Winamp 2.X skinning tutorial

Chapter 5 - Submitting Your Works, Copyrights, About the Authors, Outtro, Glossary

SacRat and Imagine

Rips and Copyrights

There are some important things any winamp skinner must know. It doesn't matter if you're a member of a NetArt community, like deviantart or just an independent artist, you better follow some basic rules... First of all, respect others' works: don't rip them. Ripping is taking another author's work and presenting it as your own. It's not a good idea to do this: you will only get satisfaction from the high rating of the work if it's yours. Besides, in most of the communities ripping is "a heavy sin", so you will immediately be excluded (and will be marked as a ripper). As for me, taking even a part of the original work is ripping; I've seen lots of skins with completely the same buttons and so on... I think they looked terrible.

On the other hand, "stealing" the idea is not ripping: you might make your skin's elements look similar to the ones you've seen somewhere before and no one will blame you for that.

Another interesting thing is creating a "remix" or your own version of a work. For example, you have seen an interesting skin, but dislike its color and equalizer, so you decide to change the color and make your own EQ. What shall you do? First of all: contact the author. If you don't do this, he can lodge a complaint on you and you can be blamed for ripping. This is certainly not the thing you exoected. Right? Just know that most of the authors whose works I've tried to remake have agreed to give me the permission to create my version of their skin if I mention them in a readme file. There are some situations when you cannot find the author of the original work. For example, perhaps he hasnít noticed his name anywhere and he hasnít created any readme. Then try to look for a skin with that name (itís often a name of the archive, sometimes authors show their skinís name on the titlebar) on www.winampskins.com, www.1001winampskins.comor at any other more or less popular skin site. You may find a skin there and therefore know the identity of the author. If nothing helps (you havenít found him), just write something like ďthe work is based on orig_skin_name winamp skinĒ in your description after itís finished.

All above could be summarized by a very short phrase: respect others and they will respect you.

Skin Protection

Well, youíve done a work and you donít want anyone to grab it. If you have submitted it under your name, itís an evidence of your authorship already (most of the sites where you cansubmit your work automatically set the skinís submission date). And... donít forget to include a readme.txt file ;)

If you want to protect your skin from being ripped (well, everyone wants it!) thereís a good way to do it. The point is that most of the images of your skin have some Ďfreeí space on them, so you can write there something like ďskin by Imagine and SacRatĒ and ďIíve made this skin! Donít rip it!!!Ē Thereís a lot of free space in avs.bmp, mb.bmp, eqmain.bmp, eq_ex.bmp, pledit.bmp and titlebar.bmp. Most users donít unpack skins in search of your signature, but many rippers donít, either (who knows, who knows... nevertheless this method is used very often - a note by SacRat). So, if you see that your skin has been ripped, you can easily prove your authorship. You can also draw your logo in the visualization window - there it will be seen.

Well, sooth to say there are even trickier methods. As already said, the easiest way is just to include a readme.txt or any other file with your signature into the work (you could also add a comment to the wsz archive - donít forget that itís just a zip file) or place your own signature file into it, but someone who wants to grab your work might simply repack the archive and remove all the signatures this way. A method which was suggested by Imagine is a bit better, but these signs could also be removed in any editing program, even in MS Paint.

So, if youíre truly a maniac and want something special, you could try one of the methods below. The first is simple... There are programs which allow you to add some redundant information to your bitmap files, but no changes will be visible. How it works: you create a file (text files are smaller) with your signature and then imbed it into any image of your skin in encrypted form. No visible changes will occur and the size of your images (and skin, for sure...) wonít increasemuch (itís usually a couple of Kb), so if someone just takes your images, you will be able to prove your authorship by extracting the hidden information. Disadvantages of this method are obvious: this embedded information can be lost after some manipulations with the file.

Another idea is to include the authorship information by using much more complicated programs, like Digimarkís products, which include all the authorís information directly into your image, so they will be readable even after a set of manipulations. Disadvantages: watermarks may ďspoilĒ your image a bit, and as I know, these programs are not free at all.

Remember: whatever you do, itís impossible to create 100% protection of you skinís files, but you could prove your authorship if you have submitted your skin first...

And at the end Iíd recommend you to read one interesting article about skin protection and copyrights. Itís located here: (http://www.teknidermy.net/issue6/artcopyright.html).

Submitting

Here are some useful links of the sites, where you can place your own skins (donít forget that you could also download skins from them):

http://www.deviantart.com/
http://www.winamp.com/skins
http://www.1001winampskins.com/
http://www.skinz.org/
http://www.lotsofskins.com/
http://www.skinbase.org/

While submitting a skin to most of these sites you should follow some rules: the work you submit must be original (not ripped) and created by you; it must not contain any nudity, violence and so on... (well, the rule about nudity is not always right, just take a look to celebs or female skin section); at least three windows must be skinned: main, equalizer, playlist. Some sites, like http://www.winamp.com/ also recommend skinning the minibrowser (as itís included into the preview thumbnail).

Some information: a submitting process may take some time: from few seconds on www.deviantart.com or one day www.skinz.org to several weeks or even more, as in www.winamp.com.

