#SL Crusade for Good Looks

Several things are coming together and I think we are at the beginning of user driven change to Avatar 2.0. I just updated my tutorial for getting started making mesh clothes: Second Life Mesh Clothes Blender 2.6 Setup 2012 Tutorial. So, we need to be considering what it is that makes our avatar look nice, which inspired this article.

Penny Patton's Proportioned Shapes



Some time ago I saw an article by Penny Patton on adjusting camera position for a better Second Life®. See the SL Forum and her article: A Matter of Perspective. It makes an amazing difference in how one sees Second Life. That inspired my article: Second Life Camera Position Tips.

There are tradeoffs between how one sets the camera for walking and sitting. The Second Life default camera position is a compromise between good settings for walking and sitting. Neither is ideal. It would be great if the camera would just change location when we sit or stand.

All that camera position stuff is nice, but what we have to look at is more of a problem than how we look at it. Penny’s current two articles are about making a better looking Second Life. Check out the article: Beautiful Second Life. This article focuses on what is and what can be. It is an excellent comparison.

Her second article in the series takes the discussion farther. See: Beautiful Second Life part 2. This gives you excellent information about creating shapes and environments. It is possible to have a much better looking Second Life. If you are wondering if Penny knows what she is talking about, visit The Island of Milk & Cream. I say she does, the place is gorgeous.

Several of her articles are along the theme of how things in SL can be made to look better.  For instance that ugly avatar you are walking around in… well… may be not YOU and certainly not me, but we know someone, right? Consider her articles A Matter of Scale and A Matter of Proportion.

Now that I’ve read her articles I’m again tweaking my avatar, something I do 3 or 4 times a year. I’ve been 6’-6” (198.1cm) tall with heels, that’s tall. I’m working my way down to 5’10” (177.8cm). Doing that and keeping my ‘look’ is a bit of a trick.

Also, when I made this shape I was trying for something between Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel. I’m happy with the result, but Penny has found, or made, a sexy avatar that has me rethinking my shape and size.

It has a soft feminine sexy body look I like. The pale skin isn’t me. But, I’m into tweaking my look again.

Penny points out that many of our tools and beginning points throw off good building habits and distort our perspective. Height is one of those. The default avatar or shape, they are different, starts out at 1.877m or just under 6’-2”. The next problem is the Appearance Editor reads out the wrong height. You can check that.


To check the Appearance Editor, first take off your shoes, the little red icon shoes we call system shoes. It’s that thing we mostly use to shape our feet to fit in prim shoes.

Make a prim and set its height to match you avatar’s height. You may need to make the prim phantom and remove your hair. Making the prim phantom stops the collision process that causes your avatar to move out of the prim.

I do things in inches, Americans seem to be having a problem making the change to a sensible measurement system, thanks mom. Once the prim is the right size, check its Z-size. The default shape is 1.877m. Divide that by 0.0254 to get inches 6’-2” (6’-1.89” or 73.897 inches or 6.1581’). You don’t need to calculate the conversion unless you want to know the difference in inches, because the Appearance Editor will switch between feet and meters. Click on Feet or Meters in the editor to change the read out.

My 5’-10” (5.833’) avatar shows as 5.30’. That is 0.533’ (6.396” or 16.245cm) shorter than it actually is. Somewhere there is a JIRA to get this fixed. It is a really low priority on the Lindens list of things to do, which is probably reasonable.

Knowing this difference exists you can proportion your avatar to the correct size. It is a bit of a tedious problem. I decided to make a guide for making shapes.


Penny points out in A Matter of Proportion the basic ideas artists and sculptors use for drawing and carving the human form. We are used to seeing people and our eyes quickly catch people out of the norm. That applies to avatars too. Those that notice such things are driven nuts by the stubby armed avatars of SL.

