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RoseBeMine
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It's a combination of both skin and shape that "make" a face.  If you like the overall shape of your face but want a "look" that is a little more to your liking then the best way I know is to go shopping for skins.  Don't buy one until you find one that works for you and your shape.........get a bunch of demos and try them on until you find one that is best for you.

 

Can't help much with AO's.  The only AO I use is a walk.  I found that those stands and sits are annoying.....for the most part they make you look nervous or have to go pee.

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Its kind of both.

The skin is an image - a picture - painted onto your avatar. The shape is the domensions of the avatar.

The actualy 3D dimensions, the shape, is very primative. SL dates to 2003, and the models have to work over the internet at a high speed. So while the shape can have a MAJOR impact on your looks, its also very limited. Make a skin that's just a plain gray texture and you'll see - the shape is limited.

So a lot of skins have details painted on above and beyond just color. They put in shadows and highlights to add dimension.

- Compare a cheap free skin with a high quality one (use a demo) - and look at things like face, buttocks, and bosom. Rounded areas that on the shape end up looking very poor. On a good skin you can get very curvacious 'parts' in the right places - which will look flat and deformed on the same shape otherwise.

BUT... put the good skin on a bad shape, or a good shape that doesn't match it, and it just won't do its magic well.

 

So... bit of both... :)

 

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Hi Ursula!

Again, the skin and shape work together to create the face. DON'T SPEND ANOTHER NICKEL ON SHAPES - or at least don't spend more than about L$300 IF you try a demo and LOVE how it looks. Every "human" shape in SL was made by manipulating exactly the same sliders that you can call up in "Edit My Shape." You can copy the shape you have now and experiment with it. If you want to try other skins I'd recommend looking at Redgrave (where we got your eyes), Curio and Belleza. Belleza would actually be my first choice for the age and look you like. Search for those names and "Skins." Don't spend over L$1000 for a single skin and always try demos first.

As far as AO's, there are inexpensive starter AO's but the really good ones can be quite expensive. Most AO manufacturers will let you try out the poses that make up the AO in their stores.  Probably the best way to find a good AO is to "people watch" and when you see someone whose "moves" appeal to you ask them politely where they got their AO. I should be on tonight your time for a while if you see this and want to do more shopping.

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Hello !

youve had some great advice so far...but I will add, there are SO many hunts on in Secondlife at the moment, that have free skins, shapes, clothes etc in them. You dont really needf to go buying much at all ! Some hunts the prizes are free, some you pay a nominal fee...its a great way to explore new stores and see what their creations are like. You might pick up a skin in a pale shade that you love, so perhaps might wish to buy in a different skin tone etc...Ive found some very pretty skins lately that Ive kept from various hunts.

Here are a couple of web pages for you to look at.

http://slhunts.wordpress.com/

http://resasfreebiecorner.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/24-hunts-in-second-life/

http://pureeggsspam.wordpress.com/ (my own blog lotsa hunts and other stuff SL related)

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As pussycat said, there's no a unique combination between shape and skin to look amazing :P !!!!

If I can advice you, find a skin you like and try to create your shape on your own. You will get an unique avatar based on your tastes, and you will be able to modify it as many times as you like. It's not pretty easy first times, but it's neither so hard.

About AO, I'll tell you, there's too many differences between AO and AO to advice you a specific AO. I found a very good one like freebie, because they are more expensive. The only way is to ask around and search for it. I advice you to search a simple AO: with only a 3-4 standing pose, a walk animation and 1-2 sit pose = less lag and better look ;)

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I use an Ao from Noya it comes with a whole avatar, one of her model skins/shape. I really love the movement, if you would like to see it let me know and I can show you before you purchase. I believe the whole avatar and ao was about 299L but I am not positive as I bought it awhile ago. 

