Noob Dude: A beginner’s guide to Catwa Bento mesh heads for the Second Life male avatar

Yeah, okay. That’s another gobful of a post title, and this one was  intended to show up much further along in the Noob Dude series, but I figured that—with the Catwa Bento mesh heads all updating to v3.0 and motion capture animations—it was better to get this done now  rather than later. So… welcome, to my beginner’s guide to using Catwa’s male Bento mesh heads :-)

At the time of writing this, Catwa has four male Bento mesh heads: Daniel, Stanley, Shaheen, and Dino. I own them all, and will be using Daniel throughout this post, where I will be:

  • Guiding you through the basics of the three main Catwa HUDs: the Master, Animation, and Beard HUDs
  • Showing you what you need to know about the important blokey stuff like how the hell you tint all  of your beard
  • Explaining how to layer and avoid those mishaps where putting on facial hair takes off your eyebrows or hairbase
  • How to fix common issues such as lines or gaps where your head meets your body, eyes sometimes going white, eyes poking out a bit too far, etc
  • Covering the various free add-ons and HUDs in the Catwa store to help you save and change your looks once you’ve got them set up

Note: this is one hell of a long-arsed post, so sit down to it piecemeal or when you have time to get stuck in and figure it all out.

What you get

So we’ll begin with what you actually get in the folder, which is this:

Yeah, that’s a lot, so I’m going to highlight the basics of what you need to wear to get set up, which is just the six items shown highlighted and in bold here:

In short:

  • The full alpha layer – which will make your entire system body invisible
  • The Catwa Head (SL Neck) – Use this for all  mesh bodies except the Niramyth body
  • The Rigged Eyes
  • The Master M (male) HUD – This is the one you’ll be spending most of your customisation time using
  • The Animations HUD – Initially you may want to just use this to stop the motion capture animations until you’ve customised your avatar to your liking
  • The Hair and Beard HUD

Make your life a bit easier by creating a new folder inside that main one, and dragging all of those items into it, to make them easier to find when you need them:

For this post, I’m going to assume that you have a mesh body. If you dont  have one, then the general guidelines will still be the same (this is, after all, a post about the heads, not the bodies). The only difference is that you’ll need to wear the alpha that states it’s for head and eyes only, and not the full alpha. For reference: Skell wears the Slink Physique Male body, so that will be the one in all of the images here.

Let’s get started

So, let’s begin with the full body alpha on, Skell’s Slink body, hands, and feet on, and OHAI I HAZ NO HED.

OK, let’s put that sucker— What the…?!

Yeah. I know. I am such  a little shit XD

That up there is what will happen if you try to put your Catwa Bento head on over the top of your usual shape. So why didn’t I tell you to wear the included shape first of all? Because most people want their mesh head to look exactly like their original shape. Aaaaand I wanted to show you that, without a bit of work, that’s not going to happen. Because of the way these heads are rigged, you need a specific base shape to begin with, which you then edit to get it looking how you want to. So shove that included shape into your new ‘essentials’ folder and put the damn thing on.

Much better. Sit back and watch for a bit as your new face mugs and flirts at you. Pretty good, ain’t it? If the animations are a bit distracting while you start figuring all this stuff out, though, they’re easily disabled. Click your animation HUD (it looks like an old movie camera) to open it, and click the stop button at the bottom of the Full Face AO section, arrowed here:

The Master HUD

The Master HUD is the main control centre for all Catwa heads. When you wear it, you’ll notice that it has five tabs along the side. I’m going to cover each of them briefly. Note that I have a few extra icons showing on mine. These are where I’ve saved certain things, such as hairbases to my HUD, for ease of use later.

Info – Mouth – Hair

This tab is where you can save and apply hairbases, teeth and gums. Take note of the Blend and Mask buttons at the top left of each section, and also the Lower and Upper checkboxes in the Hair section, as well as the Clear button and the Blend slider. We’ll get to these later once we start applying extra stuff. Note, too, the three ‘blank’ sections in Hair. These are hairbases that I’ve saved to the HUD. (Unfortunately, because the creator didn’t include icons, I have to remember – or guess! – which is which.)

Alpha – Lashes – Tint – Neck Size

This is the workhorse tab, and it’s where you’ll be spending most of your time. It looks like a lot  of stuff right now but it’s really simple once you know the few settings you need to use. And, of course, I’ll be covering all of that shortly ;-)

This is also the tab where you can hide certain parts of your mesh head if you want to wear versions of those parts (such as ears and teeth) by other creators, as well as choose different lash lengths and styles. And, of course, it’s where you TINT ALL THE THINGS!

IMPORTANT: See that red ‘RESET‘ section over on the right of this tab? If you mess up and get completely lost, just click ‘ALL’ in that section, and it will set your head back to the out-of-the-box default, so you can start again.

