Competitive Customisation

Hi! My name is Piran and I'm obsessed with the Customisation Spotlight (CS). I have won several times and still want more.
Winning the CS is a lot of fun! Not only is the trophy you get on your pet lookup really pretty, it is also rare. The Beauty Contest (BC) gives out over 150 trophies each week, the CS gives out six.
You can enter the CS on your side accounts as well because there is no reward in neopoints or items!

And winning the CS doesn't require you to spam the boards for votes, you just enter your pets and wait.
Many people will tell you that winning the CS is completely random. I don't think so. And that's why I made this guide. I'd like to point out some ways that I believe increase your chances to win the CS.

If you find any mistakes or have something to add, please contact me via neomail from my userlookup.

A.    The Basics

The CS can be found here, or, if you want to go there manually, hover over Community in the top bar and choose Spotlights from the drop down list. You will then be taken to a page with a link list of all the contests, including the CS.
In the CS you have four different tabs: Enter, Vote, Results and Search.

Results: Here you see the past winners. There are six trophies given out every week, gold silver and bronze for the Neocash category, and gold, silver and bronze for the Neopoint category.
 A very interesting page as it shows you what kind of designs were rated highly enough to win. (And also to see if you have won ;))

Note: Being Notable Neopet has NOTHING to do with winning the CS. The Notable Neopet is just chosen randomly among the CS entries. See the last question in editorial #315 for reference.

Search: Here you can see the pets recently entered into the CS sorted by species. This page is nice if you need some inspiration for a customisation of a certain species.

Vote: Here you can use your 100 daily votes. Meaning you can rate 100 randomly chosen pets on a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best).
You don't get a direct link to your pet so you can't ask people to vote for your pet. You just have to try to create a design that the average voter will rate highly.

Enter: This is where you enter your pets. You get to see the name of your pet, a picture of its current customisation and below the picture the category in which it will be entered – Neocash (nc) or Neopoints (nps) - and then, of course the button to enter that pet. Pets without any customisation items and invisible pets (even when they are customised) cannot be entered.
If your pets are already entered in the CS you will also see that on this page.
If one of your pets has won a trophy in the CS that pet will be banned from the contest for two months.
The new round of the CS always starts on Monday. If you enter your pet it will not take part in the current round but in the round starting the next Monday.
Example: If you enter your pet on a Sunday it will be in the contest starting the next day - Monday.
If you enter your pet on a Monday, it will be in the contest one week later - the next Monday. Which means you have to wait a total of two weeks for the results!

Note: The picture of your pet that is shown for rating in the contest SHOULD be the picture of the pet dressed as you entered it. But apparently many pets are shown with their current customisation and not the one they were entered with. Keep this in mind if you change your pet's outfit while it is up for voting.

B.    What you need to know to increase your chances

So now we come to the interesting stuff.
First some general advice: It's not enough to have a customisation that you think is great, that all your friends think is great and that gave you high scores on every rating topic you visited on the Customisation Boards. A great customisation does not necessarily mean that you have good chances in the CS. Instead you need a customisation that works well in the CS. You need to play to the crowd. To win you need a customisation that makes the average voter rate your pet highly.
To get there, there are some things you need to know.

I.    Know the contest

1.    The voting

This might actually be the most important advise I can give you: Go and vote. As often as you can.
Voting can teach you more about the CS than anything else. You see how you vote, how you get faster with time, how you only look at a picture for a second or two before you enter your rating. You see what other people come up with when it comes to customisation. You see what makes an impression on you. Also ask yourself if you REALLY would give your pets a ten if you randomly came across them as a voter.
So go and vote.

2.    The picture of your pet

The picture that is shown for rating in the CS is the small picture of your pet as you see it on your user lookup and not the big (animated) picture on the pet lookup.
This is important since items might make a completely different impression on the small picture.
Example:  A leaf shower that just underlines your autumn theme in the big picture can hide the face of your pet in the small picture.

Example: The Fancy Purple Facepaint might look great in in the big picture but in the small picture your pet can look like it got punched in the face.
Even if your pet looks just wonderful in the big picture you see on its lookup or on the customisation page itself don't let that influence you. Always and only go by the small picture.
Therefore always check how your customisation looks on your lookup or, if you use a lookup that shrinks those pictures, go to the enter page of the CS and look there. While creating your customisation save your progress at every step. And then refresh at your look up or the contest page to see the changes in the small picture.

