Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries is a battlemech piloting simulation and part of the Mechwarrior and Battletech universe unleashed by FASA Studios. In April 2010, MekTek received permission from Microsoft to release the game for free using their MekMatch torrenting program. Now that MekTek has refocused its energies on Mechwarrior Online, it is up to the community to keep the classic mech piloting tradition alive. This group will also serve as a platform for downloading new content created by the community, including new maps and mech decals, some of which have been hosted by other enthusiast sites.

Post tutorial Report RSS How To Make Your Own Decals

A tutorial on how to make your own custom decals! This is a tutorial in a condensed format based off the Jade Falcon tutorial which is no longer available, and covers the main points.

Posted by on - Intermediate Textures

Want to make your own custom decal for Mechwarrior 4? Follow these steps!

When making your own decal, you can convert just about any existing image into a decal to post to the side of your mech! Just remember that the decal must:

-be 64x64 pixels
-saved into .tga format
-no more than 5kb large

When you make a decal, you can have it either as a simple box without transparency (such as if you were going to convert a flag into a decal), or with transparency to account for curved edges and shapes.

Transparency will require Gimp. Otherwise, edits can be done in Photoshop. Although Gimp is free.


Making Custom Decals

Find a Picture or Make One

Whether you make a picture or find one, keep in mind that the final image will be 64x64 pixels or smaller, so something with a lot of details will be unsuitable.


Canvas Size Box

In Photoshop, go to Image > Canvas Size >
-going to Image size and setting your dimensions to 64x64 also works

  • Choose pixels from the drop down list
  • Changed the largest number to the smallest
  • Choose the center box to keep the image centered in the crop. You can also choose to have it center on one of the sides.


Canvas Size Box

In Gimp 2, go to Image> Canvas Size>

  • Unlink the chain symbol
  • Choose 'pixels'
  • Resize the largest number to the smallest one
  • In the large box area, center the image where you want it

Now I need to resize it to 64x64 pixesls.


  • In Photoshop 6, I go to Image> Image Size> and change the width and height values to '64' pixels. Press 'OK'.


  • In Gimp 2, I go to Image> Scale Image> and change the width and height values to '64' pixels. Press 'Scale'.

Next I'll need to convert it to a format the game will recognize.

Converting the Image

There are a couple of rules all decals need to conform to for the game to recognize them.

  • The file size for the image must be smaller than 5KB.
  • The format for the images must be .tga (targa)


First I'll prep my image to be as small as possible. Here's a couple of things you can do in Photoshop 6:

  • Convert the image to index mode. This will limit the number of colors used to 256
    • In Photoshop 6, go to Image>Mode> and choose 'Index Color'

This step is unnecessary in Gimp 2.

Next, save the image as a .tga image.


Next I need to save it as a targa.

  • In Photoshop, go to File>Save As>
    • Enter a file name. I chose 'crossbones'
    • Chose the 'Targa' (.tga) file type
    • Press 'Save'

save as .tga

In Gimp 2, go to File>Save As>

  • Enter a file name. I chose 'crossbones'
  • Under 'Select File Type' choose 'TarGA'
  • Press 'Save"
  • Check the box for RLE compression and leave the origin as bottom left

Now I can check to make sure my file size is within tolerance. I'll navigate to where I saved my image, right click it, and choose 'Properties' at the bottom.

The next step is to import the decal into MechWarrior4.

Importing the Image to MechWarrior 4

Navigate to the root directory of your MW4 installation. From there go to "\Content\Textures\customdecals". This is where you should move your .tga file. After you put your image there, you should check to make sure it works in the game.
-if the folder "customdecals" doesn't exist, simply create it

Check the Decal in the Game

Start your game and go to 'Options' and click the 'Multiplayer' tab. Your custom decal should be the one of the last decals that you can select.

Once you select your decal, go back to the main menu and go to the Mech Lab or into the game to see if it works.

That's it for making basic decals.

Transparent Decals

Maybe you're not happy with the black or white box around your image or you would rather not have a square decal but want a circle one instead. That's possible if you can edit the alpha channel of an image. The downside to transparent is that though they are still constrained to 5KB, they have more information. So something has to be sacrificed to make these decals work in game. Either the image must be shrunk down farther or the number colors used by be decreased. Either way the picture will be even less detailed.

Requirements for Transparent Decals to Work

  • File size must be 5KB or smaller
  • File type must be .tga (Targa)
  • Color mode must remain RGB. Index color mode won't retain the alpha channel.

