(Note: For this tutorial I am assuming you’re using the official viewer from the Second Life website, however the instructions are pretty much the same for some third party viewers too, such as Firestorm and Catznip. If you are using Singularity, you will need to skip the paragraph about the Avatar Selector and go straight to the section about the Library).
If you started Second Life on or after 15 May 2014, you will have started with one of the new all-mesh avatars so you will need to read the first section first. If you joined before this date you will have started with a Classic avatar, so skip right ahead to that section below.
These avatars are not modifyable so if you want to change your appearance more than just switching from one whole avatar to another, you will need to start from scratch.
First of all, click the Avatar Selector button, which looks like this: Then pick the Classic tab, and choose one of the avatars from this list. Don’t worry if they aren’t exactly what you want; you can modify them later. Pick one of these avatars and your mesh avatar will be replaced my all the components of your chosen Classic avatar. Now skip ahead to the “Classic Avatar” section below.
If you really don’t want one of those, there are a few more hidden in your Library. here’s how to find them:
In the inventory list, scroll right down to the bottom, where it says Library. Open this folder and then open the Clothing subfolder. There are a bunch of old avatars here, but the ones to look at first are the ones in the “Older Outfits” folder – they’re not actually older at all. They are divided into sections: Female and Male speak for themselves. Animals are kind of cartoony things, resembling cuddly toys more than real animals. There are also Vehicles, Robots and Vampires (which also includes non-modifyable mesh wolves and werewolves). If you want something humanoid, pick one of the Female or Male avatars.
Open up that subfolder, and you’ll see a list of components with names like Shape, Pants, Boots, Hair etc. Select them all and then right-click the selection and choose “Wear” from the dropdown menu.
Your mesh avatar will now be totally replaced by the classic avatar of your choice.
Note the difference between using the Avatar Selector and the Library; if you use the Avatar Selector, every component of the new avatar will be neatly sorted into its own folder. Using the Library, the components will be scattered all over your inventory, making it harder to organise later.
Now you are wearing a Classic avatar, you can really go to town with modifications.
To change your shape: Right click your avatar, select “Edit My Shape”. Here you are presented with a number of sections for changing various aspects of your body and face shape. You might want to start by making yourself shorter; all avatars start very tall and you are actually about 6″ taller than the official viewer says you are. Changing things is easy, just slide the sliders until you get the look you’re after. If you mess up, don’t worry, you can always revert to the original shape by choosing it again from the Library.
Changing Skin and Eyes: Although there are options in the viewer to change skin and eyes with sliders, these generally don’t have any effect because eyes and skin are made outside of Second Life, in a graphics program like Photoshop and they are uploaded in a non-modifyable form. Additionally you cannot detach or take off the ones you are wearing unless you replace them with new ones. For now, if you want to change them you can swap them with other skins or eyes from the other Classic avatars. Again, to do this, open your Library, go to Clothing, open up a few folders and try on a few different ones. Each one you try will be added to your main inventory under “Body parts”.
Note that most of the skins in the Library have underwear painted on and you cannot remove it. If you want to get naked you’ll have to acquire a new skin from elsewhere – see the section on Freebies and Shopping below.
Changing Hair: There are three kinds of hair in Second Life. System hair, which can be modified using the sliders, is old, ugly and almost no-one uses it. But you still need to wear one because like skin, eyes and shape, you can’t NOT wear one. However they are generally set to be bald, and are often called “eyebrow-shapers” because this is also where you change your eyebrow shape. You will be wearing an eyebrow-shaper from your Classic avatar; you only need to mess with this if you want to alter your brows.
Prim hair is what most of the hair on the Classic avatars is made of. This is an object attachment, indicated by an orange or brown box in your inventory listing, and it is made of many flexi or sculpted prims. Most prim hair is modifyable so you can make it larger or smaller to fit your head, you can tint it to make it wild colours, you can even edit or remove separate sections of hair (but that is advanced work and will take a whole new tutorial all its own).
Finally, Mesh hair is new, it is still an object like prim hair, but it is made of one shaped piece. Long mesh hair is usually rigged which means it moves with your body and doesn’t disappear through your shoulders like flexi-hair does, but this means you cannot change its size or shape (though you may still be able to tint it, if it is modifyable). Short mesh hair is usually not rigged so you will be able to edit the size as well.
For now, you can just try on different prim hairs from the folders in your Library.
If you find yourself wearing two hairs at the same time, you can remove one of them by right-clicking it and selecting “detach” from the dropdown menu. You can do this with any attachment, mesh or prim, to remove it.