3.    The categories

The CS has two categories, Neocash and Neopoint.
Neocash: If your pet wears one or more items that originate from the NC Mall it will compete in the Neocash category.
Neopoint: In this category you can use all items that can be bought with neopoints AND that are obtained from painting/zapping your pet certain colours, so-called paintbrush clothes, for example those you get when your pet is turned desert.
Have a look at this guide (sadly no longer updated, let me know if you find an up-to-date petpage, please) to see what kind of clothes your pet can get from paint brushes.
Keep in mind that as soon as you add a single neocash item to the customisation, your pet will compete in the Neocash category. So a pet wearing purely neocash items or wearing a mix of neopoint and neocash items will compete in the Neocash category.

Strangely enough it is generally easier to win the Neopoint Category.
In my opinion this is due to several reasons. The number of neopoint items compared to neocash items is small. In addition many great neopoint items are extremely expensive. These limitations also make it slightly more difficult to come up with a great pure neopoints customisation which then leads to many people adding NC items to their customisation to complete it or make it look better. As a result a good neopoint customisation has a nice chance of winning.

II.    Know your pets

1.    The species

I believe that every species can win in the CS. But that doesn't mean that it is equally easy with all species. As there are no different categories for each species like there are in the Beauty Contest all species competes against each other in the CS. This means that Buzz competes against Draik. And yes, a Draik has a better chance of winning in the CS.
That shouldn't stop you from entering with a Buzz but keep in mind that your Buzz does not only have to look more impressive than all the other Buzz but also more impressive than all the Draiks that were entered.
Look at the past winners to get an impression of species that are often sucessful in the CS

2.    The colour

Not every customisation works well with every base colour. And that is annoying. You might have a great idea for a customisation but none of your pets can pull it off. The shining blue of an electric pet, the sad face of grey pet, the colour muddle of a camouflage pet – you cannot ignore your pet's colour when it comes to customisation. And as much as you want to use that wonderful customisation idea that you came up with, if it doesn't work with your pets you either have to repaint or just drop the idea. It might be a difficult decision but it will save you a lot of time.
Generally speaking light colours make for an easier customisation if you're going for a happy or elegant design. That's why you see so many white kacheeks around on the customisation board. But for other designs other colours might work better, and also: Going the easiest way can quickly become boring. So don't repaint your pet if you're happy with its colour!

3.    Unconverted pets, Babys, Mutants, Maraquans, Fruits and Vegetables

Don't hesitate to enter with such a pet. People might have told you that those pets don't belong in the contest as they cannot be customised directly, meaning you cannot add any items to their bodies in case of unconverteds, or, in case of baby, maraquan, mutant, only very few items exist for these pets and those are often neocash items. But really, don't let that deter you. The person who votes will look at the picture in the contest as a whole and if it is impressive enough these pets can also win.
Yes, there are people who will vote these kinds of pets down on principle but there are many, many other voters who don't care. So enter your pets even if they fall under this category.

III.    Know your items

1.    Neocash and Neopoint

Actually it isn't really necessary that you know which of your items are Neopoints and which Neocash. Just use the handy source drop-down menu on the customisation screen.

Choose Neopoint if you want to do a pure Neopoints customisation. It will also show you items that you got from a paint brush in this which is really nice as you can use this for a neopoints customisation in the CS as well. Again I'd like to recommend this guide for paint brush clothes and other information (guide is outdated, I'm looking for a new one).
And if you want do a customisation for the Neocash category of the CS choose All. It doesn't hurt to use Neopoint items and also paint brush items in the Neocash category of the CS, so don't limit yourself to only Neocash items.

2.    Zones

There are several zones that you use when customising your pet.
Example: Background, Jacket etc.
You can only use one item per zone.
When making a customisation it's very important to have a look at the zones an item uses. If you don't do that you can become easily frustrated as the item you just added makes another item you added earlier disappear because they use the same zone or it restricts another zone.

But there are also are very similar items that don't use the same zone to make it even more confusing.
Example: Strange Green Mist Foreground uses the Foreground zone while Strange Red Mist Foreground uses the Lower Foreground Item zone.
Be aware that there are items that use different zones depending on the species of pet that is wearing them. An item that might be a shoe for a Krawk can be a hindcover for a Peophin. Even right and left hand items can differ, especially between four-footed pets and pets standing up! Investigate closely how the different items work for every pet you own.

3.    Special Effects

There are some items that work differently from other items of the same kind.
  • Some wigs make the Kyriis' hair disappear while others don't.
  • The Golden Key Necklace makes the neck ruff disappear for Eyries, Tonus, Cybunnies and Usuls; other necklaces don't do that.

  • The Ultra White Fur Shrug (jacket zone) makes a Cybunny's and Usul's neck ruff disappear.

  • And so on.
    I don't know all of these items, but if you want to make some of your pet's hair disappear it might be a good idea to ask around.

    4.    Super Packs and other sets

    It is generally considered uncreative and not very good customising if you use a complete or nearly complete Super Pack from the NC Mall or a complete/nearly complete species set of those that come out on pet days. If you ask for a rating on the Customisation Board you would most probably be rated down for that.
    For the CS that doesn't matter. Use these items however you want and if you want to use a complete set or pack do so. The only thing that matters is that it looks impressive. Many voters aren't very well informed about the existing sets or packs. They just see a customisation they like or don't like and rate accordingly.

    5.    Use items creatively

    Some items might be intended to look like something but can actually be used to represent something else, especially on the small picture used in the CS.
    The Shiny Gormball might look like a magic crystal ball in the hand of a pet dressed like a magician and not like a sport object.
    The Kelp and Coral Garland can look like some spooky branches when used out of water.
    Do not just read what the item is supposed to be but test what it actually looks like.

    6. The Wing Thing

    It is very tempting to use an item for every zone possible. Especially for the wing zone as there so many wonderful wings.
    Don't do it though.
    If you look through the CS winners you'll see that the majority of the winners don't use wings and if they use wings they are often winged pets to begin with so they just have their wings replaced.
    There are many great wings out there but in most cases they don't add anything to the outfit but rather distract from it and cover a big part of the background.
    If you're completely sure that the outfit absolutely needs wings go ahead and choose a pair, but if you're not that sure just don't use wings.

    IV.    Know how to judge your customisation

    1.    Make an impression

    If you vote often in the CS you'll find yourself voting faster and faster. You only look at the picture for maybe two seconds, enter your rating and move on to the next.
    What does that mean for you? It means that you have to make a customisation that makes a great impression in the blink of an eye. It doesn't matter what kind of impression it is (OK, maybe I wouldn't recommend gross or stupid) but that the voter gets an immediate feeling for the pet.
    So look at your pets and ask yourself 1. if the voters will right away see how wonderful they are and 2.what it is that they see.

    Have a look at many of the past CS winners here.

    2.    Keep on working

    If you don't win, tweak your outfit, take an item away or add an item. Consider that the base colour of your pet doesn't work well with this customisation, consider that you maybe don't have all the items you need to make the customisation work, consider that this customisation just doesn't work in the CS.
    I generally enter a customisation for a maximum of five weeks in a row. If I haven't won right away I start tweaking it after the first three weeks. If it hasn't won after five weeks total, I scrap it and try something completely different.
    Sometimes you have a customisation that you feel is good or should be good but just doesn't look as you want it to. Keep your pet dressed in that not-quite-good outfit for a while and try to find out what it is that you need. Maybe the item you need already exists or maybe you have to save a picture of this customisation and get back to it when the item you need gets released. Staring at a customisation for too long because you so much want to make it work can cloud your judgment, so just revisit it at a later date.

    C.    Enjoy

    Winning the CS is great and it is addictive. But don't make it all about winning the CS. Don't dress your pets up only for the CS all the time
     At least from time to time have them customised in a way that you enjoy without thinking about voters. Or have a pet that you don't enter. Goof around. Have fun.

    D. Useful petpages

    Crosspianting Guide Another page that isn't updated anymore but is just too good not to list it! This page lists the paint brush items, shows you what cross-painted pets look like, explains what changing the gender does to your pet and much more.
    NP substitutions for NC items Saw an NC item you'd like but cannot get? This page lists possible nps alternatives for many NC items. (Sadly not updated anymore, but still a good page.)
    Past CS Winners Although last updated in 2015 this page still holds a wealth of winning customisations! Well worth a look!
    It's a directory for invisible pets that also explains how to customise them! So although your invisible pet cannot be entered in the CS you can make sure it looks fantastic!

    Link back to this guide

    Like this guide? Want to pass on the knowledge?
    Please do so!

    The wonderful Katie of ilovekatsanddrpepper made me my link back button! Thank you!

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