Monday, August 17, 2009

BIG change!

I know you've been wondering why I haven't posted since May. I'm lazy, that's why. In addition to that, though, a lot has changed since my last post. The Alliance Virtual Library sold my lovely Only Yesterday sim, which meant that my nice big shop disappeared along with everything else that we created during the previous year and a half.

So ... Hallelujah Azul to the rescue! The new photo in the header on this blog is my fantastic new shop at Same name, but a lot cozier and friendlier than the old place. You have to come see!

When you do, you will find many different features. First of all, I have totally redesigned the way my work is displayed. I got rid of the old multi-item vendors and replaced them with nice simple ones that each sell one outfit. No more slow rezzing, and no more confusion about which button to push. The new photos are great, too.

Moving to a smaller shop and using single-item vendors has meant displaying fewer items, of course, so I've started putting other things on XStreetSL. In addition to beautiful dresses, blouses, and skirts, you can find some of my household objects (like clocks) and a few of the vintage buildings from Only Yesterday. Just search for items by Rolig Loon. Oh, and you'll also find some cute heeled sandals in several colors. Let me know how you like them. I might start making more, who knows? Here are the ones in lilac ....

Finally, I just got around to creating a group so you can keep track of new items as I add them to the shop and XStreetSL. I've been meaning to do that for a long time, and several of you have been asking. So, if you want to join, use you in-world Search to find the Så Roligt! group, or just drop by the shop and click the sign by the front door.

BIG changes! Now I have more to write about, so maybe it won't be so long till the next time I post.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Whoa! It's been way too long since I posted anything here. Sorry about that. I ought to at least put up a few photos of fairly recent designs, so you can see that I haven't just been sleeping.

This first one is a lovely spring dress with a lilac print and a broad cumberbund. It flows very nicely and is just the thing for a May afternoon.

The next one is just as pretty, but more summery. You can't tell from the photo, but it has a deeper cut neckline and is a lot more relaxed than the lilac dress. The rose print is very soft and delicate.

I went nuts with plaids for a while too, and made a line of pleated skirts ... some ankle length and some, like this next one, knee length. Pleats are great fun to make and to wear (so long as you don't have to press them). I like this particular plaid because it's bright. I can wear this blue turtleneck sweater with it and be ready for cool evenings, or can wear my blue-gray silk blouse for the warmer afternoons.

The other two I'll post now are ones you may remember seeing before, but not for a while. This little black dress has always been a favorite of mine, and it has sold well. It's nice and simple ... off the shoulder and decorated with a wide bow at the hip. It makes a nice cocktail dress... just the thing for an evening of dancing.

The last one is another that you have seen, but I have modified recently. It's the 1930's style dress I called Hyacinth. I think it looks very elegant with this hat and white gloves, don't you?

OK, this wasn't a wordy post, but I hope you liked the photos. I'm thinking of opening a new shop and using this style of posters to show my work ... maybe this summer. If so, I'll be sure to post the SLURL here so you know where to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tutorial - Dressmaking the "subtractive" way

When you sit down to make a dress in real life, what's the first thing you do? OK, I know, you look all over to find where you left your scissors. After that, though .......

Right! You get a tracing paper pattern -- one you bought at the fabric store or drew yourself -- and you cut it out and pin it to the fabric. The pattern acts as your guide for cutting the fabric itself, so that you don't make costly mistakes chopping away freehand with your scissors.

In this tutorial, I want to show you a similar approach to creating clothing for Second Life. My approach is different from the one you may have seen Robin Wood or Natalia Zelmanov describe on their web sites ( and, and it offers different advice from what you often read in the SL Texture Tips Forum. Those resources focus on the alpha channel as a way to create transparency -- which it is -- but I find it more useful to think of an alpha channel as a cutting guide, like your tracing paper dress pattern. This emphasis is not necessarily better, but it's different -- and maybe different in a way that will make more sense to you, as it has for me.

I'm going to make the top for a very simple dress with a half-wrap closure. It's the one in this photo, a fairly conservative red coquette that you can find in my shop on Only Yesterday. I'll be using Photoshop, but the same general approach would apply in any graphic design program that can handle layers and channels. The end product will be a TGA file.

