Monday, February 28, 2011

Your new Skin - Step 2 - Starlight

Ok - we're finished with the preliminaries.  Let's make the skin!  Here are the steps:

  1. Find and open the GIMP file for the Upper portion of the skin.  Then edit it to turn on the various 'bits' that Eloh left off when she saved it.  Then save the skin as a jpg file (aka texture).
  2. Likewise, find and open the GIMP file for the Lower portion of the skin.  There are 'bits' missing here too so we'll have to turn them on.  Then save teh skin as a jpg file (aka texture).
  3. Finally, find and open the GIMP file for the Face portion of the skin (actually the head).  No bits are missing here but we will want to turn off a couple things.
A skin has 3 textures, an Upper, Lower and Face.  The Upper covers the portion from the neck to the waist.  The Lower covers the portion from the neck down.  And the Face covers the portion from the neck up, the entire head.  The places these three connect are crucial areas, the goal is to see no line or boundary connecting the upper to the face or the upper to the lower.  The upper to face is usually not a problem, but the upper to lower can be if we are not careful.  Being careful here will mean changing the smallest number of layers we can get away with.

The Upper Texture:

Now double click on "starlight_upper.xcf" and look closely at the GIMP image window.  (the squarish one)  You will see the front and back of what appears to be a girl with NO NIPPLES.  :-(

Fortunately the nipples are layers in the file, we just have to turn them on.  So scroll through the layers (the layers window) and find the layer named "nipple.creases".  That marks the top of a list of layers that have to do with the nipples. The lower limit is marked by the layer named "nipple.dark.color".  We will go through them layer by layer, topmost to the bottom and turn them on - or leave them off.  In particular, we'll have the opportunity to choose light, medium or dark nipples - and will choose medium.  You can choose light or dark if you wish - or choose light and dark and medium in any combination.  But I would recommend just medium to start.

The way to turn a layer 'on' is to click the area to the left of the layer near the edge.  An 'on' layer will have an eye looking at you - meaning it is visible.  An 'off' layer will have no eye - it will be blank.

  • nipple.creases .... on 
  • .... on
  • nipple.middle .... on
  • nipple.outer  .... on
  • nipple.light.colorcenter .... on
  • nipple.light.color .... off
  • .... on
  • nipple.dark.color .... off
Now you should see a nice pair of nipples on the breasts.

The next step is to save your work.  I would suggest a naming convention and change the name of the file.  Today at this writing, is February 28, 2011, so I would change the name to "starlight_upper 110228.xcf".  If you save the file again, you might choose to name it "starlight_upper 110228-2.xcf" or you might not, its up to you to decide how major your change was and how annoyed you would be if you had to back up to the previous level.  So.... do a File->Save As and change the name to "starlight_upper yymmdd.xcf" and press enter.  ( yy stands for the last two digits of the current year, mm is the number of the current month 01->12, and dd is today's date ).

Now you've saved your work but you do not yet have an uploadable texture file.  To make one choose File->Save As again and name the file "starlight_upper yymmdd.jpg" and press enter.  GIMP will create a JPEG file, a compressed image file that you can upload into Second Life.

The Lower Texture:

Double click "starlight_lower.xcf" and you will see an image of the lower portion of a body, front and back with detail for the feet oddly located to the right.  As you study the image you will notice that there are "bits" missing in this file too and its totally your choice whether you want to add them or not.  In this case it's the vulva, the female external genitalia.  The vulva layers that are not turned on are near the top of the GIMP layers window so scroll up in that window and you will find them.  Starting at the top the first one is labeled "hood.highlight" and as you scroll down you will find the last is labeled "hood.shade".  As you did for the layers in Upper, click each of these layers and all in between, "on" - make the eye for each layer visible.

Now you should see a pretty vulva on the image named "starlight_lower.xcf" and its time to save the file.  Choose File->Save As and change the name as we did above to "starlight_lower yymmdd.xcf" and press enter.  Once GIMP is finished saving, Choose File->Save As again and now change the name to "starlight_lower yymmdd.jpg" to create the uploadable texture for Second Life.

The Face Texture:

Double click "starlight_face.xcf" and you will see the GIMP file containing the layers that create the face texture open up.  It really looks pretty good as-is with no obvious 'bits' missing.  But if you look closely at the lips and the eyes, you may think as I do, that there are a couple things that could use correction.

I will pause here and give you a little 'tip' about GIMP that will make things easier.  A small lesson in Zooming in and out with GIMP.  If you have a mouse with a wheel, zooming in and out is simplicity itself.  Position your mouse pointer over the point in the image file that you want to be the middle of your zoomed image, press the control key (labeled Ctrl) and roll the wheel of your mouse away from you to Zoom In.  Likewise, position your mouse, press Ctrl and roll the wheel of your mouse toward you to Zoom out.  Try it on the lips, zoom in and out and try it.

