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Friday, June 3, 2011

That Newbie Look, And How to Lose It

Even though Linden Lab has recently added some new initial avatars to your collection, most experienced Second Life residents recognize a newbie when they see one. The silly default “duck walk” and the familiar look of a “starter avatar” are hard to miss.

One of the first things most new people want to do is customize their appearance, so in today’s entry I’ll talk about that.

Your most fundamental item of appearance is your avatar’s shape. Assuming your shape is modifiable (some are No Modify), you can adjust it in an almost endless variety of ways by using the Appearance mode. Right click your avatar and select Edit My Shape (or Appearance in Phoenix and 1.23 style viewers). You’ll see a window with a whole lot of buttons and adjustment sliders.
Shaping Up!
Similar sliders can be found for your clothing items, skin and hair (at least those that are modifiable) in "Edit My Outfit".  In Phoenix, these are lumped with the shape sliders in Appearance.  If you play with these, do NOT mess with the “hair” settings. I will explain why later, but for now, just trust me, OK?

Accurate adjustments to your body are easier to make if you are nude…and bald. Find a private place (there are dressing rooms available, but simply finding a body of water and going to the bottom is easy to do). Right click your avatar and select Take Off/Clothes/More/All Clothing. Anything that you still have on is not a clothing layer, but an attachment. You can right click them one at a time and select Detach, or you can right click your avatar and select Detach/All. Having stripped to the buff, enter Appearance mode again and start playing with the sliders.

I’m not going to tell you what settings to use, but I’ll give you a few bits of advice.
  • In most cases, don’t stray too far from the middle of the range. Those sliders permit a wide range of choices, from the beautiful to the grotesque.
  • Set your hand size to 20, and your foot size to 0. Artificial fingernails are generally made to fit size 20 hands, and all shoes are made to fit size 0 feet.
  • Save your work periodically, using the Save As button in the appearance window. Give your shape a distinctive name. I name mine by date, “Lindalshape110519”. If you mess up, you can go back to an earlier saved version and start over.
  • Look at yourself from different angles. You can move your point of view easily by doing this: Put your mouse cursor on your avatar. Hold the ALT key, and the left mouse button at the same time. Then move your mouse to move your camera position. Hit ESC to return the camera to its default position. (This “alt-camming” technique works outside of appearance mode, too. It’s a great way to save time when shopping or exploring, because you can look at all sorts of things without taking the time to walk over close to them.)
  • Don’t obsess about making your avatar look like your Real Life self. This is nearly impossible to do, the avatar mesh isn’t detailed enough for the job. A lot of fine details in your look don't come from your shape but the skin you wear over it. In fact, the shape and skin work together to create your final look. When you switch to a new skin, you will often have to tweak your shape, especially the eyes and lips, to get the best look.
  • Don’t try to get a final result in one session. Most people tweak and fiddle with their appearance over a period of weeks or months before settling down on a final, unique “look”. Think of your Second Life self as a work in progress!
  • Some people just don’t have any talent with the Appearance sliders. If you’re one of them, there are many pre-made shapes available, both free and for sale.
Many of the skins used for the starter avatars have ugly underwear permanently painted on. There are tons of good looking free skins out there, and even more and better looking skins available for purchase. Some of my favorite skin creators are Curio, Symphony, Belleza, and Rac. Really good skins can be expensive, because they represent a great deal of careful work in Photoshop to create that realistic look.

OK…you’ve been playing with your shape, and you want to get dressed and go out in public again. I’ll talk more about your inventory soon, but for now, try this.
  • Click the little suitcase icon on the right side of your screen to open your inventory
  • Find the folder called Library
  • In Library, open the folder Clothing/Initial Outfits
  • Each of the subfolders in Initial Outfits is a complete avatar, including a shape and skin. Pick an avatar whose clothing you’d like to wear and open that folder.
  • For each item of clothing and each attachment in that folder, EXCEPT the shape item, do one of the following to put it on: double click it; or right click it and select Wear; or drag it from the inventory list and drop it on your avatar. Any of these methods work.
If you want, you can change completely into any of these initial avatars very easily. Just drag the entire folder for that avatar onto yourself. Or, right click the folder and select Replace Outfit.

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