Coming soon! A guide to mesh

Blender model render by Belochka Shostakovich (partly based on a great tutorial at BlenderCookie by Jonathan Williamson. I ❤ JW!)

 

An announcement for our readers: Thom Lunasea is currently planning and writing what will be an ongoing series of posts on creating and uploading mesh objects.

It’s a subject we’re both still learning, so covering rigged mesh is not possible as yet, but we hope that the posts will provide useful information. The tutorials will be based in Second Life but are meant to assist residents of other virtual worlds where similar mesh capabilities are supported.

The first post will be on how to use an enabled viewer’s upload screen for an unrigged mesh object. Thom will be providing a download of a simple object he has created, licensed under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, as part of the tutorial.

We’re both looking forward to exploring this subject further!

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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.

OpenSim and learning

As Enlades has mostly concentrated on information gathering and sharing, this is an out-of-character bit of writing by being an opinion piece. And a long one at that. I apologise for this unscheduled interruption, but, after a recent comment debate on another person’s blog I felt motivated to write something different.

I think it is also overdue in terms of both explaining about some of the links to tutorials and for those who are interested in OpenSim and creating.

I’ll start by saying: I love our OpenSim regions, I love the idea that an entire virtual world can be designed and made according to whim, imagination and for fun. Although neither of us has made use of hypergrid, as our regions are still under development, or visited other grids or regions I can imagine how amazing and inventive these places can be given the freedom to create.

When I first started hearing of OpenSim grids, stand alone regions and various communities one of the things that impressed me was the idea that people were more open to the idea of sharing information, even including their own creations. I’m sure there are many generous and helpful people in grids and stand alone regions who do just exactly that.

However, there is one big, unavoidable, drawback waiting to trip you up. With the odd exception, when you’re looking online for particular information you’ll find precisely nothing. It is like being stuck in the Antarctic zone of information.

As any regular visitor to this blog will probably have noticed: nearly 100% of tutorial or information links listed on this blog are:

a) courtesy of Second Life residents or wikis and,

b) no matter how useful or inspiring they’re almost exclusively from two or three years ago, if not sometimes older.

Whilst it is understandable that the most popular resources would be linked to Second Life, because of its prominence amongst virtual worlds and the number of residents, I’ll give one very specific example of what I mean.

With the greatest thanks to interested visitors, this blog has seen an explosion of views over the last two months, having generated, so far, 419 views. That may not sound like a lot to better known blogs, but for a tiny, only 4 months old with 8 posts blog that seems a lot. A rough breakdown of those views shows that over half of those hits were people searching for information on avatar skin creation. I’m not going to nitpick unique viewer numbers, because I don’t really care about that level of detail.

What this does show, I think pretty clearly, is that by far the most sought after information through searches is on how to make a skin. As I pointed out in my previous posts about this subject the only tutorials/guides I could find were, yep, you guessed it, from 2007/2008.

I’m not an über-researcher, so I’m ready to stand corrected, but in all these months I have been unable to find any freely available guide or tutorial on how to make from scratch, or modify a template like Eloh Eliot’s, an avatar skin using hand-painting or photo source techniques.

Think about that for a second…

Does something about that strike you as odd? Because to me that sort of stands out like a strawberry in a bowl of spinach. Not one single person, in any virtual world, has written blog posts or made a video covering the most basic lessons on how to paint or source a skin in any program? Is everyone walking around as a Ruth avatar?

(I’m not including Natalia Zelmanov’s Goth skin tutorials. This is because it doesn’t deal with creating human skin tones or a photorealistic style and was written before skin design became such a diverse area.)

I can absolutely understand that it’s a complex subject, but then so are lots of other things. I haven’t noticed a complete lack of clothing tutorials (which I will get to at some point), and yet that requires a similar knowledge of avatar mesh and painting/3D skills for highlights and shading.

The point I’m trying to get at here is that I wouldn’t necessarily expect that kind of skin tutorial to come out of SL, or any commercially developed grid, because, well, they’re commercial. If you’ve scrambled your way to the top of the skin designer tree, built your own sim and even have a marketing budget, then you’re hardly likely to stand in the middle of your store shouting “And today I will give away all my templates, resources and trade secrets!”

But what about those who don’t make for commercial reasons? You know, like people who use OpenSim.

So, I’m making this plea to any OpenSim advocate that might be passing by and read this. You want people to wake up and realise what fantastic things can be achieved? Want to get people interested in developing their skills and sharing that? What does it say about OpenSim, and its users, that when it comes to tutorials and guides on some pretty major areas of design and creation the only online resources available are ones that were made by Second Life residents? Does that promote the positive side of OpenSim to you, does that sound inspiring or encouraging?

Then give people information to work with, to learn from, to inspire them.

Don’t sit back and think, “oh that’s too complicated” or “that’s already been done by someone else” because chances are it isn’t, if you think about how to explain it clearly, and just because something has been done by someone else, once, 3 years ago, doesn’t mean it isn’t time to provide an alternative.

Nothing comes from nothing and gives nothing.