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Gavin Vidor

Quality Skin Making

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Hello everyone. I've recently got interested in the art of skin making. I was wondering if there are any MODERN tutorials out there or template kits that do not have the base shadows and highlights already drawn in. Reason being is I want to study how a skin is made from start to finish, not just the kits that have you replace certain features.

Yes, I have searched this forum, marketplace, google, and youtube. It seems all the tutorials everyone is being referred to are extremely out of date.

Are skin designers that secretive of their processes?

There are a plethora of mesh, building, and clothes tutorials out there but VERY VERY few for skins. Like it's the secretive "either you know it or you don't" deal. What are some of the processes they may use? Or better yet, if you are one how about some tips?

Creating realistic skin is one thing but getting the shadows and highlights seem to be the hardest. Would you guys/gals agree?

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Eloh Eliot has a number of Photoshop files of her skins where you can see exactly what goes into them. She also has a few tutorials (look under "Starlight'.) These aren't the newest skins available but there are small skin makers who still sell skins based on these ones.

https://sites.google.com/site/another/resources

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Skin creation is incredibly difficult, Gavin, at least QUALITY skins are anyway. They take a huge amount of time and a pretty thorough knowledge of Photoshop or Gimp or similar type software. I wish I could steer you to a good tutorial but I am not aware of any you havn't probably already tried. The Eloh skin files are a great place to start tho, taking them apart and trying different things with them can teach you a lot. You can deconstruct the skin with these files and really see how the layers work and come together in a final skin. Having done this extensively myself, I can't tell you there is an actual 'process' other than trying things and seeing how they work, and how they match up to what you're trying to accomplish.

 

 

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Theresa, thank you for the cut and paste reply.

Shelby, thanks for laying it out for me and I completely understand it's a trial and error approach, but what I'm saying is unless you have a major degree in texturing it seems to be impossible to skin at least decently in SL and that's a shame. Too many skinners are quiet on their methods and tricks that might save a few people some time on making SL a more diverse place skin wise.

What about male skins? Is there any like the Eloh female skins for men?

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Warning: I don't know exactly what you mean because there are two distinct styles. One is hand painted, even if realism is there. The other is photo sourced, even if painting is done to make it work because SL doesn't have real types of shaders and the images distort when you paint the photo on (in 3d software..hey, maeb that is a quick answer) with the best posible nondistortion(3d software OR ps stuff with 3D ability to paint on a 3d model) so...uh...I will post some stuff I learned while searching fo ra similar set of things. Trial and error is needed to be done before I would know, something I didn't wish to invest my time in. Sorry for no URLs...this is all from memory and I don't have my HDD available and a slew of other issues...to much time wasted here for me lol. First thought...my guess: PS with 3d model support (post CS4? maybe it was CS4 that had this though...not sure) because I think it can handle faking light and shade (ambient occlusion, shade from lights is done in SL viewer automaticall, but ambeint occlusion mabe not so much for so many) but you can use blender, 3Dcoat or any baking software to and I bet some use Maya ro 3ds....just a guess. Not saying they don't hand paint a lot either...some do look entirely just hand painted to me.

I have seen tutorials that use photo skin (3d.sk was the source, I think) and they use a veriety of stuff and it must be on youtube. The link to the youtube vid was from nwn.blogs.com new story about a skin maker who shows you how she made it because a theif was claiming it was only a set of photo's of one women blah blah, so she showed how it was made and that she used multiple people to make the skin.

So, some may be photosource. But, some might paint them. I remember seeing a great one, it was made by some guy for the new Philip Linden (or is it Mayer or president linden lol, I can't remember) avatar. It reminded me of people who paint up stuff on devient art. It looked great, totally didn't remember me of any 3D rendering I had seen....looked all hand painted! Not saying it IS or was, I don't know. Mabe ask him! Wish I knew the name, looking up the old blog or article vai google might help.

So, the hints I get are this:

3D software may be used, either/and/or to paint and maybe even create the skin from photo's (clone paint) and combos of these. Some 3D software wil connet to a 2D softare. So, looking up how the 3D game guys do it might help. The poser community, Daz studio community do use photo source sometimes (SL avatar IS an old Poser model! You can get the 3D .obj model form LL somewhere, pus a presmoothed one from a resident...wish I could remember who or where) BUT they use way way more advanced materials even when they use photo source. Having said that, 3d creation software with baking (blender, maya, 3ds, 3Dcoat, ZBrush might...yeah, I think it does....wow, I can't remember them all) may allow you to use the built materials system to bake out a full render to the SL avatar model. Maybe Avastar run, in part, by Giaa Clary might be a interesting source for you, mechinimatrix.com is the site..I think. Look into Projection painting tutorials are on Blendeercookie and Youtube for blender. This shows you how to clone brush from photos right onto the skin. You would most likely to to gimp, PS or PSP (heck, there is also a few more out there) toedit the baked 2d UV maps to get things just right. So much searching to find all these, maybe another time I wll try this all out. I did a real quick test and you need to use the tutorials and watch out for blemishes...they stretch and make lines and stuff...looks weird. Plus, lighting and all the other stuff (Ambient occlusion for some shading) and stuff....wow, you may need to get the smoothed avatar as well..some guy made it. I have a link somewhere, but I got the link from this forum or the wiki.seocndlife.com.