If your mouse does not have a wheel, or you have no mouse and are on a laptop, do not despair, there is something we can do to make zooming nearly as easy.  What we will do is define a pair of shortcut keys to zoom in and out, I use the "-" (minus) key for zooming out and the "=" key for zooming in.  On the image window open Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts and choose View.  If you scroll down in the list you will fine "Zoom In" is already assigned to "=".... good, let it be as it is.  Then look a little further down and find "Zoom Out" and note that it is disabled.  Click on that line with your mouse to select it, then press the '-' key to tell GIMP you want to use that key to Zoom Out.  Click the close button in the lower right and you can now use the = and - keys in an image to zoom in and out.  Try it on the lips, zoom in for a close look.

We will now walk bravely into the land of opinion.  There is no right or wrong - there is only opinion here.  I may like one thing and you may like another.  That's ok...... As I look closely at the zoomed-in lips, the area under the lower lip looks dark to me.  There is a layer that control that darkness: lipsB.lower.edge.shade.  You can click on the eye and turn it off - but to my eyes that looks too light.   So turn it back on and then click your mouse on the layer to select it and notice above the list of layers something called "Opacity".

Make sure you have the layer you want selected (it will be highlighted) and then move the slider from 100% to about 50%.  Or move it to where you like the balance between light and dark.  For me, 50% seems about right.

A little below the "lipsB.lower.edge.shade" layer you'll find lipsB.color.ganguro.  I had to look it up to see what 'ganguro' meant and you may too, its a color of lipstick used in Japan a while ago.  If you like it - keep it.  I turned it off by clicking the 'eye'.

You may want to look at two other layers too - a little further down:  "lipsB.base" and "lipsB.base.darker".  They are both currently on and I like them that way.  But you may want just one on or neither.  Click them on and off and see which appeals to you.

Ok, we've made our choices and we're now ready to save the file.  Choose File->Save As and rename the file "starlight_face yymmdd.xcf".  Once its saved, choose File->Save As again and now rename the file to "starlight_face yymmdd.png" and press enter.  Notice that's "png" not "jpg" as we used on the Upper and Lower.  That's because this file has a couple of transparent areas that we need to reproduce in the texture we'll be uploading.  The JPEG files (jpg) are good for uploading textures that have no transparent areas (technically called an alpha layer) and PNG file (png) are good for uploading textures that have transparent, or semi-transparent area.

That's enough for now I think.  Go make a cup of tea and relax or take a nap.  In the next post we'll upload the textures we've created and turn them into a Second Life Skin.  Woo hoo!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Your new Skin - Step 1 - GIMP

Hi again!  Let's get started in making a new skin.

We'll just do just a few things as we get started:

  • download the skin from Eloh Eliot's site on the internet and set up the folders we'll use for making our skin.
  • download and install GIMP.
  • Start Gimp with Eloh's provided skin and get familiar with GIMP.
Downloading and installing.....

You'll find Eloh's skins here:
So go there and you'll see the skin called "Starlight".  You'll find three files listed under GIMP for that skin, one for the face, one for upper body and one for lower body.  Click on each in turn and wait for your browser to complete the download of all three files.

While they are downloading, create a folder in your Documents folder (My Documents for those with XP) and call it Graphics.  Then open that folder and create one inside it called Skins.  Open Skins and create one called Starlight.  Open Starlight and create two folders, one called Reference and one called Minimum.

Once the download of all three files is complete, copy them to ...\Graphics\Skins\Starlight\Reference and ...\Graphics\Skins\Starlight\Minimum.

Now go to and click the 'download' button. As I look there today (Feb 25, 2011) I see a link that is named "Download GIMP 2.6.11".  Click that and wait for the download to complete.  Once its complete, double click on the downloaded file and follow the instructions to install it on your system.

An aside..... The good people working on GIMP have plans to create a new version of GIMP sometime soon.  It will be called GIMP 3.something.  This description will be based on GIMP 2.something.  We'll deal with the new GIMP when it arrives.

Now, go to the folder ...\Graphics\Skins\Starlight\Minimum and find the file named "starlight_upper.xcf" and double click it.  GIMP will start and load the file.

Getting familiar with GIMP.....

