Note: Avatar dimensions are now allowed to be 100x100, up from the 80x80 described in this guide.
A recent thread has shown the file size of many members avatars to be too large, and against forum policy. This has lead to many avatars to be deleted. This post is meant to teach you how to shrink your awesome avatar to a file size more in line with the forum policy of 10KB.
The tool used in this guide is GIMP. Its powerful and free. It is also platform independent and will run on your windows, mac osx or linux. Its about 100 mb on your hard drive. Photo shop or any other similar image manipulation program will work, but many of the tools may be in different places.
This is Anime Cat. He will be your guide. His file size is 59.3 KB, much larger then the allowed amount.
The first thing we are going to do is crop him, and remove parts that are less then crucial that he can live without.
We are going to outline the area we want to keep. To do this, use the rectangle selection tool (top left, or r for the hotkey). Select the area you want to keep like this:
Then use the crop to selection tool like this:
This will shrink the file size, because there is now less to save/display. Strong photo editors can save alot of formats, and gimp can be confusing at first. Its good to save at every step so that if you don't like something, its minimal work to retrace your steps. Clicking save will bring up a new menu.
You will need to save it as a JPEG image. To do this you can scroll down and select the jpeg file extension from the menu, or you can simply add .jpg to the end of your file name like this:
The way data is stored on Jpeg, data is lost every save no matter what. A new menu is going to come up to ask you what quality you would like to save it as. Even if you choose 100, you will still experience data loss (although extremely small). The number you choose has to do with the way the algorithm saves and reads the data. Since we are trying to save space here, set it to 85.
Anime cat now uses 22.1kb with minimal loss.
This forum gives avatars an 80x80 space to be displayed, so we are going to scale it to that size. Select the scale image tool:
Scale the larger number to 80, and it will auto scale the other number to stay in the same proportion.
Anime Cat is now ready to be an avatar at the size of 5.6kb
If you want to have a moving avatar, a gif image, there are other things you can do for that as well. Sephiroth with a file size of 59.1kb will guide you through this process.
GIF images are seen as moving, but really they are a bunch of still frames. Sephiroth uses 16 frames. That roughly translates to 16 times the file size. I am first go to scale him down to avatar size like in the anime cat example.
When you save a gif, GIMP is going to ask you if you want to merge the layers, or export as animation. You want to export as animation. No photo =( Will have one soonish tho.
This brings him to a filesize of 11KB:
This is still too large, so I am going to reduce the palette size so it uses less colors, which turns into a smaller file size. This image is already what is already indexed, meaning its palette has already been picked. We are going to pick out a new palette, and to do this we need to reindex it. First click RGB, then after go to the same menu and click Index. Follow the menus:
(If anyone knows of a better way to do this, please let me know)
Select index then use the following settings:
Sephiroth is now 8.7KB, and is ready to be used as an avatar!
Next up is something a bit trickier. Someone in another thread was lamenting that they couldn't use an certain avatar. This guy over here pwns noobs at the rate of 25.3KB's every page refresh. Lets try to take him down a notch.
Because this one is so tricky, I'm going to start by scaling him down past the normal 80, down to 54(I found this number by repeating all the steps several times until I found out the highest that would work. When you set it to the avatar, it will auto scale back to 80. This will cause some data loss, but its not too bad.) Then I am going to set the color to index and web optimize it like previously. The final step is im going to go into filters, go down to animation, and select optimize for web(gif). What this does is sets anything that was the same color in a previous frame to transparent, so the color from the previous frame shines through. This always needs to be the last step because of the way it works. It will actually open the picture in a new gimp window, and you will need to save it with a new name. Heres the picture:
With all that done, the final product just barely fits in at 9.6KB:
Next is how to set the background to transparent so it blends in with the mmo-champion background. We will remove the white in the following image so that the corners don't stick out so much.
The first thing we have to do is make sure transparency is enabled. Follow the menus:
Then we need to select the color we want to delete. We are going to use the select by color tool. Hot key shift + O, top right of toolbox. Click on a white area to select it.
Hit the delete key. That grey checkered background is transparent, and when you load the image it will be whatever color is behind it. This of course deletes the white in the sails, but only the whitest of the white will be deleted, and the moo champion background is close enough that it will go un noticed. A quick optimize palette for web and its ready to be saved. A JPEG image doesn't allow for transparency, so save it to a GIF by selecting it in the save as menu, or by adding .GIF to the end of the file name. The finished product is slightly less file:
Finally, image shack allows images to be resized to 100x75 when you upload them. I don't have pictures for that =( Its kinda hard to miss, but its not optimal, because 100 is still larger then the 80 you are allowed and that detail will be lost anyways when a computer resizes it on the page.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to post them.