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Making Your First SL Clothing: Sleeveless Shirt

Okay.  Let’s make some clothing!

In this tutorial, we’ll be making a sleeveless shirt.  We’ll make some pants to go along in the next tutorial.  I suppose, we ought to make the pants first.  I won’t want you running around without pants!  But we’ll get there.  I promise.  In this project, you be able to create a shirt for men or for women –  or both.

This assumes that you have downloaded the UV Maps and you understand the basics covered in the first tutorial (and also the method in which you apply clothing textures to your avatar).

To go along with the tutorial, I’m providing you with some helpful materials.  I have prepared Photoshop (*.psd) templates for the shirt and pants.   I’m using that format because of  Photoshop’s popularity.  It is the standard in professional graphics software, and a number of other graphics programs will import psd files along with layers.  (The ability to use layers is very, very important for Second Life clothing creation.)   I have tested, and you’ll be able to open my template files in GIMP (the free graphics program) and Corel Photopaint.   I have not tested the files in Ulead and (with a plug in), but these programs are promoted as being able to open psd files.

Graphics programs:  my descriptions are primarily oriented to Photoshop.  I do, however, try to a bit generic so that if you have another graphics program (such as GIMP or Corel Photopaint, etc.), you’ll be able to complete the tutorial.  The one thing that I want to emphasize is that you should use a graphics program which allows you use layers which Photoshop, GIMP, Photopaint, etc. allow you to do.

One last thing.  I use PC terminology CTRL+C to copy something.  (I know.  Sorry.  I’m on the dark side.)  In Mac, it’s the Command Key ⌘ + C.  Mac Users, just substitute ⌘ for CTRL.

In the future, as I add more tutorials, I’ll be providing more templates.


Ready Made Templates

The templates are very helpful since you don’t have to go to the trouble of matching seam junctions.   That assures that you won’t end up with one seam side higher or lower than the other, a common problem with poorly made clothing in Second Life.  In some situations the template will save you several hours of time and quite a few lindens in upload fees.  No.  No.  No thanks is necessary.  Just send me flowers!

You’ll need to stop over to my store in Second Life to get a notecard with information on how to download templates.  The templates are stored in a zip file, and you’ll get a password to unzip the file.

This is all free.  There’s absolutely no charge – and you don’t have to buy anything from my store.  But . . . 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 )

So stop over the store right now and look for the following sign:  “Making Your Own Sleeveless Shirt: Chimera’s Designers Kit.”  Click on it to receive the notecard with information on how to download the zip file containing everything you’ll need.

The little diamonds in the text, below, are the individual steps that you can take.  They are there to make things readable without spreading text all over the page.


Preparatory Tasks

If you haven’t already get a copy of Robin Wood’s UV Avatar maps.

Download the “First Shirt” zip file.  (Stop at my store to get the download information, explained above.)   In the zip file you will find:





Fire up your graphics program and open the Avatar Top UV Map.  If you’ve prepared your files as I had suggested, you probably have named it:  UVMapTOP.   Check to see what the size is.  In photoshop to check size, you select Image >> Image Size.   You may find that the size is 1024 x 1024 pixels.  If it is, change it.  The image size that we need for this project to 512 by 512 pixels.

For this project we’re going to work in the 512 x 512 size.  This is the same size that you’ll be uploading to Second Life, and it makes sense to work in the same size that you’ll be using in-world.  But many designers will work with a 1024 x 1024 size, and then at the very end, before uploading, they’ll reduce it to 512 x 512.  For many projects, I find that it’s just as easy to stay in the 512 size from the beginning.  For this project, you’ll want to use 512 x 512 since that’s the size I’m using for the templates that you’ve downloaded from me.

Once you’ve made sure the size is 512 x 512, select File >> Save As and save the file with a different name.  Let’s call it “FirstShirt.”

In Photoshop, make sure that you have the layers panel showing (Windows >> Layers).


Start with the Main Outline

Now open up the FirstShirtMain.  (That’s the name of one of the template files that came from the zip file you downloaded.)

When the file is open, you’ll see two layers:  “Hem” and “Main Outline – Color Here.”   Select “Main Outline – Color Here” so that the layer is highlighted.  (Don’t worry about “Hem” for the time being.)  What you want to do is duplicate the “Main Outline” layer to the UV map (which is now named FirstShirt).  In Photoshop you do that by right clicking on the Main Outline layer and selecting “Duplicate Layer” as shown below.

