Free Skin Shootout

Skin is one of the most expensive investments people make, but what makes a “good” skin? There are a lot of crappy skins, some are just freebies re-packaged into vendors. The problem is that “good” depends on a lot of variables, many of which are subjective. In keeping with me “newbie getting adjusted to the grid” theme here, I’ve pulled up some of the readily available freebie skins for men and lined them up for a side by side comparison.

All told, these aren’t terrible. I get the distinct impression that some are actually identical skins that just had a name change and re-emerged. The question to ask is “do they look good enough?” My answer here is, “Maybe.”

I should also note, I’ve left off all the less defined, more cartoon-ish skins. There are some that look really bad, but this group of skins came to the top of the list.

First, we’ll take a look at faces.

Abyss

Abyss

Defectiva

Defectiva

We start with two that aren’t free, but I’ll use these as reference points.

Abyss has some very good skins at the higher end of the price range. Not exactly photorealistic but still amazingly good when painted on an avatar. You’ll have to make do with the demo because I don’t have enough L$ at the moment to buy one for this post. I don’t mean to imply that this is the *best* but it’s one of the top five male skins, I think. The second, from Defectiva, is my own Conor, Tan, Strap which you’ve seen in other shots.

Men and Hair

Where women have makeup options on their skins, men have hair options. Skins come with various beard and body hair painted on them, usually several of the same options across a variety of skin tones.

Bearded:
The Van Dyke style beard is very popular and these skins (labeled as found) show it in some small variation.

Braids

Braids

Michael

Michael

Paul

Paul

Goatee

Million Dollar

Ray Design

Ray Design



 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Look closely at Paul and Michael. To my eye, those look like identical skins. The shape of the hair patterns on both the eyebrow and beard looks identical, right down to the small brush strokes and placement of individual hairs.And while we’re on the subject of looking a lot alike, the Million Dollar Skin and Ray Design look pretty similar except for skin tone.

Not Bearded:

Bellesa

Bellesa

Empire Tan

Empire Tan

Goatee

MD: Goatee

Matthew by Platinum

Matthew

Samual

Samual

Steve

Steve



 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

The Bellesa skin is a freebie offered at the Bellesa store and actually looks a little better than shows up in the snaps. Matthew is the freebie skin for men from the Platinum store. The Million Dollar Skins are available at the Million Dollar Skin store and comes in a pack of four with various beard options. The others are just skins I found in various freebie lots. Close examination of Empire Tan and Steve makes me think they’re the same skin as well.

Upper Bodies:

“Definition” is the term most applied to body skin. Given the basic structure of an avatar, how a skin maps onto the shape and provides detail in terms of highlight and shadow is what sets a “good” skin apart.

Abyss

Abyss

Defectiva

Defectiva



 
 
 
 
 
Once again, these are the purchased skins for reference. Notice the way the muscles are indicated with light and shadow and the variations in color and body hair.

Bellesa

Bellesa

Braids

Braids

Empire Tan

Empire Tan

Michael

Michael

Million Dollar (Goatee)

MD: Goatee

Matthew

Matthew

(VanDyke)

MD: VanDyke

Paul

Paul

Ray Design

Ray Design

Samual

Samual

Steve

Steve

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The detail variations here are really interesting. Seeing the torsos lined up, the similarity between Michael and Paul is evident. What’s less obvious (because I got the pose wrong) is the similarity between the Million Dollar (VanDyke) model skin and the Ray Design.

Another interesting detail is revealed in the nipples. Granted it’s not something I’m normally looking at on guys, but there’s some strangeness in these.

Paul

Paul


Here’s a close up of Paul’s nipple. Notice the kind of pinwheel asymmetry in the shape that’s repeated on Paul. If you look closely at Steve and Empire Tan, you’ll see the same shape, but capsized.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Samual

Samual


This is a close up of Samual’s chest. There’s a very prounounced discoloration indicating that the nipple was apparently moved. Comparing this skin to the MD:Goatee and Ray Design, we see a lot of similarities that weren’t obvious on the first blush. Once you know it’s there, the lighter circles jump out of the torso shot on Sam.

Legs and Feet:

The lower torso is often revealed in swimwear and shorts, even for guys. While most guys probably wear long pants, it’s worth paying attention to the variations in leg and feet.

For comparison purposes, once more, here are the Abyss and Defectiva skins:

Abyss

Abyss

Defectiva

Defectiva

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I didn’t do a good job picking up the foot details on these two shots, but the top of the foot on the Abyss skin is very nicely detailed and the whole leg is depicted very realistically. By comparison, the Defectiva skin is relatively featureless except for some shading around the knees and some very subtle shading on the upper thighs. It actually looks a bit sharper in-world than in these snaps.

