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Tutorials to Becoming the Best Level Designer and Game Environment Artist (since 2008)

Creating Custom Textures in Hammer Source

Category: Source: CSGO SDK, Source: L4D 1 & 2
February 16, 2010

Following tutorial was written and contributed by Keith Garry

Custom Textures Using VTF Edit

Table of Contents:
Getting Started
Blend Textures
Alpha Channel: Transparencies
Modifying Valve Textures to Fit Your Need

PakRat<--When you release a map make sure you embed your materials into the bsp using PakRat. (Does NOT apply to L4D1/2. VPK takes care of it.)

Getting Started

Let's put a custom snow texture into our map.

Go to Nems Tools and get the installer. Installing it is quite easy.

Let's find a texture at Textures.com.

There's a large assortment of textures here. Some are easier to work with than others are.

This one should be good. Save it.

CTRL + i to Import our snow texture into VTF Edit.

Leave the settings the way they are and click OK.

There it is. Now we can work with it.

You'll want to save it to:

Steam\youremail\team fortress 2\tf\materials\mytextures

If you're mapping for a different game this is what it would look like:


If the mytextures folder doesn't exist, create it. Better yet, create a shortcut on your desktop.

A good habit to get into is saving your custom textures with “custom_” so that you can quickly find your own textures in hammer.

Now that the VTF file is created we have to do one more step. We have to create the VMT file and then we should be done. Tools -> Create VMT File.

Click the Options tab and select Snow for Surface 1. Click Create. Save as custom_snow01.vmt. Notice our vtf and vmt have the exact same name. This is necessary.

Let's jump into steam and look for our texture now. There it is.

Our in-game texture.

Blend Textures

Custom alpha blends are easy. Find a grass or dirt texture from cgtextures and create it like we did in the first tutorial. Once you have both the vmt and the vtf saved then we are ready to begin.

Let's create another vmt.

Choose a texture for Base Texture 1 and Base Texture 2.

WorldVertexTransition worked as a shader for me. Add Snow to Surface 1 and Grass to Surface 2.

Create your brush and then create it into a displacement. Happy alpha drawing!

Ingame textures.

Alpha Layer: Transparencies

This tutorial will show you how to make transparent windows, overlays, and more generally speaking, create textures with transparencies.

Let's turn the panels into transparent glass.

Load the image into GIMP and add an Alpha Channel.

Click the eraser tool. Adjust the scale and opacity to your liking. Left click on the image to start adding transparencies.

Save the file as a targa.

Import it into VTF Edit, save it, and create a VMT like so. Leave the textures tab alone.

Here's our texture in hammer.

And here it is in game.

Modifying Valve Textures to Fit Your Needs

Sometimes valves textures will come very close to what you want, but not perfect. In many cases adjusting a texture's brightness or color can greatly increase the look of your level. Another case may be combining textures for alpha blends. We need to grab GCFScape to look at valves textures. Also, make sure you have GIMP or another image workshop.

First Load up GCFScape. Then do File->Open and head to your steamapps folder. This should contain the texture packs. For this tutorial I'm using the pack called "source materials.gcf".

And I'm going to use concretewall010b.vtf for this example. It's a stained concrete wall. Open it up in VTFEdit.

File -> Export -> Save As .tga

Open it in GIMP.

Color -> Hue-Saturation

Now we can make the same texture frosted over. In this case I turned the brightness up and added a light blue tint to it. Furthermore, you can rotate this image 180 degrees in hammer to create a different effect. Remember, that if your texture is surrounded by snow (which is usually bright) you should make your textures bright as well.

Here is another variation except with moss. I darkened it and added a green hue.


Q: What are VMT Files?

A: VMT Files stores data such as how your footsteps will sound when you walk on certain textures, if the texture is slippery, if it shines, etc. It also contains shaders and bump mapping data.

Q: My Texture Won't Update!

A: You have to reload your materials. Bring up the console (~ key) and type:

sv_cheats 1


Then reload your level.

If all else fails restart the game.

Q: I cannot afford photoshop, etc. What should I do?

A: All is not lost. GIMP


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My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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