Eyes – Brows – Neck Tattoo

Here is where you can add your own brow appliers (assuming that you’re wearing a browless skin applier), add eye makeup such as guyliner, and also neck tattoos. As before, note the Upper and Lower checkboxes, the Blend and Clear buttons, and the Blend slider. I’ve got two of my own brows and one eye makeup saved to this HUD. The brows, as you can see, do  have an icon, which is helpful.

Blush – Lipstick

Don’t assume that, because you’re a manly man  you won’t be using this tab. If you want to wear facial hair, you’d better get cosy with the blush and lipstick tab, because that’s where you’ll be applying and clearing it! Don’t think of it as actual blush and lipstick; instead, think of the location. Blush = cheeks. Lipstick = mouth.

Skins – Ears

The final tab, this contains premade skins by Catwa, and you can click through them to find one that you like to begin with. You can stick with one of these and buy the matching body applier from the Clef de Peau mainstore (or from the CdP vendor in the male section of the Catwa store) or you can go out and pick up demos from the many, many skin stores in SL and create your own unique look.

With all of these tabs you get some good starter options, including hairbases and brows, so we’ll spend a few minutes playing around with them to get used to how the HUD works. First up, head back into the first tab, and click one of the icons for the hair appliers. I’ve chosen the black one:

Click another one to try that, but stop there. Now we’re going to get rid of it completely. To do this, you need to know where it’s applied to, so now we’re getting into those Upper and Lower checkboxes I mentioned while showing the HUDs.

Catwa’s Bento heads have two layers: an upper and lower. This allows for, well, as the name suggests… layering. It means that you can have a shaved hairbase over the top of a scalp tattoo, or guyliner over the top of eyeshadow. And the one thing that’s vitally important about these heads is the following:

All appliers will automatically default to the LOWER LAYER.

This is to say that, if you apply a scalp tattoo it will go onto the lower layer. If you then apply a shaved hairbase, it too will go on the lower layer… and in the process of doing so it will remove the tattoo. This is where those Upper and Lower tickyboxes come in. To fix that problem, you need to save to the Master HUD whatever you want to put on the upper layer (in this case the hairbase). You then apply the tattoo, which defaults to the lower layer. Then, you check/tick the Upper box, and apply the saved hairbase onto that upper layer. By doing this, both items go onto your head, and the hairbase won’t remove the tattoo.

For a much more detailed visual walk-through of this, click here (will open in a new tab).

So, to clear that hairbase, check whichever layer it went onto, and hit the Clear button. Welcome back, baldie ;-)

Tinting – for hairbases, brows, facial hair, guyliner… hell, you name it, you can tint it

We’re now going to move onto tinting. One of the things I try to do when buying appliers such as hairbases and brows, is to make sure they include a white tintable version. This allows me to change my look according to whatever hair I might be wearing. If you only ever wear one colour that’s not a problem for you, but I’m a hair h0r and I’m kinda fond of changing things up.

Tinting brows

Click around in the Skin tab until you find a browless version of the default skin, like this:

And then go into the Brows tab and click until you’ve applied a set of white brows, like this:

Not seeing them? Check that the blend slider on the Brows tab of the HUD is all the way across to the left. (Check the upper layer and look, then check the lower layer and look. It’ll be one of the two.)

Now we’re going to tint those brows. Before we do that, make a note of which layer box is checked/ticked on the Brows tab – lower or upper – and then head into that workhorse of a tinting tab.

Find the brows icon and click the left side of it if your brows went onto the lower layer and the right side of it if your brows went onto the upper layer. You’ll see it highlighted with a dark semicircle, as arrowed on the left in the pic below. Next, click in the black box shown by the other arrow, and your brows should turn black.

If they didn’t turn black, try checking the right side of that brow icon and clicking the black box again. Remember: left = lower, right = upper.

You can also change the colour by clicking in the rainbow panel and then clicking into the big colour box. To enter RGB colours, click the little pen icon above the rainbow panel and enter the RGB numbers separated by commas. You can save colours that you like by clicking the little black ‘save’ icon under each of the small boxes in the two rows at the bottom.

Tinting Facial Hair

This is where a lot of guys come unstuck. Face fuzz can be a tricky beast. Depending on how hirsute you are, facial hair can apply to multiple layers, but mainly the cheeks (blush layer), around the lips (lipstick layer) and sometimes up to the ears (this touches on the hairbase layer). Very occasionally (and for some weird reason, since you don’t actually see  any of the beard up there) it may also apply to the brow layer. That’s a lot  of layers to check, but you’ll mostly be dealing with cheeks and lips (aka: blush and lipstick; don’t come over all macho on me now!)

