The first chapter of So You Wanna Be A Virtual Supermodel deals exclusively with creating your own female Second Life shape with ideal body proportions. It’s crucial to have a well-proportioned and attractive avatar to model in Second Life, but I often see models with odd shapes!
In the book I’ve used my own shape to demonstrate modelesque measurements. In this tutorial, I’m going to apply these measurements to different female body types: an extremely tall runway model, a petite and curvy shape, and a plus size shape.
In So You Wanna Be A Virtual Supermodel, I go into quite a bit of detail on using Second Life’s Appearance sliders to balance your shape. If you haven’t picked up the book yet, it’s only L$500 on the Marketplace. For this tutorial, I’m just going to share a couple of basic concepts to get you started on making your own, well-proportioned shape.
In addition to measuring your overall height in feet/inches or meters, your avatar’s height can be expressed in heads. This concept might be already familiar to you if you’ve learned to draw people, ie.. through a life drawing class or lessons on illustrating for manga or graphic novels.
Measure the distance from the top of the head to the chin. Then use this measurement to count how many “heads” tall your shape is. Our runway model shape shown above is very tall at 8 heads, demonstrated by the white strip to her right (each division = 1 head length.) An ideal shape for Second Life would fall between 5.5-8 heads in overall height, regardless of the body type. This is a little longer than Real Life, because in Second Life, you’re often looking at a downward camera angle which makes the shape appear a little squatter than it actually is.
When you’re deciding on your avatar’s overall height, don’t max out the height or leg length sliders! When you pull the Appearance sliders to any extreme, it squishes or stretches the shape, making it more difficult to maintain balanced, realistic proportions. I like to go for realistic heights. Our runway model shape is 6′ tall, a little tall for Real Life but not extreme.
Leg length vs. Torso length
The pale blue line to the left of the avatar represents her torso/trunk length versus leg length. Measure from the top of the head to the crotch, then from the crotch to the heel. These measurements should be about the same! (Extra length is shown in orange above.)
This is our petite shape. She’s 5’5″ according to a height measuring prim in-world… that’s average height for Real Life, but certainly shorter than most Amazonian avatars! Look at her head measurements: she is 7.5 heads tall overall, not too different from our runway model shape. Head measurements will help you keep your shape from looking like a pinhead or bobblehead.
The purple hourglass represents the torso shape. On our runway model and petite shapes, the waist is pretty small compared to shoulder and hip width. But our plus size shape still has curves!
Generally speaking, if your avatar is facing the camera, the shoulders will be about the same visual width as her hips, and her natural waist (the smallest part of the torso, not where her jeans fit) will fall halfway between the two and won’t be as wide.
The side view shows our plus size avatar’s bust and hip measurements in purple. When viewed from the side, her bustline and butt are the same visual width (both purple lines are exactly the same length.)
This is also true of our runway model shape, and our petite shape:
By looking at all three demonstration body types, you’ll see the overall proportions are actually quite similar. These measurements will help you create a natural-looking female avatar shape, whether you’re aiming for a “fashion model” look, or not. Once you’re able to master “ideal” proportions, you can play with your measurements for realistic curves… in Real Life, you might have wider hips and a smaller bust, for example. Knowing how to work with your shape will ensure you don’t end up looking like a caricature!
For a more in-depth look at Second Life body proportions and using Appearance sliders to create your own shape, check out Chapter One of So You Wanna Be A Virtual Supermodel, my how-to book on Second Life modelling.