I needed all this to make and bake a one layer racing suite and skin (which I never did do) for a super low lag avatar (helmet of low impact mesh with 10 prim hair and all that good stuff...gloves painted onthe same skin and everything) so...yeah, this as a while back and I have so may things to do with all the troubles I have had, stacked up issues.

BUt, yeah, ome of the never skins seem painted. Odd source that might somehow help is devient art or other art totorials on realistic skin painting! I rnotice some like the painted to almost realism look. They don't remind me of photo sourced becuase something about photo stuff you can tell, they use some technique to make it work for the avatar and I imagine it is trial and error...non of what was learned is shared much is what you found out huh? Not surprised, with the prices in the thousands of lindens. But, even photo stuf can be painted on and heavily manipulated....so who knows how they do it!

 

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Now that's a post! Thanks Poe for taking the time out to post all of that.

I assume as well since skins are in the thousands everyone is gonna be hush hush. Oh well.

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Gavin Vidor wrote:

 

There are a plethora of mesh, building, and clothes tutorials out there but VERY VERY few for skins. Like it's the secretive "either you know it or you don't" deal. What are some of the processes they may use? Or better yet, if you are one how about some tips?

Creating realistic skin is one thing but getting the shadows and highlights seem to be the hardest. Would you guys/gals agree?

Texturing a human is no different than texturing any other 3d object. Basically you can make a big patchwork of photographs and blend them together or you can do it from scratch. The principle hasn't changed ever, so I wonder what you mean by "out of date".

If you want to work from scratch and make your own lightmaps/occlusion maps/shadowmaps, you will need the SL avatar model, a 3d program like Blender and lots and lots of patience and hard work. (which can be quite annoying but also very rewarding).

You can load the avatar model in the 3d program, subdivide it for a smoother result, then bake your own base maps. Colour and extra detail you can add in either the 3d program by directly painting on the model, or you can leave the 3d program open with the textured 3d model and do the texturing in a 2d program like photoshop or gimp. Most 3d programs will update their textures realtime, so you can see the result on the model.

I can't give direct help on how to do this in Blender, since I use 3ds max. Plenty of others can and will, as long as you ask direct and clear questions like "how do I bake an occlusion map in Blender?"

Here are some tutorials:

Texturing a face with photo as base

(The UV layout is different, but the workflow would be the same for SL)

Texturing Skin from scratch in Adobe Photoshop Part 1, part 2, part 3

Here's a cool demo what can be done with mudbox:

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Kwakkelde Kwak wrote:


Gavin Vidor wrote:

 

There are a plethora of mesh, building, and clothes tutorials out there but VERY VERY few for skins. Like it's the secretive "either you know it or you don't" deal. What are some of the processes they may use? Or better yet, if you are one how about some tips?

Creating realistic skin is one thing but getting the shadows and highlights seem to be the hardest. Would you guys/gals agree?

Texturing a human is no different than texturing any other 3d object. Basically you can make a big patchwork of photographs and blend them together or you can do it from scratch. The principle hasn't changed ever, so I wonder what you mean by "out of date".

If you want to work from scratch and make your own lightmaps/occlusion maps/shadowmaps, you will need the SL avatar model, a 3d program like Blender and lots and lots of patience and hard work. (which can be quite annoying but also very rewarding).

You can load the avatar model in the 3d program, subdivide it for a smoother result, then bake your own base maps. Colour and extra detail you can add in either the 3d program by directly painting on the model, or you can leave the 3d program open with the textured 3d model and do the texturing in a 2d program like photoshop or gimp. Most 3d programs will update their textures realtime, so you can see the result on the model.

I can't give direct help on how to do this in Blender, since I use 3ds max. Plenty of others can and will, as long as you ask direct and clear questions like "how do I bake an occlusion map in Blender?"

Here are some tutorials:

(The UV layout is different, but the workflow would be the same for SL)

,
,

Here's a cool demo what can be done with mudbox:


Excellent input! I think baking my own base map is the aspect I was missing as far as drawing and highlights/shadows from the there. I really do appreciate everyones posts. 20x more information than I have gathered searching on these forums.

