Home / Mass Effect / Mass Effect: Advanced Modding Made Easy

Mass Effect: Advanced Modding Made Easy


Some of you have been trying to use my awesome mods for Femshep and don’t know how … well, it took me a while to fumble my way through it as well with the scattered tutorials I’ve found on the internet, but none of them really dumbed down the process for texture and mesh replacing enough.  So here I am sharing my limited findings so you can make your Shep as badass as mine :)

You will generally encounter three types of mods (and the programs you need to use them):

1.  .tpf (Texmod)

2.  .upk/.dds (ME3 Explorer)

3.  .mod (ME3 Explorer)

Texmods are really easy.  You just download the Texmod program and run the .tpf through it – very simple and there are some good tutorials out there so I won’t really go into it (check here and here for instructions on how to use .tpf and create your own using Texmod).

I’m going to focus on how to use .upk and .dds files to replace meshes and textures in the game because it’s a little more advanced and there aren’t a lot of tutorials out there on how to do it.

First, you’ll need ME3 Explorer.

Got it?

Then you’ll need the to download the modding files that you want to use.  If you download one of mine, you’ll see that each folder comes with a .upk file and at least three .dds files with “diff,” “norm,” and “spec” in their names.

Step 1.  Open up ME3 Explorer and navigate to Meshporer:

2013-10-20 11_19_41-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider

2.  Open up Meshplorer.  It should look something like this:

2013-10-20 11_19_51-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Meshplorer]

3.  Load the PCC if you know what file you’re looking for in the CookedPCConsole folder or select Load from Database to populate a list.  If you’re replacing one of Femshep’s textures, you will be looking for BIOG_HMF_ARM_CTH_R.pcc (casual clothing) or BIOG_HMF_ARM_SHP_R.pcc (armor).  Let’s select the former so we can replace Shepard’s black dress with something else.

2013-10-20 11_20_15-Open

4.  When you load the pcc, you should see a screen similar to this (except the mesh model on the right should look like Shepard’s black dress – sorry, I took this screencap after I’d already replaced it!):

2013-10-20 11_20_23-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Meshplorer] 5.  Select the last choice in the left hand column (as seen in the screenshot) ending in CTHk to replace Shepard’s black dress.  Once that is selected, go to Transfer > Import from UDK.

2013-10-20 11_20_28-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Meshplorer]

6.  Go to File > Open UDK Package and navigate to where you saved the mod you want to upload.  Select the .upk file.

2013-10-20 11_20_35-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [UDKCopy]

7.  You should then see a screen like the one below.  Select the item on the left column and you should see LOD 0 appear in the right column – select it.  Go to “Import LOD” at the top of the screen and click it.

2013-10-20 11_20_53-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [UDKCopy]

8.  You should get a “Done” popup.  Close the window (not the big red X in the upper right hand corner but the little x below it) and you should see the mesh screen again.  Select a different mesh and then go back to the CTHk mesh – you should see that it has changed into the armor you uploaded.

2013-10-20 11_21_01-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Meshplorer]

9.  Ok, you can close out that window now.  You should be back on the home screen.  Time to upload the textures by going to Developer Tools > Texplorer.

2013-10-20 11_21_11-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider

10.  The database will need to populate and this takes a few minutes, but luckily it only needs to be done once.  Once it is finished, you should get a bunch of folders in the left hand column.  Navigate to the folder that says “CTHk” to replace the black dress texture.  When you click on the folder, a bunch of images should appear on the right.  You’ll see the HMF (female) and HMM (male) textures – if you’re modding Femshep, you only need to change the files that start with HMF.  Right click the image > Easy > Add Biggest Image.  Find the folder that your mod is in – replace the Diff, Norm, and Spec files accordingly.

2013-10-20 11_21_39-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Texplorer V1.3]

[optional] Some notes about this – when editing and uploading your own mods, Diff files need to be in DX 1 format when you’re saving as a .dds.  Norm files must be in V8U8 and Spec must be in DX5.  Also, the spec map is different for each armor/clothing – the easiest to replace is Shepard’s black dress (the one we’re doing in this tutorial).  Most other armor/clothing will give you a weird orange glow to your textures that you must correct for in your Spec.dds file.  Another armor that is easy to replace is the Defender Armor (FDBa texture).

