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Introduction & Getting Started – Second Life Clothing

Getting Started:  Making Clothing in Second Life

Getting started with clothing creation in Second Life primarily means familiarizing yourself with UV maps.   UV maps are the two dimensional templates that you work with in your graphics program to create clothing.  You’ll end up spending a lot time with them.  The information below will help you prepare the maps for your use, and it will provide some helpful background information.  (The little diamonds in the text are the individual steps that you can take.  They are there to make things readable without spreading text all over the page.)

Note: the following information applies to all graphics programs as long as your graphics program allows you to create layers – which almost all do including the free GIMP program.


Step 1: Get Those UV Maps

Download the UV maps.  You can get the maps directly from Second Life, but Robin Wood has added some enhancements which make them easier to use.  More about Robin here.  Here’s download link for Robin’s maps:  UV Maps

Stroll over to my store in Second Life and pick up the following free package:  Free Tools for Making Your Own Clothing –  UV Map Package.  To go to my store, start Second Life and click on the following link: Chimera’s Store.  The UV Map Package includes eight ready-made UV Map outfits for your avatar.  You can make these yourself, of course, but this will save you a few Lindens in upload fees.  I’ve also included the illustration (found lower on this page) which identifies clothing seam locations in a bit higher resolution.  The larger size might be helpful.

I only ask for one small favor.  While you are at my store, I would be grateful if you added the store to your “Picks.”  (If you’ve never added a store to your picks, here how to do it in two illustrations:  Adding a Pick )


Step 2 : Background

You’ll want to make a couple additions to the UV maps.  In particular, I highly recommend that you label the Top and Bottom UV Maps with “Front” and “Back.”  And it doesn’t hurt to label the arms and feet as well.  You’ll see where the labels should go by looking at the illustrations below.   I don’t how many times when I was working and I got the front and back mixed up, usually on bottom half.  I’ve even mixed up the top half.  It happens.  Believe me.  You start working away, and you get so absorbed in the project that suddenly everything is turned around.  Do the following and you’ll never have those problems.


Step 2: Top Half Additions.

The illustration to the right shows the top half of the avatar.   Open it in your graphics program.  The file name is “SL Avatar Top Layers.psd”        Add a layer at the top of layer list and type in “Front”, “Back” ,”Upper,” and “Lower” as shown.

Then create another layer at the top, and using a 1 red pixel line draw right down the middle of the “Front” and “Back.”  You an use the UV lines to make sure it is exactly in the middle.  You’ll find mid-point line helpful as well.

Finally, at the very bottom of your layers list, create a new layer and fill it with white.   When you do, you’ll see that UV lines are much easier to see.  Create one more layer and fill it with black.  Then turn the black layer off.  You won’t use the black much, but at times when working with light colored items, it comes in handy.

Now save it under a different file name in graphics program native format (something like “UVMapTOP”).   Save it once more under a second file name, again in your graphics program native format (something like “UVMapTOP2”).

Whenever you start a new project, you’ll open up the “UVMapTOP” file.  The first thing that you’ll do is to immediately Save under the name of the project you’re working.  That way your original starting file is not touched, and you’ll have it for the next project.  If happen to accidentally save with the same original file name, you still have the second file as a back-up.  And you also have the original.

And, yes, there other ways of doing this.  This method has worked well for me, but if you comfortable with another system, by all means, go for it!


Step 3: Bottom Half

Here’s the bottom half.  It’s file name is “SL Avatar Bottom Layers.psd.”

Do the same thing as above, open the file.  Add a layer at the top of layer list and type in “Front”, “Back” ,”Bottom,” and “Top of Foot” as shown.

Then create another layer at the top, and using a 1 red pixel line draw right down the middle of the “Front” and “Back.”  You an use the UV lines to make sure it is exactly in the middle.

At the very bottom of your layers list, create a new layer and fill it with white.   Create one more layer and fill it with black.  Then turn the black layer off.

Now save it under a different file name in graphics program native format (something like “UVMapBOTTOM”).   Save it once more under a second file name, again in your graphics program native format (something like “UVMapBOTTOM2”).

That’s it.  You can add the midpoint line to the Head UV Map, but I wouldn’t worry about until you work on skins.


Background: Understanding the UV Maps

Before starting on a clothing project, take a  few moments to understand how the two dimensional UV Maps wrap around the three dimensional form of an avatar.  Let’s look again at the top and bottom UV Maps:

Now let’s look at the UV maps wrapped around the avatar.  Here I am… all dressed up in an outfit made from AV maps:

How did I get this way?  By running through a basic procedure that is followed any time you create clothing in Second Life.  Briefly, you download the texture files (the clothing files that will be applied to the avatar) and you use the “Appearance” dialog box to place the texture on the avatar.  This is explained in more detail here:  Adding Your Own Clothing to An Avatar.  If you haven’t done this before, be sure read it before continuing.

