Professional Avatar Makeovers – Only L$4000/hour

by wendell on 08/11/07 at 4:39 am

Advice from designer Joel Eilde

by Wendell Holmer

It’s a good thing you can’t sweat in Second Life, or I wouldn’t have any friends. I go a month without changing my clothes. Eventually, someone says it’s time to burn my outfit and takes me shopping.

It never occurred to me that you could design a look the way an architect designs a house. But I finally met someone who does just that, and I was blown away. Makeover artist Joel Eilde deconstructed my avatar, piece by piece. He shared his likes and dislikes and his favorite resources. If you want your av to look like a real person, you’ll be interested in what he had to say.

I was visiting a fashion writer named Harper Beresford when Joel dropped by. Harper is so put-together, so classy and precise, I had an impulse to take her down a peg. I challenged Joel to evaluate Harper’s look. Here’s what she looked like that day.

Does Harper Beresford need a makeover?

“There are very few women in SL who I don’t have any advice for as far as their look goes,” Joel said, “but Harper is one. All the basic building blocks are there: She’s got a great shape, a great A/O, a great skin and great hair. And, most importantly, great eyes… which are the thing people tend to undervalue. She doesn’t go to extremes: her breasts are neither too big nor small; she’s not too tall or short; her hair is not too physically improbable.”

She blushed.

“Harper has a really good sense of color,” Joel went on. “When she wears something, she asks herself how it works with everything else she’s wearing. She understands her clothing has to work with her hair and makeup and nails. She also has a very good sense of accessories, which is pretty rare.

“She knows when to stop,” Joel went on. “Instead of piling on every single ‘extra’ she can find or, conversely, not adding any extra flourishes at all… she uses them like spice… to accent the meal but not be the meal itself. And she uses a facelight, which is something that should be law in SL.”

“A facelight?’

“Lighting is the very foundation of making things look real,” Joel said. “Nothing is more telling. Your great skin and great shape and great eyes lose some of their impact when you get shadows falling on your face because of the dynamic lighting that illuminates the polygons you’re made of—and you get hard shadows that don’t look human. The facelight takes those away, cleans up the shading and makes you look so much better. Softer. I would say all the skins need it equally.”

Here’s what Joel looked like, facelight and all.

Joel Eilde looks better than you do

“How about me?” I asked bravely. “Any tips?”

Joel was reluctant to reply—in part because he charges L4,000 an hour—but with some prodding from Harper, he agreed. Here’s how I looked that day:

self-made Wendell: before the makeover

“Would you like a belt to bite down on?” he began.

“Just give me a slug of whiskey and a bullet, and do your worst,” I said.

“OK,” he said, looking me up and down. “You’re a few notches above the “noob” look, but you could go further. You should start thinking about your av as a whole and not a collection of pieces.” He proceeded to dismantle me, piece by piece.

Skin:“Your skin is decent, but I am not impressed with the shading. It’s a bit pale. It gives you a powdery look which is further exacerbated by the black shirt and the black hair. Never get the darkest or lightest tan shade.There are few male skins that I really like in SL. I would suggest the Gabriel or Dante from Naughty. They’re a bit common, unfortunately, but they are rock solid and you can really build a good look around them. I do not recommend the Naughty skins for women, by the way. Another option for skins is RaC. Their skins are what I’d call ‘pro level.’”

Shape:“The reason your shape doesn’t work for me is because your legs are very thin, like an adolescent boy, but your arms look like you could bench press a car. And that, to me, says, ‘steroids.’ The one thing I get the most grief over is when I suggest that someone change their skin, hair or shape. They take it personally, like I’m telling them they’re ugly. Skin and hair and shapes in SL are just accessories. You can have several. I start people off at Dalian. They have a nice, inexpensive, moddable shape collection. They have a nice range of faces there. I find their shape called Derrik is a good neutral staring point, but follow your gut. Never get a non-moddable shape, no matter how good it is. Given the fact that people change clothes, skins, hair, etc… you need to be able to tweak it. When you’re editing your own shape, do it in small, small steps. Here’s the trick. Edit no more than 5 points a day. Get used to the changes. Then edit more.”

