How to Skin an Avatar

In my post about the Second Life Face of Asia model search I mentioned how “skins” is a complicated subject. You can modify your butt size, change the tilt of your nose, and alter your height with some playing with the appearance sliders. What you can’t do, or do it well, is change the way your skin looks. The sliders create a really ugly look.

My first day or two I stumbled about with newbie skin. Shudder. I knew I wanted to look different than other newbies but what were the options? I was also confused. What’s a Shape and what’s a Skin? Do I need to buy both? One of them, and which one?

Ah, let me tell you. The shape is what you do with those sliders. Nose, butt, height, all of that, can be adjusted by any member. Think of it as creating a vase. Is it tall, skinny, wide, short? Works of art come from molding clay. Of course, a beautiful vase is also glazed, painted, and decorated. That’s where the skins come in. That’s also where your pocketbook can come in to play. Good skins are not cheap. In linden terms a good skin can cost over $L1000. That’s….um…carry the two…no, um…divide the…um…okay, let’s just a skin is worth about $4 in real dollars. Big bucks in Second Life.

Luckily, there are some very good freebies available. I picked up the Calla Jill in a Box (found at Calla’s – put Calla in the Search field for Places), which has a sexy skin included, plus the TAP (Tete a Pied) and the Sin Skins freebies for the “noob” (you have to have entered Second Life within 30 to 60 days to get these). The artists who provide these free skins are wonderful people. I stopped looking like a noob.

I designed my Asian avatar and loved how she looked when I wore one of the free skins from Sin Skins. The style was called Fresh and came in different skin colors. Here I am wearing the Stratus tone:

Sin Skin Stratus Fresh

If you have read my entry about the photos that I took for the model contest, you know that I used this skin for my casual shot. It does have a nice fresh look. What puzzled me when I played with the other freebie skins is that my avatar would lose something. I guess I’d say she lost some of the oriental look to her face. Here’s the Sexy Linden skin that I wore a lot:

Calla’s Free Sexy Skin

It’s not bad, and you can change the lip color from light to dark, which is nice. There is one little problem though, besides my lack of “Asian-ness” — she’s a Barbie. Yeah, there’s nothing anatomically correct about her. No nipples or…um…naughty bits. For many people that’s not a problem. Not everyone undresses in front of others in Second Life. Still, wouldn’t it be nice that if you did want to show off your nudie-bears that you could do it without looking too geeky?

So I went shopping. You can go to different places in Second Life to buy skins. The designers have it so you can buy demos of different skin lines (usually for about $L1 — what, a fraction of a penny?) to see what looks good on you. I stumbled upon Gala skins. Oh my. I fell in love.

The skins are grouped by skin tone and I thought the Medium tone worked beautifully and gave me just enough color without looking too tan (I’m a pasty white in real life — tanning is impossible). I had on a different avatar/shape that day, and though I tried the skin on my Asian shape I really found myself infatuated with how it looked on the other shape, my more sexy-looking, Mediterranean type. Here’s the two skins with the two shapes:

Gala Skins and Avatars

  1. Gala Medium – Shale -Asian
  2. Gala Medium – Basic Gloss – Asian
  3. Gala Medium – Shale – Mediterranean
  4. Gala Medium – Basic Gloss – Mediterranean

I discovered that after buying these skins that I wanted to wear the Mediterranean look more often as it showed best with the new skins. My Asian shape still came out for building classes and exploring, wearing either the Fresh skin from Sin Skins or the Linden Skin from Calla, but my lust for Gala skins made her appearance less likely.

When I read about the modeling contest I wanted to enter. I tried on different clothes, but realized that my choice of skins was lacking. I looked around at different places, but had trouble finding the look that I wanted. Then it dawned on me — if I liked Sin Skins’ Fresh on me, why not see what else they have? D’oh!

Okay, once I figured out the HUD attachment to get to Sin Skins (it took me a while to understand the concept), I went shopping. Wow. I could buy everything there. But remember, this is real money we be talking about. I picked out three in the Stratus skin tone:

Sin Skins in Second Life

  1. Fresh (part of the freebie pack)
  2. Sultry Plain
  3. Sultry Red
  4. Navy Shimmer

I used all four for my contest photos. Still, I’m interested in what else is out there. I wandered over to Celestial Skins to see what they had. Oh geez, more gorgeous skins. I decided to buy something in the cashmere color tone. It’s darker, but it’s summer. Let’s pretend that I have a tan. Here’s the Cashmere Peach-Smoky:

Celestial Skins Cashmere peach-smoky

Yummy, isn’t it?

Here’s some other skins just to show you what a difference the skin can make. One I purchased and three were part of the freebie packs. It’s all the same shape — my Asian one — but what different results:

Other Second Life skins

  1. TaP’s newbie Pack – Asiatique Medium (I think – didn’t write it down, but that looks like a good match. It’s one of nine skins in the pack.
  2. Pixel Deep’s Lustre Dark, Brunette – cranberry-pink, This I bought. Nice, isn’t it?)
  3. This skin came with tons of other freebie skins. It’s called Shy-caramelskin11 (evening, red lips). A subtle look, no?
  4. The last is something that shows how bad skins can be. It also explains why finding great skin is a delight.

My understanding is that creating effective skins is one of the hardest things to do in Second Life. I believe it. I didn’t show you how the tinting of the skin can make your breasts look larger, or define your waist, or give you collarbones.

By the way, for those of you who have never seen newbie skin in Second Life, here’s an example:

Newbie skin

Okay, it looks worse than it could. I forgot to add eyebrows and eyelashes. With enough sliding of the appearance options you might manage an okay look. Still, you really want to get those freebie packs.

Oh, and by the way, don’t do what I did. After picking up tons of demos one night I was trying different ones on to find one that I might want to purchase. Well, it’s a good idea when you start up Second Life the next day and quickly rush out to attend an animation override class that you do not forget to check your face. Sure, I checked that I had clothes on, but I never used the controls to look at my face. Here’s how I attended the whole class:

Demo skin face

Sheesh. I hope everyone else was paying attention to their own selves and not to me.

I hope this was helpful for anybody wondering what impact skin can have on an avatar. It took me a few days to figure it out. Now? I’m a skin freak.

So, remember, though there’s only one way to skin a cat (ewww); there are many ways to skin an avatar.


5 Responses to “How to Skin an Avatar”

  1. Vanity, thy Name is Moran « DilettanteVille Says:

    […] wearing skins from Sin Skins and Celestial Studios and have been very pleased. In my post “How to Skin an Avatar” I showed you some different looks with skins. When trying on demos I find that I’ve […]

  2. Skin Shopping « DilettanteVille Says:

    […] skins can make you look sweet or more elegant. I’ve written about skins before in my “How to Skin an Avatar” post and I still find the subject […]

  3. ina Says:

    Hi Dilettante: Just a note that Asian skins have improved quite a bit since 2007 (though this was actually released in early 2008) – here are some pics:

  4. Jinx Says:

    hi. I have a second life account but its a free one so i can only live off freebies which is not so nice. So since u seem to know about this stuff a lot do you know of any places i can get free male skins, shapes, etc. Thank you in advance. Aanything will be appreciated. Have a nice day.

  5. dilettanteville Says:

    Jinx, I’m not an expert on male skins. Your best bet to find freebies and great deals is to go to the Fabulously Free in Second Life site at A lot of the freebies are for women, but you can check on what’s available for men.

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