Update 1: Need a simple guide to the absolute basics? Check out my Bakes on Mesh ‘for Dummies’ guide.
Update 2: Now that Bakes on Mesh has been out for six months, I’m coming back to this post to revise it a little. While I would normally not worry about that on such an old post, this one still gets a very large number of hits each day, so it’s critical that I keep it updated. Additions will be noted in blue.
The long-awaited Bakes on Mesh has just finally been released into the main Linden Lab viewer, and a lot of people are asking a lot of questions about it. Mesh head and body groups are being inundated with queries about it, and—as a CSR for a major mesh head brand myself—I decided to spend the weekend testing it out.
Before I get started, please note the date of this post: 1st September 2019. Bakes on Mesh has only just been released, support for it (in the form of new system layer clothing, skins, makeup etc) is still very very sparse indeed, and I fully expect a lot more support to be forthcoming. Also, this post will be written primarily with male avatars in mind, as my blog is about menswear and style for men in Second Life, but these basics should cover any questions you ladies might have, too. (Although please bear in mind that I’m new to this, too, and what I’ve written below is only what I’ve discovered this weekend while using it, and summarised as best I can.)
This post will be peppered with various links, so I’ll summarise them all at the end.
Update: Since linking to this post on the official forums, some of the below words have been amended after correction by those more experienced than myself in the matter. Since I believe in visible corrections, rather than just erasing what is wrong and ‘covering it up’, I’ve just struck through my own words and added the revision, with attribution and a link to the post wherein the corrections were made.
Before you begin
First you need to determine if your mesh head and/or body natively support Bakes on Mesh (BoM). To do this, redeliver the items, or check the creators’ group notices and/or other social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Flickr. (Please don’t ask in the support groups, as they’re all getting inundated with questions about BoM! The creator will let you know when an update is ready.)
Some creators are updating their existing products and including additional BoM-compatible versions. Other creators are using scripting to add BoM capability to their existing products. Others will not be backdating their current products, but instead offering BoM-compatibility going forward in new products.
However, in ALL CASES—as long as they have Omega support—you can still use BoM on any creator’s products right now, without waiting for updates! More on that in a bit.
Addition – March 2020: Almost every major mesh head and body brand now offers BoM capability in some way or another, so this Omega ‘workaround’ is mostly no longer required.
If your head or body’s creator has installed native BoM support into their items then—when you wear them using a viewer that does not support BoM— you will look something like Skell does below:
Addition – March 2020: Every major viewer has now updated to BoM-compatibility, so if you are still seeing people looking like the above then your viewer is seriously out-of-date. Time to update it! Also, this means that the below advice (stating that if you don’t see those textures then your mesh body part is not BoM-compatible) no longer applies.
If you don’t see that [see note, above], then you’re going to need the workaround that I mentioned a little while ago, and that is in the form of a new Omega HUD, which can be purchased here on Marketplace for L$125. It’s unisex and works for both male and female avatars.
You will also need the Omega relay or installer for your current mesh body parts. Go to the Omega Systems Marketplace store (or their inworld store) and search for the brand. If yours is an installer, you’ll need to click it once to install Omega compatibility into your mesh body part. If it’s a relay, you’ll need to wear it any time you want to use an Omega applier (in the case of this post, you’ll only need to wear a relay initially, while setting up BoM).
Next, you will—of course—need a BoM-compatible viewer. At the time of writing this post Firestorm doesn’t yet have it (although the beta branch does) so I used the stock Linden viewer (and boy, was I reminded why I never normally use that one…) Addition – March 2020: As already stated, all major viewers are now updated for BoM-capability.
OK, ready to go ahead?
Quick checklist before we begin:
- your mesh head and body are natively BoM-compatible, OR
- you have (and are wearing) the Omega BoM HUD, plus the relevant Omega installer/relay HUDs for your mesh head and body, AND
- you’re using a BoM-compatible viewer
Let’s get started :-)
First up, are you seeing red? Take off your body- and head-hiding alpha layers. You don’t need them with BoM.
