Create Team Fortress 2 Sprays with Transparency

Here's a screen shot of the spray we will make in the tutorial. You can download the Pyro Crossing spray here.


Simply put, sprays allow you to tag custom graphics on game surfaces for everyone to see. The only real limitation is your imagination. This tutorial will show you how to create quality Team Fortress 2 Sprays with transparency using a graphic editing program and VTFEdit. More specifically, I'll show you how to create a Pyro Crossing Sign since it will cover what you need to learn plus it can be used as a template for other signs.

Resources Needed:

  • An idea for a spray.
  • A graphic editing program. (ex. Photoshop or Gimp)
  • VTFEdit

Additional Resources:

Step 1: The Spray Idea

Spray ideas can come from anywhere but I prefer to relate them to the game. Team Fortress 2 has a hilarious quality to it that can inspire fun ideas. An excellent topic to tackle is your favorite or least favorite class in Team Fortress 2. Download the official Team Fortress 2 fonts to help blend your spray into the game. We will create the Pyro Crossing Sign below: ( Screen Shot of the Spray )

Pyro Crossing Preview

Step 2: Preparation & Document Setup

Open your graphic editing program. I'll be using Photoshop for this tutorial. Create a new Image with square dimensions.
Recommended: 256x256
Background Color: #666666 (Doesn't really matter, this layer will go transparent we save it. The color helps to see what your transparency looks like.)

Step 3: Creating the Sign Base.

Change your foreground color to the color you want for you sign. I choose this yellow; #FFCC00.
Select the custom shape tool. Select a street sign shape from the available shapes. While holding down shift to maintain the aspect ratio, click and drag the shape on the stage.

To create the inner black line, duplicate the current shape and resize it.
Layer > Duplicate Layer...

With the duplicated shape selected, reduce its size to 90%.
Edit > Transform > Scale
Set W: and H: to 90%

To create the black border, apply the following Blending Options to the shape.
Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options... (or Right Click Layer and select Blending Options)

Now click the original sign shape. We are going to make it look a bit more 3d using Blending Options.
Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options... (or Right Click Layer and select Blending Options)

Drop Shadow Settings:

Stroke Settings:

Here is what we have so far:

You might want to save your progress so you can come back to this blank sign and create new ones.

Step 4: Customize the Sign with Text and Graphics.

This is where it's up to you to use your head and come up with an idea. Since we are creating a sign, you might search on Google for sign ideas. I saw a crossing sign and thought a Pyro X-ing Sign would be funny. So, I grabbed a screen shot of a Pyro running, traced it using the Pen Tool in Photoshop and added text using the Team Fortress 2 Fonts. If you don't know how to use the pen tool and want to use it, I wrote this tutorial a while back that will teach you the essentials. The pyro trace was just a matter of click, click, click... nothing fancy.
Here's my sign:

Step 5: Adding Finishing Touches.

Now take a step back from your work and think about what else might make it just a little bit better. I usually add burn marks to Pyro Sprays and grunge up the sign since after all it is in the middle of a battle. Search around on Deviant Art for free Photoshop brushes and use them to add finishing touches.

Step 6: Defining Transparent Area.

Unless your spray is a square poster, you usually want parts of it to be transparent to allow whatever it is sprayed on to show through in the game. It helps to make your spray look like it is part of the game. In this case, we want everything that isn't our sign to be transparent.

Ctrl + Click the original Sign Layer to select it's shape. Since we added a 1px border to this sign, we need to expand this selection by 1px.
Select > Modify > Expand...
Enter: 1 px.

Now click the Channels Tab and click New Channel.

Keep in mind:

  • White = Visible
  • Black = Fully Transparent
  • Shades of Gray = Partial Transparency


We want the sign to be solid, so fill the selection with White using the Paint Bucket Tool. Everything outside of the sign shape should be black a.k.a. fully transparent. We want our drop shadow to be partially transparent, so select the Selection Tool and click and drag the sign selection down about 2 pixels.
Fill the area where the shadow is with gray. I used #666666.

Make all the channels visible by toggling the visible option on each channel and switch back to your Layers tab. Everything in red will be transparent in the Team Fortress 2.

Turn off the visibility of the Background Layer and save your spray as a Targa file (.TGA)
File > Save As...

Make sure the Alpha Channels option is selected and save your file.

Step 7: Using VTFEdit to convert your spray to a .vtf

Note: You should be able to import the .tga file directly into the game but I find using VTFEdit to be more reliable.

Download VTFEdit and install. Open the program and import your .tga file.
File > Import

I use the following settings for importing a .tga file. They work for me.

You should see your spray in VTFEdit now, the transparent areas will be whatever color you used for the background.

Important! Under the Flags list, check off "no mipmap" and "no level of detail". This will allow your sprays to appear in max quality even when running the game on low settings.

Now save your spray as a .vtf.
File > Save As...

I also like to create the .vmt file for it as well.
Tools > Create VMT

Step 8: Importing the spray into Team Fortress 2.

1. Browse to C:/Program Files/Steam/steamapps//team fortress 2/tf/materials/VGUI/logos/

Note: is whatever your steam login is.
If you can't find the folders 'VGUI' or 'logos' in the 'materials' folder, simply create them. Make sure the 'logos' folder is inside the 'VGUI' folder.

2. Put the .vtf and .vmt files for the spray into the folder. That's it.

Step 9: Using the Spray in Team Fortress 2

1. Launch Team Fortress 2.
2. Click Options > Multiplayer and select the desired spray from the drop down list.

Note: If you don't see the spray in the drop down then double check that the 2 spray files were put into the correct folder.

3. Join a server, walk up to a wall and press 't'. BAM! Your spray should be staring you in the face.

Note: If you change the spray mid-game, you have to wait until the server changes maps for the new spray to take affect. You could also disconnect and log back in.

Conclusion of making sprays for Team Fortress 2.

I hope you learned a thing or two and looking forward to seeing more sprays for Team Fortress 2. Keep a few exclusive ones for yourself and share the rest with fellow gamers on Who knows, you might come across someone using your spray in the game.

Here's a screen shot of the spray from the tutorial in Team Fortress 2. You can download the Pyro Crossing spray here.

Click to see full size.

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