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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Making Avatar Clothing – Part 1

In this first post in a two-part series I’ll be covering some information resources and tutorials for making avatar clothing.

There are a lot of online tutorials and guides about making a basic t-shirt (t-shirt tutorials are by far the easiest to find in a web search) and it would be difficult to list them all here. If you have a particular favourite or one that you think would be helpful to beginners, that I have not mentioned, please leave a comment and link on this post.

Getting started

You will need to download the avatar mesh templates made by Chip Midnight and Robin Wood, if you don’t already have them. There are good reasons to have the two templates as there are some distinct differences between them. Tutorials do make use of both and, sometimes, combine the two together. If you are interested in how the two templates are combined, using Photoshop, you can read how at Combining SL Clothing Templates.

This information is often contained in the other tutorial links recommended below, so my apologies to readers if you end up reading the same information several times.

You can find links to the template downloads at this Second Life Clothing Tutorials wiki page. This page is an excellent resource for guides and websites, including some I’ve mentioned before (such as Natalia Zelmanov, Seshat Czerat, Nicola Escher, etc.)

Once you have both templates: I suggest starting off with reading Seshat Czeret’s ‘Theory of Second Life skin and clothing’ and then ‘How to make SL clothes in Gimp’ guides.These are still helpful if you are using Photoshop, although some of the control and layout details will differ between the two programs. If you don’t find these helpful then a visit back to the Second Life Clothing Tutorials page does offer alternatives, e.g Natalia Zelmanov’s clothing tutorials.

Notes on the above guides

Please remember that these posts and others were written in 2008, or earlier, and for Second Life users.This might make some information out of date.

A few of the links included in the guides are now inactive, have been registered to a different person/company or go to pages, such as Olila Oh’s, that seems to be an advert search site and not the information quoted in the guide.

The ‘Theory of Second Life clothing and skin’ refers to the system clothing layers being used for ink/body tattoos, which they still are, but the ability to use avatar alpha layers has now been developed. I’ll cover resources on alpha layers at a later point.

In ‘How to make SL clothes in Gimp’, it refers to using a 3D preview program and going to a beta test grid. Personally, I’ve never used either. I upload directly to OpenSim to test how clothing looks on my, specific, avatar shapes than using the standard SL avatar model. If you intend to make clothing that you want to give away, or to sell, then it would be useful to try the method described or similar for testing.

Advanced techniques

There are tutorials which show more advanced techniques for making clothing. These examples use Photoshop and require that you be comfortable and knowledgeable in using the tools and layers. I’d say these would be best suited for those who gone beyond the basics to an intermediate level.

Two written tutorials available are The making of Noell top texture and How to fit textures with ornaments for upper and lower body by LeeZu Baxter, a long-term SL resident and designer. These are both helpful guides that make use of LeeZu’s own creations and design techniques (which is why you will find that the images do display very clear name marking).

The other example is at Robin (Sojourner) Wood’s own website. Robin has covered a lot of subjects, mostly in videos, which are informative and worth browsing for a more experienced Photoshop user. A particular series of four, video, tutorials covers how to import the SL 3D avatar model into Photoshop and use the model for clothing creation. One very important point – this will only work if you have Photoshop CS4 Extended or later. Earlier Photoshop versions do not have the necessary 3D tools to follow these guides.

Resources

Below is a list of free resources that can be used for making your own clothing or developing your own textures. Although these are free resources; I’ve indicated where you might need to check what the designer has specified as the user agreement. If someone has offered a texture, brush, etc., for personal projects but not commercial, and you intend to sell your work, then please get in touch with the designer before you use it. It’s common courtesy to do so and not all designers will say no to a request, if asked politely.

Also, if you come from a commercially developed grid, do take into consideration that a great many people use the same resources. Unfortunately, this can cause all kinds of problems. Always check first, if possible, and try not to make assumptions if you see the same textures being used by different designers.

Webtreats ETC – A huge choice of textures are available at Webtreats, which are great for all kinds of creating.

Photoshop Brushes – A wide range of brushes, textures, patterns, gradients, etc., that are available for Photoshop users. *Note* Each designer sets a different agreement, please be sure to read which creative license they specify.

deviantART – Probably one of the best known of art sites, many members offer free licensed or Creative Commons work. *Note* Designers set different license agreements and you will need to check carefully, or ask directly if you are unsure, before using it in your own work.

Other places worth looking at for free resources are Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.

In the Part 2 post I will be writing about other advanced techniques as well as the use of alpha layers for clothing and avatars.

Making Prim hair – Part 2

A quick revisit to the subject of making prim hair, as I had a very helpful comment left on the blog.