Eyes:“The brain makes its first decision about whether you look real based on whether it believes your eyes. If you have unrealistic eyes, the brain thinks you’re a mannequin. If you have believable eyes, you’re a person. The light reflectivity of your eyes isn’t too bad (though not awesome), but the color is going to ruin the realism of your entire av. The best eyes I’ve seen are from Naughty—Amby makes them. The tones are right and the reflections are perfect Not all the colors are great, but I like forest green, deep blue and mysterious brown.”

Hair:“That hair is good, Wendell. There’s a myth that there isn’t a lot of good hair out there for men. You can get hair–just not a lot of different looks. You have to hunt. If you are a guy who wants long hair, then forget the male styles and go straight to the female ones. Long male styles are usually identical to female ones anyhow, so why waste your time? Wrong has a really good long style (Style 4) that holds its own nicely. It’s a good style and the colors are sharp. Petrelli is a designer I like. People knock Naughty hair a bit. Not without good reason: Their line needs refreshing and they have three or four styles which are ubiquitous, but you can’t argue: the styles are good.”

Clothing:“Ok. Your freebie shirt. You gotta lose it. Even if it’s a good shirt, all the SL vets know it’s a freebie. And it labels you as a noob.

“The shoes are really good. I have a pair of those myself: the flare oxfords from Shiny Things. They’re versatile. They do casual and formal really well. As you know, the Shiny shoes come in various sizes. Men tend to just pick the size they think they are and not even consider what it looks like on their av. Some men are like 8 feet tall and built like oxen. And then they put on these ballerina shoes. It’s just weird.

“Your jeans are decent. The texture is good. A huge mistake you are making right now is that the jeans have no belt. Totally inexcusable. Sorry. Either wear a longer, untucked shirt or get a belt and use it.”

“Darker jeans tend to be better because they hide any problems with the texturing, and they don’t look like your wife dressed you. A good option for jeans is Wrong. They have a chart where you can choose the precise color you want and the kind of distress you want, i.e. ripped, paint-splattered, faded, etc. Redgrave has excellent denim textures. I would recommend that any men, who want a good pair of jeans, get it from Redgrave.”

Animation override:“The three cornerstones of your look are the eyes, the facelamp, and the animation override. That, of course, is a script that controls how your av stands, sits, and walks. You’re A/O, from Abranimations, is generally good. Some of your stands are decent, but it’s a bit fidgety. The timing is a bit fast, so it makes you look like you have to pee. Animazoo is one of the best ones I’ve found. Their basic male A/O is great.”

After an hour of deconstruction, I was ready to head back to Orientation Island and start over, but Harper bucked me up. She took me shopping, and we picked out a new body, skin, and clothes as Joel had recommended. The changes are subtle, but I think it makes a huge difference. Here’s what I look like now.

deconstructed and reconstructed Wendell: after the makeover

31 Responses to “Professional Avatar Makeovers – Only L$4000/hour”

  1. Nimrod yaffle

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Treasured Visions also has great eyes. I’m a furry and can’t wear custom eyes (without photoshopping), but when I model my human AVs for my products, I usually use theirs.

  2. James Kazan

    Nov 8th, 2007

    So for only L$4000(!!!)/hour he can turn us from men to lesbians! Erm.. sorry… metrosexuals!

  3. BigJack

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Face lighting is one of the little ‘secrets’ of SL .. it really helps make an av look good, and a good av look better. Those shadows from the overhead SL lighting can do horrors to anyones “look”.

    I even know a few dancers who have 3 or 4 lights attached to their av, lighting them from head to toe, front and back.

  4. Milla Michinaga

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Guys, check out for excellent shopping and dressing tips for men. Ben Vanguard, the blogger, knows what he’s talking about and you won’t go wrong following his advice.

