Current world events have seen a lot of people returning to Second Life after a long time away from it, and they’re finding that things have changed in a big way. If they left SL prior to the beginning of 2012 they have no idea what mesh is. If they left prior to the end of 2015 they have no idea what Bento is. They’re seeing confusing terms like ‘applier’ and ‘rigged’ and ‘Bakes On Mesh’. Most of all, they’re probably looking at their own avatar and comparing it to the avatars they see around them, and wondering why those avatars look so different (at least, once all of the disjointed body parts have stopped floating around and coalesced into a person). And they’re going to have a LOT of questions:
- What’s all this new stuff? Signature? Catwa? Legacy? Genus? BoM? HD heads?
- Why are skins in boxes that I can’t unpack?
- I managed to unpack this box of facial hair but it only gave me a script called ‘applier’?
- You’re telling me I have to buy separate skins for my head and my body? WTF? A skin is a skin! There’s only one skin!
Stepping back from my near-13 years in Second Life and trying to see the grid as it is now—this time through the eyes of a returnee—I could think of a lot more questions and confusions, but perhaps the one I’ve dealt with most frequently of late in my role as a CSR for one of the biggest mesh head brands on the grid is the confusion of “How the hell do I actually get dressed in all this stuff?!” However, that’s a question that’s not only being asked by returnees, so this post—while principally aimed at those who haven’t been around for a while—is intended to help any guy who’s struggling with all the terminology, and with how he puts it all together into a cohesive and decent-looking avatar.
While my blog is aimed primarily at male avatars some of the explanations within will help to explain terminology for anyone returning to SL, so just because this is titled as “A Style 101 for the Second Life Male Avatar” some of it may be beneficial to all genders. However, once I get into the nitty gritty of heads and bodies I will be focusing solely on male content.
Be warned: We have a lot of ground to cover and this post is going to be a LONG one, so make a tea or coffee (or grab a beer) and sit down, while Uncle Skell tries his best to summarise eight years of progress into a single blog post! I think I’m gonna need a drink or three myself, to help me get through writing this one, but I’ll break it up as much as possible so your eyes are not glazing over at walls of text…
First of all, if you’re coming back to Second Life after a long time away, then welcome back! I’m going to start by giving you a quick glossary of the terms you might not be familiar with, together with some ‘further reading’ links for some of those terms. So as not to pad this post out to a ridiculous length, I’m just going to give basic explanations in that glossary, so the links will be there to give you more information if you want a deeper understanding.
Mesh = Introduced at the start of 2012, mesh is a 3D object that—while it has not physically replaced the ability to create using prims and the like—has all but replaced the usage of prims and sculpts in most items in Second Life. It allows for much finer detail than prims or sculpts, it has a vastly lower LI (Land Impact; the way we now express ‘prim count’) than prims and sculpts, and it is now the primary way in which many people customise their avatars. Mesh is created using external programs, and—when worn on an avatar—its has two options: rigged and unrigged. Read more about mesh here and here.
Rigged Mesh = The best way to describe rigged mesh is to envision it being ‘pinned’ to your avatar in certain places. Rigged mesh cannot be moved or manually resized, and in most cases you can’t even select it on your avatar to even try moving it. Rigged mesh will flex and move with your avatar, so you can have an all-in-one thigh-high boot that bends at the knee and ankle when you walk, instead of a foot section, a shin section, and a thigh section, all of which ‘break’ when you walk. Rigged mesh will resize and stretch when you manipulate certain shape sliders, so those thigh boots will become longer or shorter if you change your leg length.
Note: Rigged mesh is important when it comes to choosing a mesh body. More on that later.
Unrigged Mesh = As you may guess, unrigged mesh can be moved and resized (assuming the creator has given it those permissions). It looks the same as rigged mesh, except that it’s not ‘pinned’ to you and won’t flex and move in the same way as rigged mesh will. Example: no creator would sell an all-in-one thigh-high boot that was unrigged, because parts of it would swing out and away from your avatar when you moved!
Bento = Introduced at the end of 2015, Project Bento added lots of new bones to the avatar skeleton. These extra bones mean you can now wiggle your fingers individually, that quadruped avatars can have much more realistic legs and tails, and—with especial regard to this post—that you can customise Bento-rigged mesh heads with your system shape sliders. Read more about Bento here.