When I started to look at my avatar I realized my arms were way short too.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Drawing

The idea of getting a body sculpted to look right uses “Head Units.” All of the proportions of the human form are measured by the height of the head. Leonardo Da Vinci made the ratios famous with his drawing. The basic idea is the head is 1/8th of a person’s height. The neck is ¼ of a head long. The nipples are about 1 head below the chin… until we start to droop. 🙁 The crotch is 3 heads below the chin. The knees are about 2-1/3 heads above the floor. Penny explains all this in her article A Matter of Scale.

Getting it Right

I needed an in-world guide I could use. So, I made one. (Model Shape Tool)

Model Shape Tool

The tool is phantom so I can walk into it. It also sizes in 1 inch/2.5cm increments, so I don’t have to do math. I added the 1/8th marks so I can see where things should go. It made going from what I thought was my 6’-2” ideal model height, as in fashion model, that was actually more like 6’-7” much easier, and that was before I added heels, which put me at like 7’ (2.1m).

The Change

Now that I am reasonably sized, everyone is so freaking tall. Also, things in SL are huge. It is a little disconcerting. My hope is more people will get interested in getting things sized correctly.

Penney gets into what these changes mean for builders and land owners in her article A Matter of Scale. There is a real dollar cost.


Designers are working toward a set of standard sizes. The current set of sizes and the current ideas about how to go about that may not stick. As best I can tell a significant percent of SL users are not too keen on the standard sizing idea.

Getting My Shape On

Also, in some MetaReality podcasts Qarl Fizz, the one making the Mesh Deformer, agrees that some basic set of different size base avatar sizes may be needed for mesh clothes and attachments to fit correctly and look right. That is hybrid mix of the current sizing and the proposed Deformer fitting.

The Hybrid sizing thing is more like RL sizing. Clothes makers make their clothes for some basic size avatars. With the Deformer clothes made for avatars near our size should fit OK. This will hopefully get us away from having to change shape to fit clothes.

Getting this worked out and deciding what clothes sizes are workable will decide how interchangeable clothes are going to be going forward.


The picture of what mesh clothes will be is getting clearer. The tools we will have to work with are stabilizing on a process too. People are the random variable in the process. Whether they will want to use good scales and proportions is up to them. Getting the information where they will know they have a choice, is up to those of us that know.





8 thoughts on “#SL Crusade for Good Looks

  1. Some of the rules regarding height carry over from RL.
    The easy way to see this is to go to a D/s meeting place. If I go (I am about as tall as possible in SL) all the subs want my attention. If I go in a short alt, I suddenly have Dom/Dommes hovering over me.
    The same effect applies almost everywhere else in SL, it is just not so obvious.
    Of course, this being a fantasy world, we are free to choose, even exaggerate our avatars for effect.

    re. Mesh Clothes: I hope the deformer comes on line soon. I am getting antsy for mesh clothes that just fit.

    • There is strong evidence that abnormal physical appearance is a turn off. Big and well proportioned should work very well. Also, the petites that are well proportioned should also be desired. Once one moves away from humanoid appearance the rules change. Large eyes and small shapes count for more. Big heads and small bodies are acceptable in non-humanoids. People are odd and there are exceptions to everything.

      Lots of us are impatiently waiting fro the Deformer… 🙁

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  3. I just stumbled along this post whilereading through the blog and following links. And although the article is already a bit older, maybe yu can drop a hint, that Penny and i installed an area, which shows the effect of avatar height also on the costs of living in SL. As in, if one is taller, one needs a bigger house, more prims to decorate stuff, etc.

  4. Last year i put in my shop a ruler scripted by someone a few years ago, it helps people who want to be a kid avatar find out how tall they are and the average age that represents. I removed it not long after because it was giving results different to what the edit window was saying the hight was. So the ruler was in fact correct and it’s the LL viewer showing an inaccurate hight. Fixing this would have a rather epic impact on Kid avatars lol.

    • I made my Model Shape Tool because of that problem.

      Our only real measure is prim size. By definition a 2 meter prim is 2 meters. Setting your avatar height and then making a prim just as tall shows the problem. Just remember to take off your shoes. 🙂

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