Avatar Anatomy

(NOTE: some of these instructions will not work with mesh avatars)


OK, so you’re in SL, maybe you’ve played around with your shape and skin, and maybe even think you did some cool stuff with your hair, but then you begin venturing deeper into SL. Uh oh… so many people look so good! What happened? How did they do that? Can you look like that too?

You most certainly can.

But then someone says “just get a new skin” or “just get a new shape” or “get some hair” etc. But how do these all work together? How do you really find out what works? Does it really matter what order you buy things in?

I’m afraid that yes, in a visual medium like SL, appearance does matter. BUT, that does not mean you must turn yourself into a Barbie or Ken doll. In fact, embrace individuality. The following should help you on your way to your whole new you!

What you’re made of


This is the shape of your body. Tall, short, skinny, thick, the curve of your nose, the prominence of your brow, the lilt of your lip, width of your hips. Think muscle tone, fat content and bones. This is your shape.

IMPORTANT TIP: Prim shoes are made for size 0 feet, so go ahead and make your feet a size zero (right click yourself, choose Appearance> Shape> Legs> Foot Size and enter 0).
If you change your shape and/or edit your clothes in view of others, they WILL be able to see what you are doing at every step of the way, so you may wish to find a private locale for such activities. Feel free to use the tea house in my Japanese garden, Cho no Chashitsu: no Chashitsu (Butterfly Tea , Black Art (248, 4, 56)

Please realize that bigger is not always better. Just because the slider goes up to 100 doesn’t mean you have to set it THAT high. You’ll be surprised at how many people want a natural shape.


This is the “color” that wraps around your shape. It is your skin tone and appearance (freckles, musculature and all). This includes: make up, facial hair, eyebrows, chest hair, pubic hair etc. This will likely NOT include head hair — your skin will likely be bald.


Technically, hair is an object that you wear. Once you have your hair out of its box in your inventory, you right click and [Wear]. It will attach itself to your head. Check yourself out carefully as you may need to adjust the hair or your head in size to make it fit perfectly. ALWAYS make a copy of any item in your inventory BEFORE you edit it. To copy, right click and [Copy], then right click and [Paste].

Not as technical, hair is like a wig that sits on your head. There are many types and colours and you should not limit yourself to one. Hair… it’s the new addiction.


You may think your finely tuned new resident eyes look good, and for some they do, but once you scope out some really stunning eyes that you can buy (and you don’t even have to buy them on the Bladerunner sims), you’ll probably trade up.


Animation Override. This is what prevents you from walking stilted, sitting ramrod straight, or standing still. AOs come in all flavours. You can get one individual override (i.e. a walk) and just wear it or you can get a whole AO system which effectively replaces all your default poses/animations (i.e. walk, run, sit, fly, stand etc.). The most common AO system is a ZHAO hud (see the notecard on places to shop for your almost free ZHAO) which you load up with your own chosen animations.

What order to obtain these items in

1. Shape.

You can either tweak your own shape OR buy a shape and either leave it as is or tweak it. Whatever you do, save copies and versions of your shape along the way. Right click yourself, and then click Appearance> Shape> Save As. Give your shape a logical name and sequence value (i.e. Lucrezia 1.5). Shapes very rarely have demos, but they are modifiable.

Now… why get your shape figured out first? Skins may vary in appearance on different shapes — especially around the eyes. You may have to fine tune some more after you settle on a skin, but it’s good to start with a shape.

2. Skin.

Again, you can make your own in a graphics program (that is well beyond the scope of these notecards), or buy one. But apart from modifying the tint in some cases, you can’t change your skin. You can’t change your make up or body hair. However, most skin creators will offer a variety of skin colours, make-up, muscle tone, and body hair options. Buy one or buy the whole pack.

VERY IMPORTANT. Demos can be had for L$1 each. Buy as many as you can from multiple vendors and try them all. Take your time. Also, look at yourself in Sunset light conditions (click main menu’s World> Force Sun> Sunset), as that will give you the best lighting conditions to review skins in (this setting is also optimal for taking photos).

3. Hair.

You can obtain your new hair any time really, but you may wish to wait until you have your shape and skin. On the other hand, take advantage of the freebie hair coupons in this kit — they’re valid only for the first 30 days in SL.

Demos are always available. Definitely make sure you try before you buy. You may think it’ll look good, but maybe not.

