PMD Editor Basics: .SPH and .SPA Files Add Sparkle!

A Feature Article by Stella The Alchemist on!

.SPH and .SPA Files Add Sparkle!

Ever feel like a model is too plain? Ever wish you could give her hair a realistic shine, or make her shoes look like shiny leather? Well, you can! It’s easy! Just use .sph and .spa files!

.sph and .spa files, also known as “Sphere textures”, are very much what their name implies. They are textures applied to a spherical map, and they move when you move the camera or model.

Sound a bit confusing?

It’s not. Let’s look at some examples:
Many animation and video game models use .sph and .spa "Sphere Texture" files. MMD

In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, if you look at a heart container, you’ll notice it shines as it spins. In Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, jewel Chao have sparkly appearances. And in Pokemon Battle Revolution, furry Pokemon like the Eeveelutions often have a bit of a shine, giving them a realistic fur look that looks well-groomed and healthy …

… these are all essentially what .sph and .spa files are.

You might be wondering what the difference between .sph and .spa files is. Well, the difference is simple, but important: The textures for .spa files are usually black and white, and the black will appear transparent. The darker an area is, the more transparent it will be. .sph files are often colored, and do not have the same transparency factor as .spa files do, and so usually appear darker. Both files will look different on different color materials, so … change the colors to make it look better if you need to.

.spa VS .sph sphere texture file types in PMDE / MikuMikuDance MMD.

Now, let’s get to the good part:
Adding the textures to the models!

First, you’ll need some .sph or .spa files. MMD comes with one by default: metal.sph. This is a simple metal sphere, as shown on Animasa’s Metal Miku model. However, it’s only one file. A good place to look for more spheres is DeviantArt. The user MoonTheBlueNeko has lots of good sphere packs. There are others, too. Some models also come with sphere files. Be sure to look up the modeler’s rules first, before you use them. I’m not sure if using textures is not allowed, but generally it is a good rule of thumb to assume that if you are not allowed to use parts from a model, you shouldn’t use spheres from it either.

Now that you have your files, you can add them to a model. To do this, open your model in PMD Editor. (See my article about Downloading PMDE in English.) Remember the tabs? Find the materials tab and switch to it. Find the material you want to apply the .sph or .spa file to. Make sure those files are in the same folder as the model. At the bottom left corner of the window, you should see two text fields: “Texture” and “Sphere”. In “Sphere”, type in the name of your sphere file. For example, if you want to apply metal.sph, you would type “metal.sph”. Capitalization doesn’t matter as long as the spelling is the same.

On the MA (materials) tab in the PMDE English Verison you can add your sphere texture files. MMD

You can make your own sphere files, too! Use an image editing program (I recommend GIMP) to make them. Make sure the image size is 256 x 256 pixels. Draw your texture however you like. It won’t look the same once sphereized (Is that a real word? xD), so consider that and experiment. Once finished, save it as any image type. Then change it to a .sph or .spa by renaming the file, and changing the .___ part of the name to .sph or .spa. There should be a pop-up saying something about how changing a file extension may make a file unusable, etc. Click OK. Now you have a sphere! :3

Sphere mapping using GIMP. Make your image size be 256x256 pixels. Use color if you are daring ... Experiment!

That’s all there is to it, really. Use your own discretion when adding spheres. Although they can make a model look great, too many obvious spheres can look overdone. Models with lots of fancy spheres have been given the nasty nickname of “spa whores” by some of the MMD community. Don’t be discouraged! What really matters is if you like the model. If you think adding lots of spheres makes it look good, then go for it! It’s all up to you. Never let anything someone else says stop you.


Visit the Homepage! Plenty of Mikumikudance instruction and info!