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gentlewendy14

how do I create an avatar from scratch

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The easiest way is to open your viewer and click on the Avatar icon.  Choose an avatar from the display.  Bingo, it's installed.

If you buy a mesh avatar "off the shelf", follow the instructions in the notecard that comes with it.  Usually, that simply involves opening your inventory to find the folder where the avatar is saved and then adding both the avatar and the alpha mask that are in the folder to your current body. If there's a HUD that comes with the av, you can use it to control various features of the mesh av (making selected parts of the body transparent, changing skin texture, coloring fingernails, etc.).

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I think your question is a bit ambiguous. When you signup you are given an option to pick a 'canned' avatar. You can change avatars as Rolig explained. That is more about customizing an avatar than starting from scratch. I'm not sure one can start from scratch. We always start from some avatar, with the total default avatar being the test-avatar aka Ruth.

I'll clarify what we mean by the Classic Avatar and Mesh Avatars. 

There is a default avatar built into the system, Ruth. We now call it the Test Female/Male avatar. You can see it by clicking in the top menu Develop (Ctrl-Alt-Q)->Avatar->Character Tests->[Test Male or Test Female]. This is the system or Classic avatar.

Mesh Avatars are our jargon for referring to a Classic avatar that has been customized with mesh body attachment parts, body, hands, feet, and head. These are all customized avatars.

In inventory is a section labeled Library. Within that section is a subfolder labeled Clothing. Within it are complete avatars. We call these 'start up' avatars. These are not as modifiable as many would like. The Lindens plan to change that and provide more modifiable avatars in the future.

With almost 14 years of history the jargon has built up.

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And I highly recommend that you do NOT go out and buy a mesh avatar of any sort right away.  You should demo various options for the type that you want.  That way you can see how it really looks on you, what sort of sizing adjustments you can make, how the HUD(s) work, etc...

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Wendy, visit Caledon Oxbridge University in world.  They have a self paced, walk through tutorial that thoroughly explains Second Life.  Take your time, especially in the Hall of Avatar Customization...it will answer many of your questions about how to customize your appearance.

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