11.  Ok, so you’ve replaced the diff, norm, and spec files.  Go to File > Save Changes.  You should get a little notification when it is finished.

2013-10-20 11_22_05-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [Texplorer V1.3]12.  Close out the window and you’ll be back at the main screen.  This step may or may not be necessary – I usually do it if I’ve replaced the mesh, but not if I’ve only replaced textures.  But yeah, maybe do it just in case :)  Go to Tools > TOCBinUpdater.

2013-10-20 11_22_14-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider

13.  You should see a screen like the one below.  Go to File > CheckPCConsoleToc.bin.

2013-10-20 11_22_24-ME3 Explorer by Warranty Voider - [TOC.bin Updater]

14.  The PCConsoleTOC.bin file is in your Mass Effect 3 folder > BIOgame folder.  Select it – the program will check if there are any changes automatically.  If you get a popup that says there were changes found, click “yes” to update.  If it doesn’t find any changes, just exit the program.  You’re done!

2013-10-20 11_22_39-Open

Ok, so those are all the steps you need to install most of my mods.  Now, when you go into the game, you should see the new outfit replacing the old one!

Disclaimer: I am by no means a modder.  This is my very amateur modding tutorial for people who want to do some basic (but awesome) modding of the game.  If you want to ask some experts questions or find some truly amazing mods, try these wonderful “real” modders:

Otte’s workshop



Was that helpful?  Have any questions?  Let me know in comments!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit


  1. I wish just tranlate the dialogs to Pt-Br, Noosed inside out ME3 Explorer’s tools and Gildor’s tools and I could unpack the upk files… even the tlk files then export to csv files and translated them and then back to tlk files. BUT I DIDN’T FIND YET A TOOL TO REPACK THEM TO UPK FILES to place them in the proper folder and run the game with the texts dialogs in Pt-Br with the sound of the voices in English… of course. Any tip will be very appreciated.

  2. Thanks for coming and try to help. Not exactly “convert” but: unpack change somethings in one of the files and repack the files to its original way it was.
    Let me try to be more especific. I want to translate the dialogs of dlc Vegas of the ME1 to Portuguese-Brazilian. One of the packages is dlc_vegas.upk. I coud manage to extract the files from within it( ExportTable.txt, GlobalTlk_tlk.BioTlkFile, GlobalTlk_tlk_M.BioTlkFile, ImportTable.txt, NameTable.txt) the globals tlk are what interest me. I can convert them to csv and translate and convert back to tlk… all ok ’til here. But here comes the problem:
    How to pack them all back to upk? It seems the only way is ME3Explorer-ME1Explorer-Package Editor and then a way to change it with hexeditor and save… well, I will give it some tries… cusoon..

  3. Hi. Not sure if you’re still checking this or not, but I’m running into a bit of an issue. I was able to successfully add Ashley’s Armor for FemShep in the place of the Cerberus Armor, but the helmet is still there. Is there something I need to do to remove the helmet, or should I put it in place of a different armor?

    • Check the FAQ – you can download a coalesced file that will give you all the armors, NPC clothing, and non-helmet armors. Or, you can go edit your own coalesced file and delete all the helmet meshes.

  4. Hi again

    I really need help :( Kaidan has fewer bones than Thane, and since I need to replace him with Thane, I don’t understand what I should do. What am I supposed to remove on Thane?

    • Compare their bones and remove the extras that Thane has (I believe it is extra bones in his face, unsure) – the problem, though, is that Thane’s eyes are crazy big and will move weirdly when set to Kaidan’s skeletal structure. You should try the Thane Mod if you love Thane – it makes it so that Thane never dies in the game! http://thanemod.wordpress.com/

      • Thank, I will try that :) the only scene I actually want, is when FemShep and Kaidan are sitting in the couch and kissing (I’m a film-maker, and need an “extra” scene)

  5. Hello. At first I would like to apologize for my English, which is not my first language.
    My adventure with modded Mass Effect is just started – I never did it before, I played only with default sources. So I’m a big layman:D
    I downloaded some of your mods – Aria armor is the one of them. I did replace default armors with the new ones. Everything was perfect until I wanted to change textures. During modify error shows up, debug window get closed and no folders shows up. I tried to did this a few times, but everytime is the same. Do you know what should I do?
    Or maybe you know some tutorial how can I create a .pcc file with those armors sets? I could try to add them with Ele’s way…
    Son Yume.

