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A lot of people (and I do mean a LOT OF PEOPLE!) ask me for tips and tricks on how to make KiSS dolls. I'm not a good teacher, but I'm decent at putting things into plain English (that's all I understand anyway...well actually, I understand English just barely, but my American's pretty good ^o^). Revealed here for the first time (gasp!) is the process by which Emby Quinn makes her KiSS dolls.
Please note: Most of these tips are useful only for beginners, and for Windows users at that. Still, experienced KiSS artists, or artists on a different platform, might find something they can use as well. ^.^
I know this isn't the most in-depth explanation in the world. The good news is that a comprehensively illustrated and totally easy-to-comprehend tutorial does exist! Head on over to Zorro's page for the best KiSS tutorial I've ever found. I even learned stuff that I didn't know and I've been doing this for years. n.n,v..
Step 1: Snag a clue. In other words, you need a concept for the kisekae set. Since all I've ever done is dolls (so far), that's what we're focusing on here. Ideas are, quite simply, a yen a dozen. You can get ideas from anything--anime, people you know, books, movies, RPGs, the dark recesses of your own mind, whatever. I've done all of these at one point in time. But which is the best kind of doll to make? I don't think there IS a best kind, because it all depends on what interests you. Doing a KiSS set takes a lot of work, and if you're not doing something you love, you'll probably get frustrated or bored and quit halfway through. (Been there done that.) If you like it, do it. Simple as that. No other rules governing concepts here.
Step 2: Design/borrow/scan a base doll. A kisekae doll set revolves around the base doll, so be sure you put a substantial amount of work into it. There are several ways to get a base doll.
Draw the doll by hand and scan it. I've never done this, but a lot of people do. If you can't draw on the computer but you're decent with a pen, this may be the way to go for you. Just be aware you'll have a fair amount of work ahead of you (resizing, cleanup, coloring, etc.).
Draw the doll on the computer. This is what I do 99 percent of the time. In fact, it's KiSS work that helped me develop my computer graphics skills. ^.^,v.. Now I can do fanart on the computer (shameless plug here). And it all started with a little girl called Glamazon!
Copy the figure from a picture. This isn't too hard to do, actually, and a lot of people get very good results from "borrowed" outlines. Just get a full-figure pic of Sailor Whoever, edit out the clothes, redraw a few lines--and voila! This is basically what I did with Tank Girl, although I had to end up redrawing the doll anyway (but I still used Hewlett's picture as a guide).
Please note that I am in no way condoning the outright theft of a base doll or any other art created by another for inclusion in a KiSS set or any other medium! Duplicating a pose is one thing, outright copy-and-paste is theft, pure and simple, even if you modify it afterwards.
Use a template. I have a fair number of personal templates (drawn by me) which I use to keep the size of my dolls consistent, but I always change them around substantially. There are plenty of templates that have been released by artists for general use that are out on the Web. Here are the templates I used for the first two years I was in KiSS, now available for everyone to use freely. Just please put a line somewhere giving me credit, and they're yours!
Okay, now, by whatever means, you have your base doll. There he or she stands, nekkid and staring at you. Now what???
Step 3. Fashions Made Easy™. What does any custom dressmaker do before making a garment? She designs a pattern. That's what you need to do. It's not that hard, and it will help you keep the lines on your clothing pieces consistent. Here's what you do.
Load your base doll into your computer program. Replace every color except the outlines of the body with your background color (most any computer art program has a color replace feature, so use that). Now replace the outline color (black, usually) with a different color that contrasts with the background (I use red or brown most of the time). Save the new image under a different name (if you're doing a doll of Ami-chan, save the new image as amipat.bmp, or .gif, or whatever format you're using). Now you can trace the outlines of the clothing directly over the doll pattern, replace all the red outlines with the background color, and save each piece as a new graphics file until you're ready to make them into cels!
I know, it sounds intimidating. Just try it. I promise, it's a lot easier than it sounds.