After selecting “Duplicate Layer,” the dialog box shown below appears.  From the “Destination” list, select “FirstShirt.psd.”  That will duplicate the layer, along with the Layer Mask to the FirstShirt image.  Now, we’re starting to roll!

What if your graphics program doesn’t have a way of copying a layer from one file to another?  If that’s the situation, you can copy and paste it.  For example, in GIMP and Photopaint, you can press CTRL+A (⌘ +A for the Mac) to the select the entire image.   Then copy it by selecting Edit >> Copy from the menu or you can use the keyboard combination of CTRL+C (⌘ + C for the Mac).  Return to the window where you have the UV map (which is now named FirstShirt.)  Paste the image by selecting Edit >> Paste (or CTRL+V / ⌘ + C for the Mac).  (Note that instead of the term “layer,” Corel Photopaint calls  it an “object.”)  Then name the layer that you just copied as “Main Outline – Color Here.”  There’s a good chance you’ll need to tweak its position.  Turn on the black background layer and nudge “Main Outline – Color Here” so that it just slightly overlaps the side and bottom of the UV template.

One you get the new layer in FirstShirt, we need to put in its proper place in the the stack of layers.  You may have it in the right location, but let’s check.  At the very bottom of your layers you should have black and white layers (those are the layers that I had you add in the first tutorial).  It’s just above those two layers, where you want to locate “Main Outline – Color Here.”  Use your mouse, and if necessary move “Main Outline” so that it is in the right position.

It’s always a good idea to save image files frequently, so do that now.  Save “FirstShirt.”


The Importance of the Main Outline

Let’s do something so we can see what we have.  Turn off all of the layers (remove the “eye’s” so you can’t see them), except “UV’s,” “Main Outline – Color Here”, and the “Black” layers.   After you do that, you still won’t be able to see the white outline.   Why is that?  That’s because of the Blending Mode.   The Blending Mode on the Photoshop Layers Panel is little box with a down arrow in the upper left hand corner.  (If you click on the down arrow, you’ll see such modes as Normal, Dissolve, Darken, Multiply, etc. )  We need to make a change in the mode.  To do that, make sure the “Main Outline” layer is highlighted.  You’ll that the Blending Mode is “Overlay.”  Change it to “Normal”

Once you have the blending mode set to “Normal” and with the black background, you’ll be able to see the outline of the shirt.  This is our main shirt outline, and it’s a white color.

Let’s talk about white.  White allows us to make any color we want.  On most projects I usually start with a white color.   If you make a white clothing item, you can use the color capabilities in Second Life and change it to any color you want.   That’s going to save you upload fees because you can do the coloring in Second Life and not have to download each separate color.

But . . . you don’t want a perfectly white white.  It’s not a good idea to use 100% white (256,256,256) or black (0,0,0) when making Second Life clothing because those colors just don’t occur in real world clothing.  Look carefully at white shirts, pants and skirts.  They always have some shades of off-white or gray.  Same argument goes for black clothing, so it’s best to select a slightly gray-ed white or a deep, deep gray instead of black.

You can’t use the white technique with everything, but I use it as much as possible.  In particular I use it with much of the clothing I sell.  It allows my customers to tweak the color to their liking and get the perfect match for their outfit.  (Unlike many merchants, I don’t believe in selling items by the color.  Rather I provide a selection of colors and give the customer the ability to change the color if need be. )  You may find it very helpful on your own projects to start with white.

The most important thing about this layer is that gives us the overall outline of the shirt.  That’s why I call the layer “Main Outline.”  Everything will be designed around this basic outline.  How did I get the outline?  That’s an interesting process and is described in this tutorial: Creating the Main Outline.

It involves some trial and error, sometimes a lot of trial and error.  You’ll need draw the outline on the UV map and upload it and check it in Second Life.  You’ll find that you’ll have go back and forth from your graphics program to Second Life, and, of course, each time will cost you in upload fees.  (It is possible to use the beta grid to avoid upload fees.  Here’s a discussion on using the beta grid: SL Forums.)

The template that I’m providing for this project and other projects will save you lots of time and upload fees.  But when you are on your own and designing your own clothing, you’ll find that you will be going back and forth.   Some projects are easy, but with others you may start tearing your hair out.  Come to think of it, my hair does seem a little thin.  That likely came from one project where I spent several days going back and forth, trying to get everything to line up just right.  That’s all I did.  No detailing.   No shadowing.  No shading.  I had over 2,000 Lindens in upload fees by the time I finished.  Grrrr.