If your mesh head and/or body offer native BoM support then your underlying system layers will already have baked onto those mesh body parts. Whatever system skin you’re wearing will now show up on your mesh avatar. Now is the time when you realise that—for all this time—you’ve been hiding some ancient monstrosity under your mesh! To get rid of that all you need to do is change your system skin. Simple as that.
Used below: Signature ‘Gianni’ body and Catwa ‘Daniel’ head. The ‘Baked Skin’ HUD is the Omega BoM HUD. This is a quick tour through some of my old system skins (yes, I kept a lot of my old ones, and I had some really odd and wonderful ones. I left the first bake to show in the video, so you can see how long it takes to bake down onto the mesh, but after that I skipped the actual bake and just showed the skins once baked.
If nothing has changed, because your mesh head and body don’t offer native BoM support then you need to add the Omega BoM HUD [see note below] that you’ve puchased. Make sure that you’re also wearing the Omega relays for your mesh head and body (or have installed Omega into them). Click the Omega BoM HUD, and—after a second or so—your underlying system skin will bake onto your mesh body parts. (Keep that Omega BoM HUD on for a while as you dig through your system layers and try them on; sometimes you might need to give it another click to rebake everything again.)
Addition – March 2020: If nothing has changed, then you need to enable BoM in your head and/or body’s HUD. You are most likely to find the BoM activation button in the skins tab of the HUD, but if you don’t see it there just poke around in all the other tabs until you find it.
And that’s the basics. You’re now using BoM! Be aware, though—as mentioned before—anyone not using a BoM-compatible viewer will see you with those strange coloured text blocks all over you. SL is going to look very weird for a bit (at least until all viewers have BoM compatibility and everyone has switched to those viewers), but then it looked weird for a while after Bento (‘melting faces’ for those not using Bento viewers), and after mesh was introduced (big blocky shapes for those not using mesh viewers).
So what next?
Now the fun starts. Those of us who are SL packrats will be unpacking our old system skins, hairbases, tattoos, and makeup and trying it all on. Not all of it will work, and a lot of it will look (un)surprisingly awful.
Old system textures—no matter what size they were uploaded in—always ended up at 512px, and mesh avatars are capable of 1024px. That delicate tattoo that you used to love may well look disappointingly blurry.
Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Skins, tattoos, etc. that had their textures uploaded at 1024×1024 will display at full resolution on mesh bodies (and currently on the system body, for that matter.) A skin is just like an applier – it’s a texture delivery system. The reason they used to display at 512 x 512 was that was the maximum resolution of the bakes provided by the baking service; however, that’s now been changed to 1024 x 1024.”
You might find that skins from one particular creator work better than those from another creator. For me, the ones that looked consistently good—about 90% of the time—were my old Tableau Vivant skins.
However, be aware that—because these are old system skins and weren’t created specifically for mesh topography—there may be small imperfections. Nipples might not sit in the correct location, or—as below—you may see little patches of odd colour:
Those of us who don’t have system layers to dig through, keep an eye on your favourite creators. Many of them—such as makeup creators, in particular—have been adding BoM layers in their products for a while now.
Some little details you need to know
Old system skins were designed and mapped to the original, pre-mesh avatar. That avatar had clunky fingers, and… well… paddles for feet. Those finger and toe textures are not going to map prettily onto your mesh hands and feet.
What I expect will happen for future system skins is that either creators will map them correctly for mesh bodies (but they might need to be body-specific in that case, or they might be like Omega body appliers are now) or they will include hand and feet appliers.
But what can you do about older skins? Those of us who are ancient enough to remember when prim nails came about might have a tintable nail-hiding system glove that we can use. And—as I just searched on Marketplace—someone has already created a new one! So pick up this fingernail cover layer if you want to use old system skins. Just add the glove layer, edit it, and tint it as close to your skintone as you can. (There’s also a sock layer from the same creator here.)
Addition – March 2020: There are now lots of different nail covers available, some even for free. Do a search on marketplace and you’ll find several. Many skin stores are also offering them as gifts, so hunt around their lobby/service desk areas or gift locations to see if they have any.
