Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Skins I'm In

After yet another skin purchase tonight, I took stock of those I've accumulated in my inventory over the past few months. I've noticed that I tend to wear a new skin set until I get something new, and then the older one gets "retired" and not used much or at all afterward.

Since well-made skins can cost a lot, that probably isn't the best approach. Running through what I have may help with making better use of the older ones.

Second Life starts you out with a very basic newbie skin that almost no features to it at all. I am not sure how long it took me to buy my first improvement to it, but the earliest one I recall buying is this one from PixelDolls, and the file properties tell me I acquired it about two months after first signing up.

This is a decent skin, though not outstanding. After my early days, I began trying to stay away from the body-builder look -- the skins with tightly cut abs and bulging pecs look too action-movie cliche, and far too common in Second Life. Here you set yourself apart by being a little less than ideal. This one has subtle muscle definition, but the level of feature detail is not what it could be. I have two versions of this skin, this one and one with sideburns in addition to the goatee.

(The goatee is another look I've largely shied away from, this one skin excepted. Not because I don't like it, but because for a while it seemed every skin I looked at that had facial hair had a trendy goatee, or soul patch. Finding skins with a full beard took some searching, although they seem to be more available now.)

I also have three skins from Dragonfly Designs. The one pictured here, with the beard, was the one I used for my "Professor" look, although I had a slimmer body shape to go with that. I have the same skin clean-shaven, and also clean-shaven with red eyebrows.

The muscle definition on these is about as far as I prefer to go toward the body-builder look. The nipple detail is nice, and the area around the neck and collarbones is well done. The only real drawback is the tone, compared to some other skins, looks a little yellowish to me. I don't know if it really is or was just some trick of the light the one time I noticed it, but these served me well for a good long while.

Dragonfly also offers a good range of facial hair. They were the first place I found to offer a good full beard, and the eyebrows are not as overbearing as those I've seen on some other designs.

I used these up until a couple of months ago, when I decided I wanted an image change. The Professor look I liked (and still do), but the slender body shape was starting to seem limiting. In real life I am not so slightly built, and Morgana and I have been trying to keep our most frequent SL look somewhere in the ballpark of our real selves. So I ended up getting a new shape, and tweaking it carefully, and that of course called for a new skin.

I hesitated for a couple of weeks before spending the money for Second Skin Labs' Adam. I plan to get a lot more use out of these, even with tonight's new acquisitions. They are very detailed, including a great amount of attention to the back -- shoulder blades and spine -- that many skin makers simply gloss over. And the body and facial hair is the most realistic I've seen. The designer photo sources at least some of the layers in these skins, and while that technique does not always work well, here it does.

Morgana showed me the ones I picked up tonight. They are part of the new Hunter line from Nora Entice. The particular trio I picked up are designed for the older man, with crow's feet around the eyes and wrinkles in the forehead. The same skin comes in a more youthful version and I may pick that up soon too, but the older look appealed to me -- partly because it's rare and partly because these are well done.

The one pictured is called "Grizzled," with the five o'clock shadow. The set also includes a clean-shaven version called "Aged," and another clean-shaven one with less pronounced wrinkles, called "Mature." The three of them give a good range of ages, and I can further enhance the effect with a good choice of hair.

Skin choice in Second Life is about trade-offs. I love the richness of Adam's skin tones, for example, but it doesn't have a bald head option, so any hair I choose has to either completely cover or blend into the hair it comes with. The Hunter line offers a less callow look than many skins, but it lacks body hair altogether, except for pubic hair, so the body looks a little sterile. The Dragonfly skin gives me a good full beard option, but also has abs that I'd prefer to be more subtle. Having a range of options, even though it can be costly, is the only way I know to deal with the inability to find the one perfect skin set.

I am sure women have it as bad, or even worse, as makeup options are hardwired into female skins the way facial hair choices are for men.

Along the way, I've picked up a few novelty skins, things I can't wear often but have been glad to have on hand when they're needed. I'll post another entry soon about those.

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