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These are indeed excellent bits of advice.  The missing element, of course, is that texturing anything -- but especially skins -- is an artistic project.  The "hidden secrets" that you may think creators are being hush-hush about are mostly artistic talent and many, many years of practice.  Knowing which buttons to push is a good start, because it's hard to create without knowing how to handle the tools.  I can teach my 8-year-old grandson how to push the buttons, though, and he'll only get frustrated trying to create a skin.  He's a talented kid, but he'll need to spend a few years with a pencil and sketchbook, learning about anatomy and practicing nuances of shading before his drawings look decent. Short answer: Art isn't about tools.  It's about talent, inspriation, and practice.

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Rolig Loon wrote:

These are indeed excellent bits of advice.  The missing element, of course, is that texturing anything -- but especially skins -- is an
artistic
project.  The "hidden secrets" that you may think creators are being hush-hush about are mostly artistic talent and many, many years of practice.  Knowing which buttons to push is a good start, because it's hard to create without knowing how to handle the tools.  I can teach my 8-year-old grandson how to push the buttons, though, and he'll only get frustrated trying to create a skin.  He's a talented kid, but he'll need to spend a few years with a pencil and sketchbook, learning about anatomy and practicing nuances of shading before his drawings look decent. Short answer: Art isn't about tools.  It's about talent, inspriation, and practice.

I am not sure it is all hand painted, I think there is hand clicking going on BUT they don't paint all those pores lol. PS brought out 3D support and I start seeing detials that few dared to bother painting in, even if all by hand...so the tools are important because it is like painting with a stick if you have to keep nudging your pores around and loading them into sl over and over, projection painting or directly painting on the 3D object in a special 3D space made to line all this up is the key and they may paint with clone brushes from photo source or hand made pore brushes used to just sort of facimile onto it...although they would need to layer it on and adjust it and click it onto the object in the right place...but short of painting it all by hand....each pore? But, I have been tricked bymarketplace images before because they render out 3DS images and use them...sort of not right, but done anway....so I digress BUT will pos this: http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2010/04/deeppaint-3d-demo.html as proof they are not all hand painting each detail...not saying it is not a craft, but not all are artists. Plus, som apply noise to get the feel of details...this is mathematically placed after 3 or 4 clicks! Not really hard core art stuff, but still artistic in nature to adjust it and decide what to do....just saying it isn't all art....but the eyebrows and some hair I have seen totally looked painted! takes some time to do with, tablets help here as well. Another overlooked tool I forgot to mention.

I have seen the Eloh stuff, first sets where like painted be hand more so and then she used illustrator or something to do it all with vector shading...inkscape is a free vector image program to try out to see what this stuff is...shapes, mathematically generated NOt hand drawn stuff!Layers are a key, highlighting and all that. The newer skins I have seen are seeming to have more glow captured in it, maybe all color and layers of shading OR 3d software to help...not sure, PS has 3D objects and lighting stuff in it that might be used? Not sure, but yeah...takes time either method and trial and error for humans is definatly the reason why many don't do it lol.

Seriously though, I would start off photosource painting because this is sort of what is happening in PS when you use thier 3D obejct stuff....sort of.  This guy has a basic head projection paint from a few photo's, which may be a easy start to get results that are maybe usable or fun:

3DTotal might have enough photosource to help try at some projection painting and mabe even some texture editing stuff: http://freetextures.3dtotal.com/ and the main site is intersting fof 3d software BUT, I can't say the skins in SL are made with 3D software...I suspect some might use it for some shading AND Photoshop has 3D pain software bits built in and it is common to use photo textures sources, as seen by the big names and projects mention at 3d.sk (warning, NSFW as it might have nudes even at the home page...not for kids either!) http://freetextures.3dtotal.com/ has a few, anyway....of all sorts of things....who says you have to learn projection painting using a head? You can model a box and find something square to get the handle of it all. I did some fuzzy dice from a 3d render, because you don't even need photo source...just images! I made it all in blender and then rendered each side, painted onto sculpties back in the day before mesh allowed me to 'bake from selected' onto a lower polygon object! yeah, anyway...it worked good and was shaded an all that.

Here is another few methods and software worth mentioning.