Clothing: Like hair, clothing comes in three types, System (or Layers), Prim and Mesh.
System clothes are texture layers which overlay on top of your skin. They are usually used for close-fitting items like t-shirts and skinny jeans. They always fit and you never get bits of skin poking through, but the level of detail is sometimes poor. However they are still widely used.
Prim clothes are attachable objects usually used for things like cuffs, collars and belts rather than whole garments. Thus, a shirt might consist of a system layer plus prim collar and sleeves. A dress might comprise of a system layer bodice, an underpants layer and a flexible skirt. You need to wear all the parts to wear the garment.
Mesh clothes are objects too but they are a whole garment in one piece and unlike prims, they move properly with the movement of your avatar’s body. However they can’t be re-sized so to ensure it fits properly with no skin poking through, you also need to wear the accompanying Alpha Layer that is supplied with it. This makes a part of your body invisible so it can’t be seen poking through. Mesh is the best way to wear coats, baggy pants and other bulky or loose clothing.
You do not need to wear the starter mesh bodies to wear mesh clothes; they fit Classic avatars too, in fact they fit the Classic avatars better than they fit the mesh ones. You can try some of them out from the starter mesh avatars; they are located in your Library, under Clothing, in the top subfolder called “Initial Outfits”. If you want to try them make sure you wear the right Alpha layer with it: shirt alpha goes with the shirt, Pants alpha goes with the pants, etc. Don’t wear the alpha labelled “invisible”; this is for wearing with the whole mesh body.
Saving your Outfit: Once you have put together a look you like, you’ll want to save it, so you can always revert back to it at another time.
At the bottom click “Save As” and give your new outfit a name. It will save in the list above, along with the avatar that you started with, which is already in the list. In the future, any time you want to go back to that particular outfit, just right-click its name on the list and choose “Wear – Replace”.
Freebies and Shopping: Sooner or later you will decide that there’s just not enough in the Library for you. There are a wide variety of items available to buy, many of them free. To start with, go to one of the trusted Freebie places, for example:
In these places you’ll find lots of items for your avatar. You’ll probably want a new skin first, because of the painted-on underwear that you’re currently wearing.
When you buy something in Second Life, it is added to your inventory, either as a folder already unpacked, or as a box or bag in your Objects folder. If it’s a box or bag you’ll need to unpack it first, and there are several ways to do this.
1) First try wearing it and clicking it. Many sellers add an unpacking script which automatically unpacks everything to a folder. Once unpacked you can detach the bag (right-click > detach).
2) If the box is not scripted you will need to find a sandbox to unpack it. White Tiger Island has a small one right next to its shopping area. You’ll find the box in your Objects folder. Using the mouse, drag it out of the inventory window and onto the ground. When it rezzes, right-click it, choose “Open”. It may take a little time for the contents list to fill, especially if there are a lot of items in the box or if your ‘net connection is slow. When it’s finished, click “Save to Inventory”. DO NOT tick the “Wear items now” box otherwise you’ll end up wearing your new skin – and nothing else. Your items are now in their own folder and you can delete the box (Right-click, Delete).
Now, find the folder at the bottom of the inventory. There should be at least one skin in it (assuming it’s a skin you bought). There might also be other items; a landmark to the store where you got it, an information notecard, a picture of what it looks like. Locate the skin itself, right-click it and choose “Add”. It will replace the skin you’re currently wearing.
The process is exactly the same for clothes, hair and other things. Its always better to choose “Add” rather than “Wear”, and then remove the previous items separately if necessary. If you choose “Wear” you’ll end up wearing the new item and nothing else. However its not necessary to do that with skins because you can only wear one at a time and the previous one will be automatically removed.
If you are buying mesh clothing you will usually find that they come in several different sizes depending on your body shape. You need to wear only the one that fits you best, plus the alpha. If the item is not a freebie there will usually be a demo version; always try this first for fit. You may also need to make minor alterations to your shape to fit mesh clothes.
One last note: With all this trying on of Library items and freebies, your inventory is going to look a bit untidy right now. It’s worth spending some time sorting it and putting things where they belong. For instance, prim clothing will be sitting in the Objects folder, you may want to move them to Clothing and put them on a subfolder along with any accompanying system layers. Prim or mesh hair will be in Objects too; move that up to Body parts. You can make as many sub-folders as you want, and sub-sub-folders, sub-sub-sub-folders…
Trust me. If you don’t start organising now, you’ll regret it when you’ve got 10,000 or more items in your inventory.