Open up the Beard HUD and go into the third tab. Click around in that lower section until you find a beard that you like. Note that they all start off as white, so you can tint them. You can see that I’ve got a lot  of different facial hair appliers saved in the top half of that HUD:

I’m wearing a nice full-face beard here:

Now you need to go back into the Master HUD and that workhorse of a tinting tab. Find the beard icon (it looks like blush on the cheeks). You did remember to make a note of which layer your beard applied to, right? Click the relevant side of the beard icon and then click the black box, as you did to tint your brows:

That’s all well and good, but here we’re bumping up against a small issue: not all of the beard has tinted. There are white sections lingering around the lips:

This is where we dive back into the tinting tab and check the lips and tint those as well, Make sure you click the relevant side:

Et voila.

Update: For a quick, all-in-one visual guide to this, click here.

Putting it all together

We’ve got a lot of this post under our belts so far, but there’s still a way to go until I’ve covered the basics. Don’t worry if it’s not all sunk in yet. Come back and re-read anything that doesn’t make sense to you, click around on your HUD and see what does what. You can’t break anything, and even if you somehow manage to screw your HUD up by deleting the scripts (or anything like that) you can always just unpack a new version or get a redelivery from the store. For now, though, I’m going to give you an example of putting everything I’ve shown thus far together.

Here’s an example of how I would put together a look comprising the following:

  • a browless skin
  • applier brows
  • a hairbase
  • eyeshadow/liner
  • facial hair

That might seem fairly simple, but look at the names and think about it. That eyeshadow is probably going to compete with the brows for position on my face, for starters.

I’m beginning with a browless skin from Swallow:

To that I’m adding a brow applier by Odeco. I’m wearing the white version and I’ve tinted it black. I’ve also clicked the Save button on the Brow section of the Master HUD to save the brow there:

Next up, the hairbase (by Stealthic) and beard (by CDC Creations). Both of them white, tinted black (I’m halfway through doing that in the pic below) and both saved to the relevant sections of their HUDs: the hair to the Hairbase tab of the Master HUD, and the beard to the upper section of the Beard HUD:

This is what it all looks like together:

Now I want to add some eyeshadow by Zibska. And… uh-oh…

Yeah, it took off everything. Even the brows, although I’d put those back on by the time I took this screenshot (my bad!) That’s because I’m using an Omega eyeshadow applier – which is a cross-brand applier type that works by using a relay HUD – and it applied to the ‘whole head’ area.

How to fix this so I can wear the eyeshadow without losing my hair, brows, and beard? Well that’s the fiddly bit. Remember what I said earlier about how all appliers default to the lower layer? What we have to do is leave that eyeshadow where it is. It’s clearly using most of the lower head layers, so I need to check the upper layer and then re-apply the stuff I saved to the HUDs: the hairbase, the brows, and the facial hair. Beard first:

By clicking the upper beard layer, the beard goes on without removing the makeup. Same with the brows and hairbase. I will have to tint them all over again (because I saved the white versions), so I have to remember to click the right side of the icons (for the upper layer) on the tinting HUD.

And here it is, all done:

Omega appliers

I mentioned Omega appliers briefly in the previous section. Without going into painstaking detail, I’ll summarise thus: Omega is a cross-brand relay for many different mesh body parts. If you have the correct relay for your body and head, you can wear any applier that is sold as an ‘Omega Applier’. For example: Skell is wearing a Catwa head and Slink body, so he needs the Catwa relay and the Slink relay.

Note: the Omega relays work differently, depending on the brand and body part. With Slink, you only need to wear the Omega HUD and click it once, and Omega is installed into the body. This kind of Omega HUD is an installer. With Catwa, you have to wear the Omega HUD every time you want to apply Omega items. That kind of Omega HUD is a relay, which ‘talks’ to the body part in question and sends it the relevant textures.

Omega covers everything from skins to eyes, hairbases to brows, makeup to clothing. Here I’ve changed Skell’s Catwa Daniel rigged mesh eyes using an Omega applier from Avi-Glam. Note the purple Omega relay half-hiding behind my various windows:

Omega relays can be purchased on SL Marketplace, or at the Omega Solutions store inworld. They cost L$99 per item (or, if you join the Omega Solutions group, you get a discount and they only cost L$50 each).

Basic Troubleshooting

One of the main issues some guys have with Catwa heads and mesh bodies is matching the neck. Be aware that it’s not possible to get a 100% perfect, seamless match. We’re talking about two different products by two different designers, after all. But there are ways to mitigate certain issues that tend to crop up. I’ll list a few problems that I occasionally see being queried in the Catwa support group, and detail the fixes that are usually suggested for them.

