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Since this is the final chapter in the SkinStudio 6 tutorial, we thought we should cover some "tips and tricks" and anything else we have left off during the series.  The best way to start this out is to cover sub-styles, which we have briefly talked about in the last two chapters. 

There are several reasons on why you might want to create a sub-style.

  1. XP & Vista specific skins.  To make sure your skin is compatible with both Vista and XP, the recommended course is to create a sub-style for each.  That way you can ensure the skin has specific parts that work with each OS.

  2. Different color schemes.  You can create a skin with variations of colors to appeal to a bigger audience.

  3. Skin Variations. You can also make skin variations like one sub-style with a large title bar, and another with a smaller.  There are many different way you can alter your skins and have different sub-styles for them.

To create and/or manage your sub-styles, select sub-style management in the SkinStudio file menu.

In this window you can add, rename, or delete a sub-style.  When adding a new sub-style you will be prompted to enter a name for it.  Remember to name your sub-style accordingly so it reflects what the sub-style is.  I'm going to make a separate style for Windows XP, so I will put an "XP" with the name.

As you see in the screenshot above, my skin in the WindowBlinds configuration now has two sub-styles, one for XP and one for Vista.  When you go back to working in SkinStudio, you can switch the sub-style you want to work on by selecting "switch sub-style" in the tools menu. 

Opening the Background section in SkinStudio will give you a couple of options to change the background of Explorer windows, and include wallpapers with your skin. 

When changing the Explorer background, keep in mind that the image used will be tiled.  You can change both the active and inactive explorer backgrounds. 

Nothing compliments a skin more than a matching wallpaper.  If you create a wallpaper(s) for your skin, you can include them with your skin.  You can also set the option so that a wallpaper can be applied when a user applies your skin, if they have that option enabled in WindowBlinds.


Another feature only available in the Pro version of SkinStudio is the ability to recolor the entire skin.  You can find this option in the tools menu in the SKS6 window.  Here you can modify the hue and saturation, along with other variables, to create custom color schemes for your skin. 


Throughout this tutorial we have gone through each section of SkinStudio, and the sub-sections where you did most of the work.  If you want to quickly find or jump to a specific skin part, then come check out this section of SkinStudio. 

Scrolling through this section you will see images of various parts of the Windows GUI, and a brief description of that element.  Double-clicking any of these will take you directly to that section to edit.  This can be especially useful for a beginner who wants to take a more visual approach.

Remember that really cool start menu animation in the Molten skin that we talked about earlier?  Well SkinStudio 6 Pro has a start menu animation builder to help you build either simple or extreme animations. 

There are 3 sections in the animation builder:

  1. Preview.  This is where you can see a real-time preview of your animation.

  2. Global settings.  This area contains a slider to adjust the animation rate, adjust the canvas margins, and the option to select random animations. 

  3. Animation layer settings. This is the section that you will do much of the "building".  The options here include layers, image importing, positioning margins, frame count, loops, and loop delays.

Creating animation images is a job in itself, so I would recommend taking a look through other skins that use animations to get an idea of what to expect.  You have 10 layers to work with, and you can import your animation images in the same manner as usual.  Once your image is imported you can adjust the alignment, positioning, and margins to your desire. 

One important tip is to make sure the number of image frames in your image matches the frame count in the animation builder.  Additional adjustments in this area are the loop count, and the delay between each frame.  With some good animation images, you can make a start menu that will stand out to everyone.

 

If you have created a skin with animations, you can use the Animation Compression feature to reduce the size of the animation files, resulting in smaller files and better performance.

Just select the image file to be compressed (vertical stacks only), select the quality, and then test to see how the animation looks.  Once you are happy with the result, then you can re-encode the file to the chosen compression.

When you go through the process of creating your skins, there is a great chance you will have old images left in the folder where you skin files are located.  By using the Clean Skin tool found in the SKS6 tools menu, you can easily find and delete any of these leftover files.

Once you finish your skin, don't rush to immediately upload it.  Take the extra time to go through every detail of your skin looking for any imperfections.  Send a copy of your skin to a couple of friends to try out as well.  Sometimes it's easier for someone else to spot a potential problem than yourself.

Testing your skin is even more necessary when you have created sub-styles for both XP and Vista.  If you need help testing a skin, feel free to ask questions in communities such as WinCustomize.com.  You should always find people willing to give advice or even possibly to help test a skin.

You did all this work, now how about sharing it with everyone else?  There are a variety of desktop customization sites you can use, but WinCustomize is definitely the best for sharing your completed WindowBlinds skin.  To really make your skin stand out, try creating matching wallpapers, or even ObjectDock backgrounds if you are up to the challenge.

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