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Posts: 104


May 12 10 5:21 AM

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This Tutorial will Teach you the basics of making alpha Textures in Secondlife Using Photoshop CS2

Tools Used:  

Genius 8x6 Pen Tablet (Not Required)
Photoshop CS2


Have you ever Taken a look around a high traffic Clothing mall and noticed nice little tidbits like tattoo's and Pasties or seen some great house build and saw windows on it that were one prim using a texture that was see through on the glass parts, and thought to yourself, "I wonder how they do that?"

Well, You are in luck my good chap, Fion is here to teach you the basics of how to make whats called an "Alpha Texture" Which is what We builders use to be creative with our builds that require certain Parts to be -Transparent- in able to look right.

Some examples would be items such as Windows, Tattoos, Clothing, and hair. all of these at some point have had builders use alpha textures to complete. But don't let this ridiculously small list discourage you. Alphas are used for a very large variety of things, in the end its up to you how you choose to put alpha textures to use.


Lets start by thinking up an idea.  In my case I am gonna make a chest tattoo in the shape of a simple Heart

First were gonna need an avatar:

This Ol' Lopunny of mine will do nicely.  Notice how the avatar i chose if fairly clean on the torso,  In my professional opinion, Things like tattoos can be very hit and miss. However, i will say that the more complex the skin is on the torso, The trickier its gonna be to make it look right, even if its something as simple as a shape.

Now that we have out avatar, Lets begin


STEP 1:   Use a Body Template ( Not required for non-avatar based Textures)

There are plenty of body templates available to use with photoshop and Gimp if you use gimp, for this tutorial i will be using Photoshop CS2.

If you do not have a template, I would Highly Recommend  Robinwoods UV Textures,  I have been using them since my earliest days of Secondlife and they have never failed me.

You Can also Download templates from the Secondlife website:


Step 2: Create a Design

So we got our body template, Lets load it up in secondlife

It should look more or less like this in Photoshop.  Notice how the template i chose has every Polygon Line and edge labled for easy refrence, this is going to be our guideline for this small expiriment Primarily the polygon lines.

Next we need to get our shape, For this tutorial im gonna Use a Basic shape in our Custom Shapes list:

And were gonna select the heart Shape from the drop down list located at the top:

Alright! We now have our heart shape located. We can move on to the next step


Step 3: Applying the design

Now lets apply that shape to the template.

Simply Click the shape tool on the chest:

And Drag

Success! now there's a nice simple crisp shape on the chest set to make into an Alpha.


Step 4: Making the Design an Alpha

Now That we have the shape in place, we can finally make it into an Alpha by setting Transparencies.

This is the tricky part.

First were gonna Rasterize our shape

To do this you need to ""Right-Click"" on the layer Named "Shape 1"

This will pop-up a menu, in that menu you are gonna click the option named ""Rasterize Layer""

What this does is make the layer no longer a "shape" Layer, making it free-for-all for modification.

Next were gonna take the Magic wand tool:

And Click in the center of our heart we placed earlier:

If you did this rightm ther should be a scrolling B/W marquee around your heart.

Now what were gonna do next is go to the window our layers are located
 And Click on the ""Channels"" Tab

This will change the tab to show 4 identical layers, from that point you need to click on the new layer Button.

This will create our transparency Layer and apply it to our heart which should still have the marquee over it. ( If it does not have the scrolling marquee over it, please refer back to the beginning of Step 4 )

From this point we need to take the ""Fill"" Tool and fill in the heart outline in a SOLID WHITE.

((In this mode, transparencies are determined by how white or black the marquee'd areas are solid white being 100 Opaque and solid Black being 100% Clear))



Now all we have left to do is save our file and apply it to our secondlife avatar

Click on file at the top left and hit "Save as"

Now these are important for making sure the alpha will work.

You must make sure they have these specific properties


And click save and Ok to all menu's

Congrats! you finished all that hard work!


Step 6: Applying in world.

 Now we have to apply it to our avatar in world. 

First find the location in which you saved your .TGA File and upload it to Secondlife as an Image file

Right click on yourself and click "Apperance" to go into avatar apperance. then click on "undershirt" .

From that point go to your inventory and find the file you just uploaded and apply it to the "fabric" Window.

Apply the image and hit "OK"

And there you go! you just created an alpha texture and applied it as a tattoo.


Final Word/Recap

Is it the best thing ever? Most certainly not. in fact it needs cleaning up, but its not important. the important thing is that you undertand the concept behind alpha textures and how they apply to objects and avatars,

Just for fun i took the texture and applied it to a basix box, and stretched it to show as another example.

So i hope this tutorial helps you to make and understand alpha layers better.

And remember, practice makes perfect.

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