Bakes on Mesh ‘for Dummies’

A month ago I wrote a post called Get Baked – A Quick Beginners’ Guide to Using Bakes on Mesh. In the light of the questions I’ve seen since Bakes on Mesh (BOM) came to more residents’ attention, I’ve realised that I need to strip that post way back: right to the absolute basics, in fact. So here—in a loving pastiche of the ‘Dummies Guide’ books—is Bakes on Mesh for Dummies.

In writing this post I am by no means inferring that you’re a dummy if you don’t understand Bakes on Mesh. We’ve all seen those For Dummies books around, and many households own one or two (hell, I own a couple of them), so I figured it might be a fun way to cover the basics. Older SL residents will have an understanding of what system layers—the thing that BOM makes use of—are, but newer residents who came in once mesh was in full swing might have no clue what us old farts are on about ;-)

To that end, I’m going to cover some of the basic questions I’ve been seeing in the mesh head group that I’m a CSR for. Comments on my blog are normally closed automatically after 2 weeks, so if you have any basic questions—ones that are not specific to a particular mesh head or body brand—then send me (Skell Dagger) a notecard inworld and I’ll do my best to add them to this post.

BOM stands for ‘Bakes on Mesh’. This is a new (optional) avatar customisation feature recently added by Linden Lab (the owners and creators of Second Life). You’re going to start seeing a lot of items at events and in stores that are labelled as ‘BOM’, so now’s the time to look out for that if you want to try it out.

BOM is a special way of putting the system layers that you’re wearing on your underlying system/’classic’/starter avatar onto any third party mesh body parts that you’re wearing. The ‘bakes’ part of it comes from the fact that compositing multiple avatar textures into a single texture is called ‘baking’.

System layers are ‘painted on’ looking textures that are added to the basic avatar that we all have underneath our mesh body parts. If you take off your mesh head, your mesh body, and your alpha layers then what you have underneath it all is your system avatar.

System layers have special icons that look like clothing items or actual body parts. They look like this in the stock Linden Lab viewer:

And like this in the Firestorm viewer:

BOM works by putting special ‘bake’ textures onto your mesh body parts. There are two ways to do this (which we’ll get into shortly), but if you’ve seen people wandering around with brightly-coloured textures on their body that have lettering on them, you’re seeing BOM in action (but—because you’re not using an up-to-date viewer that has BOM capabilities—you’re not seeing those people correctly).

This is what a mesh body looks like—to someone not using a BOM viewer—when it’s textured with the BOM ‘bake’ textures. Note that Skell’s head and hands are not textured. There’s a reason for that, which—again—we’ll get into shortly:

And here are the main ‘bake’ textures, in a single block:

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of it. How BOM will work for you depends entirely on what the creators of your mesh head and body have done to support it. So you’ll need to check—either their social media, or their group notices, or their support options—as to what they have done. There are two possible basic options:

  • Native BOM support
  • BOM relay support

We’ll get into those next.

Native BOM is not an official term, but it’s one that I’ve coined to mean that the body or head is already set up to use Bakes on Mesh, and you don’t need anything additional—such as a relay HUD—to get it to work.

Scroll back up to the image of Skell with the weird textures all over him. He’s wearing a Catwa head (which does not have native BOM support; instead it requires a BOM relay – which is explained in the next section), the BOM version of a Signature body (which does have native BOM support), and the non-BOM versions of the Signature hands.

In short: any mesh body part that has native BOM support will be pre-textured with those special ‘bake’ textures. You don’t need to do anything with it; your underlying system layers will automatically be ‘baked’ onto your mesh body parts.

In the section above I explained that Skell’s Catwa head needs a BOM relay. BOM relays are how some creators have dealt with Bakes on Mesh. Pay attention to the next bit, because—if your mesh head and/or body need a BOM relay—it’s critical to understand how this specific type of relay works. I’m going to put it in bold text, just to make sure it sinks in ;-)

A BOM relay is literally just a skin applier that applies those BOM ‘bake’ textures to your mesh head and mesh body. That’s all it is. We’ll get into why this is so critical to understand a bit later in the post (if you want to know now, scroll down to the ‘Can I still use appliers with BOM?’ section). For now, I’m going to re-state it, as this is one thing many people are finding difficult to understand: a BOM relay is a skin applier, and the skin that it applies comprises nothing but those ‘bake’ textures. (It may also include an eye applier texture, so that your system eyes will bake onto your mesh eyes.)