Making a preview

Most of the sites where you submit your works need a preview picture. The only exceptions I know are www.winamp.comand www.1001winampskins.com, which generate this preview automatically (the second one generates a preview only once, later you will be allowed to do this manually).

What is a preview? Itís just a shot of your skin. Nothing less, nothing more. If youíre not a dumb, you may make this shot in a second and if you are, then it might take much, much more time :). You could just press Print Screen button or use any special program. I prefer Irfan view (http://www.irfanview.com), as you could crop the skin from a shot of your desktop with no need to run any other program.

When you make a shot, remember that itís the first thing a user sees and it influences on his wish to download your skin greatly: most people take a look at the picture first and only then decide if they need this skin, isnít it? ;) Make shots when winamp is in focus and itís playing music; try to make your skins look the best on the shot. Youíre not limited in the position of your skinís windows, but remember that the most commonly used placement is (from top to bottom): main, EQ, PL, so itís better to make preview when your windows are placed in this order. If you also place there an AVS or minibrowser window, then it doesnít really matter that your desktop wallpaper is seen through it, just try to select a wallpaper looking according to your skin or make it in Photoshop (or any other bitmap graphical editor).

Make the thumbnailís file size as small as possible, but try not to lose quality. Keep in mind that JPG format is better for compressing photos and GIF is the best for pictures with a limited set of colors. Sometimes sites accept PNG images. In this case use it instead of GIF (but donít forget to set maximum PNG compression first!). Donít submit a whole image of your desktop, even if it looks great with your skin. Remember that the size of a winampís window is quite small in relation to the desktop space, so it might be unseen on a small preview (in most cases a user wonít see your preview in full size, only a small thumbnail).

Compatibility

Itís not a secret that now there are lots of winamp clones, working at almost any operating system, and there are many programs which also support winamp skin format. If you want to make a compatible skin, you should remember the following (details may differ for any specific program): donít take a step aside from the classical winamp skin standard and donít use any transparency. The best solution is to create a transparent skin, which looks good even without regions.txt. What about classics: lots of programs of that kind use classical winamp skin specification, which does not allow to create some tricks, like cropping images here and there.

Another copyright stuff

This winamp 2.X skinning tutorial is © 2002 by Taras Brizitsky [AKA SacRat] and Maria (Mary) Gileva [AKA Imagine AKA Gileva] (excluding some parts, where other authors are mentioned). Some skin illustrations are based on Template Amp Version 1.0 by Mischa Klement. The front cover illustration is based on SacRatís Ballzzz 2 Futura skin, all the other illustrations in this text are made by SacRat and Imagine.

You may use this tutorial for free, may make any amount of copies you want and even send it to your friends or upload it to your homepage, but youíll need to know some things first.

If you upload/send it you must leave this tutorial exactly in the form you got it: no modifications are allowed. Next, you must leave the authorsí names near the link (when posting) and give us a e-mail note.

If youíd liked to make a translation, change something or just fix errors or grammar, feel free to contact us.

Outtro

Here we finish our tutorial. Hope it was useful for you. Now you should know enough about skinning to start creating your own works right now.

This is the very first version of the tutorial and we hope to continue developing it and adding even more hints and tricks.

If you have found any mistakes here or something is not clear or you have any suggestions - feel free to contact us.

P.S.: weíre getting congratulations: version 1.0.0 of this tutorial has been added to www.1001winampskins.com and can be downloaded from there. All the updated versions should be there too. Great thanks to Max Bloch for that.

New versions and updates will follow soon!

About the authors

SacRat:

Real name: Taras Brizitsky.
Age: 21 (11.11.1981).
Sex: male.
Location: Sarov, Russia.
Skins: B-Amp, FiorAmp, FiorAmp 1.1, AggieAmp 2K+2 (remix of AggieAMP 2000 by Aggie), Freqamp g2, Freqamp g3, Ballzzz Minimal, Ballzzz Minimal Colorpack, Ballzzz 2 Futura, Ballzzz 2 Futura Colorpack, Bend v3 (remix of Bend v2 by The-Joker), Ballzzz 3 Honey (in collaboration with Imagine).
Homepage: http://sacrat.deviantart.com,
E-mail: sacrat@newmail.ru
ICQ: 128620050
MSN: t_martian@hotmail.com (messenger only)

Imagine (Gileva):

Real name: Mary Gileva.
Age: 17 (2.12.1985).
Sex: female.
Location: Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Skins: The Orange Amp, NOT_NAMED, FuturA, Greenie, Ballzzz 3 Honey (in collaboration with SacRat), Rusty (under construction).
Homepage:
E-mail: gileva@icm.krasn.ru

Greets'n'Respects

SacRat:

I'd like to thank the following people (in no order):

- All the international Hugi staff and personally Adok.
- All the Deviantart community members, all those who commented my works, sent me notes and so on, but especially: c-specter, eikasia, Gaston, Gileva, girlfromverona, ice-hf, Iliks, Jark, jonnywedge, lockheart7ca, mach5, mariko, Olya, pigletteus, Poetess, princessleia, shiiizzzam, Tanya, The-Joker.
- Members of all other art/skinning communities.
- All my pen-pals from all over the world.
- Special thank goes to my Hispanic friends: Tania Zamora, Rosaluz Salazar, Fabio, Yanet
- Personal greets to Fiorela AgustŪ.
- Few more greets to my friends and pals IRL: Alex, Pavel, Alina, Artem, Olesya, Vlad and all the FIDONet staff of Sarov.
- Webmaster of www.1001winampskins.com for publishing my stuff.
- Anyone Iíve forgotten.
- You for reading this stuff.

