OHHI THIS IS AN OPINION POST! JUST MY OPINION! DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANNA HEAR MY OPINIONS! THIS IS AN OPINION POST! JUST MY OPINION! KTHX!
So, hi there. :) I've had this post bouncing around in my brain for months and months, and I've finally put the proverbial pen to the proverbial paper. I've been involved in SL homes & gardens in some capacity or another since 2007. This doesn't make me an expert or anything; it just means I'm pretty darn familiar with where we've been, where we are, and maybe where we're going. I also get quite a few review copies from designers new and old, so I get a little bit of an inside peek at what's going on in the market. What I've seen in the past 2 years or so is HUGE growth in the SL homes & garden arena - while furniture and houses will probably never be as big as SL fashion, we're a hell of a lot closer than we used to be, and I love it!
With that said, being as immersed in SL homes and furniture as I have been, there are lots of little pieces of advice that I would give to new designers - and some old ones - if, you know, they asked. So if you're curious, keep reading. :)
OHHI REMEMBER THAT THIS IS AN OPINION POST! JUST MY OPINION! THAT'S ALL I'M SAYING! AN OPINION POST! KTHX!
1. Scale and proportion: pay attention to them! I moan about this all the time in review posts. I know that not everyone in SL is the same size, but that doesn't mean items can't be scaled realistically to the average. When you're building, make sure you're standing next to the item as you go...or sitting on it...or whatever makes sense so that you can see how it sizes up next to your avatar. If you have an especially tiny or especially large shape, then make a different shape just for building that fits an average size. Few things drive me crazier than chairs and couches that could fit 6 and leave my feet dangling a foot above the floor...or houses whose ceilings seem to soar 20 feet above, or whose doorknobs are at shoulder level to me.
I took these pics at this year's Home Expo. These are definitely extreme examples, and probably the worst disproportion I've seen. I don't understand how a builder can not see the problem here. So, you know...don't do this.
2. Remember that not everyone uses SL shadows. Certainly, shadows are becoming more commonplace as the viewers become more sophisticated, but I feel pretty sure that the majority of SL does NOT walk around with shadows on at all times. Houses and furniture should have depth and shadow built in, into the textures, and shadow prims where appropriate to give some weight and grounding to the piece. I also harp on this in my review posts all the time - a little bit of shading can make such a huge difference in an object. Without it, the piece just looks flat and unrealistic. I do realize that SL is a virtual world, of course, but that doesn't mean our stuff can't look as real as possible!These are examples of bad texturing, above. Flat, misaligned, with absolutely no depth...and these pics were taken in 2011, not 2005. BAD TEXTURING.
Same chair - one without shading in the texture, and one with. See how much more awesome shading is?
3. Study! Good texturing is not easy to do - I'd venture to say that it's harder than the actual building. But if you're serious about it, serious enough to open a shop, then you should be serious enough to do some research and studying and be ready to commit to lots and lots of practice. The internet is packed full of tips and tutorials on using Photoshop, Blender, Gimp, and tons more. Blender and Gimp are both free, as well, so if Photoshop is not an option, don't feel like you're stuck. And, if you absolutely do not think you're up for learning software for texturing, then take advantage of the awesome texture designers we have in SL who sell their work full-perm...but still, be smart about how you use those textures, and learn how to use them well. Thank goodness for those texture designers who provide shaded versions of their stuff - but that doesn't always mean you can take the shaded texture right out of the box and slap it on your prim. Be smart.
Resource links (these are just a few of my favorites - there are seriously 1000s and 1000s of resources out there - Google 'em!):
- Photoshop tutorials:
- My favorite texture designers in SL:
4. Be true in your vendor ads! This goes right back to the fact that not everyone uses SL shadows all the time. SL shadows are great for pictures, though, and they can make even the most elementary piece of furniture look amazing, since the SL shadows give all that depth and realism that we want to see. BUT your vendor ad should show the item as it is - no tricks, no fancy lighting. Use SL shadows for your staged blog pictures, sure - that's where you show the potential - but let's keep the vendor ads real.
5. Pay attention. The other great thing about these SL groups is that I can see what's being released. As a blogger, of course, I want to know what's out there that I could feature. But as a designer, I really want to know what's out there so that I know what's trending, AND so that I don't just repeat what 15 other designers have just released. It's inevitable that some of us are going to make and release the same things - it happens. BUT, we should all do the due diligence to know what's going on out there so that we know if there's recently been 5 new releases of a weathered park bench with pillows and an umbrella prop. It doesn't mean you can't release your own version, if you feel passionately about it - but at least be informed. (psst - I made up that example just for example's sake.) This is really important for new designers just starting out - if you want to be noticed, then you need to be different. Don't make your debut with the same couch and chair living room set that's been done in every color imaginable by 20 other designers.
Some great blogs and in-world groups to check out to stay on top of the house and garden trends in SL (in addition to Second Spaces, of course ;) ):
- SL House & Garden Too (in-world group)
- : The Nest Flock (in-world group)
- brinksie home & garden
6. Inspiration is all around...but mostly on the interwebs. As much as I encourage you to pay attention in number 6, I also know there's no way to know everything that's been released and by whom and when, all the time. I feel pretty sure that most of us, as designers, are looking at the same RL magazines and blogs and websites and Pinterest pics...so we ARE going to have the same brilliant ideas for new creations, and we ARE going to use the same inspiration pics to build them. It can't be helped. SO, if designer B releases a shabby blue table with a dark wood top and a basket of pinecones on top, soon after you release yours - don't assume there's been any foul play here, and don't cry "copycat!". Hell, go ahead and follow each other on Pinterest and discuss possible future collaborations since you both clearly have the same design ideas.
7. Sculpt packs are awesome, but use them with caution. I love full perm sculpt packs, especially the ones that include the baked shadow textures. They're awesome, and I own tons of them. If you, like me, don't have the tools or skills to make all of your own sculpts, then absolutely you should take advantage of the amazing sculpt designers who sell their work for exactly this purpose. BUT - make them your own. What I mean is don't just pull the sculpts out of the box, put them together exactly as the model shows, throw on the baked textures and slap a color on them. Learn how to mix and match pieces from multiple sculpt sets to create new items...or mix in a few of the sculpt pieces with regular prims to create something new...and use those baked shadow textures, but use them with your own textures (see #3) for a look that no one else has done. There are a few free packs of sculpted chairs that have been available on the Marketplace for the past year or so -- they're amazing sculpts with gorgeous shadow maps - but omgah I'm so tired of seeing them everywhere!! Let's mix it up! (I'm sure this will apply for mesh -- once mesh becomes the norm, I'm sure there will be full-perm mesh designers, too - so be creative with those packs!)
8. Seriously, mix it up. This is absolutely a personal preference - OHHI OPINION POST - but bottom line is that RL designs and decor are not perfect and they are rarely perfectly symmetrical or uniform. SO - make your SL designs a little messy. Your dining table has 4 chairs, great -- don't give me 4 copies of the same chair. Vary the textures slightly on each one...give one a tiny little lean...make sure the wood grain isn't EXACTLY the same on each one...make it real. Make your rooms look lived in, too - that room set looks great, but give it some personality. A magazine open on the table...a pillow knocked off onto the floor...a few random items strewn about. Have fun with it!
9. Do it for love, not for money. We've all got bills to pay in SL, so of course we want our designs to sell. But if you decide to start building houses or furniture because you think you can make a quick buck -- please don't. LOVE THE PRIMS.
**END OF OPINION POST - THANKS FOR READING!!**