Like potato chips and tattoos, you can’t stop with just one

4. Eyes.

If you’re inclined, go eye shopping. This is best done after you’ve had your shape, skin and hair for a while. After all, you want to complement your look. But do shop around — like all things in SL, quality ranges and so will your tastes.

5. AO.

AOs eventually reflect your personality and no matter how much of your RL self is in your SL avatar, you will develop some of your own unique SL personality traits that may be best reflected in an appropriate AO. Some people never get more than a new walk. Others change AOs with their clothes! They’re fun to explore.

And finally — you don’t have to settle on the one avatar your create. Be a Tiny for a while. How about a mech? Want to try a furry? Don’t limit yourself unless you want to. SL has great variety and offerings — explore not only this amazing virtual world, but yourself as well!

Additional resources (directly from the Second Life Forums Guide: How to change your appearance)

In your Second Life, you can change nearly anything about your appearance: height, weight, hair, face, skin color…but rather than explaining, we’ll just show you.

1. Right-click on yourself. Select Appearance.

2. Click the Shape tab to edit your body shape.

3. Click the Body button. Now try moving the Height and Thickness sliders. Neat, huh?

4. Click the Nose button and try moving the Nose Size and Nose Thickness sliders. How about that!

5. Try some of the other buttons and sliders. Click Randomize for a whole new look!

6. If you don’t like what you got, click Revert to go back to your original look.

7. If you like what you see, click Save As and choose a name for your new shape.
Remember that you can change your appearance anytime, as often as you want, for free — so don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect. Move on any time you’re ready.

Note: You can also get to the appearance window by clicking on Edit in the menu bar and selecting Appearance.

Eric Linden


How to create gestures

1. Open your inventory and go to the Gestures folder.

2. Right-click the gestures folder and select New Gesture.

3. Right-click the new gesture, and rename it.

4. Double-click the gesture. The Gesture edit box will open.

5. Type a description of the gesture in the Description field.

6. Choose a Shortcut Key combo to trigger the gesture, or type a text trigger in the Trigger field. For example, /sit. Later you would trigger this gesture by typing /sit in the chat line.

7. In the Steps field, there are three default steps. Select each one and click the Remove button.

8. Under Library, click Animation and click the Add>> button.

9. Select the animation you want to use from the Animation to Play dropdown menu.

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9, if you want to add more animations to the gesture. You can also add text and sounds. You can use the Preview button to see how your animations string together.

11. Click the Active checkbox, click Save and close the gesture window.

Common gesture questions

Q: I’m new and my gestures don’t work. Why?

A: They need to be activated. Open your inventory and go to the Gestures folder. Right-click on each gesture and select Activate. To use them now, either type them in with a forward slash then the name (i.e. /hey), use the pull down menu (near the Shout button) or use the appropriate hot key (i.e. F12 to dance).

Q: I don’t know what hot keys belong to which animation.. or, I want to change my hot keys.

A: Right-click your avatar and select Gestures from the pie menu. Edit which animations you wish to change the shortcut or hot key for ( In this example choose /bow). Select Edit and then you can replace the trigger, or the text that triggers the animation. You can also replace the Shortcut Key. Default for this animation is F4, however, you have the option of making it any F key 2-12 with Control, Shift or no additional key. That’s a total of 33 presets!

Q: I am a male but a female voice comes from my avatar. How do I change that?

A: Right click your avatar and select Gestures from the pie menu. As an example, we will use the “hey” sound/gesture.

Highlight the /hey gesture in the Active Gesture menu and select Edit. On the right side of the Edit menu, highlight Sound:Hey Female. Just below that is a drop down menu titled Sound to play. Click the arrow and scroll to select a new sound. In this case you can select Hey Male. Click save. Repeat as necessary.

Q: I made (purchased, was given) an animation. How do I make it a gesture?

A: Right-click your avatar and select Gestures from the pie menu & select New.
Enter a description and a trigger (type that will trigger the animation) and/or a shortcut key.

Next, in the right menu, highlight Start Animation:Wave and go down to the pull down menu Animation to Play and select the animation you have. If you would like to have associated chat with it then highlight the Chat: Hello, avatar! and change as appropriate.

You can add sound, waits (time spaces) and additional animations in strings as desired. When done you can click the Preview button to see your creation and the Save button to save it.

Jill Linden
FlipperPA Peregrine
Lucrezia Lamont