Mesh Body = A mesh body is an object that you wear over the top of your system avatar. You will first need to wear an alpha layer (the modern equivalent of invisiprims, if you remember those) to hide your system body. Most mesh bodies are sold without heads (although a very small number of creators also sell matching mesh heads) so you can either use your system head with a mesh body, or hide your system head and also buy a mesh head. Most mesh bodies are Bento-rigged (see above) so your fingers can animate in quite complex ways. Mesh bodies make use of either appliers or BoM (Bakes on Mesh) to texture them. A mesh body will set you back anything between L$2,500 and L$5,500, although cheaper variants are also available (as well as free ones that usually cannot be customised with different skins at all).
Mesh head = Like a mesh body, a mesh head is an object that you wear over the top of your system avatar, and you will first need to wear an alpha layer to hide your system head. Most mesh heads are sold without bodies, and they come in several variants that were developed over the years as more capabilities were added to Second Life:
- Basic mesh heads = these cannot be edited by using shape sliders, but you can change your skin, and add facial hair, makeup, hairbases etc to them. These are the cheapest heads that you can buy, averaging at just under L$1,000
- Frames animated mesh heads = these came along a little after basic heads, and they make use of multiple ‘frames’ of mesh that run through slightly different movements, a bit like a flip book. When running through all of those frames one after the other, the impression given is of animation. Like basic heads, these cannot be edited using the shape sliders, but you can change your skin and add facial hair, makeup, hairbases etc to them. These are the mid-range heads, averaging at a starting price of just under L$1,000 for the head alone and up to L$5,000 if you opt for all the available additional frames animations
- Bento mesh heads = using the Project Bento system that added lots of new bones to the Second Life avatar, these heads can be manipulated using the system shape sliders. They usually come complete with realistic motion capture animations and other features. These are the highest price heads, averaging at approximately L$5,000
- HD mesh heads = the newest kid on the block, HD heads are developed with much finer details. HD heads require special skins that are created specifically for them (skins created for other types of mesh head will look odd). These heads will usually set you back the same price as a Bento head.
Mesh heads make use of either appliers or BoM (Bakes on Mesh) to texture them.
Applier = an applier (as might be guessed from its name) is a way of applying a texture to a mesh body or head. Appliers come in the form of a HUD (Heads Up Display) which looks like an object (‘golden box’ icon) in your inventory, and—once added—will place a clickable image on your screen. Clicking that image will apply the relevant item to your mesh body or head. Appliers are one of two ways you can texture your mesh head and body. The other way is…
Bakes on Mesh (BoM) = Bakes on Mesh (abbreviated to BoM or BOM) is a relatively new system in Second Life. When enabled on your mesh head and body it allows any system layers that you’re wearing on your non-mesh body (your basic system body) to show on your mesh head and body. Read more about Bakes on Mesh here.
Demo = A demo is a (usually) free copy of an item, which is altered or defaced in some way. It’s offered by many stores so you can try the item on to ensure that it fits, or that you like the look of it, etc. When it comes to anything mesh—be it clothing or a mesh head or a mesh body or anything else where you have the option to try a demo—YOU SHOULD ALWAYS DEMO. That went into all caps purely because it’s vitally important. I have helped far too many guys who were impatient, who didn’t want to bother with demos, and who subsequently spent hundreds of (real life) dollars on mesh heads and bodies that ended up not being what they wanted.
One of the questions I see most often asked is “Which is the best mesh body?”
Well, ‘best’ is entirely subjective, and what is best for you may not be best for me. I’m the kind of guy who likes to have all the bells and whistles. I want to be able to customise the hell out of my avatar, so I’m happiest with a body (and head) that I can do that with. You, on the other hand, might be the kind of guy who can’t be arsed with all that crap; you might just want to look gym-toned, have a nice bit of facial hair covering a square jaw, with medium-tanned skin, and bright blue eyes. I like complexity and options out the wazoo, while you like simplicity and have a ‘chuck it on and forget about it’ attitude. Neither of those ways is wrong, and neither is ‘best’ for everyone.
That said, I’m going to point you upwards to the final point mentioned in the glossary: DEMO. The way to find the body that’s best for you is to demo them all. Demos of all the bodies I’m about to mention are completely free, and they’re all fully-featured (which means they’re not limited in any way, with the exception of floating demo signs around you or something similar).
