Update: 1/2014 – See: Fitted Mesh Base Avatar Files for an update on available files for use in clothes making.
Update: 11/2013 – Fitted Mesh, previously the Alternate method or Liquid Mesh, is now the approved method for making mesh clothes that conform to the avatar’s shape. See: Fitted Mesh.
UPDATE: 6-25-2012 – Things may drastically change. See: Alternative to the Deformer. 4/2013 – Several designers are using the alternative methods now. Linden Lab is recommending avoiding use of those non-supported features. The Lab may make changes that break the feature some day.
UPDATE: Rewritten 5/24/2012 for the Bone Weights problem.
Maya users see: Rigging Mesh in Maya
11/27/2012 Avastar Users: Check out AVASTAR: Using Freeze Mesh for Edits and Seams.
My previous article on setting up Blender for making mesh clothes (Second Life Mesh Clothing Tutorial) was written in September 2011, eight months ago. I’ve updated it several times, but it is still out of date and awkward in some places. Blender is now at 2.63+ and has BMesh. Photoshop is up to CS6. The Mesh Deformer is close to being completed. We have a self correcting Bone Weight Copy add-on and more. So, lots of stuff has changed as of May 20, 2012. So, it’s time for a new version of the tutorial.
A few days after I wrote this tutorial I found a problem with the file. The Paint and Weight Paint Brushes were messed up. How we create the files has to change. So, I’ve rewritten this tutorial again. This is the revised version. It replaces the previous one.
In this tutorial I’ll assume you are new to making mesh clothes. I’ll also assume you have some knowledge of Blender and Photoshop. I’ll be using only Blender 2.63a in this tutorial. I will also omit the import to Second Life as this Tutorial is already over 9,000 words. Plus, there are lots of tutorials on the Second Life mesh import.
- Page 1 – Blender Install, Base Mesh Selection
- Page 2 – Details on Files and Base Avatar Meshes Available
- Page 3 – Deconfuser, File to Use, Actual Mesh Differences, Easy File Fix
- Page 4 – Not So Easy Fix for Learning, Exporting Shapes from SL, What’s Needed
- Page 5 – Getting Started, Customize Blender, GPU Kick-in, Load Mesh – Import OBJ, Setup Layers
- Page 6 – Join Parts or Not, Remove Doubles, Parenting, Check Parenting, Start Weighting – Vertex Weight Painting
- Page 7 – Weight Painting, Checking Weight Painting, Checking Weighting Source, Bone Weight Copying
- Page 8 – Checking the Weighting, Exporting Collada for Second Life
There are a load of YouTube and other tutorials on Blender, Photoshop, and Second Life Mesh Clothes. So, I’ll reference those where they are helpful rather than repeat them. I’ll cover the things that I found missing and try to get all the missing pieces in one place.
I’ll point out that you can save yourself a lot of this effort by buying Avastar ($22). You are going to spend more than an hour working through these steps. At the end of this tutorial you will know more about rigging mesh than if you just buy Avastar, but you will get more capability and have more tools if you buy Avastar. Avastar provides assistance for those making mesh clothes and avatar animations. So, while I think Avatar is a good deal, this tutorial will get you a foundation in mesh clothes that should make your life and the mesh clothes you make better, or at least easier.
For those of you new to this, I want to point out that Blender is updating about once every 6 weeks or so or at least 4 or more times per year. So, you are going to be updating often. Not all Blender updates work so well with Second Life. Your life will be much easier if you have multiple copies of Blender installed. I have 2.49b and 2.63a installed now. There is a hard way and an easy way to do installs. Read: Blender 2.57b Released for the easy way and more on why to install multiple copies of Blender.
If you are going to use Blender 2.59 to 2.62, know that these versions do not correctly export a Collada file from the Domino Avatar file. You need to get Gaia Clary’s modified Collada export (free) add-on. You will find the file and instructions for installing it at Machinimatrix.org. Scroll down and find Collada fix add-on. Or just upgrade Blender to 2.63 and newer, which has its other problems.
Getting the Avatar
There is lots of confusion about which avatar the Mesh Deformer will use. The confusion comes from the use of the words ‘Default’ and ‘Ruth/Roth’ in connection with the Second Life Avatar. They are NOT the same. Ruth and Roth are the names of the basic avatar meshes taken from files built into the viewers. Using the Ruth/Roth models the viewer’s DEFAULT SHAPE makes them into the shape the Mesh Deformer uses. Getting a mesh that is the right shape is easy.
The default shapes are shown in the opening image. You can export a copy of the viewer’s default shape or export a copy of your custom personal shape. Any shape that you have permission to edit can be exported and used as a base for mesh or the system clothes. There are typically only 3 parts that are needed; head, torso (upper body), and legs (lower body).
You can also download files that are copies of what others have already exported. That will save you some effort. I’ll explain how to export shapes later in this tutorial. Now I will try to clear up confusion on which files are which and which is best to use.
Knowing What You Are Getting & Why
Let’s start with ‘why.’ There are multiple ways to use the avatar mesh. One is to simply make system clothes, the standard system clothing people have been making for years. Chip Midnight and others have made templates as a Photoshop/GIMP short cut to making system clothes.
The avatar mesh can be taken into Blender and other 3D modeling programs. It can also be taken into Photoshop Extended since CS4 was released. You can then use advanced tools in both to create basic system clothes. The avatar mesh is all one needs to make mesh attachments, like guns, purses, and other things that do not change whether an avatar is tall or short. For all these applications any of the files listed later will work. For these uses all you need is the avatar mesh and UVMaps. (See image #3 for basic avatar mesh)