Creating Scars

From Bonfire by Hogswild Prasetto
Erich, a character with ritual scars inspired by Eric Killmonger from Black Panther.

Scars, like tattoos, are image files overlaid on your orc character. They don't apply color to your orc's skin, though. They create texture on your orc's skin.

The scar type this is reproducing is keloid scars. They often do not differ much in color from the surrounding skin, so this look is achieved purely by creating texture.

Getting Started

Familiarize yourself with Creating Tattoos. The tools you use to create scars are the same. The techniques you use to apply scars are the same. But scars are much more subtle, and you have a much more restricted tool set in creating them. Depending on the scars you're designing, you may want to combine them with translucent tattoos to "tint" the scars and give them a more naturalistic appearance.

When exporting your scar files, you have the option to (and should) use "8-bit file" or "8-bit PNG." Scars do not benefit from "alpha channels" that carry transparency information like tattoos do. 8-bit PNG will make your character file smaller, and that's valuable in online play.

Scar inspirations

Scars on the human body take two forms: raised (hypertrophic and keloid) scars and sunken (atrophic) scars. There is no reason to not expect orcs to scar in the same way.

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Keloid (hypertrophic) scarring. Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hypertrophic scars take the form of "bumps" on the surface of the skin. Their edges and texture are quite rounded because they're caused by an over-production of collagen while the wound is healing. The ritual scars on Eric Killmonger in Black Panther are hypertrophic scars.

Atrophic facial scarring. John Atherton, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Atrophic scars take the form of "valleys" on the surface of the skin. They can have distinct and more sharp-looking edges than hypertrophic scars.

Both atrophic and hypertrophic scars can form naturally, or can be intentionally encouraged by a number of techniques.

Figure out what story you're telling. Does your character come from a clan where ritual scarring is practiced? Does he have majestic battle scars? That's going to guide your design process.

Creating your scar

Tattoo files can have any color you can paint. Scar files are grayscale. Black is deepest. White is highest. The grays in between can create different heights in between.

To create sunken atrophic scars, you're going to want to start with a white background and create your scar image on it in black.

To create raised hypertrophic scars, you're going to want to start with a black background and create your scar image on it in white.

That sounds simple until the background covers up your TatGuide template layer.

To avoid this problem, you need to create your scar in (at least) 2 layers. Create a "Scar Background" layer on top of your TatGuide layout layer. Fill it with your background white or black. Then hide it or make it translucent so you can see the layout template.

If you're creating raised scars, you may want to also create a throw-away "helper" layer with a translucent red or blue background. That can make it easier to see the white scars you're laying out on the template. White on gray isn't always that easy to see.

It is possible to mix raised and sunken scars in one design. You can always start with a gray background and just be satisfied with only having half the depth/height for each type. If you want more texture and definition, you'll have to create a background with black and white sections under the different types of scars, and a gentle gradient connecting the areas.

Giving your scar natural edges

Scars rarely have purely vertical edges.

After you've finished your layout, hide your layout template layer (and helper layer if you used one) and show your background layer. You should be able to see a pretty stark black and white scar image. Using the blur tools on your scar image layer can soften the edges a little. Photoshop's "Gaussian Blur" tool gives you very precise control over how much blur you're adding.

Atrophic scars may just need a pixel or two of blur one time to create an edge that's not too sharp.

To create the "rounded" bumpy look of hypertrophic scars, repeat a small blur over and over to blur the edges of your scar more without blurring the center.


This is going to be a less detailed how-to than the how-to in Creating Tattoos. It's really just a gallery of sample images. Background layers are given meaningful layer names, but the actual scar design layers are not.

Scars are applied using the scar command in the console. It works the same way the tattoo command works in the console.

Hypertrophic scar samples

This hypertrophic scar is a simple design that lends itself to the rounded shape real hypertrophic scars take on.

Atrophic scar samples

This atrophic scar design is a large, deep scar. It is most prominent and clear when a red tint layer is applied in the scarred area.