  6. Anyone know which version of UDK opens files *.upk of Mass Effect 1 ?. Trying to manage something with UDK-2013-07 and UDK-2009-11 but they freezy. Or any version should do the trick?

  7. I hope you’re still reading these.

    I may be retarded or just simple but in your above instructions you show how to replace the black dress. I am trying to replace Shepard’s basic armor (the one she starts with) to the Samara armor. I loaded the BIOG_HMF_ARM_SHP_R.pcc file and there are like 70 meshes inside it. I don’t know which one to change. Also, which textures folder goes with the basic armor. Or can you only mod the extra armors like Cerberus armor, etc. I would appreciate help as I am very simple. Maybe I shouldn’t do this modding stuff :(

    • You’re not retarded – I’ve actually not tried replacing Shep’s basic armor, but I suspect it will be hard because her basic N7 armor isn’t one piece but actually several different pieces/meshes (ie. chest, legs, arms, etc.) … I would just replace a full one-piece armor if I were you :)

  8. Help downloaded several versions of ME3 Explorer but does not work TEXPLORER tool, always gives an error when trying to use the error say:. “An unhandled exception occurred in EXE If you click quit the EXE will be terminated immediately.” I do not know what to do to solve forgive the bad English.

    • If you read some of the comments, I think someone might have found a solution to this problem. It’s never happened to me, so I’m not sure how to fix it :(

  9. I probably haven’t been using the right google terminology, but I haven’t found where the dds files are located for some of the armors and I’m hoping you can steer me in the right direction. There are only a couple fbd folders, where do the rest go, to replace shep’s inferno armor (FBDe), for example? I love the look of the Phoenix and Edi armors btw, your christmas sweaters kinda freak me out though :)

    • Hahahaha yup the Christmas sweater party was pretty intense. There is an excel file in my google drive detailing all the textures/meshes that I’ve identified and their “codes” in ME3 Explorer – go download it! :)

  10. Actually, ignore my previous response, I’ve figured it out. However, under “Tools” in the latest ME3Explorer, there is a TPF installer that will install TPF’s into the game for you, which is awesome!

  11. Huh, Help?

    I did everything right (i think) but there seems to be a problem with texplorer.

    I just can’t get the scan complete. It always crashes at like 3000 or so, without really explaining why. Now i can’ t get Mass Effect 3 to load (obviously) and i don’t really wanna lose my save. Have i f-ed up somewhere?

  12. thanks for the mods, everything works, except for one detail:
    when installing Miranda’s or Ashley’s or Samara’s armor chest is white area without textures, you do not know how to change this?

  13. Hello! Im trying to play ME3 with the FrontCombed Faux Hawk hair mod, from Rana-E they guy toke it out from Eve online? It is causing some crashes in-game and then i decided to go looking for where the problem is. That hair was replaced by Custom Cute with a PCC file, so I paste it on Cooked then I started to edit it. During the procedure with the Lod import I got an error message. “Your Imported mesh has a different count of bones. This would crash your game” So now I got confirmation by ME3 Explorer that this mod isn’t quite right. The hair works well and looks good in-game but them he crashes, it always crash during a new chapter opening. It stops when I remove the mod. So what do I do? It is saying that the cool hair has 42 bones, but the original Custom Cute also has that amount of bones. So what in heaven can possible be happening here? Any help will be extremely appreciated… it is my dream (and i know a lot of ppl out there too) to have such hair on my character. Maybe that hair is just glitching around, but you got a lot more experience on hair mods than me. The guy didn’t let much of tutorial but I did everything right. Wanna take a look at that? What you say? http://masseffectmodding.tumblr.com/post/58441566878/i-made-a-thing-front-combed-fauxhawk-for-femshep

    • Hey this is Rana – E here who made the mod :) (I’m a she by the way) I updated the download link to a fixed version. The issue was due to the number of bones I had, but with the help of Ottemis we managed to fix it.