Take another look at the UV maps:

If you compare the UV maps (above) with my dressed-up avatar, you’ll see where the clothing texture seams are located

Look at the side view of my avatar.  You’ll see a blue stripe running down from under the armpit all the way down the leg.  If you look at the UV maps, you’ll see the same blue stripe on the inside edges of the “Top” UV Map and on the outside edges of the “Bottom” UV Map.  The seams are where the UV map wraps around and sides join.  Amazing!   Knowing where seams lie is very, very useful.

By the way.  Did you notice that front and back are oriented differently on the “Top” and “Bottom” UV maps?  That’s why I suggest adding the words “Back” and “Front” on your UV maps.  It really helps to keep you sorted out.   There’s one other thing that really helps.  That is  the edge coloring that Robin Wood has added the UV maps.  The edge coloring is invaluable when you are trying to track down misaligned parts.

Look again at the illustration to the left.  You’ll also see where the upper and lower parts of the arm connects (the orange stripe is the inner arm seam).  You can also see where the arm connects to the rest of the upper body (also orange).   Take a look at the “Top” UV Map just above and you’ll see the orange stripes.  The arm seams and all of the other seams are color coded to help you.  At times when I’m working on clothing, I’ll make sure that I have the colors showing when I uploading a file to check it out in Second Life.  That way, if I have seam matching problems, I’ll be able use the colors to figure where the problem lies on my clothing texture.

Let me show you:

One of the skills of making clothing in Second Life is making sure the seams match in color.  You can see that in the two samples, above.  Both are side-view pictures of jeans worn on an avatar.  In the first, the seams blend nicely with no noticeable difference.  In the second, the seam line is very obvious.  I’ll talk about the techniques used to match seams in a later tutorial.

So far we’ve talked about shirt and pant layer, but the avatar in second life has a number of layers.  Those include: 1) undershirt layer, 2) underpants layer 3) skirt layer, 4) jacket layer, 5) sock layer 6) shoe layer and 7) tattoo layer.  With the newest Second Life viewers, you have up to 5 sub-layers of each of these main layers.  There is a new alpha layer too but we won’t worry about that right now.

Undershirt and underpants use the same UVMapTOP and UVMapBOTTOM as shirts and pants.   If you know how to use the UV maps to make a shirt and pants, then you know how to use them to make underpants and an undershirt.

Jackets or un-tucked shirts, use the UVMapTOP and the upper part of the UVMapBOTTOM.  My avatar (on the left) is wearing the top and upper bottom maps.  If you look at “Jacket” tab in the “Appearance” dialog box in Second Life, you’ll see a window for the upper and lower fabric.

The jacket layer is also handy for untucked shirts – or shirts that you want to extend below the waist.  If you have any clothing elements, like a zipper or button placard that extends below top layer and into to the bottom layer, you’ll need to look carefully at lines on the UV map line and make sure the two are aligned as shown in the illustration below:

The sock and shoe layer use the lower parts of the UVMapBOTTOM:

You can make socks any length, from ankle to upper thigh.   Any part of the UV Map that you don’t want, you would make transparent.  If you are making crew socks, for example, you might the area from the first orange stripe to the very top transparent.  We’ll talk about transparencies in another tutorial, but transparent means that there’s nothing there:  there’s no background white or otherwise.  If there’s no background, then the avatar’s legs will show through in that area — and in the case of crew socks, that’s what you want.

If you are making socks, it is helpful to look closely at the foot area.  There’s a lot happening in that area, and it can be very tricky getting sock elements positioned correctly.   Below and to the left you’ll see the flat UV map, then the side view of foot and the bottom of the foot wearing the map.




The foot area is interesting.   If you look at the side view of the UV map worn on my foot (above), you’ll see an orange stripe and, then below that, a violet stripe.  The orange is found on the UVMapBOTTOM.  It’s the lowest part of the leg.  The violet stripe comes from the foot map.  Look at the UV Map of the “Top of the Foot” (above).  The violet stripe is the little oval in the middle of the map.   You can see that that violet stripe really gets stretched out when it’s worn on the avatar, and because of that, any design elements in that area will get distorted.  Knowing that, designers generally keep things simple in that area.


Concluding Words

Be sure to pick up the free ready-to-wear UV Maps at my store, have your avatar wear them, and spend a little time comparing  the avatar with the UV maps in your graphic program.    Understanding how the UV Maps fit on an avatar is invaluable information that will help you make better clothing.

To return to the main page on making clothing:

Guide to Making Second Life Clothing






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