Same Old Same Old? (Barbie and Ken get the Boot)

Uniqueness is said to be the hallmark of SL. One has the ability to create an avatar to be completely unique. Even some of the best SL designers have recommended when starting a business to avoid “copy catting” and to design things that are totally the artist’s unique creation. In terms of personality, we cannot help but be unique. When it comes to our bodies and skins, we are naturally unique. Down to the last freckle, scar, blemish and gray hair. Yet unfortunately, when you look around in SL, is this what you often see?

Men's faces in SL

Random men in SL




In a comparison of random men’s faces, patterns of similarity are clear. Men’s faces tend to include dark hair, blue eyes, goatees, and square jawlines. Dimples appear popular as well. Though the shapes of these men are not shown, they are all quite similar.



Certainly clothing and accessory style can make the avatar unique. But  SL lovers are at the mercy of shape and skin designers to help create various unique avatar characteristics. Unless of course one delves into attempting their own shape and skin creation. So why is it then when we look at women, but especially men avatars, so many  look alike? There has evolved  a “standard” in shape and skin making. That standard is something we all can admit to seeing:  men with huge, broad shoulders, tiny waists and heads, giant arm and leg muscles. Women with large breasts and even larger hips and buttocks, and of course pouffy lips, long, thin necks and alien eyes. Oddly, many SL avatars end up looking like RL people who have had plastic surgery! Barbie and Ken were great as children but can we graduate to realistic, attractive and shapely avatars for SL? And by attractive, that means even for the plus sized, elderly or ethnic preferences.

The answer is that we certainly can. One of the luxuries in SL is that anyone can play with shapes. The categories and sliders make it easy in the SL browsers. One just has to find a modifiable shape to start with. But many of us may not have the “eye” to create something realistic to the human body. Especially given SL limitations. One way to experiment is to find a modifiable shape that seems to be close to the desired outcome, copy it and then make modifications that are unique. It can be fun to let your avatar loose or gain weight, change cheekbone structure or get a boob job. It is important to keep in mind however, that good skins are created on a frame or shape that is unique for the skin.

Nose distortions

Nasal folds

Great distortions in the shape will stretch a skin or create hills and valleys that do not match the shading of the skin. A common distortion appears surrounding nose shape. Unfortunately SL offers little variation for unique nose appearance. Making adjustments there can create distortions. If the nose tip is too low, as shown in the first picture, small folds appear just against the outer edge of the nostril and the nostril holes will appear pinched from below.

Belly distortions

Too large of a belly causes stretching


Similarly, those desiring a larger belly could find not only stretching in a skin not made for that type of shape, but also bulges that begin to appear and a distinct line across the belly.  A truely great skin will make the illusion of a larger belly in the texture itself, therefore eliminating the need to distort the shape.


Extreme jaw settings cause pointy chins




Sleek facial proportions are created with minimal settings most often. The jaw setting should create a straight line between the neck and chin. Maximization of the jaw depth will distort the look of the profile, creating a pointy, harsh, chin and neckline.

large buttox

Buttox settings should stay conservative to avoid distortion

Large hips and butts are desired in SL by many. To get the greatest, most natural effect, the skin itself should create the illusion of largeness. Using shadowing and texture with expertise can achieve that illusion. If butt settings are maximized, a regular skin is stretched, ruining the shadowing and the shape. It becomes contorted, causing bumps and bulges. In addition, a conservative butt and belly size will make clothing fit much easier. SL clothing designers are not using base shapes that are large in belly or butt.

Many shapes sold in SL are highly overpriced and often are not realistic in appearance. Pay a reasonable price for a shape that is modifiable and if editing is desired, make tiny adjustments that will go a long way in creating a unique appearance that matches your skin. The best option is to shop for a great shape that needs no adjustment and comes with a skin made for the shape. And certainly, lighting is a big factor in how a skin looks. Movement away from the norm in SL and using special preset windlighting can create harsh lines and features on all skins no matter the quality.

Body textures

The difference is in the texture

To reveal the true effect texture has on appearance of the avatar on the shape, examine here 2 shapes and 3 skins. The first and second body from the left are the same shape. The first has the “Anna2″ skin, which is a younger, plump skin. Body 2 has “Huldah” skin which is a plumper, elderly, lady texture. Body three and four are a slightly plumper shape. Body three is the “Abigail” skin, which is a younger, plump, lady texture. Body 4 has the same “Anna2″ skin as body 1. Dramatic is how to describe the difference in the look of the avatars in this example. Even the same “Anna2″ skin looks quite different (body 1 and 4) on different shapes. You would be suprised to know that the size settings for the belly, breasts and buttox on both of these shapes are quite conservative. To fully appreciate what expert use of texture can do, note the breast sag on body 2 for the elderly lady. Breast shape like this by adjusting the avatar shape alone is impossible. It is the texture of the skin that makes the shape come alive.


A great skin/shape combo looks real

Appearance is an important part of your presentation in SL. Make the most of it by develooping a naturally unique looking avatar, complete with style, personality and passion.

Note: all photos presented are un-retouched!!!







Comments are closed.

Browse our Pages

View Older Posts