  14. How do I find the textures of a specific armor set? For example, I’ve modded the spiky knight armor thingy but I can’t find the textures for it.

  15. So I’m having a lot of trouble with the vest textures. I replace the pcc file and install the tpf with ME3 explorer, but in game the outfit is a just a scrambled texture mess (black arms, etc). Am I missing a step?

    • I had this happen and sometimes you can extract the image files from the TPF and upload them to the appropriate folder in Texplorer, but sometimes you’re just better off using Texmod. Also make sure you update the PCConsoleTOC.bin file.

  16. hi! i have tried everything but could not succeed in applying “plaid adept armour”.can u plz upload the all proces with pics for that armour…that would be gratefull…thanks…

  17. I need help. I followed your directions to the letter and Ashley’s tunic didn’t work. It is still the dress, but the color is smeared all over it. :(

  18. I hope you’re still reading comments, and sorry if this has been asked already (I had a scan through the comments & couldn’t see anything so), but is there any way to get your mods on to PS3 or are they strictly for PC? I’ve never modded anything before & I’m completely clueless but your hair for Sherpard is just GORGEOUS oh my gosh!!

  19. i have a problem. every time i try to do the texture part of the tutorial, and its extracting them, its stops because it says there are two many errors. i don’t understand exactly why i’m getting these errors.

  20. Hello, I’m really new at this and I’m stuck. I got to #2 but when I open the “Load PCC” it takes me to “SkyDrive: Documents” and there is nothing in it. Then I would click on “Load for Database” and it’s just white. There is nothing.

    Please tell me what I’m doing wrong :( How do I get it to look like your picture in in #3?

    Please and Thank you.

    • Ok, so I got passed #3 and now I’m stuck on #6. Nothing is showing up when I click “Open UDK Package”. What I mean is none of my stuff that I downloaded is showing up in the folder I made. Why is that?

      Oh and for the people that got stuck where I was, Click on “Database” and click on “Start Scan”

  21. Hi I have a problem to install the hair mod/outfit mod to my save file.

    Now I have the save file properly edited with gibbed (hair mesh, hair_mask and hair_diff) with the given lines and made sure there’s no extra space or anything like that.

    I also do the TOCbinUpdater which does recognize the modified .pcc file and successfully updates it.
    Then I start ME3 from texmod (with the .tpf chosen of course) and the game starts normal (with the texmod stuff in the top left if I have that enabled) but when I try to load the edited save file or any save files I get stuck at an infinite load screen and task manager says ME3 is Not Responding.

    When I replace the modified .pcc with my original backup and update the TOCbin again, I can load save games (the one modified with gibbed or the regular ones) no problem with and without texmod. Though on edited gibbed save file, my character then had this weird hair showing calf of the head instead of the default one. I have no idea what’s wrong and wonder if anyone experience the same problem and has solved it ?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. I am trying to apply Aria N7 outfit for the intro outfit, I managed to replace the mesh, and I’m stuck at the stage of saving changes to its textures. I can’t save the changes, the textures go into cash, but no notification you mentioned follows. So when I close Texplorer, textures go default.

  23. I am trying to use Smarteck’s highres texture for Javik’s default armor, and everything went find until I started the game and found that his armor is glowing bright blueish-white. Could this be a problem on my end? How would I go about fixing it (I’m hoping I don’t have to vanilla my entire game)?

  24. CTHk mesh – I uploaded it then run texplorer. It started loading the it stopped right on that mesh and will not continue. The database won’t load. I have no idea what to do…

  25. Heya

    I am having as issue with ME Explorer. I have followed all your steps and everything was working fine – when I get to step 10 and the database is populating, it always gets stuck scanning 1720 out of 2420. When I edited the mesh it was fine, but when I try to reopen BIOG_HMF_ARM_SHP_R.pcc an error comes up and will not open, and this is the mesh that it gets stuck at while scanning. Any reason why this is?

    Thank you :)

  26. Hey! so everytime I do the scanning part on texplorer it gets stuck on 2740 out of 4160 and it’s the \Mass Effect 3\BIOGame\CookedPCConsole\BIOG_HMM_ARM_CTH_R.pcc that is gets stuck on. Is there something wrong with this file that other people get or what?