Deeppaint used for SL skin in this vid (the old version of deep paint, I believe)

Here is an example of usng non PS software to make something, in this case clothes for Poser (3d visualization software and animation moviemaker) 

For in depth skin and hair in 3D, blendercookie.com has a nice series on making a portrait:

I am spending to much time on this, I have technical difficulties, brain difficulties and my typing is failing me a bit lol. So, I will post this with to many typoes I bet, but my fingers are done and I redid this post like 3 times and cut out hundreds of words and rewrote to be more clear and still rambled...ah well. My money is on just IMing them and asking them all, one might be nice OR you will see they are part of a group that mentions software. Either way, I bet you saw photosource alraedy.....so I guess you mean the ones that are not photo looking and those I think are painted using brush sets for pores and hair and lots of scribbling this stuff on and shading it all with 3D lighting stuff and by hand touch ups to make it all blend and work right for SL's lights. Maybe at the base is 3D, 3d.sk (once again, NSFW and not for kids) has an example in the gallary that is the poster for an SL skin! Not sure if this is what is wanted, but shows what loosk like a heavily smoothed and highligted photo of a guy...so, yeah...they usually do work on this as do many game developers.

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I agree that it appears to be a top secret art when it comes to creating avatar skins for SL use. I have also noticed that people tend to rip off the models made with Poser or Daz and then export them and cleanup the textures in photoshop or Gimp.

I think your best approach to learning the proper technique is to start with some of the non human avatars and play around with them. There seems to be a lot more public domain skins for non-human, skins which will allow you to get a basic understanding of rigging and also UV textures and how they work for avatar skins. There are also a couple of inworld classes that will help you.

Finally there are a couple of the default avatar skins that were done awhile back. These are important as they are public domain and made to be modified and studied.

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Creation_Portal

https://sites.google.com/site/another/resources

http://avatartoolbox.info/

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I'd suggest looking into one of the software packages that have 3D painting capabilities. Prices vary widely, so I'd strongly suggest trying demos of them before making a final purchase.

In a nutshell, this would allow you to have a 3D object (in this case, the SL AV), and be able to paint on it in a 3D viewport, rotating, zooming etc as required. Most would probably have some kind of "projection painting" ability, where you would drop a reference photo into the 3D scene (skin texture for example), and you would align the AV so that the texture is "cloned" onto the 3D surface as you paint over the area.

However, this isn't a "magical make skin" solution - a lot of work will still be required to get a high quality result. Generally, it takes a bit of getting used to the method of 3D painting (falloff zones, backface occlusion etc). Still, it's an option worth exploring in lieu of the flat 2D template method.

There are plenty of options out there - I would assume that Blender (free) has this capability somewhere in its depths (I just haven't learned Blender that far yet).

One (out of many) to consider is Blacksmith3D, a package I acquired several years ago (it's been updated a few times since then). Takes some getting used to, but works quite nicely (especially for getting seamless results across unconnected texture UV spaces). This somewhat old Youtube channel has tutorials which should still be relevant - you will find a few specific to painting the SL AV (you will need to set up a modified AV file for the package to work with, explained in the associated videos). I'm not sure, but I think the software creator has a pre-made AV file somewhere on the Blacksmith site.

(For the record: I'm not trying to sell Blacksmith3D; I've just had experience using it for painting on the SL AV in the past).

Hope this helps. :matte-motes-smile:

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thank YOU. You just made my day. Ive been making skins for several years using Eloh as a learning tool among other things...but never come across the tutorials you linked to..its the one for mudbox that made my day though. Id always wanted mudbox but can not afford it. however, I decided to check the price again and see they now have a monthly subscription. That makes it much more accessible and I can take advantage of learning so much more.

wow!

Now I just need some great mudbox tuts on creating hair and shoes!

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Nice to hear I could offer some help, I'll add a warning though :)

Like ZBrush, Mudbox should be a very capable program (and much more intuitive and more fun than a "normal" 3d program) for making shoes and hair. Please for the love of god, do not directly export your mudbox models to SL, but use them for baking all the textures and maps. The model you upload to SL will be far more efficient with a normal, low poly model, which you can make in Blender or any other 3d program of choice.

I don't use mudbox all that often for modelling, but when I do, I normally build a low poly model in 3ds Max, with a usable topology, export that to mudbox where I subdivide a couple of times to be able to add detail, export that high poly mesh back into 3ds Max so I can bake all the detail from the high poly mesh onto a map for the low poly mesh.

If a low poly shoe is 1000 triangles and you subdivide 4 times in mudbox, you'll end up with 16000 triangles. That will upload without any issues to SL (many people do), but compare it to the 7000ish triangles for the complete SL avatar body.

Last thing I want to do is scare you or hold you back in your creative adventures, but this basic information can't be said often enough.

I assume you already browsed Youtube for some tutorials, anyway, here's one for hair. (Notice that this one is built using a full head, so the low poly model should be made afterwards rather than used as a base...or you could use a bald head and use separate hair just like in SL)

And on the polycount.com forum you can find this thread about shoes.

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