All “skins” for characters just use predefined model areas with what is basically “numbered swatches” to easily fit a set of predefined colors to any character model.
This is also how you can easily change the “team colors” at any time in the options, without even needing to reboot the game. The coloring is being handled by the game’s engine, not an externally stored texture file.
To try and explain it better, think about Thorn’s character model:
- The designer sets certain parts of the model to use “Color A”, and certain parts to use “Color B”.
- Now imagine a “skin” that has “Color A” as green, and “Color B” as yellow.
- Thorn’s model says her bow should be “Color A”, so it is painted “green”, while her bow says it should be “Color B”, so it is painted “yellow”.
A different “skin” could thus be used with the same model without having to actually edit or make new textures for said model.
This is almost certainly how these are set up - it’s a very easy method to not have to paint each texture for every character. This also means that these “gold skins” could be released for every single character model with almost zero effort on their part.
The “gold” skins have a few additional data flags on them that tell the engine “this surface should be shiny” (simulate reflected light), but it’s all handled the same way.
They want them to feel “special”, though, so they may never release them for some characters, or may release them with promotional events - who knows.
The same is true of any “skin” color scheme, such as ones from the “Digital Deluxe” pre-order (or the physical copy version).