Things you need to bear in mind when choosing a mesh body:
- Whether it has the kind of physique that you want, or whether you can shape it to the kind of physique that you want using the shape sliders. Some bodies are more muscled than others, so you will have to work harder with the shape sliders to slim down those muscled bodies if you don’t want to look like you visit the gym every day.
- Whether it has decent mesh clothing and applier (or BoM) support from creators. Some bodies are more popular than others, and with all mesh bodies you are going to mainly be purchasing mesh clothing that is rigged for that particular body. More on that later.
- Do you like the options that you have with it? Is the HUD easy to use, and does it offer you what you need (be that simplicity or all those bells and whistles)? Does it have options to use both appliers and BoM?
All of those three things need to be considered in combination with each other. If you’re not fussed about clothing and only want a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers then a high amount of clothing support from creators isn’t going to be top of your list. If you don’t want to bother with appliers and would like to keep using the system skins that you’re familiar with then BoM is going to be a crucial thing for you. And so on.
With that said, I’m going to give a quick summary of the ‘biggest name’ male mesh bodies in Second Life, bearing the above points in mind. I’ll list them in a vague semblance of order, but in reality there are two top dogs, one runner-up, several middle-of-the-packs and a bunch of stragglers, so I’m only going to detail the big guns below.
- Inworld store location: Signature Body
- Marketplace link: Not available on Marketplace
- Price: L$4,000 (as at May 2020)
- Physique: Very gym-toned, but not overly-muscular. Has prominent arm muscles, but these can be toned down with some shape work
- Ease of use: Simple, but if you want complexity you also have that. The HUD has multiple alpha cuts for fitting, with both front and back of the body showing at the same time. It has a BoM button to change from appliers to BoM, and many other options
- Clothing support: Excellent. You will always find clothing rigged for Gianni
- Applier support: Excellent. Almost all skin creators have appliers for Signature bodies
- Customer service: Signature Body inworld group
- Additional notes: Signature also sell mesh heads. Applier support for these (outside their own skintones, which match their body default skintones) is almost non-existent, but with BoM you can use any system layers on them, so applier support is less important
- Inworld store location: Belleza
- Marketplace link: Not available on Marketplace
- Price: L$2,999 (as at May 2020)
- Physique: Gym-toned but less muscular than Signature ‘Gianni’ (although it can be bulked out with some shape slider work). Has prominent inguinal crease built into the mesh, and light veining on the arms
- Ease of use: A little less intuitive than Signature. Selecting the alpha cuts on the HUD can be a bit fiddly, and there is a ‘rotate’ button that you need to click to access alpha cuts for the back of the body. It’s not set up for BoM, but a free relay HUD is available on the Second Life Marketplace to enable BoM
- Clothing support: Excellent. You will always find clothing rigged for Jake
- Applier support: Excellent. Almost all skin creators have appliers for Belleza bodies
- Customer service: Send notecard or IM to Belleza CSRs Kare (kare28) or Jaycee (xjayceex)
- Additional notes: The Jake body comes with a skin applier for Catwa mesh heads, so if you decide on a Catwa head then you don’t need to worry about additional head appliers
- Inworld store location: The Shops
- Marketplace link: Free demo & full-priced version
- Price: L$5,500 (as at May 2020)
- Physique: Toned and able to go from lean to muscular. Very versatile and comes with multiple starter shapes
- Ease of use: Trickier than Signature and Belleza HUDs. A bit of guesswork is involved when using the HUD (only the major alpha cuts are visible, and you’ll need to click to discover where the smaller ones are!), but the HUD comes with a very generous amount of defaults such as skintones and nail colours (even nail polish, if that’s your thing). It has a BoM button to change from appliers to BoM
- Clothing support: Decent. Legacy is still a fairly new mesh body, but there’s enough clothing support out there to put a good wardrobe together
- Applier support: Good. A reasonable number of skin creators have appliers for Legacy
- Customer service: LiveHelp inworld group
- Additional notes: The Legacy body comes with its own starter wardrobe of clothing—chinos, sweater, shoes, and underwear—so if you’re an ‘only needs one outfit’ kind of guy, you’re all set to go