If this is your first time with GIMP you're probably a bit puzzled.  For your double-clicking of "starlight_upper.xcf" you got 3 windows!   One window will be squarish and the other two sort of long and thin.  Let me reassure you first - there is just ONE program running, one GIMP.  When GIMP is running with one file displayed, you just get 3 windows, that's its nature.  So let's look in detail at the windows....  Look at the title bars and you'll see:

  1. Toolbox
  2. Layers, Undo, Paths, Channels - Brushes, Patterns, Gradients
  3. starlight_upper.xcf  (I'd suggest you grab the title bar of this window and drag it to the right so its not covering the other two)

Sooooo... if you have 3 windows and one program, how do you exit the program?  Easy... click the red X in the upper right corner of that 3rd windows, the one titled 'starlight_upper.xcf".  What you will see is that the file that it contains disappears and the window becomes blank.  Then click the red X on that window again and the program exits.  If you tried this out, start up GIMP again by double clicking "starlight_upper.xcf" again and drag the window containing the image to the right again to expose the other windows if you need to.

Let's pause here for a moment........  I am thinking back on when I first download and started GIMP and I have to admit that I found it confusing.  Very confusing, until I had one of those "AHA!" moments. That moment was when I understood the underlying organizing principle of GIMP - Layers.

Look at the GIMP window labeled "Layers, Undo, Paths....".  You will notice that there is a section in that window with several lines of small boxes in a column that look like they might contain something.  On each line, to the left of each box is an 'eye'.  Here's the key to GIMP:  Each of these lines is a layer.  The eye indicates that that layer is being displayed.  The place it is being displayed is in the window named "starlight_upper.xcf".

Now click your mouse on just one of those layers.  In the upper part of that "Layers... etc" window you will see "Mode".  This is HOW each of those layers is being displayed.  To the right of Mode you will see a downward pointing triangle, a 'pull down'.  Click it and you will see all of the possible Modes, the possible ways a given layer can be combined with the other layers. There are complex equations that describe exactly what is happening with each mode, pixel by pixel, but we can pass over that.  It is enough to understand that all of the layers (about 125 in starlight_upper.xcf plus or minus a few) are combined together to create what you see in the image window labeled "starlight_upper.xcf".

That's the key.  Simple isn't it?  Scroll the layers up and down.  Click the eye on and off on a layer here and there and watch the effect in the "starlight_upper.xcf" window.   Select a layer by clicking on it and change the mode in which is it combined with the other layers and see the effect.  Don't save the file though!  We will want the file to have its original values when we create our own skin in the following posts.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tools, Credits and Caveats

First the Caveat.... I'm not an expert at building, making clothing, making skins, or trees, or flowers, or eyes, or hair, etc etc. So don't expect me to have the final word on things. In any case, there is usually more than one way of doing things and each will have it's own advantages and disadvantages. I do enjoy Making Stuff though, and I'll share what I have learned so far. As I learn more, I'll share that too.

Now the tools:
  • Computer: I use a laptop (Lenovo SL500) running Windows 7 Home Premium, with 2 gigs and a NVidia GeForce G 105m graphics controller. Not really all that hot - but it gets the job done.
  • 2d Graphics Software: GIMP.... which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. ( Get it at )
  • Eloh Eliot's Open Source Skins ( get them at )
  • Second Life Viewer: I use Phoenix. ( get it at )
  • A Second Life ID/Account. (
Everything in the list above is free, except the computer of course. So no excuses, go get them!

I should also say that these are the tools I use to make a skin. There are other tools that I use for other purposes and they will probably turn up later as my attention turns to other things.

Now for the Credits:

GIMP is an amazing and powerful program. It competes with the likes of Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator. And did I mention that it was free? It's rather quirky but once you get used to it you'll find it pretty easy to use.

Phoenix is another labor of love and is also free. It's derived from the source code of the Second Life viewer known as Snowglobe and adds some very useful features to it. The feature that we will be particularly interested in is the ability to upload 'temporary' files without a charge from Second Life. (Phoenix will be replaced at some point by Firestorm, which will be based on a newer set of source code from the newer Second Life viewer known as version 2. )

Second Life comes from Linden Labs and together with the viewer creates a 3d world that you can move though in a fairly natural way. Its an amazing achievement and has to be seen to be understood.

Second Life allows for free IDs so you can login and experiment with it at no cost. Be aware though, at some point you will probably want to put some money in your account that you can draw on for in-world things like uploading files from your computer into Second Life. While Phoenix allows you to upload files temporarily, they will in time disappear. To make a file permanent you will need to upload a permanent file and that will cost you some spare change. If you put 10 or 20 dollars in your account, that will more than cover your needs for creating a skin.

Finally, I must credit Eloh Eliot for her creation of the skins and her generosity in making those skins open source and freely available on the web. I wish I knew how she made them, but I don't. Eloh provides the skins in several formats, depending on the skin in question. All are provided in Postscript format and the newer ones in GIMP and Adobe Illustrator formats as well. GIMP will read Adobe Postscript format so with it you can work with all of the skins Eloh provides. (Note that Eloh Eliot is an Avatar name in Second Life - not the person in questions' real name. And no, I don't know her real name, that is often the way of things in Second Life.)