Imagine:

- Everyone at DeviantArt, especially SacRat, vbdude, ice-hf, k1m, my great respect to jark, olya, torquema70, tangia, once more ice-hf :)
- Everyone who knows me.
- Everyone who doesnít know me.
- Everyone who has read this tutorial and didnít fall asleep.
- Just EVERYONE! :)

Testers

- Jan Klimo (jankoklimo@hotmail.com)
- C-Specter (http://c-specter.deviantart.com/)
- Iliks (iliks@pochtamt.ru)
- PanteraSuNo2 (http://panterasuno2.deviantart.com/)
- You?

Wanna see your name here?

Send a suggestion/bugreport, drop us few lines if you think that any paragraph is too superficial.

Glossary

A list of new words and abbreviations used in this text:

- 7-ZIP - a freeware archiving program (www.7-zip.org) and an original compression format (great for compressing PSD files).
- ANI - animated cursor fileís extension.
- AVS (advanced visualization studio) - a visualization plugin for winamp, which is often included into a standard programís distributive. An AVS window can be skinned.
- BMP - windows bitmap fileís extension. A popular graphical format with no data compression.
- Button extractor - a program designed to help skinner cut template images into elements, which can then be edited separately.
- Codetable - a way of storing characters. One-byte codetables often differ by a way of coding non-English characters. A text typed in one codetable and displayed in another often shows incorrectly.
- Color picker - a tool designed to get a value (hex or decimal) of any pixel, displayed on your screen.
- CUR - cursor fileís extension.
- Deviantart or Devart - a Netart community, located at www.deviantart.com.
- EQ - winamp equalizer.
- GIF - popular graphical format. Creates quite small images with a limited (256 max) amount of colors.
- HEX -hexadecimal.
- JPEG - a popular graphical format, good for storing photo quality data. Compression with losses allows 1:10 compression with no visible changes.
- JPG - the same, as JPEG.
- MAX - maximize.
- MB - winamp minibrowser. A window which is used to display Internet content or browse Internet. Due to its uselessness (itís too small to display any page normally) itís almost never used for what it was made for, but plugins may display some info there (like tags, lyrics and so on).
- MIN - minimize.
- MIN/MAX/CLOSE - three (or two, without MIN) buttons on the right top of Main window, EQ and PL.
- PL - winamp playlist.
- PNG - quite a new graphical format, created as an alternative to GIF. Main features: smaller (than GIF) file size, true color support, loseless compression, and alpha channel transparency.
- PSD - Photoshopís file extension.
- PSP - Paintshop Proís file extension.
- Posbar - position bar. Look at posbar.bmp
- Readme - a file, called readme.txt. Can often be found in skinís archive.
- Resample - unlike resize, this function makes better changes of the pictureís size. A use of some special algorithms even allows you to make 2X image zooming without a critical loss of quality.
- RGB - (red, green, blue) - a method of storing color data, which will be displayed on the screen then.
- Skingenerator - a program, made to generate skins automatically from your image/photo. Unlike button extractors skingenerators are often used as the only skinning tool, as itís possible to generate skins, based on predefined templates.
- Scroller - the same as slider.
- Skin - a changeable programís interface.
- Skinner - someone, who create skins.
Skinner.exe - one of the most popular skingenerators.
Teknidermy - online magazine for designers/skinners. ()
Tut - tutorial.
Transliteration - a method of writing, when national characters are replaced by characters of Latin alphabet. For example, Russian ďÁĒ could be replaced by ďzĒ (the same sound) and so on... In some cases people replace symbols, like ďŠĒ or ďŚĒ by simple Latin ďaĒ.
Truecolor - a graphical mode, which shows an ďunlimitedĒ number of colors (about 16 millions). Used to display high quality images.
Unicode - a codetable, which allows you to write text, containing characters of several languages at the same time. For example, you could write an Arabian text with comments in English and Russian. Nowadays 2-byte (two bytes for any symbol) Unicode table is widely used in MS Windows 2000/XP.
Vis - visualization.
Viscolor - visualization color.
Volbal - Volume/balance sliders.
Win32 - 32 bit versions of Windows (from Windows95 to Windows XP, i.e. excluding windows 3.1).
Winamp (http://www.winamp.com/) - a popular skinnable media player created by Nullsoft (http://www.nullsoft.com/).
Winshade or windowshade - look WS.
WP - wallpaper.
WS - windowshade mode, when a window is minimized into a small stripe to save space.
WSZ (Winamp Skin Zipped) - winamp skinís extension.
ZIP - a zip-archived fileís extension. ZIP is one of the most popular archiving formats.

Taras Brizitsky alias SacRat