Often, great things are born from the simplest ideas. One of the most popular skins in the history of CS:GO came into being in exactly this way: a brilliant idea, drawn from everyday life and spiced with a bit of luck.
Another episode of CS.MONEY Blog’s interview series welcomes Juthapat “Non” Limpattanakul, better known as JTPNZ, and his latest USP-S Printstream.
Today, we talk about the Printstream series and the idea’s origin; Non’s creative approach to building storytelling based on the simplest things; Ghouls in Town and On Sight skins and the stories behind them; studying 3D modeling and not having a lot of free time; merchandize, other skins, themed cases, Thai community and much more!
Born and raised in Thailand, Non is a DigiPen Institute of Technology student in Redmond, Washington. He’s in his year four of bachelor’s degree but currently is back in Thailand for an internship. Non sounds shy for a person who not only got three skins into CS:GO but has all of them already marked historical.
So, you’re pretty young?
Well, yeah. I consider myself to be young in this field because I asked a lot of my Steam Workshop friends, and they’re all grown-ups. They work in different industries, different than mine. I’m studying creating games or game arts.
In the future, will you spend more time creating games than skins?
Yeah, probably creating games if possible because right now, I’m taking a 3D Artist internship for Namson Digital, a video game company in Thailand. We have done a lot of AAA clients because we are an outsourcing company. It’s an industry that I really enjoy working in.
How did you start making skins?
I started making skins back in 2016, I made a lot of skins when I was still in a science program during high school, which was not focused on art.
I was just trying out something different in a day because, well, I thought Math and Science were not quite my cup of tea. So I just played Counter-Strike a lot and figured that those skins are not from the developers, but they’re from just, you know, players. People everywhere played the game, but they could participate. So I tried it out, on my own, with the only tutorial from Coridium (Asiimov creator) and my beginner’s level graphic design. I’ve gone through trials and errors for two years, and then I stopped because it was a period of getting into college, and I got a lot of works to do, got very busy. But then, after I got into the college in the first year, I got back to playing CS with my friends again, and the old days came back.
Printstream was not supposed to be a series. I was just making an AK Printstream be a fun small project to kill time, and then I posted the progress in the CS:GO Thailand community. And they commented that they loved this design a lot and that I should do it more on other guns. Not to brag, but I don’t think there are a lot of people in Thailand who try this stuff out. So I feel like if there are no other people than me, then it has to be me to get it into the CS:GO. That’s my inspiration.
Thailand has a lot of video game companies, yet they don’t really cared for CS:GO skins. I’m not sure why. Teams are playing in a lot of tournaments in the professional scene, but not so many in the designing type, I would say.
In the first collection, there are five weapons. And the last one of that collection was the Deagle, my least favorite one from the collection. <Laugh> But in the end, it got into the game first. I was so shocked that my small project just turned into something so big that a lot of people knew about it. And now there are three Printstreams in the game and I was like, is this real anymore? <Laugh>
Luck of Pearlescent
Tell about the Printstream series, how did you end up making it, and what was the inspiration? How did you come up with the idea of white, black, and a little pearlescent?
The period of time when I started working on Printstream was perfect. CS:GO just added the pearlescent effect to the game. I watched a video from 3kliksphilip, a Counter-Strike content creator on YouTube. He made a video about the effect, I saw it, and I thought to myself: “I don’t see a lot of skins to use that effect. If I have a skin that has a little effect, but it doesn’t affect all surfaces on the gun, that might be cool”. That was the first idea. It wasn’t intended for pearlescent to apply on every surface on the skin. But I would say that is a happy accident for me.
I tested the skin in the CS:GO Workshop workbench. At the time, I hadn’t learned how to configure game files to test the skin within a real in-game environment. So the pearlescent effect in the workbench just applies to the small stripes on the Printstream, which I intended it to be. I didn’t know that it actually applies to the white too, so I submitted it to the Workshop. And the first time I saw the rainbow effect was when people uploaded the screenshots on Twitter and YouTube. And I was like, “Oh! <Laugh> My skin could do that. Okay. That’s new to me.”
Printstream design and the original idea
I asked Non a little about the design of his series and the colors, and he, all of a sudden, told me a fantastic story.
With the first design, I wasn’t trying to add any colors to it. It used to be just a simple black and white skin, more of a minimal-ish, but in the end, I just added colors because I thought it missed something.
I was trying to be quirky. Adding some quotes, coding, and lines. I don’t actually know coding, but I wanted it to be a techy design. I added an Easter Egg with B42 which was actually a command for buying AK back in CS 1.6. That part is in every Printstream weapon. I really like those special texts that I added.
And the heart symbol. There’s a box outside of the heart all the time, right? I think people could say that it’s a reference to Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana. Maybe because I listened to that song a lot. <Laugh> A lot of things just come from my childhood and I implemented it into the design that I did.
I used to have a PC. The case got broken and the front LED was dead. So I just customized it. I bought a reflective bicycle sticker to replace the dead LED. And then I thought I should put some design on my PC case. And I made the X logo on it. And that’s the start of it, that’s the start of the skin, the XXXY.
That’s just super DIY stuff, you know?
Why did you decide to do a series? Why wasn’t it a one-shot?
It got kind of popular among the Thai community and they said I should do more. And I researched a little bit about the skinmaking community to find out that if you create a collection, you are more likely to be put in the game. The developers will know that if the skin gets popular and there’s a collection ready for that, they can just choose and just put it in the case in the future. That’s my theory of increasing the chances of being chosen for the game.
For me it’s also easier to replicate these designs on other weapons because it’s all about the layouts of the graphics. Back in the day, I used 3D Coat to do all the texturing on the weapons. And I thought it was a very easy program to use for me back in the day because I didn’t know much about 3D software. Along with Photoshop and Illustrator, I have some background in creating graphic designs.
