Iris Wants to Know: What Are the Best Tricks in Your Second Life Snapshot Editing Toolbox?

Vaki Zenovka
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

A few months ago fashion maven and legal eagle Vaki Zenovka shared a work-in-progress shot on Plurk. It was a shading layer for a Second Life snapshot she was editing at the time, and it looked like a drawing in itself -- stark whites and blacks were layered like conte crayon on a grey sheet, which would then be overlayed on the original snapshot to give it significantly more oomph than it would have on its own. I typically spent more time fiddling with color balances than with hand-shading my pictures but ever since then, whenever I'm playing around with my own SL snaps in Photoshop, I can see Vaki's WIP shading layer hovering in my mind, pushing me to add just a little more highlight here, a little more shadow there...

Everyone has their tips and tricks, and the more I think about Vaki's the more I want to know everyone else's, too. Me? My go-to Photoshop move is to take the sharpening tool to the fine details of the face. With a very light touch, I like to sharpen the brows, the lips, and most important of all the shine in the eyes. Sharpening these little details, as long as you're careful not to overdo it, can really make your avatar's face pop. It works just as well for details on your outfit, too. Just remember that this technique can be a little misleading to the viewer, making them think textures are much crisper than they are, so you absolutely, positively should not use it on pictures intended for reviews.

What clever little methods have you picked up along the way that make your pictures stand out from the crowd? Share your favorite snapshot-editing techniques in the comments below!

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Second Life Cosmetics Makers Gear Up for Spring With Colorful Virtual Manicures

Action Cosmetic Fair Nail Appliers
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Something about spring just makes me want to paint my nails. Okay, so I don't exactly stop painting them in the winter, but when you have to worry less about heavy gloves and dry cuticles and all that shovelling and scraping, it's much easier to enjoy a fresh coat or two of polish for more than a day at a time. Even with winter casting about in its death throes this week, it's hard not to get inspired by the vivid spring colors popping up in time for Easter.

Evidently quite a few Second Life designers are feeling inspired by impending May flowers too, as the latest round of Cosmetic Fair (open until April 30th [SLURL]) is packed with colorful manicures, ready to be applied. Among all the pastels and patterns available, the offerings from two brands in particular stand out from the crowd...

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Linden Lab Unveils New Avatar Fitting Classifications for Second Life -- But Will They Work?

True

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Linden Lab has unveiled a new way for shoppers and designers to identify what will and what won't fit a Second Life avatar. Rooted in this Knowledge Base entry, designers can now find badges like the one above meant to identify products intended for normal and mesh-augmented avatars respectively, as well as detailed instructions for how to access new categorization options on the SL Marketplace that will allow designers to list products that require certain base components (for example SLink mesh feet, hands, or heads) to work properly. 

So will it get the job done? Here are my thoughts:

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Wasteland Queen: Don't Miss This Second Life Take on a Beloved Sailor Moon Villain

Ashlie Coba Black Lady Ruler of Worlds
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The very best cosplay (and cosplay photography) holds up on its own. It doesn't require the observer to have an understanding of the character or the source material to appreciate the care that went into assembling a truly perfect look, or taking that truly perfect picture.

That's the case with the latest post on Pixeled Fashionista, Ashlie Coba's Second Life fashion blog. Her portrayal of Black Lady (a character originating from, you guessed it, Sailor Moon) wears a slightly trendier and more up-to-date costume than the original without sacrificing any of the familiarity that comes from a character that's been a fan-favorite for just about twenty years now. Her makeup, accessories, and her dress (a mash-up of two separate items from ISON) combine with attitude-heavy poses and an utterly desolate wasteland backdrop for a flawless contemporary portrayal of a fascinating villain... Yet it's all so well coordinated that Ashlie looks downright fierce, whether you recognize her inspiration or not.

Check out Ashlie Coba's blog for complete notes on how to get this look for yourself.

(Hat tip: Chandra Masala)

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Give Your Closet a Moon Prism Makeover with Second Life Fashion Inspired by Sailor Moon

Cutie Moon Fair
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

No one should be surprised that Cutie Moon Fair [SLURL], a fashion event celebrating anime heroine Sailor Moon and running in Second Life until April 15th, is heaven for virtual cosplayers. What's more surprising, however, is just how much of what's available can be worked into your wardrobe even if you have no desire to fight evil by (digital) moonlight.

It was tempting to devote this post to recreating the famous looks of my favorite crew of magical girls, but I decided to go with a much more wearable look, which is just as stylish in the midst of Cutie Moon fair as it will be in a few months when I'm wearing it just to show my geeky stripes. Keep reading for the details!

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Second Life Fashionistas Are Transforming Into Virtual Cosplayers to Celebrate Sailor Moon

Xantheanne resident cutie scouts
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Cutie Moon (a Second Life shopping event inspired by classic magical girl series Sailor Moon) will be opening its doors tomorrow, so it's no surprise that many SL fashion bloggers and photographers are already bringing their A-game to showcase the incredibly cute items that will be available. 

My favorite pic so far is easily the one shown above, "Cutie Scouts" by Xantheanne Resident of Xantheanne's 2nd Life. Her scouts aren't perfect copies of the originals, but they (along with the playfully minimalistic background effects she staged) evoke that "Magical Girl" feeling perfectly. It's a clean, bright, balanced and beautiful snapshot all around.

