Photos and collages with Second Life friends and residents as photo models.

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Second Life offers a collection of starter avatars to people which join new. These avtars are quite nice, but very common. Everyone who meets you will know at once that you are a beginner. Probably you want to get rid of the starter avatar as soon as possible and therefore you browse inworld shops or the market place for a better looking one.

Check the following tips, if you want. Perhaps you find them useful.

Did you know that avatars in Second Live are made of 2 components? Shape + Skin = Avatar. See the example below. Skin and shape don't work stand alone. They need each other.

SHAPE +
ShapeShape
SKIN
SkinSkin
= AVATAR
AvatarAvatar



Well, what is the function of these components? The skin is made of 3 painted templates. Head, upper body, lower body. These templates are flat as pictures use to be. All 3 templates together build the skin. It is the shape that gives the skin a three dimensional form.
The shape itself is no graphic. It is similar with an invisible skeleton. So it cannot be displayed. That is the reason why my shape picture is black. Think on this fact, when you next time see a box with a shape for sale that is covered with a picture of a beautiful avatar

The box does not include this avatar. The picture just want to show you some details of the body that the shape forms. Size of Breasts for example, legs, head size, muscles and so on. Be aware the merchant is using an own skin for the demo avatar on the box. That means when you buy the shape, but don't use the same skin that the merchant used your avatar will of course not look like the avatar on the pictures..
Some, but not all merchant add a so called style card to the shape. This card tells you where you can buy the skin, clothes hair and other things which he used for the avatar on the pictures. Check the description, if a style card is included.

One the market place you can find shapes for 1000 Linden and more often with description pictures which show perfect styled avatars. This is a catch. Again the picture shows the shape with one of the merchants skins. But for you only counts how the shape looks with YOUR skins. In other words, if you purchase a cheap or an expensive shape, you always buy a pig in a poke.

Back to avatar skins. As mentioned a skin is a collection of 3 painted templates. They create the look of your avatar. Make up, skin color, contours of the breasts, face and more. If anyone is searching for an female avatar with no breasts, you need a skin that has no breast contours painted on it. Just to try to get the breasts disappear by changing the shape will not work. The breasts will be still there, just looking flat and silly.
Short, the shape is changing only the size and form of what it's painted on the skin.

As mentioned the skin is a combination of three templates. You can look at these templates in you edit appearance tab. But there is no option that displayes the skin as a whole. If you want to see, how a particular skin looks, you need to use it with a shape.

However, skins can be of a very different quality and style. Just look arround on the Linden market place. You find thousands of skins there.  But be careful and don't believe too much in the description pictures. Always keep in mind: what you see is a skin + shape. Sadly many merchants  use photoshop or other graphic programs to makeup their products. This is a grey zone. Some consider that as tricking people into sales.

Perhaps you wonder, if it is possible to paint a particular skin prettier. Actually you need to own the 3 templates to do that. You can download them and edit details with a graphic program and upload them again to SL. But thats another story.

You think this skin/shape stuff is a complicate mess? Well, you can avoid it. Look out for complete avatars or buy only a skin when the shape is including. Only then you can be halfway sure, that you get what you see. 



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