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Gfx2 To Commodore
by Jailbird/Booze Design

Unfortunately, I often live without a real C64 near to me. And in the same time I get requests to do this, pixel that, hurry up, and it happens that the only computer I can turn on is a lame old 486. But after all, that's fine, as I can search the net any time and download small and robust (pixel) graphics program, which runs just fine even on my pal's 386/8MB laptop, equipped with DOS.

How to set up a "PC2C64 handpixelling graphics studio"?

Four things you'll need:
- two C64 palettes (one for pixelling which is suited for your needs and the other one for remapping and using it in the converter)
- GFX2 with small grid and brush tweaking
- a PC2C64 graphics converter (preferably one that uses a 1:1 conversion and smart error/color clash handling, although I'm using a non-public converter where I don't need to change my color values, still, KONV1 could be a good choice for you, I'll refer to it in this article)
Oh yeah, the fifth thing: a PC.

Step-by-step preparations:
Rip the ugly (taken from the first generation of C64 emulators) palette KONV1 is using and save it to a safe place. You'll need that for "remapping" your personal color values to the one KONV1 is using with a single click. Next question, how to rip the palette? Read on.

1. Resize a Vallejo to 320x200. Save it as a 256 colors "picture.BMP".
2. Put it to the root of "konv1.exe" and enter the following instruction to the command line: "konv1 picture.BMP".
3. Convert it to any C64 format that has a true 16 colors palette, f.e. "Adv. Art Studio". There's no need to bug with this as the only thing you'll need is the 16 colors palette. After converting, KONV1 will make a file named "convert.bmp", load it into GFX2 later and you'll see your basic palette (which you'll use for converting). Rather rename it to "konv1pal.bmp" to be sure you won't mess it up.
4. Configure the basics of GFX2 ("gfx2.ini"), set up keyboard shortcuts (very handy stuff!), and run the program.
5. Load in the default KONV1 palette and set it to the values you prefer and how you see the colors of Commodore 64 (I definitely don't see them in the KONV1 way, unless I turn the contrast/colour settings to maximum on my C64's monitor or TV set. There is a great palette made by Pepto, also used by the latest CCS64 configurations and, an ALT-F1 in CCS64 will make the same palette-map as KONV1 but with the correct color values of Pepto's palette). Note that if your PC's monitor is set to too bright or dark, the colors will not look natural C64ish anyhow. A custom Win98 configuration has Adobe Gamma in the Control Panel to help setting your monitor's correct gamma values, that'll probably help a lot.
6. In case it's not obvious, don't change the colour order of the palette, only the RGB values.

At this moment, you have a PC pixelling program running with a custom C64's palette. Big deal, you might say. OK, but our problem is how to pixel low-res (160x200), and how to convert it to C64 without too much losses while the converter is correcting the color bugs?

After you set the resolution to 320x200, at that point you're free to pixel IFLI or Interlaced Multi-Color (MCI, Drazlace type of pictures). Naturally, you don't have to halve the x resolution to pixel multi color (as you'd get fucked up proportions afterwards), but to vertically double a 1x1 pixel brush to 2x1 and set the grid right. Of course, GFX2 has no in-built color-clash routine, you'll have to take care about correcting colour-bugs on your own, after the conversion.

Multi-color/low-res (160x200) pixelling:
1. Paintbrush menu (F4): brush 2x1 (third vertical row, first button)
2. Grid menu (Shift+G): set the grid values to x: 2, y: 1, dx: 0, dy: 0
3. You HAVE TO set the freehand drawing mode to discontinuous (Shift+D), as otherwise you might paint half-pixels where you don't intend to.

High-res pixelling of any kind:
Leave the settings as is, change the palette only.

There are some great features of GFX2 that could easily make a good pixeller from a rookie, but let me please jump over those setting explanations, if you're a pro, you will find them anyway. ;) If you have an Amiga on stock, you can try with similar settings in Brilliance, Cloanto's PPaint or Deluxe Paint. Brilliance could be used for some really interesting things, very useable for C64 pixelling, but they need annoying setups, Deluxe Paint (and the PC version) works quite similar to GFX2, while I am in the middle of checking out all the functions of PPaint, however I assume it could be used in the same way as GFX2. Basically if you have a fast P2, UAE equipped with Brilliance is definitely the best choice. Note that I'm writing about pixelling utilities, not filter wonderlands as Photoshop. In this case, I try to explain how to pixel in similar way as you'd do on C64.

So, you finished your first picture in GFX2 that you'd now like to port to C64. What to do?

Remember the KONV1 palette? GFX2 supports two pages to paint. Turn to the spare page with TAB and load the "konv1pal.bmp" into it. Now you have two pages with two different C64 palettes: your custom palette and KONV1's default palette. With a left click on the spare page button (the button with two blank papers), you'll be able to copy Konv1's default palette over your custom palette (Palette Only). What's that good for? To make KONV1 "think" it's using a default palette and leave every pixel where *YOU* originally put it, unless it's violating a 8x8(hi-res)/4x8(low-res) area. In that case, the converter will correct the color bug depending on the nearest color or background, or how you set it yourself.

Command line instruction:
konv1 mypic.bmp (your picture with the KONV1 default palette)

Convert the picture to your desired C64 program, and the only thing left is to correct the color clashes (if there are any) in your favourite emulator.

I am aware that this is not the only way of pixelling on the PC, at the moment I myself rarely use *JUST* GFX2 anymore and used KONV1 just for testing purposes and for this tutorial. GFX2 with KONV1 combination works fine on most of the resolutions of C64 (tested hi-res modes: raw (2c/8x8), Interlaced Multi-Color (3+1c/8x8), IFLI (theoretically 16c/8x8), tested lo-res modes: raw (3+1c/4x8), FLI (theoretically 16c/4x8)). If you have further questions, don't ask me, rather explore - that's the best way to learn.

Related downloads:
KONV1: (?)
Pepto's palette for GFX2:

Thanks to:
- creator of KONV1, Soci of Singular (KONV1 is a cardware, if you use it, send a postcard to Soci! :))
- creators of GFX2, Robinson and X-Man of Sunset Design
- last but not least, people who kept bugging me to write this tutorial. :)


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