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Think of it in RL terms.  Your shape is like your skeleton, muscle and body-fat rolled into one unit...it is the bones and structure of your avatar.  The shape determines your height, weight,  how large or small your other assets like hands, feet, boobs, behind etc.  It is also 50% or more of the influence for your face features such as a tiny mouth, huge nose and squinty eyes (the other half of features is influenced by the skin).  The skin is an image that lays over the shape, like your skin covers your skeleton.  Your skin provides the shading, highlights and color for muscle, makeup, skin tone (from goth to very dark) beauty marks and freckles (skins can also now be amended with tattoos to change makeups, lighten darken skin, enhance cleavage and more).  The skin's shadows and highlights influence the appearance of features created by your shape like eyes, nose, lips and eyebrows.

You don't "see" the shape, you do see the skin...but it is the marriage of both that make your avie.

When changing skins or shapes it is important to remember that not all skins and shapes marry in a attractive way. You can have a great skin, a perfect shape and still look horrid if they are not compatible:

  • If you are buying a shape, make sure that the creator includes, at minimum, the information on the skin used to for the box picture.  Also, try to buy modifiable shapes; this way if you change skins you can tweak your shape to accommodate the new skins shading. Or, just tweak your look as your taste and style change.
  • If buying a skin ALWAYS try on demos on with your shape before you buy. 
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Hello RoseBeMine. You got some great suggestions here. About skin and shape: The picture you look at Marketplace or at stores in world is no a criterion for you to decide. What you see is a combination of a specific skin, specific shape with some extra stuff sometimes like eyelashes and maybe editing with photoshop or other programs. The best you can do is to try demos before you purchase. Most users in SL (if not all) spent long time to "build" their avatar till to have a result with which they are completely content and they enjoy. About AO's: My suggestions is to try at first free ones you can find at Marketplace. They are no bad really. If you consider after that you need something better, you need to pay but always don't forget to try demo. Have fun!

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Oh I didn't even see the part of the question about AOs.

I like Random Kitten, Kami Hitoe, or mamesando most.

But the #1 rule for an AO is buy it inworld after demoing ALL of the animations on it. Budget about 600L for it. It might cost a little more or you might get it for a little less - but too far outside that range and you're getting cheated or you might not be buying enough animation-variety.

 

Another thing about the pictures you see on marketplace or in stores: half those skin / shape sellers doctor up the image in photoshop / gimp or something. Be wary. If there's no demo don't buy. Once you're more experienced and know what parts of the Second Life 'body / avatar mesh' never look right or stretch, you can spot the places where an image was doctored up - but for now, just don't trust it unless you try it.

 

 

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If your shape is modifiable, you can edit the face using the sliders. This is how all shape creators make their shapes. Skins will look different depending on the shape, so it's a good idea to find - or make - either a shape or a skin you love, then find the other to match it. So if you fall in love with a skin, find or create a shape that compliments it; and if you fall in love with a shape, find a skin that compliments it.

As for AO's, everyone feels differently. Many people "create their own" by buying different single animations and loading them into an AO HUD. It is a more unique look, as chances are no one will move quite the same way you do if you do this, but for me it's too much trouble trying to time everything correctly, so I prefer to go with premade AO's. Vista is very popular, but expensive; Oracul is also popular and less expensive, but VERY dynamic - lots of movement, and for me it's a little too much.

AO affects your "attitude," so think about how you want your avi to act. It's essentially your body language; you can go for shy, sexy, sweet, cute, dangerous, ladylike...almost anything. It's good to have an idea in mind of what you're looking before you go shopping.

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I sort of had the same quesiotns about my avi a few months back. I had a really good shape base that I modded myself, and it came with some really decent skins. However, recently I bought some high quality skins from Amacci and Al Vulo, and was amzed to see the differences each skin makes on the same shape. Just by changing skins i can almost completely change the look of my avi WITHOUT changing the shape. Good quality eyes also make a huge difference by giving some depth. As everyone else said, get lots of demos and try them out to get the look you want before you buy.

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