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August 7, 2006

Texturing the Build


As we prepare our on-site visit to the aloft design warehouse before we begin work on the hotel interior, the time has come to begin creating textures for the rest of the island in earnest.

Creating textures for use in Second Life is generally done in a program like Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or GIMP. I've worked in Photoshop for about 7 years now, so I have a good working knowledge to draw from - but like designing for any medium, creating textures for SL requires some specialized knowledge of what to do and what not to do to get the best results. It’s kind of like designing graphics for a website - physical size and file size play a big part in how fast your graphics will load for a visitor, which can make the difference between an enjoyable build or a frustrating experience.


Also being able to "map out" how the textures will be applied to prims of various sizes allows you to create some pretty neat effects, like the extra-large sunflower logo shown above, which stretches across 6 prims of differing sizes.

Another level of texture creation for SL involves knowing the limitations of the SL client itself, and how to fake a richer visual effect. Adding shadows and lighting effects directly to your textures before you upload them into SL (known as "shadow baking" or just "baking") gets around the fact that SL, as a streaming client, doesn't render realistic shadows. (The program can shadow individual prims, but a light pole won't cast a shadow onto the ground, for example.) Taking the time to add something as simple as a gentle gradient along the side of your walkway can have an immediate visual impact, making a flat texture seem more engaging and real. You can also go a step further and recreate your entire build in a 3D program such as Maya, render realistic shadows and lighting, then import the textures that Maya creates into SL. The results from that process are truly beautiful, but can also be extremely time consuming. Like anything, we try to strike a good balance between what we have time to accomplish and how best to use that time.


Sometimes you can use certain areas of a build to concentrate extra shadowing work on to make a better overall impact. In the picture above, I baked a shadow of the tree and bushes onto the texture used as the wall behind the foliage. It is subtle, but it is something the eye is likely to subconsciously absorb, and can really enhance the realism of the overall build.

Finally, you don't want to go too overboard in creating a special texture for each prim, no matter how good the results may look. Like a website, each graphic is streamed to the visitor in real time and then cached. The more individual files, the longer it takes to load. Judicious reuse of textures in a large scale build is a must to keep load times down. Sometimes it makes more sense to add shadows via the use of extra prims that have a special gradient texture applied to them, and then placed directly over the prim you want to shadow.

Posted by Cory Edo at 5:51 PM in Texturing | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) |


Hi there, I am really interested to see the progression of this project. I have been using Second Life for about a month now. I initially joined for work research purposes but have really been drawn in. I wrote an article on my company's blog site if you get a chance to check it out.

I would love to view your hotel build and if you ever had time, to talk to you about future opportunities and how you think Second Life can be used as a promotional tool.

I will be sure to keep up to date with your blog. Good luck!

Posted by: Rebecca | August 9, 2006 10:37 AM

I am an architect who has been working for forty years in the hotel field and I am interested in exploring the possibility of presenting designs in a virtual world such as SL. I work with several CAD programs including SketchUp and would like to know if there is any provision for importing dxf or 3ds models into SL. I would hate to think that I would have to recreate the entire model using SL's building system.

I also can't see some of my clients going through the process of getting SL memberships, logging in, and learning the interface just to see their project. "Can't you send it on a CD?"

Posted by: Dick Eades | August 9, 2006 12:00 PM

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