Creating Tattoos

From Bonfire by Hogswild Prasetto
The "TatGuide" file is a 4000 x 4000 pixel PNG image with a transparent background. It shows nearly all the skin regions you can apply tattoos on.

Tattoos are image files that are applied over your orc character. Image editing capabilities are not included in Bonfire. You will need your own image editing program to create your tattoo files.

Getting Started

You could just download tattoos from the Bonfire-orc repository, sure. If you do you still need to know where to store the files and how to use the console to load them. But what you really want is to learn to create your own tattoos...

The Tattoos UI introduced in Bonfire 0.45.

Version 0.45 of Bonfire introduces a new UI for applying tattoos. You may access this UI by visiting and speaking with Kult, or by entering the tatui command in the console.

To start creating tattoos, open the console by pressing the <F1> key and enter the tatui command. From the Tattoo UI, use the "Folder" option to create/open the tattoos folder and create the TatGuide.png template file.

If you have not yet updated to version 0.45, you will still have to use the tatguide console command.

  • On Windows, the tattoos folder is %AppData%\LocalLow\Prasetto\Bonfire\Tattoos
  • On MacOS, the tattoos folder is $HOME/Library/ApplicationSupport/unity.Prasetto.Bonfire/Tattoos
Error creating thumbnail: File with dimensions greater than 12.5 MP
"BlackWolfBattle2" is a completed tattoo image. Note that the "TatGuide" image content is not included in the finished tattoo.
Celtic-style tattoos applied to "Gunnar." It's not terribly obvious in this image, but body hair does obscure tattoos. Always consider body hair in tattoo placement and design.
A seamless back tattoo applied to "Gunnar." Tattoos like this are difficult, because the torso template has a seam at the center back that is not a straight line. Finesse is required to match the seam precisely.

Creating your Tattoo

You will need a raster image (photo) editing program and some familiarity with it to create your own tattoo. Common image editing programs include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photo Paint, and GIMP. There are many other photo editing programs available at different prices. If you're already familiar with vector editing tools (like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw) you can use those tools, but the learning curve is a little higher.

There are two important features your image editing program needs to help you create tattoos:

  • Export as PNG
  • Layers

"Export as PNG" is important because tattoo files use the PNG file format. Attempting to apply other file formats as tattoos will fail.

"Layers" are just what the word implies: sections of image stacked on top of other sections of image. Adobe's help library does a pretty good job of explaining how layers work. Any good photo editing program will support layers in some way.

Layers let you build your tattoo image on top of the TatGuide content, and then just hide the guide layer when it's time to export your tattoo. Layers let you build your tattoo image in sections, protecting the work you're satisfied with from damage you may inadvertently cause. Learn to use layers well, and you can easily fine-tune your tattoos and save yourself from using "undo" a lot more than you need to.

Graphics editor resources

Many of these programs are very powerful. You're going to want to find places to get training on them.

  • There are a lot of YouTube channels where people offer video training on graphics program features. Some are good. Some are not.
  • is Microsoft's online training division. It offers training by industry-leading instructors. It's expensive, but there are ways to get free access. Many USA public libraries offer free access to their patrons. Many colleges and universities offer LinkedIn Learning (the business rebranding) to their students, faculty and staff. Some businesses also offer LinkedIn Learning to their employees as a professional development service.

Finding training on the image editor you're using will make the concepts described in this article much easier to implement.

The Basics (using Photoshop)

The examples here use Adobe Photoshop, but the concepts can be translated to any layers-based image editing program.

Image by Hüseyin Oylumlu from Pixabay

For this example, we will place a tattoo image on an orc's left pectoral muscle. We'll use this axe image by Hüseyin Oylumlu released under Pixabay's free for commercial use, no attribution required license, as our sample tattoo.

If you're building your tattoo from image files you have collected from other sources, you will probably have to do some clean-up on them. PNG image files might be ready to use. JPEG images won't be ready to use because they don't support/include transparency.

The most common thing you'll have to do is remove the background. The axe image file is a JPEG image, and it has a white background. White backgrounds won't just disappear magically. They will show up on your orc as white. Find a YouTube tutorial on how to remove the background of an image using your image editing program.

The Photoshop "Layers" panel after loading TatGuide.png.

Open the TatGuide.png image in Photoshop. Because it's a PNG file, the image will be loaded into "Layer 1" in Photoshop. Use the "Save As" command to resave the file as type "Photoshop (*.PSD, *.PDD, *.PSDT)" so you don't have to do this later.