- Inworld store location: Slink
- Marketplace link: Slink
- Price: L$2,250 (‘bundle’ purchase with body, hands, and feet) (as at May 2020)
- Physique: Lightly toned and lean, but can be bulked out surprisingly well by adding about 5% to body fat. This body is great if you want a swimmer’s torso: lean with broad shoulders
- Ease of use: Very simple to use, but has a lot of options (it’s a ‘bells and whistles’ HUD, but not complicated at all). You get two versions of the body: one already set up for BoM (this one’s called ‘Redux’) and one to be used with appliers (this one’s called ‘Classic’)
- Clothing support: Lots of clothing was made for Slink in the past, but it’s lost a lot of support in the last couple of years as muscle boys Gianni and Jake have risen to the fore. You’ll still find some stores creating for Slink so there’s no shortage of stuff out there, but you’ll need to visit mainstores rather than do your shopping at the big monthly menswear events
- Applier support: Middling. As with clothing, lots of skins made in the past but not so many currently. However, you can use the cross-brand Omega body appliers offered by most skin creators (read up about what Omega is here) and with the included Redux version of the body you can use any system skins, so applier support is not critical
- Customer service: Send notecard or IM to SLink or email Slinkhelp@gmail.com
- Additional notes: Slink is the only male body with built-in genitalia, which can be shown (or hidden) via its HUD. Granted, it may not be to your liking, and it’s not scripted to do anything, but if you’re at a nude beach and don’t want to be a Ken Doll (but you can’t yet afford to buy third-party genitalia) then it will do in a pinch. It’s also the only male body to have a built-in bulge in the mesh at the crotch, so if you’re using BoM (Bakes on Mesh) or applier pants you won’t look completely flat as if you’re tucking.
As Signature ‘Gianni’ with the following differences:
- Physique: Gym-toned, but much more man-in-the-street than Gianni
- Clothing support: Middling. While Geralt has clothing support, there’s much less of it than there is for Gianni
- Inworld store location: Niramyth
- Marketplace link: Niramyth
- Price: L$2,799 (as at May 2020)
- Physique: Extremely muscular, this is the gym-addicts body. If you’re after beef in SL then this is the body you want.
- Ease of use: Can’t help you here, I’m afraid. This is the one body that I’ve not tried (since its shape has zero appeal to me). I’m unsure if it has BoM support or not
- Clothing support: Fairly good. Quite a few designers rig for Aesthetic
- Applier support: Very scarce, especially if you opt for a different brand of mesh head (Niramyth also sell their own heads). Catwa Bento mesh heads have default skins that match to three Niramyth tones (‘Enzo’ light & medium, and ‘Smith’ light), and Birth and Nivaro sell skin appliers for a Catwa/Niramyth combination, but that’s about it
- Customer service: Contact Aiko Yue for customer support, or ask in Niramyth group for community support
- Additional notes: If muscles are your thing, then the Niramyth bodies come as a complete avatar package. You’ll get a body and head, an AO (animation overrider) and a good basic set of clothing
Those are the main mesh bodies. Others include: Altamura, NX Nardcotix, Ex Machina, and Adam.
First of all you’ve got to unpack the thing! The vast majority of packed items now come in the form of either an unpacker HUD or a wearable bag or box, so right-click the object in your inventory and select ADD. You may need to click the HUD (or bag) or it may auto-unpack. Just get the bloody thing unpacked and into your inventory, then detach the unpacker ;-)
Open up the folder and—before you do anything else—look at what’s inside it. Don’t, for god’s sake, just wear the entire folder, otherwise you might be wearing two bodies and a load of boxes and/or bags! (And yes, I’ve seen that happen, only that time the guy was wearing FOUR bodies.) The main things you need to look for are:
- an alpha layer (inventory icon – white t-shirt with a grid pattern on it)
- a shape (inventory icon = a human figure)
- the body (inventory icon = object)
Right-click and ADD each of those things in the above order (always ADD, never WEAR, although you can only WEAR the shape).
- The alpha layer will render your underlying system avatar invisible. Your folder might include several alpha layers, so look at what they’re called. One called ‘full avatar’ will make your whole avatar invisible, including your head. One called ‘body’ will just render your body invisible and leave your system head showing. If you’re trying on just the body to begin with, use the ‘body’ alpha layer.