My primary focus is on how to use an alpha channel image, so once I have done that I will zip through the remaining fun, artistic steps that create folds, shading, and other elements that make the dress come alive.

I can't pop down to the fabric store and buy a Simplicity pattern, so Step One is to draw my own. This crucial artistic step defines the shape of the dress. I do it by opening a copy of the avatar upper body template, creating a new layer just above the Background layer, and filling it with black. Think of this like wrapping a dressmaker's mannequin with a big sheet of paper. I find it easier to use tracing paper, so let's set the Opacity of this new layer to about 60%. It looks like this:

The avatar template is visible here because it is in layers above the one I just created. Reducing the opacity of the new layer just makes the template easier to see.

To make the pattern for this dress, I need to cut away portions of the new layer to define the neckline and the sleeve length, so I draw a path around each of those areas (see the red arrows). I have shown paths around all three areas to be cut in this composite screen shot but, in fact, I drew and cut out each of them separately. I just put them together in a single photo here for illustration.

By the way, it's tempting to draw paths freehand, but don't do it. Your hand is probably steadier than mine, but you'll still get wiggles that make a sloppy product in the long run. Instead, use your basic Pen tool to set anchor points all the way around an area and then use the Point Convert tool to drag the handles at each anchor point and create a smooth path. Then, right click inside the area and select Make Selection from the drop-down menu that appears. Be sure that the Anti-aliased box is checked and that the feather radius is set to zero, and click OK. Finally, choose Edit >> Clear to cut away the pixels inside the selected area. When I do that in each of the three areas for this dress, the layer looks like this....

I have just created a mask. I'll use it a couple of times. First, I need it to make a pattern -- the alpha channel. So, with the mask active, I right click the layer thumbnail and select pixels ... then Select >> Save Selection. In the pop-up window, I check to be sure that it says New Channel and then click OK. Voila! I have made a pattern.

To see what the pattern looks like, I can go to the Layers/Channels/Paths palette and select the Channels tab. I turn off the RGB channels and turn the new Alpha channel on. The screen image looks like this....

This really is a dress pattern. The black areas mark out places where I don't want any fabric in the dress and the white areas are places where I do want it. Remember that the avatar template also acts as a pattern of sorts. We don't need to have black "cutouts" in the alpha channel for anything that is outside the avatar body, because the template takes care of those areas for us.

What I'm about to say is a very important point to remember. Because the alpha channel is a pattern, I can turn off the mask layer I just created. I won't need it for cutting. In fact, I don't need to do any more cutting in Photoshop at all. The alpha channel will do it all for me.

Let's go back to the Layers tab to see what this means in practice. (Before I leave the Channels tab, I click the RGB eye icon ON and the alpha channel icon OFF.) I'm going to add a new layer above the mask I just created and then fill it completely with my fabric, like so..

The fabric for this dress is very simple. It's just a deep red that I have textured lightly with the noise filter and then blurred with a Gaussian blur to give it a soft look. If I had chosen a fabric with a print, I would have overlain different sections of the work area with pieces of fabric that I had rotated, stretched, or tweaked in other ways so that the print would line up across seams in the final dress. (I'll do this in another tutorial, and will also deal with using lace, which is a variation on the same theme.) Even then, though, I would be sure that the fabric layer was completely full before moving on.

Why is this important? First of all, cutting anything on the fabric layer is a waste of time. The pattern I made in the alpha channel is going to take care of all the cutting, so why do it twice? More important, though, cutting the fabric layer can create the dreaded "white halo" problem.

Let me explain, in inelegant terms that are technically imprecise but may help you to visualize the problem...

< < < < < < < > > > > > > >

In real life, suppose you gave a dress pattern to an assistant and said, "Put this pattern on that fabric and cut it out," but you gave the assistant a piece of fabric that was already trimmed to the right shape. This is a confusing command. Instead of complaining that the fabric was already cut, though, the assistant might try to obey by pinning a scrap of some other fabric under yours so she would at least be cutting something. Looking at her work later, you would be able to see the trimmed fabric you gave her, unchanged, and the edge of the extra scrap she cut.

A similar thing happens when your virtual pattern -- the alpha channel -- contains "cut here" information, but there's nothing to cut because you placed pre-trimmed shapes in the otherwise empty fabric layer of your image file. The graphics routine that processes your image, trying to obey, adds a little scrap of information -- pixels filled with white -- so that it has something to cut. The result is that your dress ends up with an ugly white halo instead of nice, clean edges.

