How to Make Your Second Life Portrait Utterly Flawless With Photoshop's Liquify Tool
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion
I try not to overprocess my Second Life pictures because I want to portray it as honestly as I can, but I'll admit that I have a weakness for Photoshop's Liquify tool. In the wrong hands Liquify can distort any face or body into a fake looking funhouse mirror nightmare, but with subtlety and care it's one of the most valuable tools for anyone looking to take truly striking avatar portraits.
Let me show you what I mean...
Check out this before and after shot of my header image. The differences may seem subtle, but when combined they go miles in terms of repairing many of the unflattering features of the Second Life avatar, leaving you with a much more polished-looking portrait in the end. Here's a complete breakdown of what I did, all just using Liquify:
- Using a small brush I removed some of the sharp edges and angles from around the inner eyes, especially in the tear ducts. Tear-duct shape is something that really stands out to me when I look at a close-up portrait of an SL avatar, I absolutely hate the pointy, stretched look they have in Second Life by default!
- Almost every SL avatar nose has some weird jagged areas where the polygons just don't play nice, and of course Liquify can fix that. It's my dirty little secret that I've been liquifying my SL nose for years now.
- Next I used it to shape my lips so they look a little more natural and a little less digital. You can also use liquify to give your lips features that aren't possible with the standard SL avatar, like Strawberry Singh's signature pucker.
- Ears are a matter of taste, and depend a lot on the skin you're wearing. Real ears aren't perfectly round so my change here may seem frivolous, but I personally like the smoother shape more.
- I also frequently use Liquify to reshape my cheeks, chin, and jawline, since the shading on the skin worn can sometimes make those features look uneven of incorrectly shaped. It is very possibly to dip into funhouse mirror territory when liquifying cheeks though, so be careful and take baby steps.
- Liquify is also helpful for straightening things distorted by a pose, like prints on clothing or in this case my neck shading. For this sort of task, I like to use the Liquify brush from the center of the area I'm trying to nudge over rather than the edge, since Liquifying from the edge will give things like stripes and patterns a pinched look that you will then also have to fix with Liquify.
- Liquify is also ideal for smoothing out the many little flat edges and points that you'll find all over an avatar's silhouette, particularly on the shoulders. All these little inorganic angles and shapes go out of their way to remind you that you're looking at an avatar, but thankfully they're one of the easiest problems to Liquify away!
I'm far from an expert on Liquifying of course, or Photoshop in general, and I've barely scratched the surface of what you can do. As always, be patient and experiment and who knows what amazing tricks you'll develop!
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.