- The shape will give you the same shape as you see in the body’s advert. For now, use this shape while you’re trying things out. You can edit it using the system shape sliders later, but be forewarned: if you’re going to choose a Bento mesh head, you’ll need to change to a different specific shape, so don’t make too many permanent adjustments just yet!
- The body will… well, it’ll attach the mesh body to you. Pretty obvious, that one.
Now take a look at yourself. Are you complete, or are you missing some hands and feet? If those rather important bits are indeed missing you’ll find them in your folder, so ADD those as well. You can now get an idea of how good this body looks, but don’t take it at face value. Is it too muscular? You might be able to change that with the shape sliders. Too slim? Same thing with the shape sliders, so right-click on yourself and go into Edit Shape, just as you used to do with your system avatar. Play around with the sliders under the Body, Torso, and Legs tabs to see if you can get the body looking how you want it to.
Once you’ve messed around a bit with the shape and you’re happy that you can get your physique to look how you want, it’s time to come out of edit appearance and check out the body’s HUD. Find it in the folder and ADD it. Depending on which body you’ve chosen you’ll see something that looks pretty bloody complicated at first glance, but it’s usually common sense. Most body HUDs will have—at minimum—the following tabs:
- Alpha cuts = you’ll know these because they will be human figures with lines on them. Clicking in these areas will mask out (make invisible) sections of your mesh body, for better fitting under mesh clothing. Your HUD might show both the front and back of your body at the same time, or it might have a ‘turn around’ button to show one or the other side.
- Skins = you’ll know these because they will have skintone coloured boxes. Clicking these will change the skintone on your mesh body.
- Settings/Extras = this will be at least one tab (possibly two separate tabs) for things like enabling BoM, changing nail colour, neck fixes, hiding and showing tattoo/underwear/clothing layers (for appliers) and the like. They will also all have—usually somewhere on one of these tabs—a reset button, so if you mess up completely you can restore the body to factory settings. (Make sure you locate that button before you start to discover what the HUD can do. There’s nothing like turning your entire body purple and not knowing how the hell to get back to normal again!)
Time to start clicking those buttons to see what they do. I’ll leave you to it ;-)
Update: Because I’ve just run into this yet again inworld, I’m going to amend this post to add it. At the start of this section I said the following: Don’t, for god’s sake, just wear the entire folder, otherwise you might be wearing two bodies and a load of boxes and/or bags! (And yes, I’ve seen that happen, only that time the guy was wearing FOUR bodies.) Well take a look at this:
If you’re wearing Belleza’s Jake body, you only need ONE of those. They are each different copies of the body, with different options for hands and feet. The most up-to-date one is the one called -Belleza- Jake 2.1 Bento. All of the others are older options, to be worn if you have older fitted items such as shoes or gloves/nails, since—when Belleza updated Jake—they changed the mesh on the hands and feet. Confusing for anyone, I know, especially if you’re not aware of that. And the way that they’re named makes it look as if one of those items is just the feet and another is the hands. But they are all full bodies. Here they are in the actual folder:
Belleza isn’t the only body that has multiple copies. Signature has two options, as well: an SL Neck version and a Default Neck version. Which one you wear will depend on which mesh head you’re wearing. Again, confusing as hell, but that’s why I cautioned against just wearing everything in the folder! Take your time and try each item on individually to see what it is.
Before I begin this section, I must give a disclaimer: I am a CSR and Manager for the Catwa brand. That said, I strive always to give the most impartial advice that I can, and I promise never to ‘shill’ for that brand, either here or anywhere else (such as the official Second Life forums) where I am actively giving avatar customisation help. I know Catwa heads inside and out, and I have experience with a couple of other brands, but—because of my affiliation—I must let you know upfront that I will be giving fewer details in the next section, as I don’t want (even inadvertently) to ‘favour’ any one brand, and I also don’t have enough experience with all the brands to be able to offer more than basic information. You must let the demos be your guides.
Hopefully you read the information about different types of mesh head that I gave in the glossary of this post, and you have an idea of the kind of mesh head that you want, be that based on features or price point. Below I’m going to give a brief summary of each of the main brands of mesh head. Since most brands have multiple heads I won’t list all the names, and—since all of these brands have BoM capability—while I will mention the applier support for each, please bear in mind that even for those with less applier support you can always use BoM skins.
Please note: This list will focus only on brands who have male mesh heads for sale at the time of writing this post (May 2020).