As I mentioned above, I have put together a detailed explanation on how to start from scratch and create the main outline:  Creating the Main Outline.

One last thing about the Main Outline.  You’ll notice that main outline has both a layer mask and a drop shadow.  The drop shadow is used to provide depth to the shirt when it’s worn on the avatar. It leaves a slight shadow on the skin of an avatar, just like a real shirt would leave a slight shadow.  The shadow gives the feeling of “realness” and it is important part of the process of making Second Life clothing.

The Main Outline also has a layer mask.  That allows you to color the Main Outline layer by using Edit >> Fill.  The layer mask keeps the fill in the right places.  If you add color, you don’t want it spilling into the transparent areas (the area where you want skin to show through).  The layer mask does that.  I suggest always adding a layer mask to your Main Outline.


Some Notes About the Layer Mask

I want to specifically point out some important concepts about Layer Masks in Photoshop.  They are great.  No doubt about it, but you need to be careful about which window is active.  On the screen display, below, look at the Main Outline layer in the Layers Panel.   You need to click on the small left window with the light coloring if you want to change the color of the shirt.

Let’s say we want to change the color to red.  We would click on the small left window.  The outside rim of the window will be highlighted telling us that it is now active.  The highlighting around the window isn’t real obvious, and you need to look carefully.   When it is highlighted, we can change to red by selecting Edit >> Fill and selecting a red color.  The layer mask will keep the red color in within the shirt’s boundaries so it doesn’t fill the entire image.

You can also click on the small right window with the black Layer Mask (the layer mask is circled in red above), and it will be highlighted.  Once again the highlighting is not obvious.  If you tried to add a color here, you would be filling the layer mask, and you don’t want to do that.  The layer mask is for masking out parts of the image.   So, if you want to add color remember to highlight the correct window before doing so.

A layer mask can be copied from one layer to another.  That comes in handy when dealing with wrinkles and male & female shading.  We’ll see how works shortly.


Making the Hem

The main outline gives us a starting point, but it’s way too plain to look like a real shirt.  We need to make some enhancements.  First of all, it needs to be hemmed.   I’m going to show you how to make a simple hem.  Some designers make a pattern similar to stitching, but you have to be careful with it.  Stitching, if not done in an artistic manner, can look so regular and artificial that it makes clothing appear amateurish.  This fairly simple technique that I’ll show you gives clothing a realistic finished look without the problems that can accompany other methods.

Let’s try it…

First, turn off the black background and turn on the white background.

In the Layers panel, make sure that “Main Outline” is selected.  Then click on the small Layer Mask window.  You should see a little white highlight around it.  Right click on the Layer Mask and select “Add Mask to Selection.”  The illustration, below, shows the selection around the boundaries of the shirt.

Invert the selection.  Do that by choosing Select >> Invert from the menu

Create a new layer.   The new layer needs to be above the Main Outline layer.  Name this layer: “Hems.”

Now select Edit >> Stroke.   A stroke is a line that follows the edge of a selection.   In this case, we want to make the stroke 3 Pixels wide and we want the stroke on the outside of the selection.   We want to make the color a light gray.   Select “Color” and set the color # to “d6d6d6”  (RGB of 214, 214, 214).   Then click on OK twice to stroke the selection.   You’ll see 3 pixel wide line which will appear along the edge of the Main Outline outline.

We’re going to stroke it again.  Select Edit >> Stroke.  Set the stroke width to 2 pixels and keep the “outside” setting.  change the color so it’s a bit darker gray, set color # to c0c0c0 that a “c” and a zero (0)  (RGB of 192, 192, 192).  Then click OK twice to stroke the selection.

Almost finished.  We’re going to stroke it one more time.  Select Edit >> Stroke.  Set the stroke width to 1 pixel and keep the “outside” setting.  change the color so it’s a dark gray, set color # to 969696 (RGB of 150, 150, 150).  Then click OK twice to stroke the selection.

You can turn off the selection (Select >> Deselect)

If you zoom in close you’ll see a gray band on the edge of the shirt which is gradually becomes darker toward the outside.  (Does it become lighter on the outside?  That means you forgot to invert the selection.  No problem.  Just delete the Hem layer and run through the steps above once again.)

Because we have done the stroking on a separate layer, we can control the blend and transparency properties.  Make sure the Hem layer is selected.  Set the blending mode to “Darken” and the transparency to 30%

With the resolutions that we are dealing with in Second Life, this creates a decent looking hem.   Sometimes, I’ll add a little noise to hems, but this one looks fine without it.