In the Layers panel, click on "Layer 1" to select it. If you double-click on the words "Layer 1" you can rename the layer to something like "Layout Template." renaming layers is a good way to keep track of what is on them. Also click the "lock" icon to lock the layer. You're not going to be editing this layer, and locking the layer is a good way to make sure you don't do it by accident.

The tattoo file with the axe pasted on it, and the pointer showing where to find/select the "move" tool. Note in the lower right that there are two layers now. "Layout Template" is the renamed tatguide image content. The new "Layer 1" is the axe.

Copy your cleaned-up image and paste it into your tattoo document. It will paste into a new layer automatically, and it will appear at the middle of your document.

The axe moved and rotated into position on the left pec.

Use the "move" tool to move the axe into position. You can also rotate and scale the pasted image using the control points at the sides and corners of the image box.

The grid-lines on the template image are very valuable. They give you an idea of how the flat tattoo image will be stretched and distorted to wrap on a 3-dimensional orc body.

Because we're placing the axe on a relatively large, flat area of our orc's body, it probably won't distort very much. With experimentation you will learn where to place images so they won't distort. With practice you will learn how to warp images so they place over curves without being badly distorted.

The placement shown on the right should put the axe on the left pec, with the handle relatively horizontal, and without any of the blade being trapped between the pecs. Note the "should." The only way to confirm this is to export the image and apply it to your orc.

Before exporting, you will need to click the "eye" icon on your "Layout Template" layer. That will hide the layer, and you'll just see the axe floating on a sea of transparent checkerboard.

After you've hidden the "Layout Template" layer, go to the "File" menu and select "Export" -> "Quick Export as PNG" to save your tattoo. Save this file to the tattoo folder as SampleAxe.png.

Applying the tattoo

Axe tattoo at 100% opacity.

If you have updated to Bonfire 0.45, you can use the Tattoos UI to apply your tattoo. Again, you can access the new UI by visiting and talking with Kult or by entering tatui on the console command line. Your tattoo file should appear in the UI's file list. Select it, and click the "Tattoo" option.

If you have not updated, open the console by pressing <F1> and then enter tattoo SampleAxe in the command line.

The axe is there, but it looks pretty pasted on. It also has bad white edges because the background removal was quick and sloppy, but we're not worrying about that here.

Making the tattoo look more real

Axe tattoo at 90% opacity

Real tattoo ink rests just under the skin, and the colors blend with the person's skin tone. Orcs are no different, there are just a lot more skin tones available.

Remove the tattoo from your orc by finding it in your inventory. Right-click it to "unequip" it and drag the tattoo out of inventory to discard it.

Go back to Photoshop and the "layers" panel and click on your layer. Change the "Opacity" setting to 90% and re-export your tattoo into the same file name. Then re-apply it using the same process.

The edges are still ugly in the example because they show a bit of white from background parts that weren't removed completely, but it looks less like a sticker slapped on your orc.

90% opacity is just a starting point. Depending on your design and your character's skin color, you may want to adjust the opacity further.

Matching designs across seams

A slice and rearrange of the torso section of the tattoo template to show the relationship of the back seam

The way the tattoo layout breaks up and flattens your character's body makes some tattoo designs tricky.

You can choose to make a design that doesn't actually cross seams, like the "BlackWolfBattle2" design at the top of this page. Designs like that can still look very complete.

Designing across seams? Designs that need to match up across seams can be very fiddly. Images like the tree on Gunnar's back in the samples above need to be:

  • Split into 2 sections to lay out on both halves of the back
  • Stretched and distorted to form to edges that aren't straight lines
  • Carefully lined up so the lines all match up
Gunnar with the layout layer included in the tattoo export, showing the grid lines. Yes, it looks pretty silly. It's still useful.

One of the things that can help you is a copy of the template, but with the torso section cut and rearranged to show how the back seam comes together. You can lay out your design on this copy to start. Copy and rearrange any body parts in the template you need to help you create your layout better. When you're done, shift and rotate your tattoo sections to line up on the master layout template.

As you can see in the rearranged template included here, the back seam is not a straight line. It's curved. If you have a complicated design to match up, stretching and distorting it to get a clean match is going to be fussy work. If you have simple design in solid colors, you can extend (bleed) the design off each the edge of the template and let the overlap take care of matching the curve. Don't just split your design in half. Duplicate it and make each side a little wider than half.

For difficult to line up designs, you can include the layout layer when exporting and testing your tattoos. Yeah, the color is going to be weird. But sometimes you need to see how the seams match up, and how the registration lines lay on a body, to position your tattoo for the best effect. Just remember to do your color/transparency adjustment exports with the layout layer off.