- Inworld store: Catwa Clip (CATWA)
- Marketplace link: CATWA
- Applier support: Excellent
- Customer service: Catwa Head Friends inworld group
- Inworld store: LeLUTKA Mainstore
- Marketplace link: LeLutka mesh heads are only available inworld
- Applier support: Excellent
- Customer service: LeLutka inworld group or send IM or notecard to CSR Sio (siobhin.shippe)
- Inworld store: Akeruka
- Marketplace link: AK Creations
- Applier support: Limited
- Customer service: [AK] Heads News & Support inworld group
- Inworld store: Altamura Store
- Marketplace link: Altamura
- Applier support: Limited
- Customer service: Altamura Design/Mesh Avatars inworld group
- Inworld store: Gaeline Creations (GA.EG)
- Marketplace link: GA.EG
- Applier support: Limited
- Customer service: IM or Notecard to Gael Streeter or use GA.EG inworld group
- Inworld store: Vista Animations
- Marketplace link: Vista Animations
- Applier support: Limited
- Customer service: Notecard only to either Hermione Mocha or Clif Sharktooth
Yes, by far the VAST majority of applier skins that you’ll find for mesh heads will be for either Catwa or Lelutka. You’ll be mostly limited to the store’s own brand skins if you choose another brand. You can always use Omega head appliers (which are few and far between for male skins) or BoM skins, but be aware that if they are not created specifically for your brand of mesh head they may not ‘map’ perfectly (textures such as the lip line and eye creases may not sit in the correct positions on the 3D mesh shape of the head).
As with your mesh body demo(s), you now need to unpack your mesh head demo(s), so ADD them from your inventory and get those boxes and bags unpacked into folders. Then—again, as you did with your mesh body—STOP and look at the folder’s contents. Depending on which head(s) you’ve picked up demos for, you might have a bewildering amount of stuff staring back at you.
The basics that you will need to ADD are:
- an alpha layer (inventory icon – white t-shirt with a grid pattern on it)
- the head (inventory icon = object)
- the eyes (inventory icon = object)
Once you’ve got those on, take a look at yourself. Do you already have ears on? That’s good; no need to attach any extra ears that may be in the folder. Can you see teeth? (You might need to cam inside your head to take a look.) If so, great; if not, then look for any items in the folder called ‘teeth’ or ‘jaw’ or something like that, and ADD it.
Now take another look at yourself. A good, long, hard, critical look. Do you look kinda… freaky? Scrunched-up eyes? Small chin (or a chin that juts a mile out from your face)? That means you’re wearing a Bento head, and—as you will recall from the glossary—Bento heads can be edited by means of the shape sliders. But don’t steam in right away and try to ‘fix’ that weird-lookin’ mug you’ve got going on just yet. The fix is much simpler, and it’s why I told you not to make too many permanent adjustments to the shape you wore when you tried on your mesh body.
Most Bento mesh heads will look weird if you put them on over a shape that isn’t created specifically for them. Every Bento mesh head will come with its own ‘starter shape’ that sets the perfect slider numbers for you to start customising and making it more unique to you. So go back into the head’s folder, find that starter shape, and WEAR it. Your head will suddenly look ten times better.
Sidenote: If you did make some slider adjustments to your shape that you liked on the mesh body you’ve chosen, you can easily transfer those measurements across to the mesh head shape. Simply put the body’s shape back on, and write down all the slider numbers in the Body, Torso, and Legs tab. Then put the head’s shape on, change the Body, Torso, and Leg sliders to the ones you wrote down, and save that shape with a new name. (I usually append something like “Edited for Skell” after the head’s shape name, so I know that it has Skell’s usual body measurements in it.) Once that’s done you will then be wearing a shape that has the ideal head sliders, plus your preferred body sliders.
Now you get to play around with the head shape sliders, to see how they affect your Bento head. You can change almost all of them (I think there are only three or four sliders that have no effect on most Bento heads).
Can I replicate my system head with a mesh head?
While you won’t be able to replicate your system face exactly it might be possible to replicate it close enough that it will pass your own critical inspection. Just how close you’ll be able to get depends on a number of factors, not least of which is what your system head actually looks like. If you have specific features that cannot be replicated by a mesh head, then you may get close but not quite close enough for your liking. Only you can decide whether that’s worth the work, but it is worth a try.
