Natural smile

Today on plurk the lovely Isa Melody Taur asked for a HUD that makes the avatar smile without closing their eyes. Sadly with the limitations of SL that is not possible. So I shared a method that I use that I am going to share here as well.

There are as always several ways to do this. None of them is the only true method. The one I am showing here is one that works for me, so maybe it works for anyone else too 🙂

This method is the merging of two images, one with a smile and one with neutral face that has the eyes open. The smile can be anything really, most of it is luck of the right moment and preference. You’ll see what I mean.

To make the smile picture I use an emoter HUD and choose the Toothsmile.


That is rather huge and creepy, but then I hit the button again which will stop the smile. You’ll have a second or so when the smile goes from huge to none, when there are several stages the smile is nice and cute. After hitting the button to stop the smile, I’ll do my snapshot to get a really nice smile. Sometimes I have to try a few times to get what I want. Sometimes it is too little sometimes too much. It depends on what I want with the picture or just what I like best that moment.

For now I’ll work with these pictures:

B) v1ui

The smile one actually looks nice enough to keep it like that, but we want the eyes open completely for this tutorials.
These pictures I’ll bring into photoshop and layer them in one file, I usually put the smile on top and the non smile one to the bottom:


Then I’ll make sure the top layer is chosen and delete the eyes. It looks creepy when you deactivate the lower layer:


Then when you activate the lower layer – the one with open eyes – you’ll have a smile and the open eyes merged like this:


Voila! You are done! 😀


How to make Materials for Second Life Creations

Materials in Second Life are a great thing. They give items some depth or/and a great shine that really moves with the light. But how to make those normal maps and specular maps you need to get your items materials ready?

There are numerous ways to do that, as you might have guessed. The way I’ll show you is just one of many. It is not perfect but I found it is easy enough and looks decent in Second life 🙂

This tutorial assumes that you are working with Photoshop and Windows, though there is also a standalone version of the plug-in I use. I just never tested it so I cannot tell you how that one works and I have not seen a Mac version of it, sorry.

Okay first we need to download the plugin. It is called xNormal and you can get it here.

After downloading it, simply install it. I did not have to put anything into any Photoshop folders, so after you installed it, and start Photoshop go to Filters and you should find it right at the bottom as sign that it was installed.
Installed Plug-in

Now that we have that, we can begin.

You first prepare your texture just the way you usually do. Not everyone can see Materials all the time because you will have to use Advanced Lightning Model in SL for that, so you want to make sure that your texture is all nice for everyone. I’ll show it to you with an example of my own textures so you see what I’m talking about.

After you did that, we can start to first make the normal map.

  • Make sure that your whole texture is on one layer so we are not missing on any details.
  • Then go to Filters -> xNormal -> Height2Normals


  • In the new window you can play around with the settings, everytime you chance something press the UPDATE button to see what you did in the preview window. You cannot zoom that window so if you want to see the full effect, you need to press CONTINUE to see it on your texture. I usually keep it all on the defaults but feel free to have a look around for different effects. When you are done hit CONTINUE.


  • Now you see something like this in your window:


That already is a normal map that you could use just like that, but you can do more with it. If you think there is not enough bump for example or too much bump you can increase and decrease it easily with your contrast settings. I like to use the layer adjustments for that but you can also go through the other way.

  • Way 1: Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness & Contrast



  • Way 2: Go to your Layer overview and click on the Adjustment icon to choose Brightness & Contrast



  • Both ways will have the same kind of window next where you can play around with the contrast. To make it bumpier raise the contrast, to make it less bumpy lower the contrast. I want to make mine more bumpy so I pull the contrast up.


If you have it all up to 100 and think it still is not bumpy enough, simply
Way 1: Repeat your steps
Way 2: Duplicate the Adjustment layer

Do that until you are happy with your bump map and then save it as a new file (do not override your original texture by accident). That is your normal map now.


After we have done that let us go to make your specular map.

