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.



  1. Robin, a shame to see practically no comments to you for your creating all this information. I personally know how much work goes into creating a resource of this nature and quality.

    I am just beginning to study in the hopes of learning skins as a part of my getting familiar with Second Life graphics work.

    Thank you for your efforts and sharing in such clear, concise and detailed style.

    SL: Arik Metzger - AriktheRed

    1. Hi Arik! Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I do remember my struggles as I learned GIMP and how to make SL clothing... and then how to use Eloh's Skins. So I thought I'd try to help those who want to follow that path. If you have a question let me know... I'll do my best to answer.


  2. Well I'm going to add another one! Robin you are amazing - not only is the content excellent but your delivery is unique and so logical and understandable - Thank you so very much :)

  3. Yes Robin, thank you for putting so much time and effort into this blog! I must admit that I have been in SL since 2006 and have always had a desire to learn how to make skins and clothing. I have watched numerous videos and read tons of tutorials, then lost interest in frustration. I stumbled onto your blog tonight and after reading the first 2 parts I want to once again try my hand at what has so far eluded me. Your blog is so clear and understandable! I am downloading GIMP as I type this so that I can follow along with the rest of this tutorial! Your awesome, thank you!