  5. Sioban

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Ewww. Your original avie did need work, but now you’re sort of genderless. You CAN look masculine with out looking like you might suffer from ‘roid rage at any moment. What’s up with your shoulders? You went from steroids to no shoulders at all.

    I’m curious as to why your consultant only recommends a very narrow range of designers or companies. Are they really the only good designers for men? What about House of Zen, Simone, Shai, etc?

    This was an, uh, interesting demonstration of the consultants skills. Maybe she’s better with women.

  6. Artemis Fate

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Ugh facelighting, I HATE those things. For one, it makes you look odd as hell, since you’re standing there looking like you have 20 spotlights on you. For two, when one uses “3 or 4 of them”, they’re hogging resources, because SL can only render 6 light sources at once, that means wherever they go, they’re cutting down outside lighting to two for themselves and whoever is around them, and of course speaking of whoever is around them, facelighting while debatably making an avatar look better (in that i’m being interrogated by the FBI sort of way), they also directly effect every other avatar nearby, sometimes doing things they don’t want like giving bad lighting, or screwing with tinted prims (tinted prims, especially next to skin or non-tinted prims, get fucked up SO bad by lighting like that).

    So not only does facelighting not really make you look better, it hogs resources, and selfishly effects everyone else’s look in the near vicinity (up to 10 meters even if the people who made the facelights didn’t lower the radius, which they probably didn’t.)

    Besides that, sounds like she’s charging 4000L$ an hour to make you into a generic hoochie instead of a generic newbie.

  7. Retired Succubus

    Nov 8th, 2007

    I’m sorry – the “after” Wendell looks dreadful. You look like you need a fix, and a damn good feed. No one’s shoulders slope down like that in RL. I prefer your newbie look.

    As for Joel – le rowrrr! Got a brother?

  8. archie lukas

    Nov 8th, 2007

    but the post-makeover makes you look like a dodgy geezer down the market flogging TVs from the back of a Lorry.

    No thanks

  9. Noira

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Your oversized anime eyes make me feel like you’re either going to try to get me to join your new age cult, or murder me. Sorry!

  10. Ann Otoole

    Nov 8th, 2007

    guys can get a free makeover by finding one of my free male avatar kits and getting it for L$0. no facelighting involved. just a couple decent shapes that are mod/copy. i’m not the only one helping newcomers look better so look harder before burning money on a forklift. errr… i mean facelift.

    also… sl does interesting things to shapes over time. relying on someone else to do your shape is ill advised. you need to learn how to manage your own shape so you can fix it when the next fuckdate comes along and jacks up your avatar.

  11. Mytwo Cents

    Nov 8th, 2007

    “Joel Eilde looks better than you do”

    Emh … no.

  12. Joel Eilde

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Hi folks. I’d just like to note that I didn’t do Wendell’s makeover. I gave him some suggestions (some of which appear in the article) but I wasn’t asked for any input on it while it was in progress. His final look –good points and/or bad points– weren’t my handiwork.

  13. Reverse Writer

    Nov 8th, 2007

    Ugh, what exactly is the point of this article meant to be? Other than a free ad for a frustrated Project Runway reject?

    There’s so many objectionable things going on here. The Facelight is an abomination. Try going somewhere specifically lit for mood or atmosphere and then watch some vain twit walk in and light the joint up as if they need to be ready to be photographed at all times. Facelights are fine for taking pictures, but if you consider it your constant companion, you’re a doofus.

    And Joel harps on how everything must look REAL. Because god forbid you inject a bit of the fantastic or otherworldly or ridiculous into the mix, that might ruin the realistic effect as you’re flying up to a skybox to make puppet sex with a wererabbit.

    And the concept overall, that you’d pay $4000L an hour to someone who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your style and doesn’t seem to know much outside of a dozen designers in SL to rebuild you to his specifications, is RIDICULOUS. Either you give a shit about how you look and you take steps to remedy it, or you don’t and you go on your merry way. Bitchy know-it-all vultures like Joel are about as necessary as square bagels.