You need to begin with a head that has a similar base shape to your system head. For example: if you have a very pointed system jaw, you may struggle to get the same jawline from a mesh head that starts out with a strong square jaw. Don’t forget that—just as with system skins—the right skin applier (or BoM skin) and any accompanying additional appliers/BoM layers, such as makeup, freckles, age lines, etc) can alter a mesh head, to the point where ‘almost-but-not-quite’ becomes ‘well damn that’s close enough for me!’
I’ve come up with an analogy that works for me: I look at moving from a system head to a mesh head as akin to growing older in real life. My reflection in the bathroom mirror these days isn’t the same as it was back when I was 20. I’ve matured, and – while my general features are still recogniseable – I don’t look the same. In turn, Skell has just evolved and grown older in Second Life. Certain features of his mesh head (high cheekbones, generous lips, and a slightly shallow chin) are recogniseable when compared to his old system head, but then again I’m lucky in that I work for a mesh head creator and was thrilled to have her create and release a head that was inspired by and named after me.
OK, that’s enough faffing around with the shape sliders. Its time to check out the HUD(s) for your head. You will very likely have more than one HUD in that folder, but one of them will be your Master or Main or Edit HUD, so dig that one out and add it. This is the one you’ll use to customise your mesh head, and each brand’s HUDs vary greatly from each other. They will group each section differently, so—unlike with the body HUDs—I’m not going to be able to tell you that you’ll always have a specific tab for this or that. However, each HUD will usually let you:
- change your skin
- change your eyes
- add extras such as hairbases, facial hair (sometimes facial hair is in a separate ‘beard HUD’), eyebrows, and things like freckles and guyliner
- tint parts of your head or appliers that you’ve added (some appliers such as beards and brows might go on as white, so you can tint them to match any hair colour you might be wearing)
- show and hide parts of your head (for example: you might want to hide your head’s ears if you want to wear pierced or gauged ears that you’ve bought from another store)
- a way to activate Bakes on Mesh (BoM)
- adjust your head’s neck size by means of a ‘neck fix’ to better fit your mesh body (please note, though, that when we get to the last part of this enormous post, I’m going to tell you that you shouldn’t need any kind of neck fix)
Some mesh heads’ main HUDs include the animations, and other mesh heads have their animations in separate HUDs. Again, it’s all down to how that brand handles everything. Time to get stuck into that HUD and start clicking. As with the body, look for and note down where that RESET button is, in case you accidentally turn yourself into a Smurf while checking out the tinting options ;-)
Holy crap, we’re almost at the end. Kudos for sticking with me this far, but… uh… the header of this post did state that it’s the ‘Mesh Head and Mesh Body’ part of getting dressed. I would not be able to add clothing into the mix without this post being half as long again, so that will be coming later (after I’ve slept and recovered from this one!) Once the clothing post is published I’ll link to it at the bottom of this one.
So, to summarise:
- You’ve found a mesh body and a mesh head that you like
- You’ve checked that they meet all of your needs
- You can edit the shape to give you the physique and the looks that you want
- You like the HUDs and feel comfortable using them (or can imagine that—after a little bit of practice—you’ll feel comfortable with them)
- There’s enough support from creators to satisfy your needs, both for skins, clothing, and accessories
- You’ve tried the demos of each (both separately and together), you’ve dug down the back of the couch for those spare pennies, and you’re ready to purchase
You need to do just one more thing before you hit that ‘buy’ button. And that’s to choose a skin.
You have two options for this: applier skins and BoM skins. I’ve been using the words ‘applier’ and ‘BoM’ throughout this post, so you’re familiar with them by now, so let’s go into the nitty gritty of your choice, and just why you will 99% certainly have to buy separate skins for your head and body (something that will be very confusing to you if the last time you bought a skin they were all-in-one).
I’ve given you a brief, but not exhaustive list of some major mesh head and body brands. Each of those brands uses a different UV map, which determines how a texture will look on that mesh body part. Because of the bewildering number of possible combinations of heads and bodies it’s much easier for creators to make separate head-specific and body-specific skins, both in applier format and in BoM format. So when choosing your skin, you need to look for the following:
- a head applier compatible for your chosen brand of mesh head (e.g. Lelutka or Catwa), and
- a body applier compatible for your chosen brand of mesh body (e.g. Belleza or Signature)
- a head skin (usually in the form of a tattoo layer) compatible for your chosen brand of mesh head (e.g. Lelutka or Catwa), and
- a body skin (either in the form of a system skin with a blank head, or in the form of a tattoo layer) compatible for your chosen brand of mesh body (e.g. Belleza or Signature)
Both the head and body skins should be:
- in the same skintone, and
- from the same skin creator
If you do that then you will almost never need to make use of the ‘neck fix’ option in your head and body HUDs.