Bellesa

Bellesa

Braids

Braids

Empire Tan

Empire Tan

Michael

Michael

Goatee

MD: Goatee

Matthew by Platinum

Matthew

VanDyke

MD: VanDyke

Paul

Paul

Ray Design

Ray Design

Samual

Samual

Steve

Steve


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I won’t take up time discussing the similarities so much this time. If you follow the pattern you’ll see that it continues into the lower extremities. One thing I do want to point out is the foot detail in those images where I actually caught the foot. In the MD: Base skin, the foot detail is nicely integrated on the shape. The toes line up with the end of the foot and it looks pretty natural. Compare that to the MD: VanDyke foot and you’ll see that the texture for the foot is slightly out of alignment with the foot itself and that same mistake is repeated on a couple of other skins.

My take away on these was a lot more positive than I thought it would be. Overlooking the possibility that somebody ripped off somebody else with copied skins, the only real flaws in most of them are the nipple-pin wheels. I really do like the Million Dollar Skin: Goatee version .. and as long as I don’t take off my shoes, it’s not a bad look. The real winner in this group is Braids, though, in my opinion. It’s cleanly done, has none of the flaws that I noted in the others, and other than being too “overly muscled” for my taste, would make somebody a good starter skin.

Braids

Braids

This is the skin without my prim hair on and you can see the detailing on the scalp which gives the skin its name. This hair texture gets in the way of my normal hair, but something with a longer tail in the back would cover it nicely. There is one flaw in this skin, too, but most people won’t notice it. He has two ear canals.
 
 
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you out on the Grid.

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About Roland

I'm just an oversized avatar in a silly virtual world.

Posted on December 5, 2008, in Freebies, Skin. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice overview of freebie skins for men!

    I’ve noticed on any number of skins the nipple distortion you mention and document. I’m not a designer, and what little I know about SL skin artwork, layout and creation comes from some conversations with designers and fairly limited research (a.k.a. “browsing”). So, keep your grain of salt handy. 😉

    The nipple distortion on the “Paul” skin looks like what can result when the nipple is placed right at the apex of the polygons that make up the avatar’s breasts. This leaves the nipple artwork susceptible to some distortion as the avatar’s shape is changed and the polygons resize and reshape. Sometimes you’ll see nipples simply go out of round, otherwise you may see an actual discontinuity like this one. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in either the original artwork or the overall skin design, just a result of the way the avatar mesh works. Moving the nipples away from the apex can eliminate or reduce this type of distortion, but this comes with its own potential issues, including the possibility of the nipples looking like they’re in the “wrong place.”

    The light-colored circular patch on “Samual” is interesting. You may well be correct that the nipple was relocated, but I can’t help wondering if the skin is tintable and something is showing through from beneath? Just a thought.

    It shouldn’t be too surprising that some free skins may show some slight flaws or other irregularities like the ones you described. While some free “designer” skins may be from older or discontinued lines but otherwise perfect, others may be designs that were never finalized and released for sale, and so may have some never-corrected imperfections. The beauty is that a freebie skin costs you nothing, so it’s surely still worth than you paid for it. I’m cautious regarding “non-designer” freebie skins, especially if they come with full perms. These may well be original work released into the world for free distribution, or legitimate individual modifications of open-source skin artwork like Eloh Eliot’s. But I’ve run into my share of skins that have been “ripped” from artwork by original designers and then turned into illegitimate freebies. I appreciate the fact that you mentioned this potential concern.

    As for the “double ear canal”…I’m not sure I would call this an actual flaw. There’s a fair amount of variation in the folds of the outer ear, and unless I miss my guess the artwork here is based on some photosourced elements, or at least photo reference. Somewhere, somebody’s wearing this ear in RL.

  2. Thanks for the excellent feedback, Ryan.

    I confess, the vertex idea hadn’t occurred to me, but it makes a certain amount of sense. I can probably test it by putting on one of these pinwheel shapes and “flexing muh pecs” to see if the shape of the pinwheel changes.

    I’ll look to see if that round spot is something “under” the skin, too.

    And the ear? I’ll confess, I have no idea, it just struck me as odd and that’s the *only* oddity in what is, otherwise, a wonderfully done skin.

  3. Yup. Good info there on the “pinwheel.” When I shifted my shape a bit, that pinwheel effect shifted as well.

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