Part of the Multimedia and graphics glossary:

On the Internet, a skin is a graphic or audio file used to change the appearance of the user interface to a program or for a game character. Skins can usually be downloaded at no charge from sites that provide them. The skin concept can be compared to the Xpress-On covers that snap to the front of the Nokia 3210 cell phone. These come in various colors and graphic designs such as Cyber Fish and Tribal Sign. The covers alter the appearance of the phone but not the phone itself. When using a skin, the appearance of the user interface changes, but not the functions available with the program.

Here are some examples:

  • Macintosh enthusiasts can change the skin on their PC at work to make it look and sound like a Mac.
  • Neoplanet changes the appearance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
  • WindowBlinds from StarDock Systems changes the titlebar, the border, the buttons, the taskbar, and other aspects of the Windows 95/98/NT desktop interface.
  • Winamp is a media player for Windows 95, 98 and NT for which you can select from over 3,000 skins. A Winamp skin changes the appearance of the cover, the antenna, the display, the fonts, the number pad, the beeping tones, and other aspects.
  • Games such as Quake, Hexen, and Heretic use skins to change the appearance of game characters. Using a skin in a game gives you an edge because you are not easily recognized.
  • Skins are available for the popular chat program ICQ .
You can download skins from a number of sites that specialize in skins. They come in high-color (for systems that support more than 256 colors) and low-color (256 colors or less). Most skin sites offer template s and instructions for creating your own skin. You need a good graphics editor such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and a render ing program such as Macromedia's Extreme 3D to create 3-dimensional models. If you create a skin, you can share it by uploading it to a skin site.

This was last updated in April 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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