How Alpha Channels Work

  • The Alpha Channel is another channel in addition to the Red, Green, and Blue Channels.
  • The Alpha Channel uses shades of black and white to determine how much of the image will be visible.
    • An area of the channel that is black will not be seen in a decal while areas that are white will be visible.
    • An area covered by 50% grey will be 50% transparent in your decal.
      • This is useful to know if you want the decal to blend more seamlessly onto your mech. Usually I will use an 80% shade of grey for my decals.

Prepping the Image

Start with your original image.

The first thing I will do is delete the area of the image I don't want to be visible.

Photoshop In Photoshop, the magic want set to a tolerance of 0-5 works well.

  1. Use the wand to select the unwanted areas and press delete twice.

· Make sure the layer you are working isn't locked. If it is, duplicate it to a new layer and delete the locked layer.


  1. Go to Layer > Transparency > and select 'Add Alpha Channel'

Now I want to flatten my image to one layer so it's easier to work with.


  1. In photoshop, the easiest way for me to do this is to create a new transparent layer below my current one, then merge it down. Go to Layer>Merge Down. *Using Layer>Flatten Image will fill in my background with white which is something I don't want.
  2. Now I can use my magic want to easily select my image by clicking the empty area, then inverting my selection by going to Select>Inverse.


  1. In Gimp, simply go to Layer> and choose 'Merge Down' until you only have one layer left

Now I can easily create my Alpha Channel.


Layers Window

In photoshop, I go to the channels window by going to Window>Show Channels. I now see four channels: RGB, Red, Green, and Blue.
-remember, WHITE is what will be VISIBLE

  1. Create a new channel by clicking 'Create New Channel' at the bottom of that window. That gives me a black square with an outline.
  2. I want to fill that area with white so it will be visible in my decal. Go to Edit>Fill and use White.
  3. If you want to blend it to let some of the dirt and paneling of the mech show through, make a color that is 80% grey and fill the image with the paintbucket.
  4. After you fill it, you can deselect the image.


Layers Window

  1. In Gimp, right click on your layer and choose 'Add Layer Mask'. Choose 'Transfer Layer's Alpha Channel' and press 'Add'.
  2. If you want to blend it, select your skull (Fuzzy wand/Invert) and use the paintbucket with a color of 80% grey and fill the skull and crossbones with the color. You should see the grid behind it slightly show through.
  3. Once you are done, right click on the layer and choose 'Apply Layer Mask'.

Adding the Alpha Channel

The only step left now is to re-size the image. You are left with two options; You can choose to make it a 32x32 image and be done with it, or you can go an extra step and make it a 64x64 decal with transparency.

Resizing Your Transparent Decal

32x32 Decal

  1. In photoshop, go to Window>Show Layers and select your layer.
    1. Resize your image by going to Image>Image Size. Change the width and height fields to 32 and press OK.
    2. After resizing, I would suggest creating a completely black layer under your image layer to ensure there isn't any white spots on the edge of your transparencies. That is completely optional though and usually not necessary.
  2. Save as a .tga and select 32 bits/pixel. Anything less won't retain the alpha channel.

64x64 Decal

  1. To create a 64x64 decal with transparency, you will need to take an extra step using Gimp [See top of this page for a link].
    1. First re-size your image to 64x64 and save it as a .tga file.
    2. Then open your .tga in Gimp. You should see the transparent area as being a tinted checkered pattern.
    3. Go to Image>Mode and choose 'Index'. In the window that pops up, change the number colors to the minimum you think will be acceptable for your decal. The fewer colors you use, the smaller your end file will be. *Change the Image back to RGB Mode!!! Image>Mode> Choose 'RGB'. The Decal won't work if it's left in index mode.
    4. Go to Color>Posterize. A slider with a number going from 1 to 255 should appear. This will fine tune the number of colors you use from the previous step. Keep decreasing the number of colors until your file is smaller than 5kb. To keep your file size under 5KB, you will have to use 16 colors or less, and possibly even fewer than that.
    5. After you press ok, to to 'Save As' and overwrite your file. A window allowing you to use RLE compression should appear, press Yes and save. Check your file size.

You may find that using a pencil tool and editing the image down to the pixel will help you preserve detail and quality by "trading" colors between the pixels. Fewer different colors means smaller size.

If it's under 5KB, transfer it to your 'customdecals' folder and try it out.

Things that will affect file size

  • Alpha Channel containing more than one color - No gradients from black to white!
  • Colors - Try to use as few colors as you can in your decal.
    • Decrease the number of colors in your decal by going to Image>Mode> Choosing 'Index' and changing the number of colors there. Start with 16 colors and whittle the colors down as much as you can while keeping the image clear. Then change it back to RGB mode (Image>Mode>RGB).
    • You can further decrease the number of colors after that step by going to Color> and choosing Posterize. Keep doing that until the file size is below 5kb.

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