Guess what I’m doing below? I’ve layered my favourite old system tattoo hairbase (with those long Midge Ure-style sideburns) together with my Stealthic applier hairbase. So glad to have those sidies back!
Layering and how it works
This is more for the newer residents of SL: the ones who never used system layers. Something very important that you need to know is that depending on which layers they are, system layers sometimes stack in the order they were added.
Some layers stack as their names suggest: tattoo will always go beneath underwear; underwear will always go beneath clothing.
Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Tattoos, etc. do stack in the order they’re worn in, but if you go to “Edit My Appearance” and click on a tattoo, etc. in the list of the items you’re wearing arrows will appear – clicking on those arrows will move that item up or down in the stack, and when you save what you’re wearing as an outfit that order will be remembered.”
(Y’know, at the time of writing this post I’d spent 12 years in SL and every day is still a lesson to me. I had no idea about moving stacked layers like that…)
However, in the case of makeup—for example—the layers will stack in the order you added them. If you’re going to wear three different eyeshadows then you’ll get an entirely different look if you add them in 1, 2, 3 order than you would if you add them in 3, 2, 1 order.
But, oh… you can stack. Boy, can you stack. See this below? EIGHT sets of makeup. And not an alpha glitch in sight.
And—as mentioned on that image—if I changed my head to a different one, the bake would immediately go onto that (assuming I’d already got BoM sorted out on it, either natively or via the Omega BoM HUD). No more re-applying! And no more trying to remember which applier HUD you used, because you’ll still be wearing the layers!
Here’s a quick video showing those eight system tattoo makeup layers going on one by one:
OK, Skell, this is fucking AMAZEBALLS. Surely there’s got to be some cons to weigh against those pros?
Yeah, there are some.
- You’re going to look ridiculous to others not using a BoM-compatible viewer, until all viewers have caught up. Give it about a year. [OK, about six months was enough in the end…]
- Your inventory will—I’m afraid to say—probably explode. You know that 30-colour applier HUD you’ve got for XYZ thing? For BoM that will turn into 30 separate items. So a 30-shade lipstick HUD will become 30 individual lipstick tattoos. Get organising and filing that inventory now…
You may or may not be able to use appliers and other things such as materials/specular shine on your mesh body/head. This depends on the body part’s creator. BoM as it stands right now does not have materials support at all (although Linden Lab have it on their radar as a possbility for the future). Some mesh body parts will keep an ‘onion skin’ layer for adding shine, some may not change the ‘onion skins’ at all, and some will remove all but the single base BoM layer (therefore you won’t be able to add any shine whatsoever).Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Materials don’t need to go on a “layer” – they can go directly onto the base mesh. It’s possible to have the visible “diffuse” texture of a mesh face set by BOM and the specular and normal maps set by appliers on the same face.”
- Some of your favourite stuff will not update. Many creators have a huge back catalogue of items, and it would be a hell of a lot of work to expect them to update it all to include BoM layers.
- If your mesh body updates to remove alpha cuts from its HUD, you’ll need to use alpha layers (which will hopefully be included with your clothing) to mask sections of your mesh body beneath mesh clothing. While there will no doubt be some ready-made sets of alpha layers available on Marketplace (from years ago) not all of them will work for more specific use cases.
As someone who works in support inworld for a major mesh brand, I have one small plea: Please don’t ask continually in creators’ support groups for “when will your products be updated to BoM?” As mentioned, updating to BoM involves more than a simple flick of a switch. Linden Lab had it in the works for well over a year (closer to two, in fact), and then released it very suddenly: one weeks’ notice, and BOOM – it was live on the grid and in the viewer. In our support group we are literally being asked every ten minutes or so when BoM updates will be coming. Your favourite creator will let you know when their updates are ready. And you can, of course, already use BoM on all Omega-supported products using the method outlined above. No need to wait for updates!
Have some pretties, with eight makeup layers. Link summary will be at the bottom of the post.