One of the most common and tedious tasks in 2D game development is making sprite sheets from dozens or often hundreds of individual image files. Back when I was making Starblaster, I laid out several hundred sprites by hand. It took many, many hours and severely restricted my ability to experiment with different graphics. It’s even worse these days since most sprites use alpha channels; the semi-transparent images are almost impossible to line up by hand, and some particle effects are practically invisible unless they are laid on a dark background.

For my latest project (more info coming soon!) I decided I’d had enough of this drudgery, and wrote a Photoshop script to do the job for me.

SpriteGrabber v0.1

SpriteGrabber will take a directory full of image files and lay them out for you on one or more sprite sheets. Additionally, SpriteGrabber can export a text file containing information about each sprite. You can use this feature to generate calls to whatever function you use to load the sprites in your game.

Instructions

To run the script in Photoshop just go to File->Scripts->Browse and load the SpriteGrabber.jsx file from wherever you downloaded it to. It will run automatically and present you with the interface above.

Click “browse” and select the directory containing your sprites. SpriteGrabber will now process the directory and work out how many valid image files there are and how big the sprites are going to be. If you have different sized images in the directory, SpriteGrabber will use the largest dimensions to determine the sprite size.

Once the images are processed, the script will work out how many rows and columns there’ll be per page and how many pages will be needed to hold all the sprites. You can adjust the document width and height to alter these properties. Once you are happy, just click “Ok” to generate the sprite sheets.

Datafile Export

If you tick the “Enable datafile export” checkbox, SpriteGrabber will create a text file in the src directory called “SpriteInfo.txt”, containing a line of text for each sprite.

Each line is generated from the text entered into the “line template” edit box. Tags are used to substitute information about each sprite into the text.

#i - Sprite index (0.. number of sprites in directory)

#filename – Filename of source image

#width – Sprite width

#height – Sprite height

#x – X position  of top left corner on spritesheet

#y - Y position of top left corner on spritesheet

Lets say your game engine loads sprites like this: “SpriteManager->GetSprite(x,y,width,height);” and you have 300 sprites to load. You can generate all 300 calls by entering the following into the line template box:

SpriteManager->GetSprite(#x,#y,#width,#height);

SpriteGrabber will then generate 300 lines containing the correct coordinates and dimensions for each sprite. (This is probably a poor example as in real life you’d use a simple loop to do this, but it does illustrate how the feature works. The datafile export will come into its own when the next version is complete.)

The Future

SpriteGrabber is not intended as a masterclass in Photoshop scripting. In fact it’s the first script I’ve ever written, but it should help trim a few tedious hours off the development process. Soon I hope to have a new version ready that will be able to efficiently arrange sprites or textures of any size.

Download

SpriteGrabber has been tested on Photoshop CS2,CS4,CS5 for Windows Vista, and CS3,CS5 for Mac OS X.

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