Designing Clothing for SL-Part 4--Graphic Software

My apologies for the delay in getting this posted so late. Life has taken a much busier turn since Christmas and had made it difficult to spend as much time researching and writing as I would like.  Not only have I been busier, but I keep finding myself adding more bits and pieces about clothing design as I go along.   Go figure!


In Part 3, we browsed the Linden Labs UV Map Templates for the 3 main body parts of the SL Avatar. These files are better known as "Second Life Fashion Design Templates", which are available for download from the SL Wiki (see Resources at bottom for a link). While you, as a designer,  are not required to use this particular set of templates, it is good to review them from time to time since all other template sets are based on these originals.  I think we all get stuck in using a particular template or combination of templates and forgot a few things that can be found on the Linden template.

If you do decide to download the files, I do recommend you take a few minutes to read the  accompanying documents...

1) Second Life Fashion Design: Using the Templates 
2) the Readme 
3) the License.   

The first document is dated March 3, 2003 and is somewhat out-of-dated in relationship to advances regarding file types we can import and advances made within various graphics software. But, this is still valuable information about the SL AV and has a few tips on how to use the "layered" clothing templates.  

Let's Begin 

I have been in SL for a very long time and have seen many many changes in the fashion industry over that time.  Some designers have excelled while many others have failed and no longer exist.  One only has to look at some of the oldest clothing available on SL Market Place to see changes in style, type, and attachment based clothing items.  We have gone from completely system based "slider clothing" made in world to the newer more complex"mesh based" clothing created outside of Second Life.  

While my forte has been creating historical and grunge buildings so I am not really part of the SL Fashion Industry per se; however,  I have purchased many many fashion items over the years from a plethora of designers. Those who seem to be successful have the ability to add items to their "layer based" clothing to make it look real.   I have come to the conclusion that being a successful clothing designer is a combination of things:

1. Creative Vision

2. Some Talent
3. Ability to incorporate and use prim, sculpt, and mesh
4. Daring to be different
5. Find a niche market they enjoy working in
6. Patience
7. Enjoys making clothing for self satisfaction
8. Is not solely about making money
9. Fashion Sense
10. Not given up
11. Successful in using their chosen graphics software

Graphic Software

Speaking of graphic software, I haven't really spoken much about the external software needed to make "layered" clothing for Second Life.   It is the single most important tool in creating individualized "clothing art" for SL and something any budding "layer clothing" or "texture"  digital artist must have and be familiar with to create their artwork.

While you can make slider based clothing in SL,  "slider based clothing" leaves a lot to be desired as far as placement and control are concerned.  Your graphic editing software puts this control into your hands so the look and feel of your clothing and designs appear realLike any creative artist, these outside programs are your artistic tools that allow your imagination and creative talents run wild!

While I am not be a "layered clothing" fashionista, I do believe  many SL Clothing Designer's use either Photoshop or Gimp to create their fashions.  I do know some use Paint Shop Pro or, Adobe Elements.   But, I don't think it matters which program you use as long as the program is capable of working with  "layers" and allows you to save files as .tga, .png, jpeg, or .bmp, which are the type of files that can be uploaded and imported into Second Life for textures.  Having said that,  I am sure there are other products you can use to create SL clothing textures; however, it may not be the easiest route over time.

For example, I know one woman that uses MS PowerPoint to create her textures for SL. My assumption is she uses this product because it is what is available to her, she knows how to use PowerPoint well, and she doesn't wish to learn another software program.  She is aware of programs like Gimp, which is free, she is completely satisfied with what she uses and the workflow she has created using PowerPoint.  While she and I disagree on the subject, we both use what we are comfortable with.

 The moral of the story...if you are determined to make layered clothing or textures and are able to upload them into SL, use whatever software works for you. Using MS PowerPoint would never be my first choice for creating textures for SL,  but who am I to diss what works for another person?  The same goes for you dear reader.  Use what you are comfortable with!



Being a hobbyist, I am not sure one graphic software package is better than another, but it all depends what you wish to do.  I do think for the a  hobbyist the top option would have to be Gimp.  The main reason...Gimp is a free and an open source graphics editing software program similar to Photoshop. It has many of the bells and whistles Photoshop has plus a few more or, so I have been told.  Did I mention it was FREE?

People who use Gimp swear by it.  I can't really tell you a whole lot about the program other than it is a bit like Photoshop when you open the program after it's open I am totally lost.  Gimp does make use of "layers" like Photoshop and is capable of saving files in the formats needed to upload to SL.  Having  read in the SL Forums  and different blogs over the years plus attempting to try to use it, Gimp handles the creation of alpha channels much better than Photoshop does. 