    • Did you install any other high res texture packs prior? I had this issue on two prior occasions when I installed other textures before scanning and had to “vanilla” the game then scan. Also, are you using v108W of ME3 Explorer?

  27. hey i dont know if you are still checking but i have a little problem in the texture wont change it just replace the old armor with the same color but shapes do change and i dont know whats wrog

  28. This helped me so freaking much! Thank you! Ever since I read this tutorial, I’ve been adding beauteous outfits for my femshep to use! Your outfits have given my Mass Effect 3 play through a different life! Thanks.

  29. “Most other armor/clothing will give you a weird orange glow to your textures that you must correct for in your Spec.dds file.” Yep. Got that one. Tried to swap Aria Black leather for Inferno armor and got stuck with “wierd orange glow”. Any ideas how to fix it?

    • Same problem for me, I tried to replace the Defender Armor by Aria Armor, and one was almost bright red orange color. I need help.

  30. hi , thank u very much for your modding .
    but there is a problem here , I’ve done all the steps … but Im stuck in texplorer step .
    when it comes to scanning , it goes on 1730 and the costume file that I made and it stops .
    I’ve downloaded others versions of ME3explorer and still won’t go upper than 1730 .
    the mod Im using is your ashley tunic mod . I’ll be happy if you help me fix my problem and enjoy your mod

  31. I’ve followed these instructions dozens of times but I can’t get any mod to work. I’m trying to install your Femshep EDI mod both the less-busty version and the clown tits version but neither are showing up in my game.

  32. Okay I finally got the whole armor thing down until I actually got into the game. It was there but the original armor texture was still there. I want to believe that my only problem is installing the diff part. ( I tried replacing the Defender armor [FBDa] and dress[CTHk], still the same problem.)
    I’ve updated the TOC file, even re-installed the game a couple of times, still the same. I’m not sure what else to do.
    Please help if you have time. Thank you!

    • duh i answered my own question when i googled this, in another ‘thread’ on this site, i said it was FBDi *facepalm* -_-‘

  33. When I go to ME3 and click on the toc,bin updater, it scans my files, but there’s no pcc file there, even though I put it in the biogame folder. It doesn’t show a vlc icon like yours does. What am I doing wrong?

  34. How i can change armor model in Mass Effect 1? To example, i want change light Colossus to heavy Onyx, is it possible? Sorry my english is not perfect.

  35. Hi I have a question due to my problem
    Okay let’s to the point, a few hours ago I modded hair using ME3Explorer. I follow every step of instructions that posted about the mods but when i start load my game( Citadel at first time of the game- after Mars), then see Diana Allers. Her hair also change like mine but its glitch her hair look like a snake. Medusa ! hahahaha…….every time I re-modding always end up like this(Diana Allers hair also change)
    How to make modding hair but Diana Allers hair not change.
    Did Anyone know whats wrong with me ?

    • Nothing is wrong with what you did – my mods change Allers’ hair mesh and texture, I never play with her so I don’t care. If you want her hair not to be affected, you can manually replace another hair (but you’ll also have to manually update the .tpf to apply to the new hair).

  36. Hey, pretty new to this whole modding thing: I’m trying to mod a skeletal mesh for an object in the “extended cut” dlc, specifically, the memorial plaque being held at the end. I’ve adjusted the object and switched a few of the polys around as well as UV texture coordinates to display a name other than the standard, but I’m not sure if there’s anything I’m meant to do beyond that. Haven’t messed around with the bones and I even replaced the mesh through meshplorer but the first time I did it and ran the TOC.bin updater, it ruined the end sequence upon testing it. (Of course now I have the problem of TOC.bin updater not actually scanning the DLC files, so I can’t update it with the new mesh regardless of me replacing it in the file [specifically talking about the pcc file “BioD_End002_710MemorialRed.pcc”). Is there something I’m doing wrong or something I’m missing?

    Just need some guidance because I’m really determined to replace the plaque so it can display a name other than the standard which just seems plain and annoys me how there’s no first name.

    Thanks in advance for anyone who can reply :)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :