Modding:Editing XNB files

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This page explains how to edit the game files to change in-game data, images, and maps.


What are XNB files?

The game stores data, maps, and textures in a compressed format with the .xnb file extension inside its Content folder. For example, Abigail's portrait shown during dialogue is from Content\Portraits\Abigail.xnb. Unpacking that file gives you an Abigail.png like this:
Modding - creating an XNB mod - example portraits.png

How do I get my changes in the game?

There are three ways to get your changes in the game:

  1. Create a Content Patcher content pack. This lets you change the game's XNB data with zero programming (just editing a JSON file) and without replacing the actual game files.
  2. Create a SMAPI mod and use the Content API. This requires programming, though.
  3. Create an XNB mod by replacing the original game files. This is no longer recommended and not documented here; see using XNB mods for more info.

Where can I get help?

The Stardew Valley modding community is very welcoming. Feel free to ask the community for help.

Unpack game files

You can't edit an .xnb file itself, you need to edit the file that's inside it. Pulling out that inner file is called unpacking, and putting it back is called packing. There are two main XNB unpackers available.


StardewXnbHack is an open-source and crossplatform tool for unpacking XNB files. It can't pack files back into .xnb, but you rarely need to.

To unpack files:

  1. Install SMAPI.
  2. Download StardewXnbHack. (Make sure you download the file for your OS, such as StardewXnbHack-*, not the source code!)
  3. Unzip the download into your game folder, so StardewXnbHack.exe is in the same folder as Stardew Valley executable icon.png StardewValley.exe.
  4. Double-click StardewXnbHack.exe (on Windows), (on Linux), or StardewXnbHack.command (on MacOS) to unpack your game's entire Content folder.

That's it! It'll unpack the files into a Content (unpacked) folder. The unpacked files will already be compatible with Content Patcher.


xnbcli is an open-source and crossplatform tool for packing and unpacking XNB files.

This supports XNB files for other games too, but it can't handle some files specific to Stardew Valley. StardewXnbHack is recommended instead.

Special notes:
  • It can't unpack XNB files containing data models (like Data\FishPondData or Data\Movies); use StardewXnbHack if you need those.
  • You'll need to edit unpacked data files manually to work with mods like Content Patcher.
  • When unpacking an image with xnbcli, you'll get extra .json file next to the image. That's only used to convert it back into an .xnb later, and you generally don't need to change it.

To unpack files:

  1. Download xnbcli. (Make sure you download the file for your OS, such as, not the source code!)
  2. Unpack the file for editing:
    1. Find the file you want to edit in the game's Content folder.
    2. Copy it into xnbcli's packed folder.
    3. Double-click unpack.bat (Windows), (Linux), or unpack.command (Mac).
    4. Check the Unpacked folder for your unpacked files. (If you didn't unpack many files, it may just flash onscreen and disappear again, but that's normal! Check the folder for your changes anyway. Note that 1.4 introduced a new data model format that xnbcli can't handle; for some data files you'll need to use StardewXnbHack instead.)
  3. Edit the unpacked file (see below).
  4. If this is a data file (not an image or map), there's one more step if you want to replace or edit the file with Content Patcher: removing the XNB metadata. Your current JSON file should look something like this:
        "header": {
            "target": "w",
            "formatVersion": 5,
            "hidef": true,
            "compressed": true
        "readers": [
                "type": "Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Content.DictionaryReader`2[[System.Int32, mscorlib, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b77a5c561934e089],[System.String, mscorlib, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b77a5c561934e089]]",
                "version": 0
                "type": "Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Content.Int32Reader",
                "version": 0
                "type": "Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Content.StringReader",
                "version": 0
        "content": {
            "0": "Weeds/0/-1/Basic/Weeds/A bunch of obnoxious weeds."

    Just remove everything except the content field, so it looks like this:

        "0": "Weeds/0/-1/Basic/Weeds/A bunch of obnoxious weeds."


  • If you get permission denied on Linux/Mac:
    1. Open a terminal. (In MacOS, search 'Terminal' in Spotlight.)
    2. Type chmod +x , with a space at the end. Don't press enter yet.
    3. Drag the (Linux) or unpack.command (Mac) file onto the terminal to paste its path.
    4. Hit enter. If you did it correctly, the terminal won't show any message but the permission error should be gone.
    5. Repeat for (Linux) or pack.command (Mac).
  • If you get unrecognized command on Windows:
    1. Make sure you didn't download the source code zip by mistake. If the folder path refers to "master", it's the wrong one!

Pack game files

There's no need to repack game files if you're using Content Patcher! Just use the .json, .png, .tmx, or .tbin file directly in your content.json.

If you really want to repack the files, you'll need to use xnbcli:

  1. Find the file you want to repack.
  2. Copy it into xnbcli's unpacked folder.
  3. Double-click pack.bat (Windows), (Linux), or pack.command (Mac).
  4. Move the repacked .xnb file back to the original location.

Making changes


Each data XNB has its own format. See the documentation at Modding:Index#Advanced topics.


An example tilesheet, which consists of a grid of tiles like this: Modding - creating an XNB mod - example tile 1.png

A few definitions:

  • A spritesheet is a PNG file containing small images (usually in a regular grid pattern). Each square in the spritesheet's grid pattern is called a sprite. For example, each in-game item has a sprite in Content\Maps\spring_objects.xnb.
  • A tilesheet is a synonym for spritesheet when used for map tiles. In a tilesheet, each square is called a tile and is 16×16 pixels.
  • A portrait is a sprite from the Content\Characters\*.xnb spritesheets.

Spritesheets are easy to edit:

  1. Unpack the file you want to change.
  2. Open the unpacked .png file in an image editor (like Paint.NET on Windows, or GIMP on Windows/Linux/Mac). Note that it's important to use an image editor that can handle transparency (a.k.a. an alpha channel), unlike Microsoft Paint.
  3. Make changes directly to the image.
  4. Repack the file and copy it back to the original location.

That's it! You can launch the game to see your changes.


See Modding:Maps.

Content editing

Note that prices for software listed below are subject to change.

Pixel Art software

Software Price (USD) OS Notes
Aseprite $19.99 Windows, macOS, Linux Free if you compile yourself from the source code
Photoshop $9.99/mo Windows, macOS Subscription based service
PAINT.NET Free and $6.99 on Microsoft Store Windows
GIMP Free Windows, macOS, Linux
Krita Free and $9.99 on Steam Windows, macOS, Linux
Pyxel Edit $9.00 Windows Currently in beta, subject to a price increase upon full release
Pixel Studio Android or Pixel Studio Steam Free - In App Purchases on Android Android, Windows

Text editing software

Software Price (USD) OS Notes
Sublime Text $99.00 Windows, macOS, Linux Unlimited free trial
Notepad++ Free Windows
Visual Studio Code Free Windows, macOS, Linux