And that’s it, that’s the story about Printstream?
There is a reference in its name also. I got it from a Java coding website. I Googled how to create ASCII art, and those types of art use this command called /printstream in Java language. I think that’s really fitting, and it clicks. So I just took it.
Ghouls in Town and On Sight
You have two more skins made recently. Ghouls in Town and On Sight are both not making it into cases. Can you tell me about them?
I felt that I have to show something that’s cool about my country to the eyes of people around the world. So I chose Phi Ta Khon, which is in Thai. That means Ghouls in Town. It is an event in Thailand that takes place in Dan Sai, Loei province. I think the story behind the event has a great meaning and the mask design looks scary and interesting to me and I would want it to be more popular in the world. And if it gets into the game, people would say, “Oh, what’s this mask all about?” And they will Google it and they will know these stories, tales, all about it. So I just made it and kind of added a modern twist to the design.
On Sight was made for the Dreams and Nightmares contest. I just wanted to join in. I had a lot of ideas, but for the time being, I was able to do just one. So I just chose one of my nightmares.
The nightmare that I chose is the one that I saw: a lot of eyes, like walls of eyes. So I thought it was very creepy. And I translated that into the design.
Honestly, that is very creepy <nervous laugh>.
I figured that out too. And the very interesting thing about that is that you can see the teeth and the eyes on this skin. That’s actually my teeth. And I just painted over, and I just used colors and a lot of other things. So, yeah, that’s my teeth and eyes.
I was trying to do some quirky stuff here. <Laugh>
My next question is, why are you not making more skins?! <Laugh>
I have a lot of ideas right now, but I don’t have very much time to do it. I really wanted to get back into the scene because I’d passed long enough. There should be something new out for me because getting to do skins in CS:GO is the time that I get to release all the creativity to the eyes of people out around the world. It’s very, very fun working on skins. So I hope for one day I’ll get back to it.
Skinmaking and Advice
Can you tell me about creating skins? Do you get exhausted?
I really like working on them, so I don’t feel like it’s a forced environment that much. So I think if people are going into it, well, you gotta learn a lot about 3D world. Creating a 3D asset for a video game, you gotta learn a lot more than just designing it. If I had to advise newcomers to this community, I would say that you could start by learning about the 3D pipeline of creating an asset for a video game. From the start: designing it, modeling it, texturing it, rendering, and putting it in the game. CS:GO has one of the oldest engines possible to create assets in because there are a lot of limitations to creating assets.
So you have to understand a lot of things that they do at Valve. I enjoy learning it, because right now it’s easier than when I first started learning about this community. There’s a book called Overpay from Centauri, they made it very easy to understand for a lot of people. It’s a very detailed book about creating skins, and it’s free too. And the CS:GO developers know about it and say that it’s very good, so people should read it to get into this community. And there are a lot more tutorials on YouTube too. When I first started, I watched Coridium’s videos, he made Asiimov. He was one of my idols when I started. I also remember Hollandje, he made a playlist of tutorials that you could follow. And that’s really great for newcomers.
Clown Car Sticker
Can you tell me the story of this CS:GO clown car sticker? It includes 100 people, and there’s a laconic description, but if you could tell me more, it would be awesome.
<Laugh> Well, one of my Steam Workshop friends, Quzga, DMed me that Puchara, the original creator of this sticker, just wanted to start something funny and he asked if I wanted to join him. I said, “Hell yeah, that sounds fun! Count me in, let me be on this car.” And that’s it.
Collaboration, merchandising, partners
I see that you haven’t collaborated with anyone, have you?
No. There are a lot of people asking me if I wanted to join them, but I started from the idea of one-man production. I did everything on my own, from design to finish, renders, promoting, and stuff. And I feel like I really own it. But maybe in the future, I might join one.
I also have to ask about the Ninjas In Pyjamas collab. Can you tell me about that?
Printstream is very expensive. And I felt that if I make merchandise, people will more likely get it, and will be able to own one of the Printstreams products. It could be more affordable for a larger amount of people. So I joined with Ninjas In Pyjamas. They contacted me, and they told me the ideas of putting Printstream on clothing merchandise. And I liked it. I always wanted one for myself, and I liked NiPs anyway.
Which other types of things would you like to see your design on?
I have a collaboration with LOGA Thailand, a gaming gear company. So I have keyboards, mouse pads, and desk mats. And there will be more to come in the future. Keyboards are on sale on Amazon right now, by the way. So you could buy one for yourself.
With Dreams & Nightmares, Valve decided to do a thematic case. Would you like to see a new thematic case? What would it be?
This is a tough one.
I would say the theme of the traditions would be so cool because I will get to know a lot more stories, tales, and themes from different countries, and they get to show their own goods. So yeah, that would be so cool. A lot of people play this game and people come from various places of the world, so that will be so cool to see.
Which skin is your favorite in the game right now?
My Desert Eagle, for sure. <Laugh> I told you that it was my least favorite one out of two collections, but it became my all-time favorite since it changed my life.
What is more important in a skin concept: self-expression or guessing what the audience wants?
Tricky one. I would choose to express myself more than guessing what people like, because it feels nice if we get to express ourselves and people like it, it means we have something in common. We can just create a community out of it, people will get to discuss, to talk to each other just because they like the same thing that I liked and designed.
Okay. One of the last ones: are you not afraid that your creations will be covered with stickers?
No. A lot of people design skins specifically to have stickers on them, but for me, I never thought of it. But if people want to put stickers on my skin, I would be fine because that’s a way to actually custom something to be your own. That’s a way to express yourself.
When my Desert Eagle got into CS:GO, I saw a photo where someone put LDLC, or TITAN or something on my skin. I was like: wow. So you could do that to my skin, if that makes you happy with what you have.
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