Skinning (weighting your mesh)

Glossary: Skinning

Skinning is the process of creating an association between a Mesh (the Skin) and a Rig. More specifically in the Skinning process we define associations for each bone of the Rig’s Skeleton to each vertex of a mesh. In practice, for a polygonal mesh character, each bone is associated only with a subset of the character’s vertices.

Portions of the character’s skin can be influenced by 2 or more bones, where each vertex of the affected area gets an influence factor to each associated Bone. This factor is also called Vertex Weight. Thus the influence of each bone on a specific Vertex is defined by its Vertex Weight.

The process of Skinning includes:

  • Binding the Character to the rig in a specific Pose (basically establishing an association between the Rig and the Mesh)
  • Weighting the Mesh to the Armature bones (create the Vertex Weights)


The Skinning Panel

Once you have bound your custom mesh to an Avastar rig, the Skinning panel changes as displayed in the image aside. We now see 3 subsections:

  • An Unbind from Armature Button to disconnect the Custom mesh from the Avastar Armature.
  • Appearance Control: To maintain the Mesh and the Appearance Slider System.
  • Weight Map Control: To automatically create weight presets for the selected Custom Mesh.


When you have selected an avastar Mesh, then the Weight map control section is not shown. Weight maps can only be reliably created for custom meshes.

The Unbind Button has 3 extra features:

Update Reference Mesh (Operator)

You must refresh the internal data of your character whenever you have edited the verts or the weight maps. Avastar does not do this automatically, because updating the reference meshes takes a lot of computer time and it is not easy to find out when an update needs to be performed.

When your mesh is in Edit mode or in weight paint mode, then you can use the shortcut ALT Q to update the weightmaps in a convenient way.

 Keep (Visual) Pose

The current pose will be backed into the mesh (frozen).


Note: The number in parentheses in the Unbind from Armature button tells you how many of the selected mesh objects will be affected (no number is displayed when only one mesh is selected). The number in parentheses in the Appearance control label tells you how many of the selected custom mesh objects will be affected (3 in the image above)

What is the purpose of the “update reference Mesh” Operator ?

Avastar uses a reference mesh for each mesh that it has bound to an Armature. This reference mesh is used to calculate the shape and the skeleton for each slider setting. The reference mesh is created when the Mesh is bound to the armature.
However, sometimes you want to edit your meshes after you have bound them to the armature. But this may result in a topological difference between the expected reference mesh and the true mesh. They can have different sets of verts, edges, faces. And they can have different Weight maps. And for sure they will have different shape.

Because of this, the reference meshes must be updated after editing the meshes.

Appearance Control

The visual appearance of a mesh can be controlled by shape keys and modifiers. However sometimes it is necessary to have the visual appearance baked into the mesh geometry so we can transfer the mesh as it appears to Secondlife.

Weightmap Control

The Adjust Weight Groups panel allows you to create initial weights for your Custom Mesh. Weights can come from various weight sources. And each weight source can have different Properties as explained below.

Finally, after all settings have been adjusted, you can generate the appropriate Weights by clicking on the Update Weight Maps Button


A Gentle reminder

Avastar can not create perfect weights!
Especially when you try to copy weights from other meshes you have to refine the weights manually in almost every case. All that you can achieve is to get a starting point for your work. This may work nicely, or not.
For Fitted Mesh:
If you are trying out the Fitted Mesh Weighting, then we recommend to avoid using the default Avatar weights. Please consider to use Automatic Weight from Bones instead. That gives better results in many cases. Blindly using the weights from the default Avatar never works!

The example below shows 3 identical meshes: The left mesh is weighted to the classic mBones, the right mesh is weighted to the Collision Volumes (cBones) using the same weight values.


The character in the center gets the full treatment of mBone weights plus mesh deforms (shape keys). This character is equivalent to the default Avatar in SL using the same Gnome shape.

For Fitted Mesh (Collision Volume Bone weighting) you can get much better results when you hand optimize the weights.

Panel Properties

Facemap Generator: This is a very special setup for an interactive face weight generation. Yes, this is only for creating weights for the Bento face bones!

Right after you clicked the Update Weightmaps button, an Operator Redo Window opens up (in the Tool Shelf lower left corner) where you can specify parameters to optimize the weights for the selected bone collection. Please play with the settings to get an idea how the generator works


Swap Weight Groups: Exchanges Weight Gr0ups for Collision Volumes with the corresponding Weight Groups for the corresponding SL Base Bones (moves mbone Weight Groups to cBones, and cBone Weight Groups to mBones)

  • Keep Groups
  • Clear weights
  • Selected verts

Copy From Extended: We have added Special weightmaps for Head and upper body which take care of the weights for the face and the hands.

Note: Those weight maps have been created manually and they are just meant as proposal for your meshes. You will need to fine adjust the weights in any case!

See below for the description of the extra options .

Copy From Avastar: Use the Avastar character Meshes as Weight Sources. For this option you can exactly specify which of the Avastar Dummy Meshes shall be taken into account. it does not matter if the Avastar meshes are visible or not.
  • Keep Groups
  • Clear weights
  • Selected verts
  • Interpolate
  • Weights from Avastar (selection table)
Copy From Meshes: Use All meshes which are also attached to the same Avastar Armature and which are currently Visible.
  • Keep Groups
  • Clear weights
  • Selected verts
  • Interpolate
Automatic From Bones: Use Blender’s internal Weight generator by calculating the weights from the Bone configuration. This works remarkably well in most cases. However you often need some minor adjustments especially where the Custom Mesh shall behave similar to the underlying SL Avatar mesh (for tight clothes).
  • Keep Groups
  • Clear weights
  • Selected verts
 Create Empty Groups: Checks all deform Bones for existing Weight Groups. Adds missing Weight Groups as empty Groups where needed.

 No options available

The weight Generator Options in detail

  • Keep Groups: When during the copy process some previously existing weight groups get empty, they will be deleted by default. If this option is set, all empty weight groups will be kept.
  • Clear weights: Normally the weight copy is additive, that is, when Weights already exist in the Target mesh, then weights which are not copied from the source but exist in the target will be kept. When this option is set, the source weight groups will be cleaned before the copy takes place.
  • Selected verts: Normally the weight Copy copies the entire weight groups. when this option is set, then only weights for the selected verts (in the target meshes) will be replaces or added.
  • Interpolate: Normally weights are copied from the source meshes by determining the closest vertex to the destination mesh. When this option is enabled, then weights are interpolated from neighboring source verts as well. This can give smoother results at times.
  • Weights from Avastar: (Only available when Copy from Avastar is set as weight source) You can specify exactly which Avastar meshes shall contribute in the weight copy.

The default Shape

Avastar’s default Shape is exactly the same as the SL Default shape that you get when you create a new Shape in the SL Viewer, see images below for comparison:


Avastar Default Shape


SL Default Shape