Designing Clothing for SL-Part 2 -AV UV Maps

UV MAPS-A Very Short Basic Non-Techie Primer

Today, I would like to talk a little about UV maps and UV mapping from the perspective of a clothing designer.  

No, I am NOT a techie so, the information I am posting here is what I understand of the subject.  It may not be 100% accurate from a technological perspective. For that, you will have to do some googling and research of your own.

It is not essential that you know this information to create clothing but,  I think it is important you should at least be aware of it.  I know when I finally understood about 3D modeling I was able to apply that understanding to how the SL Avatar unwraps and lays flat so I was better able to ultize the SL AV UV maps  available to make layered clothing.  It has a huge difference for me.  Maybe this will assist you, the reader, as well.   

This information, I hope, provides you with a bit of insight into how layered clothing actually works and assists you in adjusting for the pitfalls of the current SL AVs.

3D Cube As You Would find in Blender or SL

What is a UV Map?   

Simply put, a UV map is a 2 dimensional flat representation of a 3 dimensional object.  

By the way, the letters U and V are used to indicate the axes or, the direction of space on the UV map...up/ 2D space.  U and V are similar in function to the 3D axes of X,Y, and Z...East/West, North/South, Up/Down.... many of us are familiar with when building or moving things around in SL.  

Again, I am not a techie so I am not sure, which letter, U or V, is assigned to which direction or that it even matters as long as you are consistent in how you use them.  It may be dependent on what direction particular software assigns the letters to what axis.  I tried googling it but was left more puzzled and confused that before. I am sure some of you out there will know and be able to enlighten me with the proper usage.

Show and Tell Time

The cube seen in the picture above is a 3D object I made in Blender for this tutorial. 

Like rezzing a box or cube in Second Life (SL),  this is a simple object.  It has 6 sides...4 on the sides...1 on top and 1 on bottom.  If you cam or pan around the object in SL, Blender, or another modeling program, our cube/box appears to be 3 dimensional.  In Blender, our cube/box, it is generally referred to as an object when it is rezzed and ready to be transformed. 

Okay now,  let's think about our UV map in relationship to our 3D cube/box we have above.  Remember, the description says a UV Map is a 2D representation of a 3D object that is flat? How do we get a flat map out of a 3D object?

For that we need to use some type of modeling software.  We need that software to create our 2D UV map out of a 3D object. We must cut apart our object in such a fashion that it can lay out flat in one piece or several pieces depending on the complexity of the object   When the object is cut apart and laid flat we call that process "unwrapping"and is a step towards making out UV map.  

Look at the next example below.  

If you cut apart our box/cube, so all the sides lay out flat, you create a 2D representation of the object or, a UV map.  You are not actually destroying your 3D object when you cut it apart; you are telling your 3D modeling software, "I want to see what it looks like flat".  The software "unwraps" the cube for us and lays it out flat according to how we told it to cut it apart.  The original box/cube is not altered and it remains intact. 

You can think of "unwrapping" like you were peeling an orange or banana. You are taking off the outer skin layer to get to the fruit.  Taking off the skin doesn't destroy the fruit, it simply allows us to access the fruit to eat it.  As with UV maps, if you lay out the peel or skin flat, it doesn't look much like a piece of fruit...but, we may have a general sense of what it might be.

Or, think of it as unwrapping a birthday or Christmas gift.  If you are careful, you take off the pretty paper, smooth it out, laying it flat to save it for later to wrap another gift for giving.  It is the same concept "unwrapping" a 3D object.

Once the object has been "unwrapped" and laid out flat, then you take a picture of it and that picture becomes known as the UV map of that particular object.

3D Object Unwrapped

The upper part of the example (3D Cube) is the modeling area of Blender.  See how the cube still looks like a cube?  

Now look at the lower part of the example (2D Cube) area.  This area is the UV mapping area in Blender.  See it shows the object/cube cut apart and laid flat in another screen, while the actual cube appears intact in the modeling area. 

When you cut apart an object or model in Blender, it is called "unwrapping".  I have not used other modeling software so it may be called something different in other programs.  Anyway, I marked this object on it's various sides (seams) and cut it apart (unwrapped) it so it would lay flat as one piece.  

