Skin Design Tutorial

Base Skin Color

This is a research and learning project for me. It will be a multi-part series as I work my way through it. The series will have the best of the information I find and the information I feel is important for a new skin artist, much of what others have left out as they covered the basics in their tutorials. The first article on skin design is: Skin Design – The Windlight Age

For a skin design it is often easier to work with a larger canvas/image. A 2048×2048 is reasonable. The templates others have made are mostly 1024×1024. You can save yourself some effort on you first attempt working at 1024. The larger sizes are easier to paint, IMO, and mistakes and paint strokes are minimized when reduced in size for use in-world. Reducing can help.

The first step in skin design is getting a base skin color. One can make their own color. However you can save time and use Madeleine Wettstein’s skin color chart. Getting a believable skin color is harder than one would think.

Yes, I use a dark skin color… and obviously you can use whatever color. When one makes the base skin layer the eyelashes and mouth need to be transparent areas. It saves work later on. Chip Midnight’s templates will show you where the exact limits of those are (see Skin Design – The Windlight Age for links). Precision is not important here. You have some wiggle room. The image here shows what my base skin looks like.

If a solid color is used the skin will look very cartoonish and Ruth like. We need to add some texture to the bas skin. Madeleine’s tutorial shows how to add texture to the skin to give it a more realistic look.

Skin Texture Added

Madeleine’s tutorial starts to get one into using layers and filters. Good skin design is going to require you use both and learn a light touch. The first step is to duplicate the base skin layer and work on a copy. You can toss this ‘copied’ layer if you mess up and start over. In Photoshop use Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. I used about 40%, Uniform and Monochrome. The actual 1:1 image of the skin looks like image #2.

Madeleine does some softening and blur to make her texture. I suggest you just set this layer to 20% opacity, blend as soft light and otherwise keep this layer as is. Once you see the final work in SL on your AV then you can decide how much softening to use. Remember. You will be reducing the image before uploading to SL and that will add some blur and softening.

Now comes a decision point. Many skins are opaque. Others are translucent allowing SL AV features to show through. Skin tent, freckles and other SL AV features can show through. I like translucent skins and the additional freedom they allow in how I set my appearance. With a base skin at 90% opaque very little of the SL appearance setting will show through. Of course the less opaque the more affect the SL settings will have. Using 85% to 90% is a good starting place.

Let’s get the texture size issues handled now. I mean the size of the texture you upload to SL. Once we know how that works and what it does to our work, we can have a better idea of how much blur, softening and detail we can have in our original work. All three of these images are from my source Photoshop file that is a 1024×1024 pixel image.

second life skin design

128x128 Texture

Skin 1 – is a 128×128 texture.

second life skin design

512x512 texture

Skin 2 – is a 512×512 texture.

second life skin design

1024x1024 Texture

Skin 3 – is a 1024×1024 texture.

I can see a bit of difference between the 128 and 512 size uploaded textures. You may need to click for the full size images.

I do not see any difference in the 512 to 1024 texture. Also the 128 size texture is smoother. The download time for a 128 size texture is less than the 512 or 1024, so I’ll plan on using a 128 size at this point and use less smoothing and blurring in the original.

We still have much to do before we have a nice skin. But even this simple skin moves us a tiny step away from the default Ruth skin.

I’ll post the next steps and a link here as I get there.

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