A hypothetical example: I have a Catwa head and a Signature body and I want to wear an applier skin by Birth. I like the lighter Tone 01 skins they have, so I pick the ‘Dakota’ head applier for Catwa in Tone 01. I add the head HUD and it looks like this:
I want to have black eyebrows, so I click the word ‘black’ under the EYEBROWS section. The skin will be applied to my head and it will have black eyebrows. Next, I want a black hairbase, so I click the word ‘black’ under the HAIRBASE section, and a black hairbase will be applied to my head. I then decide to try the beard, so I click the words ‘heavy stubble’ under the BEARDS section. Note the word ‘tintable’ in that BEARDS header. The beard will apply white, so I will need to add my Catwa Master HUD, go into the Tint tab, and use it to tint the beard black. If I then decide I don’t want the beard, I can either remove it using the ‘clear’ button on my Catwa Master HUD for that section, or by clicking the word ‘off’ next to that BEARDS header on the Birth HUD.
Next, I add the Signature body applier HUD, and it looks like this:
That’s a lot of options! But so far I’ve chosen black brows and a black hairbase, so let’s choose the black body hair as well. I don’t like to be too hirsute, so I’ll click the ‘black’ version of ‘trimmed light’ under the CHESTS header and the ‘black’ version of ‘small light’ under the LEGS section, and both upper and lower parts of the body skin with the relevant body hair will be applied to my torso, arms, and legs.
If I want to wear a BoM skin (which comprises system layers, either in the form of a system skin and/or system tattoos) then things are a little bit different. In order for BoM to work you need to remove any alpha layers that you’re wearing. Yes, you’re going to look a bit odd at first, but just trust me: take off those alpha layers. Now add your head and body HUDs and look for the BoM button. (Scroll through this post to find out how to activate BoM on most major head and body brands.) Click it, and watch as your underlying system layers ‘bake’ onto your mesh head and body like magic. So now—because Birth have generously included BoM skins in both the Dakota head applier pack and the Signature body applier pack—we’ll put those on.
Opening the BoM skins we see this:
That’s a lot of stuff, but if you look closely you’ll see that it just has all the options that were available in the HUD. Because it’s in alphabetical order, the beards (‘BOM Beard’) are at the top, then the actual head skin (‘BOM Head’) is in the middle, and the hairbase (‘BOM Head – Hairbase’) is at the bottom. Since Bakes on Mesh allows you to stack layers you can ADD each of these. Make sure you always start with the actual head skin first, then you can ADD the hairbase and the facial hair. So I would add, in this order:
- BOM Head – Tone 01_BlackBrows
- BOM Head – Hairbase – Black
- BOM Beard (Tintable) – Heavystubble
Note the beard is tintable, but this one can’t be tinted using my Catwa Master HUD. I need to edit the tattoo layer itself and use the tinting box in its edit window, then save it.
Now let’s look at the body folder for the BoM skins. Brace yourself…
Holy crap, that’s… yeah. (This is the one downfall of BoM: it makes your inventory explode!) But again, it’s just everything that was in the body applier HUD. So I will ADD, in the following order:
- Chest Tone01_blacktrail_light
- Legs Tone01_blacksmall_light
And I have one huge tip for you here: whatever you’re not going to use, box it up and shove the box in the folder, then delete those unused items. Or shove the original unpacker HUD or bag into that folder. You’ll have that available if you decide to turn blond one day, but you won’t have all those unused items cluttering up your inventory.
With everything added I’m ready to go, and so are you. Go out there and grab some skin demos, give them a try and find your look. Once you’ve got that look…
…go right ahead and make with that KA-CHING sound. You’ve put in the legwork and you’re gonna look fantastic. Knock ’em dead, dude ;-)
Coming soon: Part 2 – How to Get Dressed (Hair, Clothes, & Accessories)