Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Paulius Creations Inc

If there’s one thing about Second Life (henceforth known as SL), that I don’t like, it’s that the clothes for men absolutely suck.

I mean, even in real life that average men’s wardrobe is boring compared to a woman’s.

Think about it guys, what’s in your wardrobe? Jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts and a few suits and dress shirts for work and going out on the town.

What this means for SL is that each store is filled with pretty much the same stuff. Unless you wanna walk around dressed a Boba Fett or Superman, your choices are limited. Once you own a pair of SL jeans, are you going to buy another pair just because they’re a slightly different color?

It’s for this reason that I rarely buy clothes in SL, there’s simply not much difference between what you pay for in the stores and what you can find at the freebie places.

So today, deciding to strike a blow for male-kind, I pulled up Photoshop and decided to make myself some clothes.

Then I realized why men had so little choice.

Not only are men’s clothes boring to wear, they’re also incredibly boring to make.

You see, with women’s clothes you’re not just limited to ‘skins’. You can make skirts etc that have gravity, move when they walk, etc. It’s interesting.

With guys you basically pull up a T-shirt template, choose a color, write on a design or slogan, add a little shading or texture, and you’re done. Not very interesting at all.

I can make a decent T-shirt in less than five minutes and not only is it boring to make, it’s far too easy.

Even if you stick with just skins for female clothing it’s a lot more interesting…as I’ll explain further down the page.

So basically, after bitching that women are spoilt for choice while men almost have no choice…I started making women’s clothes for SL.

If you want an idea of what I mean about how much more interesting women’s clothes can be…look at the following pic and I’ll tell you how I made it:

Yesterday, Sunny had an idea for a new shirt design. So I handed her my sketchpad and my favorite pencil and said “Sketch it for me”.

Then, when she left for work, I got busy.

First was the actual cloth. Not too hard, just blocking in off-white and using the pen tool in photoshop to get a nice curve for the neck-line.

Then, I drew in the lacing at the front, also using the pen tool.

Now we come to the fun part.

See how the arms and upper body are see through and sheer, but the lower body and cuffs are opaque? Basically, to do that, you have to mess around with your image’s alpha channels.

Explained simply, the alpha channel is a black and white channel under your image. SL sees white as completely opaque, black as completely transparent, and all the shades of grey in between as various levels of transparency.

So once you have your design, you cut and paste it into the alpha channel, fill the image with black where you want transparency, grey where you want see through, etc.

Then we come to the other tricky bits. The template you use to create shirts for SL is made up of three elements. Front, back and inner and outer arm. (You only make one arm and SL just mirrors it for the other side).

Drawing something in 2D something that’s going to be wrapped around a 3D model is tough. For example, the cuffs on that picture took me forever. Setting the alpha channels to make them opaque was simple, but lining up the inner and outer arm was tricky.

The easiest way to explain why it was difficult is this: Imagine having two pieces of paper. You draw a line across one, put it away…then draw a line across the other. Then, when you put the two pieces of paper side by side, the lines have to match up exactly.

(Director’s commentary : This can also effect your design choices. I got so aggravated trying to get the opaque neckline to match on the front and back, I decided to simply leave the back sheer.)

It gets long and involved and every action counts…because the only way to ‘test’ to see if your design is working is to save your image, log into SL, upload the image (at a cost of 10 Lindens), create your shirt and see if it works.

If it doesn’t, you’re back in photoshop trying to fix it.

Now we come to the other design choices. What about color? Well, for this garment, the one thing Sunny didn’t tell me was what color she wanted it. So, I simply decided to leave it white so that it could be ‘tinted’ in game to whatever color she likes. This means you can’t shade and highlight very well (You can’t put light highlights on a white piece of clothing because they don’t show up and shading with black instead of a darker hue of a colored garment can just make it look dirty).

It’s a trade-off. Colored garments are very hard to tint in SL. If you have a dark red color, and try and tint it blue, it’ll turn out a very dark purple because the colors mix. I experimented with different tints and decided what with this particular top, I would leave it white…because as it appears to be made of very tight sheer fabric, it doesn’t need much texture anyway.

Then we come to the cleaning up part.

See the laces on the front? Remember what I said about how the alpha channels work?

Well, the white in the alpha channel tends to bleed over a little, meaning that the black laces have very unconvincing white edges around them. This means one thing…zooming right in on that alpha channel and manually cleaning up the edges.

(Director’s Commentary : When you create new clothes in SL, you essentially get a plain white skin. So for a new shirt it always starts out looking like a plain white sweatshirt. You then paste your image over this as the ‘fabric’, so if you haven’t set your transparencies well enough, you still see the white ‘sweatshirt’ underneath. With something thin like laces, the white edges stop it from looking like clothing and makes it look like exactly what it is…a drawing of clothing pasted on top of a model.)

The other thing you have to keep in mind is how the actual character will distort the clothing. For example, I made a T-shirt with a picture on the back of it. On my character, the picture was extremely noticeably distorted because my character’s shoulders are wider than his waist. On a female character, the shirt looked fine.

This can be frustrating, because you can create something to where it looks perfect. Only to discover you’re the only one who can wear it.

So to sum up, making women’s clothes in SL is interesting, fun and tricky. Men’s aren’t. You have a blue zillion different design choices and there a hundred times more challenging to make.

Just look at the picture…it looks simple and had a few problems. However, it took me well over an hour to make and put photoshop through its paces.

Beats making T-shirts and Jeans any day.

(Director’s Commentary : Currently, I’m giving away everything I design for free. If you play SL and would like some free clothes…send an Instant Message, in game, to ‘Paulius Griffith’ and I’ll be more than happy to send you some stuff. Also, if you have any questions on how the mechanics of making SL clothes works…drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help.)


MC Etcher said...

Modern guy clothes are pretty boring. I'm thinking it's time for kilts to come into fashion worldwide!

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking you should stop doing the freebie thing (although yours truely appreciates it! But I want to update my profile to send people to you!).

btw--can you pop me a shirt? I really like that one!