  14. Daphne Molinari

    Nov 8th, 2007

    I like using lighting for photography, but I agree that the face lighting is somewhat a misconception. As mentioned, it is a resource hog, not to mention the annoyance of being in a night SIM and having a floodlight walk past you. If you really would like to get a nice overall look to determine your avi skin appearance, and even to take your pictures with the best lighting, go to world/force sun/sunset or sunrise. Face your avi in the direction of the sun and viola!

    Great article by the way. I think that Joel has a good sense of judgment about avatar looks and can evaluate me anytime ~smiles~

  15. anon

    Nov 8th, 2007

    I also can’t stand the facelighting… I see avs with in on all the time, throwing their lights all over everything around, slowing my software down… why? So they can have an unnatural glow around them? It looks just plain stupid at nighttime or sunset.

  16. Ophelia

    Nov 9th, 2007

    Joel just looks terribly generic.

    And oh god please lose the anime eyes. Your eyes were fine before, if a little far apart.

  17. Archie Lukas

    Nov 9th, 2007


    having investigated this -it seems the chap that made the final decision was a chap called ‘Harper’ and not Joel Eilde as intonated.

    This is a mis-representation and not only but also un-gentlemanly behaviour.

    The resultant chosen photo of the chap looking like Frankensteins reject is in fact the worst photo of a batch taken and deliberately chosen to take the piss out of Joel Eilde

    I am aware that you are moderating these comments out; so please bring this to the attention of the Editor, who hopefully has some scruples.

    Archie Lukas
    RL Journo

  18. Simondo Nebestanka

    Nov 9th, 2007

    Great writeup, covers a lot of ground, some excellent tips in there. Yeah Harper and Joel are really quite beautiful specimens! Well done on the make-over Wendell.

    I tend to agree with the general derision of the facelights. The negative outweighs the positive. As Daphne says, make the sun do its job, it works great. I find myself contemplating a facelight and asking, “What would Jesus do?”, and the answer “Jesus would not wear a facelight” magically appears, like a light shining down on me. Hmm what

  19. Tony Zadoq

    Nov 9th, 2007

    4k for someone to build you’re av for you what a rip off lawl.

  20. Valentina Kendal

    Nov 9th, 2007

    I agree with the comments that the Wendell makeover definitely went overboard (eyes, shoulders). And I go back and forth on the use of face lighting. I have had people practically reference that Seinfeld episode (“you look so much better in this light” – ah, gee, thanks, I think).

    But Harper! Omg, my heart is going pitter-pat.

  21. archie lukas

    Nov 9th, 2007

    Harper – a male name and my Grandad’s name is actually……
    A chapess!

    Sorry about that one old bean, what?


  22. delaney whippet

    Nov 9th, 2007

    i like my facelight, my avatar looks terrible during midnight and noon. i do not want to be a resource hog though. i wonder, is it possible to make a script it to turn it off if the world is on those settings?

  23. Lag Johnson

    Nov 9th, 2007


    I hope a TP shoves ‘em up your ass.

    Whenever I see an AV with facelights, it just seems like a pathetic “look at me look at me!” cry for attention. Usually seen on newbie blonde AVs that look like a blow-up sex doll and are undoubtedly a male posing as what passes for a “hot” female in his estimation.

    Don’t ya just LOVE the great publicity your business gets here? I would recommend joining groups and spamming them as a more favorable way of having your business publicly trashed.

  24. Style

    Nov 9th, 2007


    Harper looks like the typical SL fashionista. I mean, sure, she doesn’t look bad. But I can go to any fashion gathering in SL and point at 20 people looking exactly the same.

    Joel looks, except for the photorealistic skin just the same as any other RL reject on SL. A guy with no personality whatsoever. Doesn’t look really bad. There just isn’t a single damn thing special about him.

    Wendell before looks like an utter noob, but hey, being a noob is at least excusable.

    Wendell after looks like a guy with no personality of his own, just like Joel basically, but being a failure even at that.