Like any other skin applier, you simply add the BOM relay HUD, then click it to apply the textures.

If your body and/or head have native BOM support then you need to wear a version of the body/head that doesn’t have native BOM support. Most creators who are offering these ‘native BOM’ bodies and heads also include a ‘non-BOM’ version in the same folder. Remember: native BOM is pre-textured with the ‘bake’ textures and you can’t remove those from that kind of mesh body or head.

If your body and/or head use a BOM relay then all you need to do is re-apply your original skin and eye appliers. Remember: a BOM relay is literally just a skin applier (and possibly an eye applier), so—just as you change any other skin or eye appliers by applying new ones—that’s exactly how you ‘change out of’ BOM on mesh body parts that use a BOM relay.

BOM is entirely voluntary. If you’re not interested in using it then you don’t have to. It’s just another option that we have for customising our avatars.

The only thing that is recommended is updating to a BOM-capable viewer—whether you intend to use it or not— because otherwise you’re going to see a lot more ‘broken’ looking avatars around!

Leading on from the above, if people look weird (covered in bright textures with lettering on them) then you’re not using a BOM-capable viewer. Most of the major viewers now have BOM support, so it’s time to update!

Here we come back to the way that BOM is utilised on your mesh head and/or body: whether it’s native BOM support or a relay. And—as before—you need to check the documentation for your particular body part of choice, as I can only cover generic possibilities here. I’ll cover two of those possibilities (with brand examples) below:

  • Slink Redux body: the ‘redux’ version of Slink’s bodies are a single-layer, native BOM example. Whereas the ‘classic’ version of the body had four layers (nicknamed ‘onion skin’ layers, from the fact that they are literally four copies of the body, each closely layered on top of the other) – skin, tattoo, underwear, and clothing – the ‘redux’ version has just one layer: skin. And that skin is pre-textured with the BOM ‘bake’ textures. You cannot use any appliers whatsoever on the ‘redux’ bodies. You can read more about why Slink has taken this route here at their website.
  • Maitreya Lara body: Maitreya has opted to keep the ‘onion skin’ layers and is using a BOM relay. You can use any other appliers on top of this (as well as layering system stuff beneath), but you cannot use a skin applier. If you use a skin applier then—since the BOM relay is a skin applier in its own right—you will simply replace the BOM ‘bake’ textures on your body and BOM capability will stop. You can read more about why Maitreya has taken this route here at their website.

Mesh heads will work in the same way. If they have been reduced to a single layer, pre-textured native BOM version then you cannot use any appliers on them. You will only be able to use system layers. However, if they are making use of a BOM relay then you can use the BOM relay so that your underlying system skin bakes onto your head. You can then layer up to 59 other system layers onto your underlying system head (the total is 60, of which your system skin counts as 1) on top of that (yes, you can layer 59 lots of makeup if you really want to!) and then add up to 2 more (depending on your mesh head brand) non-skin appliers on your mesh head.

As explained above: skin appliers (which are only usable on a mesh body or head that does not natively support BOM and instead uses a BOM relay) will ‘block’ any underlying system textures. Think of your mesh head and body as a big window. BOM lets you see through the ‘glass’ to the underlying system textures. A skin applier acts like a thick coat of paint on that glass, blocking your view. Other appliers (makeup, tattoos, hairbases, etc) just add nice details on top of the system textures, but skin appliers are like blackout curtains and hide the system layers completely.

If your fingernails look bad then trust me: your toenails look a lot worse! You’re wearing an old system skin, created pre-mesh. These were mapped to go on the system avatar only, and the nail textures were invariably awful. This is especially so for the feet, since—on the original system avatar—those were solid ‘paddles’!

To fix this you need a tintable pair of nail-hiding gloves and socks. There are lots to be found on Marketplace—some free and some not—as well as in some skin creators’ stores. Just add them to your avatar, then edit them and tint them as close to your skintone as possible.

This one’s a doozie, and it’s actually pretty hilarious. That stuff is the original old ‘helmet head’ system hair that was all avatars had way back in the beginning. Bloody horrible, ain’t it? So why are you seeing it now? That’s all down to the ‘brow shaper’ you’re wearing under your mesh head, and here’s why:

What we now call the brow-shaper used to be called a ‘bald cap’ or ‘bald base’. Pre-mesh head we all used these not only to shape our system brows but also to remove the fugly system hair. If you edit your brow-shaper (assuming it’s modifiable) you’ll notice several tabs. The ‘style’ tab is the one you need to look at. This is where you can fix the fugly hair forever, by simply pulling the ‘volume’ slider to zero and saving the brow-shaper. (Your other option is to replace the hair texture in the box at the top of the tab with a transparent texture, of which you have one in your inventory’s Library > Textures folder.)