As excited as I am for Cutie Moon itself, I'm even more excited to see what everyone else will do with it. If you want to see more from the Cutie Moon fair, I'll be posting my own coverage (and pics, of course!) this Wednesday. Until then, keep an eye on the Cutie Moon Flickr group for item previews and more gorgeous blogger pics. 

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Virtual Reality Will Likely Have a Real Effect On Virtual Fashion - Here's Why

Clueless Closet
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Yesterday, Hamlet asked me if I thought that the proliferation of VR tech like the Oculus Rift could eventually alter how we dress our avatars. I sort of scoffed at the question; I didn't see why or how it could. The avatars we choose for ourselves express what we want them to express one way or another, so why would that change based solely on our physical (or digital) perspective?

And then I thought about it a little more.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that there could definitely be a change. However, any potential change will depend a lot on how we'll see ourselves. Literally. Here's what I mean:

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Iris Wants to Know: What's Your Avatar Style?

Loony Columbia Sora
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

How would you describe your avatar: Sexy, cute, beautiful, or interesting? Maybe all of the above, or maybe none?

This may seem like a borderline hypocritical follow up to my post yesterday about Second Life's advertising strategy, but it's actually something that's been on my mind since I wrote about the new mesh heads from SLink. Neither Becky nor Emma, the two faces currently available from the fledgling Visage line, really "hooked" me. While I can appreciate how well made they both are, I can't see my avatar wearing either, and I wanted to pin down why that is. 

The way I see it, there are 4 kinds of avatars: Sexy, cute, handsome/beautiful, and interesting (which I'll admit is a bit of a catch-all). My own Second Life avatar (and my intentions for her) experienced a pretty dramatic change when I first came across Loony Columbia's Flickr gallery. As in the pic above, she shows avatars that are cute in a way I hadn't really considered possible in SL, even though it was a style I admired a lot in RL. Thanks to Loony, I ditched my pursuit of fashion mag glamor and swerved down the path of colorful cuteness instead.

These four categories are rather oversimplified, but they certainly aren't distinct, and they don't apply to human avatars alone. They can overlap in any number of ways to create what I think is a pretty solid spectrum of the avatars I've used and seen in Second Life and beyond. I'd pin Emma and Becky in the "beautiful" category, while Loony Columbia's pictures generally fall squarely between "cute" and "sexy". At the same time, I have a couple dragon avatars I'd call both "beautiful" and "interesting". I'd even say an avatar could meet all four categories at once. 

So here's what I want to know: What category would you place your own avatar(s) in... Or what category would you add to the list to include your preferred style? As always, leave your responses in the comments below!

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Try Them On This Weekend: SLink Visage Debuts Second Life Mesh Head Line With "Sisters" Becky and Emma

Cherylblossoms in SLink Visage
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

You've probably been seeing this woman's face all over Second Life lately, and if not SL then certainly most metaverse fashion blogs. Between Becky and her older sister Emma, modelled in the crisp and almost uncanny image above by talented fashion blogger Cherylblossoms, SLink's new Visage mesh heads have quickly become a success. The Visage heads are very expressive, and particular care has been put into how the entire face displays an emotion as opposed to just the eyes and mouth. We tend to focus on those two features, but when the rest of the face isn't moving with them it creates a straight drop right into the Uncanny Valley. These full-face expressions give Becky and Emma a much more realistic edge over the competition, and makes both seemingly ideal for virtual photographers.

But here's the real selling point: Much like SLink's equally popular mesh hands and feet, the skin of the Visage heads can be changed using appliers, which means that unlike many other mesh heads there's a good chance that very soon you won't need to tear yourself away from your favorite skin brand to enjoy it.

On the other hand, liking a mesh head often comes down to liking the face regardless of the technical features behind it, and I'll admit that Becky and Emma haven't quite hooked me. I have my fingers crossed that designer Siddean Munro will be making even more faces to fill out the SLink Visage line and that one of them will win my heart, but until then I can still appreciate the craftsmanship on these sisters.

You can take Becky and Emma out for a spin at SLink [SLURL], or visit designer Siddean Munro's blog for more information.

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How to Do Normcore With Your Second Life Avatar

Normcore Second Life

Hey did you know "Normcore" is a trendy trend in fashion nowadays? New York Magazine knows. So does Juicybomb, who lays out the way to Normore in Second Life:

  • "Ruth your hair. Yes, that’s right. Ruth it. Ruth it all day long. If you aren’t brave enough, just use old sculpt hair. Buy old hair from B@re Rose in a funky color, or old Nylon outfitters creations. Boom! #normcore at your front door. You are so cool without realizing it.
  • "Don’t flaunt it. Don’t go overboard. It’s okay to sport SOME mesh stuff, just don’t go completely there or else it’s like you’re doing too much. You want a little retro for your look or else hel-lo, 2now4us.
  • "Don’t wear an AO. AO’s are for people into their avatars. Are you into your avatar if you’re #normcore? No. You are not."

And so on, and so hilarious, so read the right rest now.