As I said, this explanation isn't rigorous, so don't write to complain that I have misrepresented the finer technical details of the process. My point is simply this ... the white halo is created because you have told the graphics routine to use an alpha channel image to cut something that isn't there.

Graphic artists have many clever ways to remove the ugly white halo, all of which involve putting something into "empty" pixels that lie where the alpha channel "pattern" says to cut. These methods are all "additive," because they are putting new data into the image. (Some artists avoid the issue altogether by creating a PNG image, which uses a different approach.)

That seems like extra work to me, though. Why go to the trouble of cleaning up a problem that you could have avoided by leaving the fabric big enough in the first place? Don't use the mask to cut out things on the fabric layer. When you do that, you leave an edge that has "empty" pixels along it, inviting a white halo. Leave the fabric alone and let the alpha channel do its job.

< < < < < < < > > > > > > >

Back to the project, the rest of which is purely artistic. I begin adding extra layers above the fabric layer to define shadows, folds, and wrinkles, and to create the shape of the collar and simulate the way the dress wraps around the torso. On another dress, I might have layers for buttons, stitching, pockets, or other accessorizing features.

Here's a layer created simply to add shading and highlights to give the bustline better shape, for example. I start with a new layer, fill it with 50% gray and set the layer mode to Overlay. Then I use a series of soft brushes with the Dodge and Burn tools to produce the gentle gradations you see here.

I use the same methods to create the draped appearance where the front of the dress crosses over itself. This is a bit more complicated, because I want to create an impression of visual depth, so it's clear that the dress is wrapping around. To do this, I use a copy of the original mask as a starting point and cut along a continuation of the neckline to create a new mask that separates the left and right portions of the bodice.

This new mask makes it easy for me to do delicate texturing, especially along the line that defines that wrapped edge. Here's a close look at several merged layers defining folds and wrinkles on the right side of the torso .......

and a look at a similar collection of merged layers that define the left side. .....

Before uploading, I turn off any layers that should not be visible in the final texture. This includes all avatar template layers and any masks that I may have forgotten to close. The image on my screen looks like this ...

I can double check at this point to be sure that the alpha channel is going to cut this image the way I intended. To do that, I click the Channels tab in the Layers/Channels/Paths palette and then make the alpha channel visible temporarily by clicking on its icon.

As you can see, the alpha channel is prepared to do the cutting it was designed for. When I upload this texture to SL, the image in the preview window will look just like this, except that the bright red areas will be replaced with the checkerboard background pattern that indicates they are transparent.

All that's left is to save this PSD file and then downsize it temporarily to 512 x 512 pixels so I can save a copy as a 32-bit TGA file for upload. I'm done!

Here's the final product in world .....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Depot -- Only Yesterday

Before you say anything ...... yes, that's a new me in the photo. I have been thinking about a change for a long time, but just kept putting it off. A few weeks ago, though, I finally decided it was time. New skin, new shape, new hair .... the only thing that's the same is ME inside. ;-)

For the record, my skin is from Laqroki, my hair is Sirena's, and my shape was custom made by Rocksie Slade, the Shape Shifter, who is a genius and a good friend.

I can't believe what a difference it makes. If nothing else, it has boosted my self-image immensely. I just wish I could work this magic in RL!

One side effect, of course, is that none of my prim clothes fit any more. I gained three inches in height and I have fuller hips now. Skirts that used to be just right now sit low on my hips and are too snug. Darn the luck.

This is a good opportunity for me to remind you, though, that prim clothing almost never fits perfectly. It's a mistake to pretend that it does. We all vary in shape, just as we do in RL, so you should expect to make adjustments when you buy new clothes. Otherwise, you'll find that waistbands hang loose or the back panels in a skirt hit your tail end all wrong. Even if you're lucky and everything fits fine, you may still want to take a hem up or let it down to match your personal taste.

There's an art to adjusting prim clothes, but it's not a hard challenge. Next time you're in my shop on Only Yesterday, look for the free gift box that offers hints about adjusting. It includes not only a card with helpful tips but also a pose stand and a privacy screen that can be handy tools. I recommend that you also take a free yellow dress too, so you have something to practice on.