  • Open the Normal Map we just created if you have closed it.
  • Go to Filter -> xNormal -> Normals2Cavity


  • You get a new window just like with the normal map that you can play around in. I keep it as it is and hit CONTINUE


You now have a picture that is white with a hint of something else in it. No worries are not done yet.

  • We will play with Brightness & Contrast again. (Just so you do not have to look for it here a repetition of the ways to do that)
  • Way 1: Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness & Contrast
  • Way 2: Go to your Layer overview and click on the Adjustment icon to choose Brightness & Contrast
  • This time we will bring brightness and contrast all the way down.


  • Repeat the process until you have a complete Black and White image kinda like this:


The white parts will be what will show the shine later in Second Life. As it is right now it might be a bit much Shine. Once you test it in SL you will see it.

  • To tone the shine down you have to make the white less white by keeping the black as black as it is now. Easy to do that by using Levels .

Again there are two ways for that:

  • Way 1: Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels
  • Way 2: Go to your Layer overview and click on the Adjustment icon to choose Levels


  • In the levels window you see a lot of sliders and such use the bottom one. Grab the white slider and bring it down to make the white more gray and you’ll see that the black stays just as black:



As you can see it is less white and therefore will be less shiny. You can make it as shiny or subtle shiny as you wish, just play around with the level setting and test it in Second Life.

If you only want certain parts of the item shiny you can paint over the parts not to shine with black as well. It’s in your hands.


How to bring the Materials into SL now?
NOTE: You will need a material able viewer for this. Like the Official SL Viewer or the new Firestorm Beta (I am sure there are more viewers which can handle Materials by now, feel free to put the names into the comments)

  • Upload your original texture, the normal map and the specular map into Second Life.
  • Edit your object in SL.
  • In your Edit window go to “Texture”




It looks a bit different from what we are used to with the non Materials viewer as you can see. You can see a drop down menu next to the texture picker that shows the different modes:
– Texture (diffuse): That is the regular texture that we are used to.
– Bumpiness (normal): That is the normal texture we did first
– Shininess (specular): That is the second texture we did.


  • Knowing that, drop your regular texture, the normal texture and the specular texture into the respective fields.


That’s it, you are done. You can play with some of the options in each mode of course, just test them and play around to find out what they do 🙂


You might not see any change in your item yet, that might be because you need the Advanced Lightning Model active to see Materials in action. Here is how to do that:

  • In your viewer go into Preferences -> Graphics
  • Check the Advanced Lightning Model Box
  • Hit Apply


Now you should see a difference if your light allows it. If you use a flat light you might still not see a difference. So play around with your windlights move the sun around and you can see the difference.

Here is a with and without Materials comparison from me:

I hope this helped, feel free to drop any comments and questions you might have 🙂

How to get rid of background and keep perfect wispy hair without much effort

This is a tutorial I wrote in April 2009. Just to have all of these things in one place, I’m copying it over to this blog 🙂

On one of my last pictures i have been asked how i cut out the hair so great and if i can make a tutorial. Well i admit that on the said picture i cheated with cutting of much of the hair and replacing it with some tricks but only because my usual trick to cut out hair off the background including the wisps did not work (my model was moving *lol*)

So i decided to show you in a tutorial how to work with the annoying wisps in Second Life hair and erasing the background without much efford. It works with alpha maps (those tell your Photoshop where it should be transparent and where not) and with making that alpha map directly in Second life. And no worries it is MUCH easier than it sounds in the introduction 🙂

Alright let’s go. (When you need bigger versions of the pictures, just click on them 🙂 )

The First part is strictly Second Life work. I cannot guarantee that is works in SL 2.0 because i don’t use that viewer. You need a Windlight supporting viewer (You do not need to be able to see windlight, my graphic card can’t but it still works because we are working with the light not the rest of WL)

1. Go to Advanced -> Rendering -> Features -> and uncheck flexible objects
That will make everything that is flexi stiff and it won’t move in your picture which is very important for this method.

