Recently I posted about a new digital magazine called Manshots (click on the title to read it); it contained an article by Angelik Lavecchia called “10 Steps to Impress”. I then dealt with the one I thought was missing, one’s AO, but I wanted to address some of his points in a bit more depth; notably skin, shape, clothes and accessories. And those will indeed be the subject of future posts.
First, though, I thought I should dispose of a few of the low-hanging fruit, things for which the problems can be summed up briefly:
- No bling
- No facelight
- Prim perfect
- Color adjustment
Bling, I trust, will not be familiar to many of my readers who joined SL less than five years ago, since it has quite gone out of fashion, and not a moment too soon. It consists of objects that emit little bursts of light, as if they are Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding jewelry catching a stray ray of sunshine. They emit this bling-burst at regular intervals. I personally find this exceptionally annoying, as do a lot of other people I know, it being hard on the eyes (and has the potential to evoke epileptic episodes in the unwary) and if you wear bling in public, everyone around you is likely to say something derogatory on the public channel. In fact, there was a certain kind of newbie some years ago who got saddled with the unfortunate name “bling-tard”; they’d strut into bars and clubs in full hip-hop splendour, glittering like six airport runways, with their baseball hats turned backwards and their pants sagged down to their knees. Please let’s let that be over, unless you mean it ironically on New Year’s Eve or something.
Similarly, the “face light” has rather fallen out of fashion, for which thank goodness. Some years ago, before the invention of Windlight settings, a clever inventor created an invisible object which hovered in front of your face and shone flattering lights upon it. I admit this was considered a good thing for quite a while, at least until Windlight came along. These days the disadvantages of a face light much outweigh its advantages; if you’re in a dark club and there’s a mysterious beam of pink light glinting off your cheekbones from nowhere, everyone will know that you haven’t updated your av’s accessories in quite a while, or that you were suckered into buying and using one without fully understanding the context.
“Prim perfect” refers to the idea that one should carefully fit one’s prim accessories. There are tutorials on YouTube that go into it more thoroughly than I can in mere words (here is one here that’s half an hour of useful hints), but essentially if you want to wear a bracelet, be damn sure that you take a good close look at it and ensure that it’s not piercing your wrist at any point, and that it surrounds your wrist symmetrically. This goes for anything that’s made of prims that you wear on your body. Your hats should not have your hair poking through them; your necklaces should not be sunken halfway into your chest or floating inches above your skin. Eyeglasses, separate collars, cuffs, all sorts of different things have to be painstakingly fitted. It takes a while to learn how to do this; it involves learning in great depth how to use the “stretch”, “move” and “rotate” functions, and to keep zooming in and out with your camera to get a good clear view of what you’re doing. Unfortunately this is just one of the things you pretty much have to master if you want to wear any prim accessories at all. The alternative is to have things like your shirt collars jaggedly bisecting the flesh of your neck, and, yes, everyone who sees you in public will think, “(a) Hmm, there’s something wrong with that guy’s collar,” zoom in and think “(b) hahaha, hopeless noob”. If you can’t manage to fit it properly, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it.
Colour adjustment refers to the practice of properly applying different body parts in different ways. For instance, I myself attach my feet separately, mostly because I was having huge problems with them poking unattractively out the sides of my shoes. So I alpha’d the feet away and if I have to appear bare-legged/bare-footed, I attach a pair of separate feet. The colour adjustment comes into place when you zoom out and try to figure out if the colour of the feet matches the colour of your hands, or neck, or skin in general. It takes a while to tweak the colour — my advice is match hands to feet, head to neck, and penis to thighs. (In fact your penis will be one of the most difficult things to tint properly; set aside an hour for that some afternoon, and remember that, in the real world, most men’s penises are a bit darker than the surrounding skin, and their testicles a shade darker still.) Nothing says newbie like someone with beautifully pale pink/wheat skin, except for the grey hands and heavily tanned feet. Here‘s a tutorial; more are available if you look.
And finally, hairbase. Some skins have a built-in hairbase and some do not — most often, you’ll get both versions when you buy a skin. Quite a few hair designers manufacture and provide a specific hairbase for a particular piece of hair. The hairbase is usually on the tattoo layer and is essentially the correct-looking scalp for the hair you’re wearing. Where most problems arise is if you’re wearing a hair with no hairbase; it might be realistic to have your hair growing directly out of your scalp, but it’s disconcerting in Second Life, and hairbase helps add to the illusion that your hair is real. There’s two different ways of achieving proper hairbase; one is to use a skin with a self-contained hairbase and apply the hair, the other is to use a bald skin and apply a hair base tattoo, then the hair. Your preference will depend on how well your skin’s hairbase version matches your desired hair, and how many tattoo slots you have available if you need them. You should also make sure that the outline and colour of the hairbase matches the shape and colour of the hair, unless you’re trying for a weird effect.
I hope this helps a few newbies. While we’re on the topic, there are lots of helpful tutorials out there both in print and video for all sorts of topics; just go looking and you’ll find some help. The problem for many new residents is that they don’t know upon what topics they can find help, and so I hope that this article helps give you an idea of the questions you should be asking and the deficiencies you should be remediating. All the above things are pretty easy once you get the hang of them and have practiced a bit — go for it!