    It’s pretty simple if you want to look good.

    1) Shove those goddamn facelights up Joel’s ass. Looking at his face, I bet that gets enough traffic to be able to handle some lights.

    2) Try to figure out your own style FFS.

    3) Be yourself.

    And advice for post-wendell: Until you figure out a proper style, go back to your noob look. You have no excuse for your current look. If anything, you look like a twat who has been given a make over by his mother. If you have a noob look, at least you can blame it on inexperience.

  25. Sinclair Docherty

    Nov 10th, 2007

    It seems to be spreading, this facelight crap.

    In addition to blingtards, we now have flingtards?
    I went to the mainland for an event, and in walked three birds. Tits pumped to 100, waist down to 12 and arse humped up to 85 (Hey! Watch where you turn, blingtard, nearly knocked my prim beer over!)
    Two of them had so much bling I swear the DJ cried as he saw his 4 hours lighting build go down the lag drench and the third went the whole nine yards for the flingtard look. I suspect her rolemodel must be Perish Hilton nailed up to a hotel facade, caught in 30 spotlights.

    I know you can’t buy personality, but are they THAT desperate for attention?

  26. Nina A

    Nov 10th, 2007

    Freebie stuff rocks and can usually be customized for yourself. I’m going to be the eternal noob if that’s what it makes me! It *is* polygons you are made of and you might spend all that money and look amazing on your own computer but still look the same on other people’s computers who don’t have lighting switched on. The pic of the guy with the glasses looks photoshoped to me.

  27. Jessica Holyoke

    Nov 10th, 2007

    From the other side…

    I recently received a makeover and my new skin had a facelight. I used it because I liked the look. Until I read these comments telling me about all the bad effects, so I’ll stop using it unless I am taking photographs. But its good that there was this discussion.

    As for Bling, so many people put it in their jewelry and shoes without telling you how to turn it off. I don’t wear a number of pieces due to bling or scripting.

  28. Joel Eilde

    Nov 10th, 2007

    I just want to thank everyone, especially Wendell, for this article. It’s very flattering and has generated so much work for me that I can barely keep up. Even so, I know a lot of people who have made comments about the article have questions and concerns about what I do. I’m not saying that I can allay any of these concerns but, at the prompting of several people who have read this piece and feel it’s not an accurate portrayal of my service, I’ve written a response.

    Being a good consultant:
    To me, it means helping the client getting what they want. To do this, I spend time asking about what they’re looking for, what they think looks good, I give feedback on choices that the client makes, introduce them to options they may not be aware of, and offer other input which may help them to make informed decisions for themselves (such as color theory, 3D rendering and lighting, etc). I don’t believe a good consultant says “wear this because it’s right”. Instead, he says “How do we achieve what you’re looking for?”. I’ve helped a number of clients with avatars that I wouldn’t personally choose for them, but I did my best to make sure they had some tools and made them aware of alternatives. In the end, if the client says “This is exactly what I wanted!”, that’s what I consider success. That’s how I work.

    People spend an incredible amount of time and energy working on their skin and their shape to make it as realistic or life-like as they can (those who use demons or furries will obviously have different but equally valid goals for their look). While people agonize over realism in skins and shapes, they often forget that light is the very foundation of everything you can see, and they neglect to consider it. On its own, the Second Life light rendering casts a synthetic, volumetric shadow on your face built from hard polygons, unlike the RL sun which casts more subtle shadows from the shape of flesh over bone (and if you think the sun in SL works as elegantly as the sun in RL then you give Linden Labs an awful lot of credit) In SL, you will often seen dark, hard lines around the mouth, nose or cleavage which make your avatar look like it’s made of plastic instead of skin. A good Facelight (not all are good) softens or removes those shadows and smooths out the skin to restore a more natural, human look and present the skin with the intended color and tone. I said that Facelights “should be law” in a tongue-in-cheek way, but I advocate them for a lot of solid reasons.