2. Put out an object, a plain plane behind you and make this one full bright. (This will be important for step 5ff)

3. find your pose and camera angle you want

4. Make the picture with the light you prefer. (the background color doesn’t matter at all at this point) Do NOT change your camera view or pose now. (I know it is not the best but enough for this tutorial *g*)

5. If your background Box has been colored before change it to white NOW. Keep it full bright.

6. Then Go to world -> Environment Settings -> Environment Editor and play around with the light and such to make everything very dark. The only thing that should be white when you are done is the plain fullbright plane behind you, the rest has to be black. (These are my settings which work fine for me)

7. Make the picture

Okay that’s it in Second Life. You should now have a colored picture and a black/white picture.

You can turn your flexi on again btw *winks*

Now start Photoshop. I use CS2 but it should work in the other versions as well i hope 🙂

1. Load both and bring the colored one in the foreground.

2. Now to be able to go on, you need to do something:

At the side you see the box with the layers. You can see that there is a little lock behind the writing “Background” that means we cannot really work with that. But no panic that will be changed quickly.
– Doubleclick on the layer in the layer box and you will get the “New Layer” popup window i circled in red. There you can either give the layer a name, change blending mode, opacity etc. or just click OK. I just click OK and “unlock” the layer with that, which means that we now can work with it.

3. We are going to apply a Layer Mask to the layer. This will tell your photoshop where this picture has transparency and where not without that you need to use the eraser. The good side of that is, that you can change this layer mask anytime without the need to repaint or undo anything, you can just paint over (that is for a different tutorial but it’s way way better than erasing, promise 🙂 )

For that you click on this little button down in the layer-box (the one with the red circle)

You now see there is the colored photo and a white box next to it, this white box is the alpha layer. Since it is all white that means all is visible. (On a side note: Black makes it completly transparent, grey is semi transparent)

4. Now comes the fun part, how to add the black/white picture we made to this layer mask. No worries it’s easy.

You can see in the layer box, next to the “layers” tab is a tab called “Channels”. Make sure your “Layer Mask” (the white box next to your picture) is the marked one.

5. Then change to “Channels” there you can see a RGB, Red, Green and Blue channel (no worries if you only see RGB, it’s fine we don’t need the other channels 🙂 ) AND a white channel called ‘whatever you called your layer’ Mask (Here Layer 0 mask).

6. Change to the black and white picture and make a copy in your clipboard (first select all with ctrl-a and then copy with ctrl-c) Change back to your colored picture where you are still on the channel tab. Mark the white channel-layer to make sure that you put it in there. Then paste your black/white image that you have in your clipboard in (you can do that with crtl-v), and you should have this:

But you may ask ‘Why did it delete me? I cannot see me anymore?’ Yes, that is correct, no worries, we are going to change it right now 🙂

7. Change back onto the “Layer” Tab. Now you can see that the Layer Mask, next to your colored picture isn’t white anymore. You should still have the layer mask highlighted and with a simple key-combination (ctrl – i ) we are going to invert the mask. Do it and you will see that the background vanishes and you are going to appear again. Voila.

Now if you think you are done let me show you something that we still have to do. You cannot see it here because of the transparent background but look what happens when i put a solid background behind me:

This Halo around the hair isn’t nice. But i promised you it is not difficult to make a perfect cutout and keep the wisps. So i’ll show you how to do that 🙂

8. Add a colored background so you can see it yourself (make a new layer and fill it with the paint bucket), THEN make sure you have the layer mask selected, because we are going to work on that now.

9. In your menu-bar go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels (Or hit Ctrl-L)

10. You will get a new window with some new stuff in it. We are focussing on these:

The three triangles change the intensity of black, white and grey levels of a picture to make things darker or brighter. In this case we change the bright halo into something darker so it becomes invisible (we remember black = transparent)

For this picture it is enough to take the middle triangle (the grey) and bring it closer to the white one. You can see in your picture how it affects the halo play around with it. If it does not work enough try to move the black one a bit until you are satisfied, then hit OK. The result you can see here:

11. Put the background you want behind you and you will see perfect ‘cut’ wisps, no halo or background noise from your original background.

Voila you are done!

Hope it was helpful, have fun making pictures with perfect hair *G*