A visible gap (ie: you can see daylight through it) at the neck line (happens most often with the Signature body)

Tips to fix this include:

  • Make sure you’re only wearing one  all-in-one alpha layer (the full body one from the Catwa head pack) and not the Signature body alpha and  Catwa head alpha.
  • Turn off both neck fix options: the one in your Signature HUD and the one on the Catwa Master HUD. If you still need a neck fix, only use the Catwa one. If this is the case, re-apply your head skin applier once you’ve activated the Catwa neck fix. (This last one may or may not work, depending on whether the skin designer has included a neck fix texture in the head applier HUD.)

Light or dark bands around your neck (happens with any body)

Tips to fix this include:

  • Make sure you’re wearing head and body appliers in the same skintone by the same designer. Don’t mix skin designers or skintones.
  • Visit the skin store and get a redelivery of your body appliers. Skin designers sometimes update their body textures, and if you’ve bought a newer head applier but you’re still wearing the older body applier they probably won’t match.
  • As before, turn off the neck fixes on both body and head HUDs, and if you still need a neck fix, only use the Catwa one, and re-apply your head applier after enabling it.

Appliers look very faint or pale

  • Check your blend sliders. For an applier (such as brows or hairbase) to show up fully, the blend slider needs to be all the way over to the left.

Eyes poking out through your lower or upper lids

  • Make sure your shape’s eye depth is set to 50 and this problem will go away.

Area surrounding eyes is all-white and untextured

Face is stuck in an animation

  • Right-click your avatar and select Appearance > Reset > Skeleton. You might also want to click Appearance > Reset > Skeleton & Animations, too.

Glossy shine on your face

If you look like you’ve just faceplanted into a vat of oil…

…this is what you click on the Master HUD to get rid of the shine:

Visible seams at the sides or back of your neck (happens with any body)

Seeing this when you wear your body and head?

Apart from checking the above fixes for neck issues, this could simply be down to the Windlight setting that you’re using. As I mentioned before, you’re never going to get a 100% perfect match, but by going through different Windlight settings you can limit those lines on your viewer. (Note that changing your Windlight settings won’t affect how others see you.)

Suggested Windlight settings for softening those lines are in the image below. My preferred one is in the Firestorm viewer, and it’s Annan Adored Optimal Skin (No Shadows).

For all other troubleshooting regarding Catwa mesh heads, join the (free-to-join) Catwa Head Friends group and ask your question there. They’re an incredibly helpful bunch of people and will try to get your issue sorted out as soon as possible.

The Animations HUD

All of Catwa’s Bento heads have recently updated to v3.0 with motion capture animations, and they look incredible. I showed you earlier how to disable the full face AO if you found it distracting while you worked on practicing with your Catwa head, but now it’s time to get those animations back up and running again. Some of it is self-explanatory, and you’ll have more fun discovering what each section does through clicking and playing around with it than you will if I tell you everything about it, so I’m only going to show you a couple of bits:

Before we go into numbered detail, the four Full Face AO icons that I have switched on (the bottom row, surrounded by thick black lines) are nice, neutral ones that are great to keep on all the time. These add just a bit of natural animation to your lips, brows, and eyes.

1 is the eye poser, which is really useful for taking posed shots, especially in combination with the full face AO.

2 is the ‘broken neck’ icon. When you see the lines beside it, it’s enabled, and it will allow your neck to move fully with the animations. This makes a hell of a difference, turning this –

into this –

3 is the button to stop all of the full face AO animations (as shown earlier).

Aaaand 4? That’s the button that will make all the ladies (and gents, depending on your—and/or their—orientation) fall into a heap at your feet ;-)


Saving the best for last, of course. In the Catwa store you’ll find several great free HUDs that will help you save those precious looks once you’ve put them together. If you’re someone who changes his looks as often as I do, the Bento presets HUD will be a godsend. Get everything applied to all the right layers, and hit ‘Save’ on a new button on this HUD. (Note: the icon won’t change; it’ll just flash red and green and then look exactly as it did before, so I suggest creating a notecard for the HUD and numbering each look so you remember what it is). Whenever you want to re-wear a saved look, just click its button on that HUD and, after a few seconds, everything will apply just as it was when you originally saved it.

As the HUD states, it’s heavily scripted, so use it in a low-lag region and remove it when you’re done.

The other free little bit of awesome in the Catwa store is the Skins HUD. This contains four tabs, the first of which is partially filled with female skins (you can overwrite these if you want; the HUD itself is unisex) and three blank tabs. Here you can save all of your applier skins, both Catwa and Omega, for ease of re-applying:

Well them’s the basics. I did warn you it was long, but you’re armed and ready to go out there and look fucking awesome now. Slay ’em, dude ;-)