Photoshop Bootskin Tutorial

Bootskinners Anonymous - The Twelve Step Program

Tuesday, December 21, 2004 by NetBadger | Discussion: Tutorials

Photoshop Bootskin Tutorial
Bootskinners Anonymous - The Twelve Step Program
By NetBadger - Text Only Version (One with screenshots is available at

I've read some comments about Adobe's Photoshop being useless for creating bootskins, but I beg to differ. This tutorial will focus on creating a bootskin from beginning to end in PhotoShop. I think you will be pleased with the results you get.

Step 1: Create a directory in your Bootskin\skins directory with the name you would like to use for your bootskin.

Step 2: Copy and paste the text below into a plain text file (use notepad) with the name bootskin.ini, and save the file:

Name = "filename"
Author = "Your Name"
Description = "none"
ProgressBarX = 210
ProgressBarY = 80
ProgressBarWidth = 220

Step 3a: Edit the bootskin.ini file you just created as follows:
Change the text in the Name = "filename" to whatever you want the bootskin to be named. You should probably use the name you gave to the directory for this bootskin. Keep in mind that not all operating systems handle spaces in file names the same. It is best to use the underscore character _ instead of a space in file names.

Step 3b: Change the Author = "Your Name" to your own name or handle.

Step 3c: Change the text in Description = "none" to whatever you want. Be sure that you leave the quotation marks at the beginning and end.

Step 3d: Leave the ProgressBar=, ProgressBarX, ProgressBarY, and ProgressBarWidth alone for now.

Setp 3e: Change the Screen=filename.bmp to whatever you want the bootskin to be named.

Step 4: Now lets take the image you want to convert into a bootskin, and open it up in Photoshop.

Tip: Choosing a picture with lots of similar colors will result in a better looking bootskin.

The existing height, width, and resolution are not so important at the moment. Keep in mind that we are going to end up with a width of 640, a height of 480, and a resolution of 72 dpi. So this means that your original image should have an "aspect ratio" that will automatically convert to 640x480 when you resize it, or you will have to adjust the size to match those dimensions. The resolution of 72dpi is the maximum a computer screen can display. Making it larger will not improve the looks of your bootskin, it will only make the file size larger. Open your image and go to 'image > size'.

Enter a width of 640. If the height isn't 480, your original image doesn't have the correct aspect ration. You will need to use the 'canvas size' function to trim up either the width or the height. Double check the resolution for 72 pixels/inch. If it isn't change the number to 72. If you already set the width and height, changing the resolution will change those numbers. Change the width back to 640, and the height should go back to 480. Click on OK.

Step 5: You probably are bringing in a jpeg image with millions of colors. Now we have to reduce that number to 16, and turn it into a bitmap (bmp). You do that by going to 'Image > Mode' on the menu bar and choosing 'Indexed Color..." A window will pop up saying indexed color, and each of the fields should be as follows:
Palette: Local (Adaptive)
Colors: 16
Forced: Black and White
Transparency should not be checked
Matte: should be "grayed out"
Dither: Diffusion
Amount: 100%
Preserve Exact Colors should be unchecked.

You have completed the majority of the work.

Step 6: Save the file to a 4 bit bmp file:
Go to File > Save As...
Enter a name in the "File Name" box, and choose BMP (*BMP;*RLE;*DIB) from the drop down menu.

Give it the filename that you used for the directory, and the same name as whatver you put on the line: Screen=filename.bmp in the bootskin.ini file.

A screen will pop up saying "BMP Options".

Be sure that you click on File Format 'Windows' and the '4 bit' option, and click OK. The Compress (RLE) and Flip Row Order boxes should be unchecked.

Step 7: While we have the modified main image on the screen, we need to save the palette, so that the progress bar will not cause color shifts. To do this, we go to:

Image > Mode > Color Table

A screen pops up that says "Color Table"
Table: Custom
and it has black then white and the 14 most commonly used colors in your master image.

Click on the 'Save' button, and give the file a name. It will automatically put the extension .act on the end. Be sure to remember where you saved the file, because we are going to need it again.

Step 8: Now we are going to make the progress bar that moves across the bootskin. Although it is possible to use a different size progress icon, it introduces a lot more variables that require numerous test. The best thing to do is create a new file with the dimensions of 22 width 9 height and resolution 72. For now choose RBG Color from the 'Color Mode' drop down menu and '8 bit' from the drop down menu next to that. It really doesn't matter what the 'Background Contents' is set to.

Once you've made the new image for the progress bar, load the color table you saved in the previous step.