(I didn’t want to say this until now because I wanted  you to make the hem, but I did include a ready made hem as one of the layers in the “FirstShirtMain.”  If you have trouble, you can always duplicate this layer onto the FirstShirt file.)


Female/Male Shadowing

Our shirt looks a little better, but it’s still not realistic enough.  One of the features we’re going to need is some shadowing from the curves of our avatar’s body.

For example, if your avatar is a women, she will needs some shadowing in the chest area just under the breasts.  If your avatar is a man, he’ll need some shadowing, as well, under the pectorals.

Fortunately, a very generous person has made male and female shadowing available to the Second Life .  That saves you from having to do it yourself.

Go to your graphics program, and open “FirstShirtShadingMale.psd” or “FirstShirtShadingFemale.psd”  depending on whether you are making the shirt for men or women.

There’s only one layer:  Body Shading – Men (or Women).  Right click on it and select Duplicate Layer.   For Destination, select “FirstShirt”

Now go to “FirstShirt.”  We need to get “Body Shading” in the right location in the stack of layers.  Use your mouse and place it just below “Main Outline – Color.”

You won’t see anything yet.  We need to change the blending mode.  Remember when we changed the blending mode of the Main Outline layer from Overlay to Normal?  We’re going to change it back to “Overlay.”  Make sure “Main Outline” layer is highlighted.  Now change the blending mode to “Overlay.”

Bingo!  You’ll see the shadowing effect appear in the Main Outline layer.  If you turn off everything (UVs, match lines, etc) except the Main Outline layer and the Body Shading, you be able see the form of male or women on the shirt.  (The above example used male shading.) Cool!



Now we need some wrinkles.  Clothing looks too artificial and painted on if there isn’t some some wrinkling of the material.  If you look at someone wearing dress shirt for example,  even if it’s been pressed nicely you’ll see some folding and wrinkles in the shirt as the person moves.

I’ve already prepared some wrinkles for you, but it’s important that you learn how to create wrinkles.  I’ve put together tutorial on how to do so here:  Wrinkles and Folds in Second Life Clothing.  Be sure to read this over and learn the technique.

But I don’t want to complicate this tutorial so I have wrinkles ready made for you.

Go to your graphics program and open “FirstShirtWrinkles.psd.”  I’m providing you with two sets of wrinkles: vertical and horizontal.  The best match is use the horizontal wrinkles with a female avatar and the vertical with a male avatar.  But, if desired, you could switch them around.

Select one of the layers, either horizontal or vertical.  Right click on it and select Duplicate Layer.   For Destination, select “FirstShirt”

Now go to “FirstShirt.”  We need to get “Wrinkles” in the right location in the stack of layers.  Use your mouse and place it just above “Main Outline – Color.”

If you are using Photoshop, the blending mode set is already set for you, and you’ll immediately see the wrinkles appear.  If the wrinkles totally cover Main Outline or if you need to make an adjustment in another graphics program, select the Wrinkles layer.  Then set the blending mode to overlay.   The wrinkles will settle into the color of the Main Outline and look, well, like real wrinkles.



You ready to move your new shirt to Second Life.  Turn off all of the UV, matchlines, etc.  You should just have the Main Outline, Hem, Male or Female Shading and Wrinkles turned on.  Save the image in the default format for your graphics program.  Then save it as a PNG file.

Start Second Life.  Import your PNG file.  Then follow the directions here to apply the texture to your avatar.  Then sit back and take a look.  Your first shirt!  Beautiful!

Let me go on … If you’re a woman, you look absolutely stunning in your new shirt.  If you’re a man, you look incredibly handsome.  Am I making new friends?  Oh the fun of it all!

Now you can change the color by using the color feature in Appearance.  To do so, right click on your avatar, choose “Appearance,” select “Shirt,” and then click in the “Color” window to adjust the color).   Try it once.  Cool!

In your graphics program, you can add your own personal touch to the shirt.  What this tutorial does is to get you started.  From here, you can use your creative imagination, customizing the shirt, and making it personally special to you.

Next tutorial will make a pair pants (for men or women).  And after that’s completed, I’ll have another tutorial that compliments this one.  It will demonstrate how to make an untucked shirt that hangs over the top of the pants.  So lots more coming!

To return to the main page on making clothing:

Guide to Making Second Life Clothing

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