I’m glad to point out a newly written guide by Vanish of tgib. The post features handy advice on working with textures and prims for your hairstyle creation and has a male hairstyle to give you some ideas: Making hair – a starters guide.

V’s blog is well worth a good, in-depth, look around as he gives lots of useful advice on building and making in OpenSim along with more technical information on setting up your virtual world. Also, he generously offers a range of files that are free to download and use.

Thanks again V for all your time in providing these resources and guides for beginners!

Uploading an avatar skin to OpenSim

I decided to write this post after receiving a reader’s question on how to upload files to make into a completed skin in OpenSim. My reply included a description on how to do this, but I think it’s something that needs an expanded post.

I learned how to upload files and make a wearable skin in Second Life; it is one of those areas where an assumption is often made that everyone knows how to do it. To help those who haven’t put together an avatar skin before I’ve written this tutorial.

The same basic method applies for other grids and viewers (as far as I’m aware).

I’m using the Starlight skin .psd files made by Eloh Eliot and working in Photoshop CS3. For OpenSim I’m using the Imprudence viewer.

This tutorial is for people who have some Photoshop experience rather than the complete beginner.

Preparation

When you are happy with your skin and want to upload it take the following steps:

1. Check the image size of your Photoshop files. If they are set at 1024 by 1024 pixels you’ll need to resize them. You can upload this size but it will make a large file, which is not very efficient, and could be slow to rez in-world.

Resizing your skin files to 512 x 512

Resizing your skin files to 512 x 512 (Image 1)

2. In the Image Size dialog box resize the Face, Upper and Lower Body files to 512 x 512 pixels. (Image 1)

Then go to Save As and save the Face, Upper and Lower Body files as Targa (.tga) format. (Image 2)

Saving as Targa (Image 1)

Saving as Targa (Image 2)

The next dialog box to open will give you the choice of saving as 16, 24 or 32 bit (Image 3). To make sure that the Face file is uploaded with the transparency information, select the 32 bit option. You can save the Upper and Lower Body files as 24 bit – if you have not added any Alpha Channels when modifying the files.

Saving as Targa (Image 2)

Saving as Targa (Image 3)

Face/Head template files usually contain an Alpha Channel and only Targa (.tga) and Portable Network Graphic (.png) file formats are available in virtual worlds to recognise the transparency information. People also use the .png file format for saving skin files. I use Targa as that’s what I’m familiar with but it’s what works best for you.

3. You do not need to save your .psd files at the 512 x 512 image size. If you are using the original files, and not saved copies, I’d recommend against it. If you want to come back and make changes, or create a new skin, it is harder to do detailed work at this smaller size.

4. Now that your files are saved it is time to upload them. Login to your grid or region and find your favourite spot to do some appearance editing.

Uploading and making your new skin

1. Go to File, then the Upload menu, select Upload Image and choose the Face, Upper and Lower Body .tga (or .png) files. (Image 1)

Uploading your skin in OpenSim. Image 1

Uploading your skin in OpenSim. (Image 1)

Depending on your viewer, you can choose to do a preview of each file before you upload it. To look, go to the ‘Preview image as’ and then use the drop down menu to see the file as it will look on an avatar. (Image 2)

Uploading skin you skin in OpenSim. Image 2

Uploading skin you skin in OpenSim. (Image 2)

Those with free uploads, or viewers that have free temporary uploads, can skip the preview if you wish.  Once the files are uploaded they will be saved to your Textures folder.

2. The next step is to make a new skin. Open your Inventory window and go to Create, located at the top of the window. Select New Body Parts and then select New Skin. A new skin will appear in your Body Parts folder. Rename the skin as you choose, then double-click or Command click (Mac)/Right click (Windows) on the name to wear it. Don’t panic on finding that it is a default Ruth skin! The next steps should fix that.

3. When you’re wearing your new skin go to the Appearance window. Choose the Skin tab listed under Body Parts. (Image 3)

Making the skin in the Appearance window. Image 3

Making the skin in the Appearance window. (Image 3)

The Skin window will show three grey boxes with a black cross in them, on the left hand side next to the sliders. These are the Head, Upper Body and Lower Body Tattoos. This is where you will assign your uploaded skin files to the new skin you’re wearing.

Make sure you have the ‘Apply Immediately’ box ticked, so that you can see the files as they are applied to the skin. Click on the Head Tattoos box. Another window will open where you can look for the uploaded skin files in your Inventory. Find the Face upload, click on the name and then click on the Select button. Now the upload will appear in the Head Tattoos box and on your avatar skin.

Repeat the same process for the Upper and Lower Body boxes and then press Save. You will now be wearing your new skin with the uploaded files.

I hope that this will be of help. Enjoy your new skin!