Fill in the whole box with black. Now you zoom in on the image as much as you can (which is 1600%). This gives us a chance to really see what shape we want to use. The reason we loaded the color table before starting, is so that we use the exact same 16 colors (in the same order on the palette), as the main image.

Tip: As you are drawing, the easiest way to get the right colors is to use the eyedropper tool on the original image. Trying to use color swatches or the mixer bar will not match up to your palette.

Get creative. There isn't that much you can do with sixteen colors on such a small canvas, so using the pencil tool with a 1 pixel size is fine.

Once you've finished, choose: File > Save As
progress.bmp. It will also pop up the window about '4 bit' or '8 bit'. We need to be sure to choose '4 bit' again.

Step 9: There will be a black 'track' for the progress bar to travel in. It always needs to be black. If you use another color on the main image, it will be converted to black the first time the progress bar moves across it. We know that the progress bar is 22 pixels wide by 9 pixels tall. We are going to need to create a 'track' that will match a multiple of those dimensions. Ten times 22 is 220, 3 times 22 is 66, and so on. So the length of the 'track' will need to be a multiple of 22, and its height will be 9 pixels. Trying to use the selection box and get those exact dimensions is almost impossible. So what we do is create a new image that is whatever dimensions you choose, and then copy and paste that new image (which we already filled with black), into the original image.

Here comes a little bit more math, but it will make it easier in the end. If you are creating a 'track' that is 220 pixels wide, and you want it to be centered in the image, then here is what you do to place it exactly. You know the main image is 640 pixels wide. You know that the 'track' is 220 pixels wide. 640-220=420 pixels left over. So to center it, you must have 210 pixels on either side.

To make sure it is exactly centered, we need to align the left edge of the track at precisely 210 pixels from the left. The easiest way to do that is to use the rulers and guides. To turn on the rulers, you go to: View > Rulers

They are the numbers and marks just above and to the left of the checkerboard. A guide is just a little blue line that you either pull down from the top, or out from the left with the arrow tool.

Put the arrow tool in the ruler bar to the left, and hold down the left mouse key while pulling it to the right. Line it up with the mark at 210 on the top ruler. Take the arrow tool, and slide the whole black 'track' you are pasting into the original image to where the left side of it is aligned to the blue guide you pulled out. You position the 'track' vertically wherever it looks best on the image.

You don't have to always center the 'track' exactly in the middle. It will just require a bit more testing to get the progress bar in the track, inside the bootskin.ini file. If you want to get a ballpark estimate of where the track is vertically, pull a guide down from the top ruler, and see what number it is on the left ruler.

Step 10:
Now that you have the track in place, do a File > Save As
and choose the original filename.bmp you gave the master image. We are doing the 'Save As' to insure that it is still a '4bit' bitmap.

Step 11: Go to your bootskin directory under "program files" with the Windows Explorer. Be sure these three files are in that directory; filename.bmp, progress.bmp, and bootskin.ini. Open up the bootskin.ini file with notepad. Start up the bootskin program and scroll down until you find the bootskin you have been working on. Highlight it, and click on the 'preview' button in the Bootskin Program. You should see the progress bar moving across the bootskin image you created. It is probably not exactly in the black 'track' you created for it. Now it is just a matter of switching back and forth between editing the bootskin.ini file in notepad, and then hitting the preview button again and again, until you get the progress bar exactly where you want. The lines in the bootskin.ini file you are editing are:
ProgressBarX = 210
ProgressBarY = 80
ProgressBarWidth = 220
We know what the ProgressBarWidth is because that is the length of the black strip we pasted into the master image. So you shouldn't have to worry about that number. If you used the guides, then you know exactly what the ProgressBarX number is. So you would only be editing the ProgressBarY number to move the progress bar up and down the page.

Just be sure to save the file in notepad each time you edit it, before trying the preview button in the Bootskin Program.

Step 12: Sharing your masterpiece with the world. The bootskin you are working on, should be highlighted in the Bootskin program. Choose File > Export selected skin to file.
Give it a file name (preferably the same name you gave it in the bootskin.ini file), and save it to your hard drive. It will automatically put the .bootskin extension on the file name. The only thing left to do, is make a preview image of your bootskin. Just open the master filename.bmp file and save it as a jpeg. The only thing you need to upload is the filename.bootskin and the preview image, and let the compliments roll in.

