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Making BGs from IRL images; an easy alternative.

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Posted (edited)

BGs are an important part of the VN experience, custom backgrounds are especially necessary if your story has location(s) that are too specific for pre-made BGs available online for example.

Luckily, there's a decent alternative; using IRL images to make BGs! This works best if the setting of your VN isn't fantasy-oriented, given how these are pictures of real places. You can take picture of places nearby, or even get stock pictures from places like iStock


Image taken by me via phone. The image quality need not be perfect, given it'll be put through filters later.

The image editor I'm using is GIMP, but something like Photoshop should also be suitable.

After you've gotten your image in your editor of choice, GIMP has a filter called Waterpixels, which does most of the work for us.image.png.db0991d8144fbaa47ca9e6500274b267.png

There's other filters like Cartoon or Oilify, but Waterpixels is the best in my opinion.


You can adjust the intensity of the effect to your needs or style of VN.


After the effect is applied, you can still tell it was originally a real picture, but looks more artistic compared to the original.

You can also take an image that was originally in daytime, and make it look like it takes place in evening my changing the Color temperature, Hue saturation, and adding sunbeams using the airbrush.



There are websites that offer stock photos to use completely for free such as Pexels. However, since most other sites require a subscription or payment, lemme impart some wisdom on how to get stock photos for free.

Step 1: Find stock photo of choice


Step 2: copy image link and paste into https://tineye.com/


Step 3: Chose highest quality image! You can find the stock image being used without the watermark on other websites and download it from there.


Hopefully this post was helpful, and gives all those developers out there with a lower budget more options for BGs! Thanks for reading.




Edited by grayest
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Posted (edited)

Thanks for this post, I do see it helping people.


There are some things I want to call out though - please utilize images that have no people in them (stock photos are exceptions as those people consented to being in the stock photo), or properly blur the image / people. It's an issue of consent if the image is used in a commercial property and could get you in trouble. Also worth noting anything with brands have the copywright issues, even brands you wouldn't think of much, such as a University. Another would be if an easily identifiable building has a tie to a company - for example if shot from the front Comerica Park (baseball stadium in Detroit) is reconizable and Comerica (bank) would likely not agree to being seen in a visual novel. This one is due to it possibly being seen as that company supporting or endorsing what they are shown in.


I personally think a lot of this is ridiculous, but as someone who has worked in the hiring / firing for large multinational corporations, they really do see everything like this as an issue and will take action as they are incredibly risk-averse.

Edited by LostPomegranate
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