I wish I could tell you more about Gimp, but it is FREE.  If you are debating what software to use or do not wish to sink a lot of money into a graphics editing program give Gimp a try.  It will cost you nothing other than taking the time to learn how to use it.   I do know that Builders Brewery has come classes on Gimp and even a series on making some simple clothing....check out their schedule for more information...and you can find lots of tutorials on the web.  Just Google it. 


I think the industry standard for many professional graphic artists is Photoshop.   My personal preference is Photoshop, I am fortunate to have it due to my employer, but it can be cost prohibitive to hobbyists.  Photoshop is expensive, but it does offer many bells and whistles that can make tasks simpler and quicker.  For example, if you buy the extended version, you can actually create you clothing on a 3-D model and view it before upload.  It makes working with seams and necklines much easier.  BUT, Photoshop does have a  high learning curve.  I am sure the same can be said for Gimp since both pieces of software are very robust in what they can do and usually there are multiple ways to complete a specific task. 

One of the greatest advantages for me, and perhaps for you, is there are tons and tons of tutorials on the Internet and YouTube for Photoshop. My original purchase of Photoshop was strictly made to assist me in altering or creating building textures.  Most of the SL tutorials at the time were based on using Photoshop so that is the software I chose to use.  While you can find Gimp tutorials on the Internet, especially with so many SL Residents now using it, there are many many more to be found for Photoshop.  Also, you can find lots of add-ons for Photoshop, such as Brushes, Gradients, Patterns, Filters, etc. to help you do what you want and need to do with your creative endeavors. I know that there such things do exist for Gimp as well, but have not explored these much.
I know most folks don't have the luxury to invest in Photoshop.  However, in mid-2012,  Adobe came up with a new pricing scheme for their products.  This new method of pricing puts their products closer in reach than ever before.  Adobe began offering access to "single" or, "full access"  to their wide array of products using a monthly fee structure.  You don't have to fork over a ton of money upfront but pay as you go. You might want to check it out for yourself at 


It has been going around Second Life the past couple of weeks that Adobe is offering their CS2 (Creative Suite 2) for free.  This is a much older version of their products (current version is CS6), but is very suitable for use in making SL Clothing.   

When doing a little research on this newsflash, it looks like it is not be "free", but all the information is rather confusing.  And, if you have a newer computer with Win 7 or 8, it may not run this software.  If interested, you may want to do your own research . Here are a couple of urls to get you started.


A couple of other programs, much less costly than full blown Photoshop yet, more expensive than Gimp, some use is Paint Shop Pro (PSP) and Adobe Elements.  I can't swear to it but I believe both programs are around $100.00 USD. I haven't  tried PSP so you will need to do your own research.  

Adobe Elements in the past seemed to be a downgraded less expensive version of Photoshop, but this was 7-8 years ago when I tried using it.  It was a free trial piece of software that came with an early digital camera,  I used it for awhile and it did support layers functionality and gave you a taste of what the full blown Photoshop might be like, however, what it has transformed itself into today is something I am unable to address.


Whatever software you wish to use, please do your own research. While it is nice to hear the opinions of others, many of us are biased towards the particular things we use, only you will know what tools you need, feel comfortable using, and what you can afford to invest for your creative endeavors.  

Try downloading trial versions to see how they work.  Look to see what add-ons (if any) are available for the software.  Do the add-ons cost extra?  Are there free add-ons available?  

We all learn things differently and in different ways, so it is important, if you are new to using graphic software, you have methods available to you that are easy for you to work with. Try googling to see what tutorials are available for the product you are interested in.  Are there many out there for your product?  Are they SL and/or clothing making specific? Are there written tutorials available?  Are there ones available on YouTube?   If you want to learn more formally, are there any local classes in your area you can attend?  Web based courses? 

Purchasing your software is just the first step.  Learning your software, and learning it well, is a necessity and not something quickly learned.  Plus, it may take you many hours of practices to accomplish what you wish to accomplish.  If no one has told you yet, making "layered" clothing for SL clothing is very labor intensive and can take hours and hours of hard work.  If people only knew about what it took to create clothing they sell, they might complain less at the prices items are sold for. 