 So, to make a long blog short, the UV map is simply our guide to help us create our textures to apply to our 3D object.  These maps guide us so our texture will fit our object precisely, depending on level of detail we want,  when the object is stitched back together by the software we are viewing that object.  Basically, our texture is being created like a skin or outer covering to fit over our object.  

Unwrapping Ruth  


Basically, this is what has been done with the SL AV.  Linden Labs took the original "Ruth" AV, decided where the AV object should be cut apart, and "unwrapped" so she would lay flat. 

She was cut into 3 distinct pieces... head/neck, upper body and lower body...laid out flat, and a UV map was created for each piece. These UV maps were then exported as a texture from whatever modeling software was being used at the time.  The textures for the UV map was imported into SL to be applied to the body via the various SL clothing layers.  

Sometimes, the terms UV map, AV UV map, AV map and UV texture map are used interchangeably. 

Getting Under Your Skin?

If you will look at the photograph below, this is my AV.  Our AVs are really nothing more than 3D mesh objects like the cube/box seen in the other pictures above.  What I have done in this picture is show you what my AV looks like in wire frame view in the SL Viewer. Mine is being shown from Phoenix Viewer, but all Viewers should a similar option if interested. 

In wire frame view, most of the textures have been stripped away but the colored marking where the skin and clothing were remain and allows you to see the actual mesh that makes up our SL AVs.

My AV in Wire Frame View

Look at my legs. See all of the triangles and how they are arranged into squares?  

Two triangles make up a square or quad.  These triangles and quads have been manipulated/transformed on the X, Y, Z axes and make up the base or frame of the AV mesh.  We are a basic frame, sort of like frames used in paper mache, with layer upon layer covering our wire frames.  Underneath it all, we are each "Ruth" in disguise!

Yes, our AVs are all mesh, as are the other solid things in our world. Be it prims, sculpts, or the mesh objects now being imported into SL, everything is mesh.

Now, look at the picture below.

UV Texture Maps Created By Robin Wood

This is still my AV.  Now, you can see her wire frame pieces (head/neck...upper body...lower body) are covered with 3 separate clothing layers made from UV AV Texture maps created by the lovely and long time SL Resident Robin Wood. (Next time we will discuss layers and their arrangement on our SL AVs).

I know it is hard to see, but if you will look closely at the legs again, you should be able to see lines making little squares or, quads on Robin's very detailed AV UV Texture Maps.   These squares are 2 triangles laying side by side to make up the square you can see them in the wire frame photograph above. 

Let's go one step further in the process.

Please forgive the badly rezzed shirt.  SL has been being rather odd rezzing things lately, more so than usual,

This is my Second Life AV, who is now wearing a skin, some jeans I received when I first stated in 2005 and a slider top I made in 2006.   The process for creating layered clothing has changed little since I began.

SL AV Shown in Normal View

In this photograph, we can see multiple layer applied over the SL AV mesh wire frame.  

First, I have a base layer or, skin applied on top of the mesh frame. ALL standard SL AVs have a base skin layer covering the wire frame cage.   I understand some of the newer starter AVs even have painted on panties on the skin layer for perpetual underwear. 

Remember, our AV is cut into 3 parts for UV map purposes. So, my skin must cover these 3 parts...head/neck for my face...upper body for my arms, chest down to my waist...then lower body for my hips, legs and feet. Even though we have 3 UV maps we must work with and match for our skins, when a skin layer is made in SL, it combines all 3 parts into a single skin layer, unlike clothing that has single parts.  This can be somewhat difficult to understand when starting to create skins for SL.

Next, I have a shirt on top of my skin.  As I stated above, I made this shirt back in 2006 using a texture applied to a upper body layer (shirt or undershirt) and played around adjusting the sliders (we will discuss slider clothing in an upcoming tutorial) to achieve something I liked. 

Lastly, I have a lower body layer (pants or underpants) applied that looks like a pair of worn jeans, which was given to me when I first started in SL.  I think they still look pretty good even today and still wear them A LOT.

