How To Create The Image That Appears Behind The Start-up Menus In MSTS
(using Photoshop Elements 4.0 or higher)

by Yuri Sos


Nice splash screen behind the menu, isn't it?   This isn't one of the default screens, but this tutorial will show you how to achieve a totally professional looking splash screen of your own.  Along the way, you'll also learn a little about manipulating images in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

This tutorial was originally written back in October 2002 for Paintshop Pro 7.0. Whilst I still use it and consider later versions of PSP to be too bloated for most MSTS work, a new generation of modellers have access to Adobe Photoshop Elements - either packaged with a scanner or available for a 30-day free trail at Adobe's web site. This tutorial is also available using Paintshop Pro as the imaging software. So stop whingeing and get with the imaging program!


Ingredients Required

  1. Microsoft Train Simulator
  2. MSTS Tools Update (it is part of MSTS v1.4) should have been installed, especially with the updated makeace.exe.
  3. TGATools by Martin Wright:  available from Martin's site at;
    Better still, Route_Riter will load TGATools2A for you as part of its installation procedure.
  4. Adobe Photoshop Elements.
  5. Download this .ZIP file ( - 75.1 KB (76,995 bytes)) - it contains two image files we'll need for this tutorial.


The Default Screens

There are six splash screens that appear behind the menu when you start MSTS:  MSTS randomly picks one when it starts, but then cycles through all six every time you come back to the start screen.

The screens are (in order):

Dash 9
Kiha 31
Series 7000
Orient Express
"Flying Scotsman"

To have your own splash screen appear in MSTS, you must replace the .ACE file of one of the default screens with your own content while preserving its name (ie the image at the top of this tutorial is named "odakyu.ace").


The Procedure

I'm going to use an image that you will recognise from "Saddletank"'s tutorial on "Creating Small Streams" elsewhere on this tutorial web site, but you can use any image you like whether it's a photograph of a real train or a screenshot in MSTS, a map or any other image.

First we'll start by making a backup of your screen files folder.  In Windows Explorer, browse to your /Train Simulator/GUI/Screensfolder and copy the six files above to a sub-folder called, say, Backup.

You'll need an image 800x600 pixels in size and in Windows .BMP format.  In addition, you need to look at how the picture is going to be affected by the various MSTS menu overlays.  If your photo follows the "rule of thirds" with the focus of attention on the lower left third, you'll achieve an excellent result:  I actually chose this image as an example as the train running through fits neatly between the various elements of the splash screen:  below I've highlighted the areas you might like to try to avoid:

And here's an example using the "rule of thirds" successfully:

You can select any image you like, even a JPG as a starting point.

Open PSE.  Click File | Open.  Browse to the file you want and double-click on it.

If you've copied it to the clipboard from a web photo or elswhere, you'll need to click  File | New | Image From Clipboard

The image loads - in this case a .JPG file that's 718x550 pixels in size.  Now to change it to want we need - our first step is to resize the image.

Click  Image | Resize | Image Size.

The following dialogue box opens:
Arrow #1: UNCHECK "Constrain proportions"
Arrow #2: Change Width to 800,   Height to 600 and Click "ok".

The result is quite acceptable, even though we've stretched the image a little.

Now you're going to make use of the two files that you downloaded in Splash.ZIP above.  Extract the two files, Strip.tga and msts_name.tga.  I've created these files to for you to use in this tutorial - they're "public domain", so use them as you wish.

Click File | Open. Select "Strip.tga"

Hmm... pretty underwhelming.  Just a green strip measuring 800x55 pixels in an 800x600 otherwise green image.   This is going to become the lower menu bar on your splash screen.

Click Select | Load Selection (PSE's version of loading a mask).

The dialogue box below appears. Click "ok".

You will notice that a selection marquee now surrounds the strip at the bottom end of the image:

Press "Ctrl-C" to select and copy this image to the clipboard.

Click Window | Untitled-1 (or whatever your primary file is named. Your working image should now be on the screen. Press "Ctrl-V" to paste as a Layer. This is the result.

Click on File | Open.  Select "msts_name.tga" (the other file from the

The following image appears.

Repeat the steps as for the first image, ie

  • Select | Load Selection;
  • Copy (Ctrl-C);
  • Move to your primary image and press Ctr-V

and you should have someting that looks like this.......

We're into the home straight now.

Click on File | Save As.  Select a folder, filename and filetype BMP and click "Ok".

As I remarked above, you will need to replace one of the six existing .ACE files.  I chose to replace "Odakyu.Ace".

Now open TgaTools2.

File | Load.  Browse to the .BMP file you've just created.

Make sure that "Compress Ace Files" is selected, and that you have selected "Patch #1 MakeAce" in the drop-down box below that.

Click on Export | Ace (no Alpha)

Browse to the Screens folder. Type "Odakyu.Ace" and click "Save".


Trying out your finished Screen

When you go into MSTS, you may need to click "Drive a Train" and "Back" a few times to see the results of your handiwork.

I hope you've found this tutorial of benefit.