New Year, New Look! (Plus Skin-Making Tutorial)

Bodyshot photo of my new avatar skin

This past week, I finally ticked off one of the tasks I’d set myself for this year: designing myself a custom skin for my avatar. 🙂

The roadblock that had thwarted my plans was that while I had some guidelines for laying out the textures, I had no real clue how to do it. So I did some research online which led me to this resource page with templates for some simple skins. Exactly what I needed!

I downloaded the Photoshop files for the most recent example, the Starlight skin, but they have versions that’ll work in Illustrator or GIMP.

Upon opening them in Affinity Designer, I was overjoyed to see that all the parts — shadows, highlights, freckles, make-up and other details — could all be separated out and their visibility changed as required. So the first order of business was to remove the fingernails and toenails, as they’re superfluous on a Bakes-On-Mesh (BOM) mesh avatar, followed by various details that weren’t required for my alien look. Then I replaced the base flesh-tone with a dark blue.

To test the new skin in Second Life required that I export the textures as PNG files, then log into Second Life and create a new skin in my inventory. To do that, open your inventory then right-click and select New Body Parts > New Skin.

Screenshot of my inventory window, where I’m showing the commands to create a new skin.

While you can put this new skin anywhere in your inventory, it’s probably best to place it in the Body Parts folder that’s already there. I’ve created a Skins folder to organise the skins that I’ve used. As you can see from the screenshot above, I’ve got a few that I’ve bought over the years, plus two of my own creations.

(And yes, my Firestorm Viewer is pink, because reasons.)

Before you go any further, make sure that you’ve saved your current appearance in you Appearance window. I keep a default one around for this very reason. Simply click the big Save As button and enter a descriptive name. I name my base appearances starting with ‘-Base-‘ so that they will always appear at the top of the Appearance list.

Next, you’ll need to go somewhere private in order to wear and then customise your new skin. While some areas may allow exhibitionism, most don’t, and I cannot be held responsible for any sim or region bans you may incur from not heeding the above advice!

Okay, so you’re hopefully at home in Second Life now and not liable to scare people with what happens next.

  1. If you’re using Firestorm Viewer or another third-party viewer, you can use their built-in pose stand feature to place your avatar nice and steady, otherwise rez a pose stand from your inventory and hop onto that. (If, for whatever reason, you don’t have a pose stand on you, there are plenty of free ones available on the Second Life Marketplace.)
  2. Set your environment to ‘Midday’ (World > Environment > Midday in Firestorm) and turn off shadows if you’ve got them enabled — you’re going to want to see how your avatar looks without any distractions.
  3. Speaking of distractions, it’s time to strip off all your (Second Life) clothes and accessories. That includes hair, make-up and tattoos.
  4. Select your new skin in your inventory and double-click it to wear it. This will make you look like a mannequin, but don’t worry, we’re going to fix that.
  5. Right-click on your new skin in the inventory window and select Edit — you’ll get the Skin Editor dialog in the Appearance window.
The skin editor dialog box. Ignore the settings, it’s those three boxes marked ‘Head’, ‘Upper Body’ and ‘Lower Body’ we’re interested in.
  1. Click on the box marked ‘Head’, and you’ll see a texture selector appear. Click on Local to switch the selector to textures stores locally on your computer. There’s nothing there yet, but now you can open the PNG files you created earlier.
The secret to skin creation without tears — test locally before you upload your textures!
  1. Click the Add button, then select the first texture file on your computer and click OK to let your viewer know it’s there. You can repeat this step for the other texture files if you wish, to save time, or select all three to link them in one go. Make sure that the Apply Now box is checked, then pick the head texture from the list on the right. (Obviously, it will help if you’ve named your texture files so you know which is which!)
  2. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the ‘Upper Body’ and ‘Lower Body’, and you should now have your skin on display in your viewer. Because you’re using local files, other people won’t be able to see them for now.

Now you can have a good look around your avatar to see how your new skin looks. If there are any area where the texture looks odd or isn’t lining up correctly between body parts, you can re-open your working texture files in Photoshop or whatever app you’re using, make changes then re-export them as PNG files using the same filenames you used before. Because you left that Apply Now box checked earlier, your changes will be reflected on your avatar in Second Life!

Once you’re happy, it’s time to upload those textures so that you can use them in Second Life. Linden Lab will charge you a small fee per texture, so it’s a good idea to double-check the textures so you don’t end up wasting money!

(If you need more time to work on your new skin, simply repeats steps 1 through 7 above to return to where you were. The skin file in your inventory won’t be updated until you’ve uploaded your textures.)

  1. In the Skin Editor, select each of the top three boxes in turn, then click on Upload in the texture picker.
  2. You can change the name for the texture, and you’ll be shown how much Linden Lab will charge you for the upload.
  3. Once you click the Pay button, there will be a delay while the texture is uploaded, then it should show up in the Textures folder in your inventory.
  4. Toggle the texture picker to Inventory, then find and select the newly-uploaded texture, and click OK to confirm the change.
  5. Repeat steps 8 through 11 for the other textures.
  6. Now, you can hit that <Save button in the Skin Editor window, and your new skin is now viewable by everyone in Second Life!

Okay, that’s a very quick tutorial. The amount of time needed depends on how much detail you want to put into your new skin, and it’ll probably take a few trials to get everything looking correct.

Now, here are some pictures of what I made!

Bodyshot photo of my new avatar skin
Bodyshot photo of my new avatar skin

I kept to a dark blue skin-tone, but went with rainbow stripes instead of spots as I could literally paint them on! 🙂 I kept the colour gradient from the tattoo layer I’d been wearing previously, but now it extends down my hands, which I’m very happy with.

Butt-shot, showing my embossed barcode ID
Butt-shot, showing my embossed barcode ID.

I had a barcode tattoo hidden above my butt, thanks to my friend Winterrose, but for my new skin I decided to make it intregrated and much larger!

Detail shot showing foot markings
Detail shot showing foot markings.

There are some gaps in my skin where there are no rainbow stripes — you can see what I mean from the photo above, at the ankle level. I will probably fix that in a future version, but for now I’m happy with it.

Face shot showing my new skin
Face shot showing my new skin.

On my face, the stripes are thinner but cover a lot more skin area. I’ve included lips and eyeliner, which now follow the rainbow gradient — my previous makeup was separate and clashed somewhat with my spots tattoo.

Photo of my hands, showing painted fingers and palms
Photo of my hands, showing painted fingers and palms.

I took this photo above to show what I did for my hands. I have two open circles on the palms, and stripes running up each finger and thumb.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and perhaps feel inspired to consider personalising your own appearance. 🙂

The biggest benefit to myself, apart from pride in having a unique appearance, is that my avatar renders faster, as there are fewer layers to bake onto my mesh body.

The next phase of my makeover will involve creating a custom shine to complement and enhance my new look. I’ll post more about that once I’ve worked out what I need to pull it off!

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