Whatever graphics software you chose to work with, you should try to find software that offers the capability of stackable "layers".  This "layers" method allows you to "build up" your work from a base or, from the bottom up without destroying all of your hard work.  You can experiment easily with ideas on individual layers and not destroy other layers you may have spent hours or days on.

he concept of working with "layers" was rather hard for me to understand when it was first explained to me.  Once I started using Photoshop it was easier to figure out what they meant,  I slapped myself for being an idiot and making it harder than it is.   Simply put, you have a base or, background layer to work with.  It is the basis of your creation and must conform to the limits of the clothing templates.  You build upwards from the base by adding a series of additional layers on top of your base for such things, as color overlays, patterns, shadows, wrinkles, embellishments, etc., which enhances and defines your final product. 

Another way you might think of layers would be something similar to paper-based scrap-booking.  You start with a base piece of paper then add or stack elements on top of that base sheet of paper like photographs...cutouts...other elements to make a whole finished product.  We do something similar when making SL textures or "layered" clothing.  
The following illustration really gives you a great visual of how "layers" works in graphic software programs. I have listed the URL below, which offers a nice written tutorial you can try your hand at.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of "layers",  here are a couple of resources to start you off.   

Friendly Words of Advice

While you DO NOT have to be a graphics designer in RL to make SL clothing YOU should be very familiar with you graphics software.  I know I didn't heed this warning when I made my first horrible attempts at clothing years ago, but you live and learn.  I keep think maybe if I had listened better, I might not have been so frustrated and giving up back then.  It's not that you MUST know your software inside out, but  believe me, knowing the fundamentals will help keep the frustration and "I give up" feelings to a manageable level if you do know it fairly well.  

I learned Photoshop from tutorials on the web, classes from Builder's Brewery,  advice from the forums, etc.  I am pretty much a self-taught hobbyist designer.  I learn by doing.  I fiddled and farted around making things I wanted or needed.  I learned as I went. Now, some graphic artists out there may frown upon your endeavors and attempt to encourage you to take more formalized training classes (which is expensive by the way and not always locally accessible)...don't let these folks discourage you like they did me.  YOU CAN self-learn Photoshop or GIMP on your own; however, be aware this type of learning can be difficult and requires a lot of perseverance. Just because you do not do things the way the professionals or those formally trained were taught, it does not mean you are not an graphic artist in your own right.  You are just as creative.  Just as much an artist. 

When I was first learning Photoshop (I don't think you ever stop learning about Photoshop due to its' complexity) and couldn't wrap my head around clothing, I went and did other things like learn to make house and building textures.  I played around with merging two or more pre-made textures into what I envisioned for something I was building.  I would learn a technique, such as layer masks, extracting backgrounds from a picture, or, how to make straight lines, then go back to the clothing templates to see what I could do.  It all just takes practice.    

SIDE NOTE--Some of you may have noticed, I keep referring to clothing design in this series as "layered" clothing.  With the introduction of "mesh clothing" at the end of 2011, many people have opted to wear "mesh clothing" and have left "layered clothing" behind for any number of reasons. 

Those new to Second Life may not be aware the processes for making "mesh clothes" and "layered clothes" are two separate and unique creative endeavors.  Both can be very time consuming to create and labor intensive.  Each process has it's own learning curve, uses different types of software, has differing upload costs, and it's own unique challenge for wearing. This series is dedicated to the "layered clothing" making process.  

I promise, next time we WILL talk about the actual UV Maps for "layered" clothing creation. 



I like to provide my readers with resources to explore on their own.   While I do try to be unbiased when providing these resources, I am only human. Sometimes, there is a resource that I have to push folks of those resources is Builders Brewery.
Builders Brewery (BB) offers  a variety of classes for folks with differing skill levels all for free (see the following link for my thought on BB and some things to remember when attending their classes ).  Classes are taught by volunteers, who donate their time and expertise to teach what they know to others.  

Builders Brewery DOES have some classes for GIMP and Photoshop; however, the classes tend to lean toward GIMP since GIMP is free, although there are a few classes now and then on Photoshop.  If I remember correctly, there is a GIMP clothing series class being taught from time to time.  Be sure you check out the schedule and keep checking back! New classes are being taught all the time.  OR, if you have something to teach, contact them to see about giving back to SL 

Also I believe SOMA teaches Photoshop and Gimp classes in general and for clothing creation.  I know little about SOMA because there classes don't seem to be taught during the time I am In-World, but they may be something you want to try.  They also sell lesson or modules for learning Photoshop and Gimp.  They can be a little costly from what I am told but cost less than a fancy cup of coffee in RL. 


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