  53. TOOL says:

    This seems really interesting and I think I will take a look at it later when I have more tme and see if I can get my hands dirty or just come up with some crap.