Making Avatar Clothing – Part 2

Following on from Part 1; this post shares some guides on making avatar clothing and tattoos. Tattoos are more of a skin-related subject but I’ve fitted it in here because they use alpha channels.

Clothing and Tattoos with alphas

There are many applications for transparency information in virtual worlds. This isn’t an in-depth look at all possible uses but I’ve included the terms that are generally used.

The alphas

Alpha channel(s) – An alpha channel is used in Photoshop and Gimp when you want to use levels of transparency in your file. For clothes; this can be used to make a semi-transparent shirt or to select a specific area, e.g. to create a lace effect as part of a design. To read more on how they work you can visit this SL knowledge base page: Alpha channels and transparency. A video tutorial on how to create alpha channels is at Robin Wood’s site: Easy Alphas.

Alpha masking – This is one of the features that launched in Linden Labs’ Viewer 2.0 in 2010. Alpha masking means that it is possible for an avatar to wear a transparent texture.

A good example of this would be shoes. Prior to alpha masking many styles of sculpted prim, high-heeled shoes and boots needed what is called an invisiprim – a regular or sculpted prim that has had a transparent texture applied to it. When worn as an attachment this blanks out the foot or leg area that could show through the shoe prims and spoil the effect.

The invisiprim method is no longer necessary if a transparency texture is worn by an avatar. Another SL knowledge base page explains here: Alpha masking.

The layers

Tattoos – The original method for wearing body decoration and tattoos means creating your design, uploading it and then making it into system clothing layers. This has a drawback if you are wearing other clothing on the same layer as the one that the tattoo is worn on. It isn’t possible to wear both at the same time. In SL many designers provide their tattoos on every clothing layer possible to avoid these layer conflicts.

Using this method also lacks the facility to apply a design to the avatar head area. It is possible to tint tattoos through the Appearance window, if they have a modify permission, so it allows changing the colour to suit yourself.

Wearable tattoos – Another feature introduced with the launch of Viewer 2.0. This gives the use of a texture layer over the avatar skin. The process of creating and uploading files is the same as the original method. Making the tattoo wearable in the Appearance window is closer to making a skin. Tattoos or other body art designs, such as make-ups and eyelashes, can be worn on the avatar head.

It also means you can wear body art designs without taking up another system clothing layer (like shirt or pants). When Viewer 2.0 was launched I understand that it wasn’t possible to use colour tinting on this layer in-world. I’ve read that this is now a feature in the latest versions. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to check that myself.

There are some disadvantages to wearable tattoos and alpha masks which has to do with viewers.

It is possible to use alpha masking and wearable tattoos in OpenSim with a viewer that has these features included. I use Imprudence 1.3.0. and have created tattoos on the wearable tattoo layer (the ability to tint tattoos is not included in that version). However for people on Linden Labs’ viewer release 1.23.5, or a third-party viewer that haven’t been updated, you won’t be able to see alpha masks or wearable tattoos.

There are some bugs and problems that can occur when using them. I won’t try to document them here but suggest searching the jira pages for Second Life, Mantis for OpenSim or the relevant viewer developers’ website if you encounter any problems.

So far I haven’t seen any tutorials/guides that deal specifically with making wearable tattoos. I intend to make my own resource on this subject in the future.

Clothing and tattoo tutorials

Natalia Zelmanov’s post on Semi-transparent clothing is a good place to start and is suitable for Photoshop and Gimp users.

Nicola Escher has written Creating a tattoo which uses Photoshop. This post is for making tattoos as system clothing layers. It covers some of the same information as Robin Wood’s Easy Alphas but is a step-by-step tutorial for a simple tattoo.

You may be wondering why there are not more links to other video tutorials. This is down to my preference for written tutorials. Generally speaking, I find it easier to follow a tutorial if I am reading rather than watching it, pausing and switching windows. There are many Second Life user videos posted on YouTube that deal with clothing, tattoos and other content creation. As I haven’t watched all of the available videos I’m unable to give any particular recommendations.

I’ll be writing more about clothing in future posts but I hope that you’ll find the information useful for your own creations.

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