In the following posts - I will .....
  1. Download and install the files that define one of Eloh's skins onto my laptop.
  2. Modify that skin to my liking using GIMP.
  3. Create the 'texture' files that will define the skin to Second Life using GIMP.
  4. Sign on to Second Life using the Phoenix Viewer.
  5. Upload those files (henceforth known as 'textures') from my laptop to Second Life temporarily using the Phoenix Viewer.
  6. Use the Edit Appearance of Second Life to 'wear' those textures as skins.
  7. Look over the results - decide what you like and don't like, loop back to step 2 and iterate until you are happy with what you see.
  8. Upload the files paying 10 linden dollars (some pocket change) for each, repeat step 6 wtih the permanent textures.
And BAM! You've made a skin!

I suppose I should say something about the computers and what is needed to run Second Life. Second Life is a 3d virtual world, and can stress a computer much more than the typical word processing or web browsing applications so some attention to the computer's 'power' is necessary.

Many people will cringe when they see I'm using a laptop. And yes, I'm also connected to SL (Second Life) over a wireless connection. As of the today, Feb 23 2011, their cringing is justified for most of the laptops in common use. The first problem with laptops is the Integrated Graphics that Intel or AMD usually provide. A second likely problem is with the amount of memory the computer has available to it.

Without giving you way too much information on the subject... Laptops that come with Windows Vista or Windows 7, 2 gigs or more or memory, and a separate (not Integrated) Graphics Controller by NVidia or ATI (AMD) will probably do the job. If you're reading this and wondering if the Vista or Windows 7 laptop you're using will do the job, the most likely problem is that you will lack a NVidia or ATI graphics controller. Even without the better graphics controller, your computer will probably work with Second Life - it just won't perform well in all situations.

If you have a computer running Window's XP, I'm afraid your odds of things going well are much lower. If you have 2 gigs of memory and a graphics controller (not integrated) you have a good chance. If not, you may try to upgrade or just go ahead and give it a try. It will probably work but you will probably have performance problems.

Both Intel and AMD have been improving the performance of their integrated graphics controllers over the past 3 or 4 years and this year, 2011, has a good chance of being the year that both of their integrated graphics controllers will be good enough for Second Life without having to resort to something fancier and more expensive. So its my guess that by 2012, all laptops purchased with integrated graphics controllers will be ok for Second Life.

Now for network connections: There are two important quantities for the network, speed and reliability. Reliability is the most important attribute. If your connection is flaky you'll have serious problems. My connection is 802.11n to a router that connects to a high speed cable modem and I've not had any trouble with it. Others do have difficulties though and the likely cause is the loss of the wireless signal strength as it passes though walls, floors and bounces off things like refrigerators and file cabinets.

At a minimum SL will need a link with at least a 1 megabit/sec from your computer to the Second Life servers. It will not use that bandwidth all of the time, but it will need it in bursts. If you try to connect over cellphone networks you are likely to run into bandwidth problems, and use all of your monthly data quota in short order .... possible, but not recommended. If you try a satellite internet connection, the round trip ping delay will make it unworkable.

Ok - you have your homework. Go and download those programs and get them installed. Try them out - see what you can learn.


What the heck! Another blog!

Yes, apparently the world needs another blog - and this is it; "Robin's Making Stuff". I'm Robin and am happy to meet you! I'm a character in Second Life (an Avatar - before Avatar became cool) and as you have surely guessed, I like to make stuff.

As a character in Second Life I have many good friends and good times and bad times. I don't plan to put much about that in this blog - it would involve others and somehow I don't think it's quite fair to air laundry in public, dirty or otherwise. The other person may not have the same opportunity to present their view of whatever is happening and in airing what I might think of as THE TRUTH and I could easily do inadvertent damage. Often in fact, when I have been convinced that I have a solid lock on THE TRUTH, I have found to my chagrin sometime later that I was wrong. So discretion in such things seems to me to be the better path.

That's what this blog is not about.... so what will it be about?

Making Stuff! Making stuff in Second Life. In Second Life they rather boringly call it 'User Created Content' and you can read all about it here:'s_Manual or join Second Life here:

The "Stuff" I'm talking about will be all kinds of things. I'll just talk about what I'm making at the present time, problems, discoveries, tools and whatever seems appropriate. At the moment that happens to be some skins. So I'll catch you up on what I've been doing with a series of skins I've been working on. As a tease for my next post, I'll add a picture of me in my latest skin, a nice dark skin that I intend to be African-American.

I think that's enough for a first post, don't you? See you later!