Standard UV Texture Maps 

 I wanted to say a few words, before I close, the above AV UV texture maps were made by Robin Wood, I believe back in 2005, and are based on other AV UV texture maps created earlier by Chip Midnight, or so I read in one of the archived SL Forums recently.  Personally, I use both templates in a composite starter file I will discuss later.

Both Chip and Robin each have cleverly added important detail, from their unique perspectives, to the plain AV UP maps that Linden Labs supplied.  EVERY DESIGNER in SL should give a very gracious and humble "THANK YOU" to both Chip and Robin, who both have donated their hard work free to us in the SL Community.  

While you may see a few other templates out there, most are probably based on the hard work of both Chip and Robin's UV map in adding useful information to actual LL plain AV UV maps. Each of us using these templates owe a great debt to both of these creators. 

If you use these templates, why not drop a "Thank You" note or a generous tip to both Chip Midnight and Robin Wood since without their work ours would be much harder.
But, I really think it important for you to understand that our SL AVs are mesh frames covered over with many layers of textures to create what we look like as the final product. I feel that understanding how our AVs are put together makes us better Clothing Designers and Creators.  I know it has made me a better overall creator and filled in a number blank spots for.  So maybe, just maybe, with a better understanding of how our AVs are made will open the door for you to be even more creative and take clothing design to a new level.

I sincerely hope that I haven't lost or confused anyone.  If you have questions, please feel free to join the blog and ask them.  I will do my best to answer.  

Unhelpful SL Clothing Designers?

Yesterday, I  did my best to help a new clothing creator understand her graphics program and how to use it in relationship to some UV maps on an item she purchased.  During the conversation, one of her observations was...SL Clothing Designers were not helpful to those new to the craft.  I got to thinking about it and she is probably correct to a certain degree.  

SL Clothing creation seems to have been a very closely guarded secret in the past; however, these day just doing a google or youtube search will provide the new creator with so many options not offered in the past.  I for one am happy to see this generosity abound.  

There are lots and lots of resources now for new SL Clothing Creators, which weren't available when I started.  These resources go far beyond "how tos" if you are willing to make the investment for things like template kits, clothing add-ons, fabric textures, embellishment kits, the list goes on and on. But, if you are like me, part of designing is the learning process and being able to have the satisfaction of knowing I created it myself.

You know, we really have some talented, wonderful, and generous people in SL, who give of both their time and do share their knowledge with us.   Oftentimes, a cute inexpensive outfit you see has taken a good creator hours and hours of time to create that outfit only to have someone turn their nose-up and scream it costs too much.     

Clothing creation is not simple to learn nor, is it easy to get things correct and looking good on the AV.  It requires an intimate knowledge of graphics program and how the AV works and flows with, such things as AO movements and SL building limitation, to be successful at it.  It is a very in-depth time consuming process and requires more than a sense of fashion. 

THERE ARE MANY resources out there.  We just have to look for those resources AND be willing to take the time to learn.  No one wants to answer a question of a new designer, who hasn't put in the time  and effort to do research, as their peers have already done.  And really, there are somethings you can only learn by doing it yourself to gain an understanding of how to create. 

*Hops off her soap box and puts it away, for now. *


One of the main reasons for this series is to provide a resource place for many of the great resources now available to us. I will be adding these as I go along.

I can't list all the wonder videos, blogs, and written articles about clothing creation, but I can offer up a few to you to start your own search.  I have my favorites of course, and some I found while browsing from a few items to maybe make things clearer.

Provides in-depth information about UV maps and unwrapping.  Very helpful if you intend, at some point, to create mesh based clothing.

You can find some very useful information about clothing creation from Robin Wood's personal site. Also, you can download her UV AV maps from this site as well. 

Avatar UV Texture Templates--Robin Wood Ent.
Another excellent clothing resource is Chimera Firecasters Helpful Information on Second Life site.  She goes into some detail about making clothing and provides good general information on wrinkles and folds.

Introduction & Getting Started – Second Life Clothing

This link is an UNLISTED
link according to YouTube and is only available to those with the link.  This is another short useful video by Torley Linden regarding adding multiple clothing layers.  Useful information to know when creating and somewhere you can refer your SL customers to if having dressing issues. 

Multiple items on a clothing layer with multi-wearables - Second Life Viewer 2.1 TutorialG6LDw5pg


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