Software Required: Photoshop 7.0.1/CS/CS2 & Second Life

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If you are using Photoshop 7.0, please make sure you upgrade to Photoshop 7.0.1. See this post for more details.

Creating a Tattoo


Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3
  1. Make sure you have your template set up as described in Creating Your First Shirt
  2. We need to find a nice design for the tattoo. Pick something small and relatively simple—we're not quite ready for a multi-colored dragon running the length of your avatar's back. I'm going to use one of the designs from a typeface available on the Web called Tattoo (fig. 1). Any dingbat or symbol typeface will work for this example. Mythos, a font from Adobe, also has some nice pictograms.
  3. Open up the Upper_body_template.psd file in Photoshop and prepare it using the same steps you used in Creating Your First Shirt (fig. 2)
  4. Using the type tool (shortcut "T") place a single symbol using your chosen symbol typeface in the shoulder area of the UV template (fig. 3). I'm using the letter "p" from the Tattoo typeface which is a pictogram of a scorpion.
  5. Good so far, but we don't want our entire body covered in white, so we need to create an alpha channel so that just the tattoo shows up on our body and the rest is transparent. Remember, in an alpha mask, black is transparent and white is opaque—which is the inverse of what we now have on-screen. What is currently black on-screen (the tattoo) we want to be opaque.

  6. Fig. 4

    Fig. 5

    Fig. 6

    Fig. 7
  7. Make sure your tattoo layer (called "p" unless you renamed it) is selected in the Layers palette. From the Select menu choose Load Selection.... You should see a dialog box like the one if figure 4. Choose "OK" and notice that there is now a marquee (marching ants) around your tattoo. You selected just your tattoo.
  8. Click the Channels tab in the Layers palette (fig. 5). If an alpha channel called "Alpha 1" already exists, delete it by choosing Delete Layer from the Layer menu or by dragging the "Alpha 1" channel to the channel palette trash bin at the bottom.
  9. With your tattoo still selected, click the Save Selection as Channel button at the bottom of the channel palette (fig. 6).
  10. You should now have a new channel in your channels palette called "Alpha 1" (fig. 7). In earlier versions of Photoshop this new channel would have been simply named "#4." Why #4? Because technically it is the fourth channel in the document following the red, green, and blue channels.
  11. Click back into the Layers palette and select your tattoo layer by clicking on it. Pop quiz: What would happen if we saved our image file right now? We would have nice transparency, but our tattoo would be white! Next question: Do we even need a tattoo shape in this tattoo layer? The answer is no. We've actually defined the shape of our tattoo using our alpha channel. As you become more proficient at designing clothing you'll soon realize that the shape of your clothing is almost always defined by your alpha channel—-while the patterns and fabric are in your working layer(s). Hide your tattoo layer, by clicking the small eye icon on the left side of the layer in the layer palette.

  12. Fig. 8

    Fig. 9

    Fig. 10
  13. It's now easy to make any color tattoo you want. Simply fill your working layer with a solid color. Select Fill from the Edit menu. (fig. 8)
  14. Select Color from the Contents Use menu (fig. 9) and choose a color from the color picker that appears. Hit the OK button once you've chosen your color.
  15. I chose a nice dark blue which as you can see in fig. 10 has filled my entire layer.
  16. You've probably noticed that the UV_Map layer is still sitting atop our working layer. Let's hide that by clicking the small eye icon next to the UV_Map layer. You'll probably forget to do this at one time or another—-I do it all the time and it's not until I've uploaded a texture and worn it that I realize my avatar is covered in grid lines!
  17. Flatten the image (Layer Menu\Flatten). When prompted click OK to "Discard hidden layers."
  18. Now you're ready to save your image for upload to Second Life. From the File menu choose Save As... and name your file. For file Format choose Targa from the menu. This should give you file and extension of .TGA. (fig. 11)

  19. Fig. 11
  20. In the Targa Options dialog box, check the "32 bits/pixel" Resolution option. (fig. 12) What's the extra 8 bits for? That's our alpha channel information. Not only does each pixel have a red, green, and blue value, it now also has a transparency value.

  21. Fig. 12
  22. Once you've uploaded your tattoo texture into Second Life, right click on your avatar and choose Appearance. Navigate to the Skin tab. (fig. 13) There are three different tattoos you can place on your avatar's body. In Second Life a "tattoo" is a texture that appears beneath clothing--it's really more akin to your avatar's skin (hey, I'm a poet). In Head Tattoo you can place a texture that has makeup or facial hair, and in the Upper and Lower Tattoos you can place other, ahem, bits and pieces--including our new tattoo.

  23. Fig. 13
  24. Go ahead and drag your new tattoo into the Upper Tattoo image well or click on it and select it using the texture picker.
  25. Good job! You're done. Now you can show off your new tattoo.
  26. tattoo fig 14