How to add or remove face paint or makeup from any NPC [Skyrim SE/AE Tutorial]
How to add or remove face paint or makeup from any NPC [Skyrim SE/AE Tutorial]

This tutorial only applies to existing NPCs, both vanilla and modded ones (not your played character).

There are a lot of awesome NPC replacers and new followers made by the awesome Skyrim modders out there, but sometimes you’d like to change things a bit or spice them up according to your roleplaying, and the mod authors can’t make everyone happy with a thousand variations, so how can you take things in your own hands even if you have almost zero knowledge of modding?

Changing, adding, or removing a face paint or makeup from NPCs is as easy as replacing a single file, if you know what you’re doing.

So today I’ll try my best to explain how to do so in the quickest and seamless way possible.

You only need the Racemenu mod. (But if you want to be more accurate, Nifskope and Gimp may also help).

First of all, all that goes on a NPC’s face, from war paint, face paint, makeup, skin details etc. is stored in a .dds file called “tintmask”.

This file can be found in your game Data folder (Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data) or in the mod folders, following this path: textures > actor > character > facegendata > facetint > skyrim.esm – if the NPC is one of the vanilla, or [PluginName].esp if it’s a modded one.

The name of the file will be the same as the .nif file that contains the head mesh (and can be found here: meshes > actor > character > facegendata > facegeom > skyrim.esm – if the NPC is one of the vanilla, or [PluginName].esp if it’s a modded one ).

You can open the .dds with Gimp, IrfanView, or similar software to see what it looks like:

If you replace the tintmask with a new one, the new face paint will appear in game without any issue. It’s really that easy!

But how do you create a new face paint with your custom overlays?

The quickest and easiest:

If you have a preset of the NPC that you want to change (a .jslot file for Racemenu) – many mod authors also provide the character presets, or you can kindly ask 😀

In this case just load the preset in Racemenu. Add, remove, change colors, and personalize all the makeup you want from the Makeup tab. (You can find many tattoos, overlays, and makeup on modding sites – DomainWolf has a lot of them for example).

Once you are done, go to the Sculpt tab and click “Export Head”. This will create a couple of files in the CharGen folder (path: Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data > SKSE > Plugins > CharGen): a .nif and a .dds.

You don’t need the .nif, just the .dds, aka the tintmask.

Take that file and rename it to the NPC’s tintmask name, go to the facetint > [PluginName] folder, replace the .dds with your own, and you’re done. Now you can see your pretty NPC’s face 😀

If you’re good with digital painting you can even try to make your own version using a pre-existing tintmask as guideline, but I haven’t tried that one yet :P.

– If you don’t have a preset for the NPC.

This might require a bit more reverse engineering on your part, but it’s totally doable.

You should have the NPC’s head in the mod folders (the .nif file we talked about before), so you can import it into the Racemenu.

But before doing so you have to set things up: define the race, sex, and weight of the NPC, then give it the right skin color (very important!), brows, and beard if any, and only then you can import the head mesh.

There are ways to find out all this info, for example in the character description, or opening the .nif file with Nifskope to find out the name of the face parts (even SSEEdit and the CreationKit can give you these information) or just follow your eyes and try to guess.

When you set all those things you can go to the Sculpt tab and import the .nif file of your NPC (to appear in the list the file should be copied in Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data > SKSE > Plugins > CharGen).

If something is not right you can still go back and change it, and then reimport the head.

It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, the tintmask won’t be that different if you get the wrong brows. The most important thing is to get the same skin tone or you’ll notice a slight neck seam or change of color when you apply the new file.

So once you have gotten your character appearance in Racemenu, go on with your customization and follow the procedure as before, exporting the head and replacing the .dds file.

Copying the tintmask of another NPC

What if you saw a gorgeous paint on an NPC and you want your own to have that too?

With a little luck you can take the .dds file from the NPC you like and paste it over the other you want to change. But of course be aware that this would work only if the two NPCs have the same sex and skin color or you might have some mismatching.

But since it’s your own customization, don’t be shy, go wild and have fun 😀

PS: please remember to always respect the work of other modders and check their permissions if you’d like to share online your changes, and give proper credit where credit is due.

As for me, feel free to follow this tips with any of my NPC replacers and followers, I don’t mind as long as you do it for free and credit me for the original mod if you intend to post it online 🙂

By Hà Phương

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