So why’s it happening? Well, when mesh heads became a thing, we all started wearing alpha layers that completely hid our system avatars, so we forgot all about that fugly system hair (it’s hidden by alphas, after all). Some creators got a little bit lax and stopped either replacing the hair texture with a full alpha one, or didn’t set that volume slider to zero, focusing instead on just changing the brow sliders. Now that we have to remove our alpha layers in order for BOM to work we’re suddenly seeing that ‘helmet head’ again. I’ve given you a simple fix up above, but you’re now seeing which creators forgot those other settings!

This one’s a simple fix: you just need to remove the alpha layers that you’re wearing to hide your system avatar beneath your mesh.

This is where things start to get a bit complicated. There could be several reasons behind this:

  • check that you’ve not tinted either your mesh head or body in the past (yes, tinting still works, even if you’re using BOM and system layers!) Look in the HUDs for both your head and body for a tinting option. If you see one, click it and—when prompted for RGB—enter 255,255,255 (that’s with commas and no spaces). Do this for both head and body, just to be sure.
  • make sure that both your head and body support BOM, either natively or via a BOM relay. If you only have BOM on your body (for example) then you’ll be wearing two different skins: your system skin ‘baked’ onto your mesh body, and your applier skin on your mesh head.
  • check that the system skin you’re using isn’t one that has only a head or body texture, with you expected to use appliers for the non-textured part. There are two sub-reasons why this type of skin exists:
    1. long before BOM was released some creators released body-only system skins. These were intended to be worn by those who wanted to keep their system avatar body but wear a mesh head (for which they would buy an additional head applier). The head texture would be either completely white or black or some other solid colour. The corresponding version for that is the head-only textured system skin, to be worn by those who wanted to keep their system head but wear a mesh body (for which they would buy an additional body applier). The body texture for that one would be either completely black or white or some other solid colour.
    2. the other reason is a new one where some creators are expecting people to use BOM on their body and appliers on their head, and it’s a bit beyond me as to why. I suspect that creators are still in the mindset of having one single set of body appliers while their head appliers are what they put out as new releases. Before mesh became a thing, we’d buy an entire skin (since system skins can’t be ‘split’ like mesh body and head appliers are). And—in the earliest days, before system tattoo layer makeup became a thing—single makeup skins would be sold. You’d buy a head-to-toe skin that came complete with one full set of makeup, and a different head-to-toe skin for another full set of makeup.
      • a small addition to reason 2 up there is that some creators are planning to use head tattoo layers to release their different head versions. That is: you buy a system skin that has a fully-textured body mapped to your mesh body of choice (e.g. Maitreya Lara) but with a plain (mostly blank) head in the same colour as your skintone. You then purchase a head system tattoo layer that is the equivalent of your Catwa/Lelutka/LAQ/etc head applier. This is then added on top of your system skin, and it’s quite an ingenious way of working: keeping both the familiar ‘separate head and body’ thing going while using the classic system skin.

BOM doesn’t mean that mesh clothing will go away. We’re still going to want 3D clothing and accessories, after all! What it will be is a great addition and/or replacement for applier clothing. Let’s say you have a pair of knee-high engineer boots, but you can’t find a single pair of mesh jeans that fit inside them, or any that stop at the top of the boots (unless they’re sold with the boots). You can simply use system layer jeans, which will just look like skintight pants tucked into those boots. (Granted, for some bodies that will mean your pants are painted up to and into your buttcrack (!) or you end up with serious cameltoe, but some bodies are already including special ‘smoothing’ layers to mitigate that.)

Why do I say that it’s a great replacement for appliers? System layers don’t suffer from the same ‘alpha-glitching’ issue that applier layers do. If you’ve ever tried to put a tattoo on your body’s tattoo layer and then some lacy lingerie or anything else with an alpha layer (partial transparency) onto your body’s underwear or clothing layer then you’ll know what I mean by ‘alpha-glitching’. It’s where the two partially-transparent layers clash against each other and—because Second Life uses the OpenGL system—the ‘z-buffer’ issue that OpenGL suffers from is unavoidable unless you change the blending on one of those layers to ‘mask’ (which causes its own issues with some textures, making them look blocky and horrible).