Footnotes: If you can't see the bootskin you are working on, when you start up the BootSkin Program, it is usually one of the following: The proper three files are not in the correct directory, and/or the filename.bmp is not in '4 bit' format. If you get color shifts when using the bootskin, the filename.bmp and the progress.bmp are not sharing the exact same palette

Reply #1 Thursday, September 1, 2005 1:08 PM
Bookmarked this for when I get photoshop, no current time or money. Thanks! Dithering in bootxp 2.5, irfanview, german hardcopy and skin studio pro was unrewarding. Just what I need.
vikram sheorey
Reply #2 Saturday, April 29, 2006 8:05 PM
A little late on this one I'm afraid but I don't have either PSP or Photoshop. I've followed many tutorials and looked at all the .ini files from other bootskins but still can't get the damn thing to install into Bootskin.

The directory is where it's supposed to be with the .ini file and .bmp and still nothing.

Is the file path correct? C:\Program Files\Stardock\WinCustomize\BootSkin\Skins

Unfortunately I do not have PSP/Photoshop right now, I'm not cheap just currently unemployed.

I'm also stuck on where to find the progress bar. The .ini files I've seen so far just refer to progress.bmp

I would appreciate any help if you have the time/inclination.

Kind regards


( just a shame you seem to need these applications, there must be a way around this surely, there always is - otherwise upto the part where these nasty applications appear very good, clear and concise tutorial )
NetBadger ( Doug Barnhart)
Reply #3 Sunday, April 30, 2006 12:24 AM
Hi Vikram,

Unfortunately there isn't any programs that I'm aware of that can do what is necessary to create a good bootskin. In fact, my tutorial was for photoshop only, because Paint Shop Pro (PSP) doesn't give you the control over the way the image is converted to 4 bits. So bootskins created with PSP or the built in converter in Skin Studio look pretty bad.

As far as the progress bar goes, it is just a 22 pixel wide by 9 pixel high bmp image. The critical thing is that it must share the exact same 4 bit color palette as the main bootskin image. Otherwise you will get a bootsking that flashes all sorts of different colors, and in most cases locks up the computer before it even gets booted up. The only way to get out of the error, is to start windows in safe mode, and change the bootskin to one that you know works.

Sorry for the bad news.
vikram sheorey
Reply #4 Sunday, April 30, 2006 9:25 AM
Thanks anyway
Reply #5 Wednesday, September 13, 2006 9:49 PM
I have to say i think photoshop sucks when it comes to creating and editing 4-bit bitmaps. Everytime i create the bootscreen image, save the palette, create the progress bar and save it, when i later try to change anything about the image or the bar it refuses to save as 4-bit anymore and only gives the option of saving as 8-bit. Surely there must be a better solution to handing 4-bit images.
Reply #6 Wednesday, September 13, 2006 10:56 PM
hen i later try to change anything about the image or the bar it refuses to save as 4-bit anymore and only gives the option of saving as 8-bit.

I have only uploaded two Bootskins to the library, but have made around 15 for personal use. Each time I used Photoshop CS2. I've never run into a re-saving problem like you have described...and I edit my images all the time. Mostly just the progress bars. Not sure what version you're using, but I would check to make sure you converted the images to indexed colors (16 colors).
Reply #7 Friday, October 20, 2006 3:16 PM
Thanks a lot! That really helped!
Reply #8 Friday, October 20, 2006 3:17 PM
Thanks a lot! That tutorial really helped!
I.R. Brainiac
Reply #9 Wednesday, December 20, 2006 1:55 AM
The not being able to save as 4 bit happens to me if one of my colors isnt 000(true black).It gets that way because I want the master color(the first one) to be something other than black.

Thats the color the progress bar uses as a background.
I.R. Brainiac
Reply #10 Wednesday, December 20, 2006 1:57 AM
I still havnt figured out how to get 4bit out of a palette that does not have 000 as one of the colors.
I.R. Brainiac
Reply #11 Monday, June 25, 2007 5:14 PM
photoshop limitation...first color has to be 000 to save as 4bit...if you wanna use something besides force b&'ll have to save as 8bit and reopen the image in a program like photoimpact.

photoimpact can move any color to the o index spot so you can make progress backgounds something other than also determines the color that surrounds the image.
Reply #12 Saturday, October 6, 2007 9:23 AM
Thank you very much for your great efforts
Reply #13 Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:51 PM
Hi Guys,

Anyone using Photoshop CS3?
Photoshop crashes when I try to save the file as a 4bit BMP.


Please login to comment and/or vote for this skin.

Welcome Guest! Please take the time to register with us.
There are many great features available to you once you register, including:

  • Richer content, access to many features that are disabled for guests like commenting on the forums and downloading skins.
  • Access to a great community, with a massive database of many, many areas of interest.
  • Access to contests & subscription offers like exclusive emails.
  • It's simple, and FREE!