By the way, this cotton dress is new too. It's a nice, relaxed one that I made a while ago just for myself. A number of people have asked about it, though, so I decided to put it in the shop. I'm calling it Bluebird! for no particular reason except that it reminds me of summer afternoons in the Midwest.

OK, enough about clothes and the new me. You don't need to hear more about that.

Today I decided to show you a very nice part of Only Yesterday, the local train depot. It's built to resemble a small town railway station of the 1930s, the sort of place where a few passenger trains and a steady stream of freight trains would pass through every day.

The stationmaster has his office here. A potbelly stove keeps him warm in winter, and big windows give him a good view of the farm down the slope. It's a quiet spot most of the time, so he can put his feet up, enjoy a ham sandwich for lunch, and read the latest copy of Argosy magazine between trains.

I can't resist the temptation to sit at the window while he has stepped away for a moment. Can I sell you a ticket to New York City, maybe? There are special fares to see the World's Fair of 1939. No? Well, maybe Chicago? San Francisco? The trains go everywhere.

There's a very nice display of period photos to look at while you're waiting, and you can get notecards about rail travel too.

Ah, well the train has arrived, though! It's a beauty and it has a full head of steam, right on schedule and ready to head down the line. They'll leave as soon as the baggage is loaded, so I better get on and find my seat.

All aboard! I don't know where we're going, but my ticket is punched and I'm off for the adventure. Go wander around the sim and discover some of our other attractions. I'll see you when I get back!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fashion on Display -- for the 1930s

OK, so once again I have waited much too long since my last post. I would tell you that I've been busy, but I bet you have too, so that's no excuse. Anyway, I'm finally back at the keyboard. I want to tell you about a wonderful new exhibit on Only Yesterday.

Only Yesterday is a history-themed sim, focusing on the American experience of the 1930s. That's a tall order, because America has many different faces and the 1930s was a decade of rapid change. We try to balance parts of the sim that reflect the poverty and dispair of the Depression with the excitement of the Swing Era, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the decline of rail travel.

When my good friend Georgette Whitfield, who has a great boutique on the sim, volunteered to create a fashion exhibit, I thought it was a terrific idea. In addition to designing some very nice clothes, she has also done some modelling in SL.

The exhibit is on the second floor of the building next to her boutique, Chez Geo, right on the main plaza where most people arrive when they visit us. There's a TP pad at street level.

She has decorated with period illustrations from fashion magazines and catalogues, and has embedded notcards that pass on information about men's and women's styles. The one I was looking at in this photo has fashion tips about what well-dressed women were wearing. For example, hems are supposed to be mid-calf length, and hats are meant to be worn to one side. And never go out without your gloves and stockings!

This corner of the exhibit tells about makeup and beauty hints. Read the cards and you learn about how much simpler women's makeup was in the 1930s than it is today. You also learn some very unusual information. There's a very odd quote by Jean Harlow about hair care that you just have to read for yourself! I won't spoil it by telling you now.

In addition to the notecard information, Georgette has provided a bank of monitors that include links to many fashion sites, where you can see illustrations and read more about styles and trends of the 30s.

The part that I had the most fun with was the corner devoted to sewing. Times were tough, and women of the 1930s were much more accustomed to making and mending their own clothes than we are today. This foot-powered sewing machine is a lovely touch for the exhibit! I felt like sitting here for the longest time, thinking of what to make next.

In the end, I decided that the smart thing to do was alter my Hyacinth dress, the one I wrote about last spring. I lengthened the hem and ...Tada! It works. I added this wonderful hat from Ingrid Elegance, put on my stockings and gloves and a pair of black wedgies, and I was ready for a day on the plaza. Isn't it great!

Oh, I have to show you one other thing I did. It has nothing to do with the 1930s, but I think you'll like it. It's the cute lavender dress I wore for most of the photos in Georgette's exhibit. Here it is, close up.
It's very simple... a marbled lavender top that buttons up the front and a mid-thigh length flexi skirt. (My grandmother would have been scandalized, I know. ) It feels light and summery, and the color reminds me of raspberry sherbet ... my favorite!
As soon as I finish posting this blog, It's going into my shop too.