The Problem: Fitted Mesh an Alpha Tutorial

I suspect anyone that has worn mesh clothes is very aware of skin-poke-through and ‘holes’ from the Alpha Layers making parts of the avatar invisible. I am particularly annoyed by both. But, is there anything we can do? That is the question asked at Fabulously Free in SL. Here I’ll provide the techy answer and information. I’ll also link to good tutorials.

Fab’s three advisors answer the question. Their answers are straight forward and provide the advice most of us know. But, there is a more complete techy answer. First I’ll summarize their answers then get into the tech.

Quick Answers

When it comes to fixing Alpha Layers (AL) one thing to always do is TRY THE DEMO. If the item has no demo, don’t buy it. It is almost universal practice to include the same alpha in the demo as is in the retail project. So, you can see if things work for you and thus avoid needing to come up with a fix.

Another sort of fix is to change your shape to hide the problem as best possible.

This change-shape issue is not going away, at least by what I can see. People are of a couple of lines of thought; those that will change shape and those that will not change shape. So, this ‘change shape’ solution is unacceptable to some portion of  the Second Life™ residents. If you are planning to be a designer and sell products, you want to reach as many as possible. So, I suggest avoiding the requirement to change shape.

Another solution is to wear ‘glitch layers.’ Just as we have glitch pants for system skirts, glitch clothes can be used with Fitted and Plain mesh clothes. Not many designers include them. I have a mesh cheongsam that has glitch pants. I like the way the glitch pants work with the skirt, way better than I like many of the Alpha Layers that come with mesh skirts.

But, the glitch pants idea has problems when we have patterns in our clothes. It is hard to match up the pattern on the mesh clothes and the glitch pant’s pattern worn by the avatar. Plus the different size avatars make it almost impossible to get a good pattern match.

The result is I think the ‘glitch’ approach is only good for solid colors.

So, what else can we do? One suggestion from the Fab crew was to change the Alpha Layer (AL). Of course some AL’s are no-mod/no-trans. That prevents their export. They can’t be changed. But, a person can make their own AL for anything they wear. I’ll explain how next.

The Tech

If a person decides to make their own AL, there are some things to consider. Not the least of is which to choose either the GIMP/Photoshop or Blender process. Both work.

If you are starting from a place of total Alpha ignorance, the easiest process is via GIMP/Photoshop. There is nothing magic or special in the way of software that you need, beyond the basic GIMP (free) or Photoshop (PS) (expensive). If you are already into Blender the video shows one way to make your Alpha Layers. There are several other ways to use Blender.

Next one needs the Second Life system clothes templates that are freely available from several sources. I like the Chip Midnight templates. They are needed for the GIMP/PS path. Or if you are using PS ‘Extended’ you can skip the clothing templates and use the avatar model and make your AL in PS’s 3D mode.

If you take the Blender path you can skip the clothing templates. But, you will need the SL Avatar to import to Blender. Use Gaia Clary’s free work bench model. See: Fitted Mesh Base Avatar Files.

We are limited to wearing 5 Alpha Layers. But Alpha Layers are made of five parts; Lower Alpha, Upper Alpha, Head Alpha, Eye Alpha, and Hair Alpha. The SL Wiki doesn’t provide us much usable information about the new Alpha Layers for the Avatar. Most of the Alpha Layer information Google or SL Wiki search leads to is out of date or about Alpha Layers in image editing programs. Not what we need.

In image editing we find that an Alpha Layer is represented by a black and white image. Black represents the transparent part of the image and white the opaque part. But, we seldom actually directly edit the B&W image (In PS look for the Channels tab, usually in the panel with Layers and Paths.

Instead we create a transparent layer and begin painting on it. Color doesn’t matter. Any color is opaque as far as the SL Viewer’s render engine is concerned. Any part left transparent is rendered 100% transparent by the viewer.

Levels of transparency (50%, etc.) do not matter. A 50% transparent layer is still rendered 100% transparent by the SL Viewer.

One thought on “The Problem: Fitted Mesh an Alpha Tutorial

  1. To all you designers out there: No matter how awesome your mesh clothes are, if your alpha layers are not good, it ruins the whole thing.

    How often did I try on demos or – even more often – cammed another avie and found ugly gaps and missing avatar parts ? 90 percent of people wearing mesh clothes have a hole in them somewhere. Granted, I am a perfectionist and most people will just not see or care about those small technical flaw. But if you point it out to them they usually become agressive, point at you and say: “Look at you, idiot. You are not even wearing mesh clothes !”

    Yeah, I don’t (mostly). And for good reason. I dont want a hole in me !

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