    If a client doesn’t like Facelights, that’s fine; all I ask is that they try one and see for themselves. If it’s not to the client’s taste, then we move on. What’s more, I typically explain that a Facelight sometimes does *not* improve your appearance (such as when you are very close to another avatar or if you are in low-light conditions) and that one must use common sense by occasionally turning it off. Facelights should never be “always on” or “always off”.

    I did tell Wendell that my fee was $4000L per hour. That was correct. I also told him that I have a sliding scale and that I rarely charge the whole $4KL/60 mins. In practice, I typically negotiate a price with the client based on what they need and how long it’ll take to get it. Wendell chose not to mention the sliding scale and, instead, wrote the highest fee I have ever charged into the headline. Why he made that choice is between him and his editor.

    Make no mistake, however; I charge a professional-level fee because I do professional-level work. I serve the client with care and experience and I charge a fair price for it. I’m not cheap because the work I do isn’t cheap.

    As I said, I don’t expect that everyone is going to agree with or love the things that I do or believe about my work and how I approach it, but I felt I should make some of these points openly so at least those who take issue with me are taking issue with things that I actually advocate and believe.

    And thanks again for the article, SLH. It’s really helped me out.

    p.s. Jessica, if you like a look… wear it. You’re the one who pays for what you wear, you’re the one who has to live with it, so make sure you always go with what you think is right for you. There’s a lot of talk about “be yourself” here, but it’s sandwiched in between claims that only idiots wear/do X, Y, or Z. Take the former to heart, ignore the latter.

  29. Ilsa Munro

    Nov 10th, 2007

    In defense of facelights… Well, my facelight at least. Since I want to at least try to appear like I’m not trying to slip an advert in here I’ll disclose that I make a couple of face lights that are available for sale, but I’ll refrain from posting product names, links, or locations. Suffice to say I’m not entirely unbiased :)

    I can’t address script related performance impact other than to say I don’t notice any changes in performance when I’m working with my lights, and at times I have several running at once to test various functions and HUD controls.

    Someone commented about limiting the number of available lights in a sim which I believe I mis-understood. I’ve seen numerous lights – not just facelights but street lights and other lighting effects, all at the same time. Is it perhaps related to the graphics card? I got lucky at Best Buy one weekend and have a giant super turbo mega extreme graphics card :)

    Regarding the use of giant room illuminating kleig face lamps, I’m completely with you. Not only do they mess up the surrounding visual environment, they also make the wearer look washed out. The maximum range on my face lamps is two meters rather than the apparent 10 meters that most others use, and the intensity, range and fade effect are all adjustable. The default settings are all on the low end of the scale.

    For the most part people can’t tell that I’m wearing a face light unless it’s turned off.

    Lastly, clever girl that I am, mine automatically adjusts when the sun in a sim rises or sets so the light works quite well day or night.

  30. Wendell Holmer

    Nov 11th, 2007

    “Wendell … wrote the highest fee I have ever charged into the headline. Why he made that choice is between him and his editor.”

    Well, I don’t write the headlines. But I want to be accurate. The story, as originally written, said (mistakenly) that Joel charged L10,000 for a makeover. Joel read the entire story and approved it. I later heard that, in fact, the fee was L4000 per hour and asked him about it. This is what he said:

    “L4000 per hour is correct. Thanks for double-checking. Between you and me, I am very lax on that point…and I let people pay less for more time than we originally agree. I simply find that if you give people no set time for the fee then they will drag it out for a whole week if you let them. So yeah. L4000 per hour.”

    This is the first time I have heard that was the highest fee he ever charged. Anyway, I’m glad the story generated business for this talented man.

  31. Afro

    May 6th, 2008

    Well… just saw this post ;) .
    Maybe I’ll “hire” Joel for a makeover to see how he would change me (everything I bet) :P
    As for your your “new” look Wendell (and as the time passed by I’nm not sure you still have it… I just say well, does look good but the old one resembles more even the expression of one of my favorites ;) (
    Each time I look to “your” face… It recalls me him. How SL world can be funny ;)

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