Step 4: What to wear, what to wear? What's best? A bunch of different clothes, or similar clothing in different colors? I do both, actually (which means my dolls' wardrobes are usually stuffed full). Mix and match of colors and styles is, in my mind, one of the best and most fun aspects of kisekae. So I do mostly different colors of simple pieces so you can create whole new outfits. (There are only so many ways to draw a T-shirt.) I always include a couple of unique, non-switchable costumes too.
Step 5: Make the cels. I use a combination of WSVC and WCel to make my KiSS cels and palette files. Most of my sets have very limited palettes because it was drummed into my head in the art class from whence I flunked that you only use the colors you need. I can't seem to use more than 64 colors to save my life. >.< But you might need more colors to work with--which leads us neatly to...
Step 6: Plain KiSS, French KiSS, Cherry KiSS...how far should you go? Deciding what level of KiSS to go to can be as intimidating as trying to find or make a base doll. I've done regular KiSS and French KiSS, haven't tried my hand at CKiSS yet. It really depends on how many colors you use and how much animation is required for the concept you need. I use FKiSS most nowadays because I like the effects. I've toyed with FKiSS2, but other than midis I don't really see the need for it with what I do. CKiSS would work great for photographic sets, but that's not what I do, so I don't need true color and the file bloat that accompanies same. My advice to a beginner is to start out with plain ol' regular KiSS, then tinker with the progressive enhancements until you find a place you're comfortable. Never be afraid to experiment! The worst that can happen is that it won't work and you'll have to edit the CNF file again. If you see a set that you like the animation effects on, crack open the CNF file of that set and see how it was done. (Dolls are copyrighted, FKiSS effects, AFAIK, are not.)
Step 7: Writing CNF: The horror, the horror. This is the part I hate the most. No question. I really, really hate writing the CNF file. It's tedious, it's boring, it's fiddly, and I always get something wrong the first few times I try to run it in my KiSS viewer. The layers are almost always messed and I have to go rework them again and again so that the pieces go in front of and behind what they're supposed to. Or I assigned the same number to two different pieces so now they're glued together and I have to go back in, find the two pieces, and give one of them a new number that hasn't been used by ANOTHER piece. Then I end up editing out something I shouldn't, or an extra character jumps in where it doesn't belong, and...ARRRRGH!!!!
Here's a great tip for Windows users that I've found invaluable (and saves A LOT OF TIME writing that blasted CNF file!): go to your DOS prompt, cd\ to the directory where all your CEL files are located, and type the following at the prompt:
DIR *.CEL /B > CELLIST.TXT
This will create a file called cellist.txt containing a list of all your CEL files. This can be pasted into your CNF file, and all you have to do is number and arrange the cels! It cuts my CNF time by at least a third because I don't have to type in all those CEL file names, I don't have to worry about spelling them properly, and I don't leave anything out! ^.^,v..
Step 8: Open 'er up, pilgrim. Open up your .cnf file in your KiSS viewer and make sure all the cels have loaded properly. Then arrange all the clothing and the doll as you'd like them to appear at the beginning of the set. Copy this arrangement in each screen (WKiSS has an option called "Adjust Object" that sets the arrangement of every screen to that of Screen 0). Save the CNF file. Then you can dress the doll in each screen (be sure to save periodically, just to be safe). This is one of the most fun parts for me. I love playing dress-up with the doll! ^.^,v..
Step 9: Zip it up. WinZip users can use LHA by going into their WinZip Options menu and choosing Program Locations. Just type the path of the LHA program into the box beside the "LZH" label, and you'll be able to make LZH files just like any other WinZip archive! LHA.EXE is available at the Big KiSS Tools page.
Step 10: Check it ONE MORE TIME! Once you've LZHed the files, before you delete the cels and CNF from the working directory, load up the new LZH into your KiSS viewer to make absolutely sure everything works like it should.
Step 11: Congratulations! You've just made a KiSS doll! ^.^,v..