Or maybe you have a long, feathery hairstyle that always seems to remove part of your applier top underneath it. That’s an alpha ‘halo’ around the mesh (needed to get those feathery textures!) glitching with the semi-transparent areas of your top. (And the top doesn’t even need to be showing any of the transparent areas; if the texture applied to it has any transparency—even on an unseen section—it will throw out that annoying glitch.) ‘Alpha halo’ hair can also remove slices of eye makeup and brows if it hangs over those areas of your face.

With system layers you can pile on the partially-transparent stuff and never worry about the alpha glitch again. A tattoo together with lacy lingerie and then a strappy top with ragged holes torn into it? An absolute flickering (or partially non-existent) nightmare with appliers, but a perfect, complete breeze with system layers and BOM.

I’ve seen this question crop up a lot, especially from longtime residents who remember what system skins used to look like. And yes—if you wear old system stuff—it’s very likely that it won’t look as good as your applier stuff. BUT creators are already bringing out gorgeous system skins that map perfectly and look wonderful when baked onto mesh body parts. They’re using the techniques that they’ve learned for mesh heads and bodies and are applying those techniques to creating new system items. I’ve seen stunning skins and beautiful makeup, all on system layers baked to mesh body parts.

Do be alert, though. Some creators are selling old system skins as ‘BOM skins’. Always always always try a demo, and—in the case of a skin—look closely at the hands and feet. If you’re seeing distorted nail textures on your mesh then the creator is packaging old system skins up as new BOM skins.

And that’s it for this post, my sartorial darlings. I hope it proves useful and has answered some of the more basic questions that you might have. It’s taken me several cups of tea and the better part of an entire morning to get this written up, and I know I’ve probably not covered every eventuality. I’m happy to come back to this post and add further questions and answers to it, but only if they are generic Bakes on Mesh questions. If you have a query such as “How do I get BOM to work on XYZ head brand?” then that’s not a generic question: it’s brand-specific and you’ll need to ask in that brand’s support group or check with the creator/their customer support representatives.

6 thoughts on “Bakes on Mesh ‘for Dummies’

  1. Thanks, Skell!

    I’d figured this stuff out myself from various LL and fan posts around the interwebs. But it’s great to have a simple BOM article that I can point /other/ people to! I’ve been regularly linking to this blog post to other people people in-world.

  2. Thank you so much for this informative article. It is the most usefully informative I’ve had the fortune to come across yet. I found this via a link from Izzie’s.

  3. You are not addressing the point made by some that BOM should require less computer resources. Is that not true?
    Now that Birth have created a BOM skin for my head (catwa Daniel) and body (Gianni) should I then:
    1) Use the catwa bom relay to apply the new Birth bom skin, or
    2) Just applying the previous Birth mesh skin applier directly on the Daniel mesh head, without using the relay?
    Both methods seem to give the same result but is one of the methods still better than the other?

    • I didn’t address that point simply because I spent about a week trying to think of as many basic questions as I could, then spent a further 6 hours writing up answers to those questions that were as simple as possible. The necessity of fewer resources wasn’t a simple question that popped into my head while I was brainstorming. I did my best to think of as much as I could, and if I didn’t address a specific issue it’s not because I was deliberately ignoring it, as you seem to be suggesting.

      BOM will only require fewer computer resources if the creators of your mesh body and head reduce their layering down to one single layer. Mesh bodies all comprise multiple ‘onion skin’ layers so that you can wear skin, tattoo, underwear, and clothing. That’s four copies of the body layered on top of each other.

      With BOM – assuming you’re using the Bakes on Mesh 1.0 version of your Gianni body – you’ll be saving a lot of resources. For now, you can still use alpha cuts on the HUD to blank out sections of your body, but some mesh bodies have gone to the extreme of removing that ability, so you have to go back to alpha layers (and people are having mixed success with those). Signature have chosen not to do that because it will render null and useless a lot of pre-bought mesh clothing.

      Whether you use the BOM skin or not is up to you, and depends on whether you want to use other BOM system layers, such as scars, freckles, guyliner, etc. BOM allows you to layer as many of those as you like without encountering the alpha glitch that you’d get with layers.

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