You are now going to grab a box of unsorted freebies from Free Linden Land, there is one for men, and one for women. These are a very hit or miss affair, but Caramel, the skin, is very popular for its look around the eyes. You should go back to trying on shapes, and then put skin over them. The clothing and lingere and eye boxes are also worthwhile.
I'm now going to talk about the most gregarious camping pod I know of in SL, and a major bargain for girls. Guys, remember lesson one? It applies here, these are only girl's skins. Platinum. I have my ups and my downs with their main skins. I've seen them used very effectively, but they need stronger jaws than the models they use. The also look better at a distance than many high priced skins because of their smoothness. On the other hand, they don't work close up as well as skins in their price range should.
The Platinum store is one of the most appealling on SL, because it is open, bright and airy, and there is no arguing that Platinum's coffee shop is packed, a good place to meet people, and bubbling with actual conversation. After seeing thousands of ghastly quiet camping pods, this is a welcome relief. If you need a few stray linden then camp.
The freebie skins are around back, you must walk out of the main store, around the back, and then towards the huge crowd. Before you get there there are a series of vendors with some very nice, 1L skins. Paris, Tara, Mara, Charlotte - are all quite nice. There isn't a bad one here.
If you are under 30 days, your next stop is for the free skin sets at Tete a Pied - that is "head to foot" or TAP. Right at the front door, to the left and a bit above eye level, is a pair of signs. Touch these for a box of free skins.
Now get back to a public sand box, or some other place you can drop boxes. "Rez objects" in our local dialect. In your inventory, under the recent items tab, there will be a folder labelled "objects". In there, you will see some boxes from things you bought or touched for. You are going to do a little dance for each one. The first step of the dance is to drag the box from your inventory on to the ground. Wait for a slithering shaking noise. If you don't hear it, or if after you hear it you get a dialog box telling you that you can't create objects, then you need to go someplace else where you can.
Now, with the box on the ground, right click on it. You will get a pie menu. If it has an optionthat says "open" then chose that. You will get a dialog box with a list of items. Click "copy to inventory". If there was no open option, choose "edit". Click "more" and then you will get a series of tabs. One will say "content". Select the top level folder there, drag to your inventory.
Now you should have at least 2 shapes, and as many as 30 skins to start selecting from. Go through them one at a time. Try on all the shapes you have. Pic one whose face appeals to you.
Remember to right click on the empty box and "delete" and then "empty trash" in your inventory window.
Now it is really time to fiddle.
There are some other places to visit, there are some other things to get, but you've reached the point where you should be able to start building a real look around a shape and a skin. This process also takes time, and you will end up fiddling for a while. It's the nature of SL.
Right click self, for mac users cmd click works, and select appearance.
Click on the tab labelled "Shape", and here I have that quandry where the student in me wants to write "Shape." But the tab isn't labelled "Shape." but "Shape" instead. Some shapes are not modifiable, which is a nuissance. If not, you have to skip over this part.
Find someplace you can strip naked.
First thing, click legs, find feet size, set to 0. Almost all prim shoes are designed around having a foot size of 0.
Second thing is to click on "Body" work with your height.
Now you are ready to start doing the process of customizing this avatar body. You need to click on "Torso" next. The key slider is "Torso Length", because everything is figured off of that.
Here is where you will do something important, "Save as outfit". This body and skin combination is going to be a base, and it will be in every outfit you make. The first thing is to get your shape/skin combination working, and then have one in every outfit you own, so that you always look like you.
So save outfit and check shape and skin. Don't worry about anything else.
Now go back to editing, do your face, then work your way down your body. Write down these numbers in a text file, save as after each couple of steps, so that you can back track.
For girls you are going to want to save this version, and save a second one for skirts. There is a bug that makes skirts look much larger, how much depends on the skirt. For some, it is not a great deal, for others, quite a bit. So each skirt you wear you are going to have to slenderize your hips versus your nude/pants look.
One of the most important things about outfits is that if you open inventory, click on a folder with an outfit in it, they will be in the "Clothing" folder by default, and drop it on your avatar, it will detatch all, remove all clothes and put on whatever is in the folder.
There are two catches. The first is that things like AOs and tools are also detatched, the second is that making an outfit makes a copy of everything. This means that no copy items will be moved into the folder with the outfit name. This, when you have no copy items, is a nuissance, because then they will be hiding in the folder with the outfit.
So the guide to good outfit making is to follow some simple rules. Start from the right body/skin combination. For men and for women in pants, your default, and for skirts, from your slender hips version, or if you prefer, a version with wider love handles. Name the outfit well, put an "*" in front of your defaults so they are at the top for future outfit building. Make sure that you only put in objects which are copiable, or you don't want in any other outfit.
The things you will use all the time, like your AO and tool, should be in a separate top level folder, whose name starts with an asterix. So go to inventory, create->folder. Then right click on "New Folder" and rename it to "*AO/HUD" so that you can put tools in it, and rapidly wear them again. The process of changing clothes will be be, then, to drag and drop the outfit on you, and then wear the HUD/AO combination you from your AO/HUD folder.
The Skin Game
While your shape is your wire frame, your skin is really what people will see as your face. The single most important things to do are to get your mouth and your eyes right, and settle the nose, cheeks and chin around them. A mouth that is too wide or too puffy will ruin even expensive skins.
Start with getting the eyes right, then adjust the corners of your mount under the middle of your eyes. Then adjust the thickness of the lips until they are proportionate. Then work the nose and chin so that the nose so that the length of nose is roughly the length from the bottom of the nose to the chin.
Go through several rounds of this, because this is going to be "you" to most people. It is worth getting it right, and even taking some pictures. Some day if I am bored, IM and ask me to do my Hillary Clinton look alike face.
I'm going to leave aside the problem of populating an AO for the moment, because it gets me off of the subject of where to go to get your basic kit of things.
For both boys and girls, formal wear is a big deal on SL. So my next post is on getting free formal wear, some more free and cheap prim hair, and some very cheap accessories to start tying all of this together.