Avatar Creation for Social VR, Part 1: Introduction

Note: This series is an ongoing work in progress, and the video tutorials in particular will be updated and published publicly after I have finished recording the entire series. For now, the visibility for the videos has been set to shareable link only – if you have feedback on their clarity, pacing, or even whether or not the jokes land, I would welcome it in the comments here or on Youtube.

Hello! My name is Root, and I would like to talk to you about the process of creating an avatar for use in VRChat and other social VR applications. We will be making this avatar from scratch, primarily using the popular 3d modeling and animation software, Blender. But first let me take a moment to talk about why I am creating this series, who it is for, and what to expect.

The Problem

Problem is this: Frequently I will see people ask, in VRchat-related communities, how to make an avatar in Blender. And, just as frequently, this question will come from people who confess, in asking the question, that they have never used Blender before – revealing that they have no idea how large the question is that they are asking. I think that it would be useful to have a starting point to direct them toward.

A frustration that I have had, with avatar creation tutorials, is how many of them are slanted toward starting from an existing model that is either purchased from an online library, or captured from another game, in order to convert it into an avatar. This process is what is usually referred to in most tutorials as “avatar creation.”

Perhaps foolishly, I cling to what, I admit, is old-fashioned belief that words should mean things, and I think that describing this asset conversion process as “avatar creation” only makes searching for help on the subject of character modeling that much more difficult.

So I wanted to create a tutorial series that is more tightly focused on the technical and creative problem-solving process of building your 3d character, something that comes from your own imagination, rather than starting from a point after all of the heavy lifting of character design and modeling has been done for you.

Who this is for

This series is for anyone who wants to learn all of the steps involved in bespoke avatar creation for social VR, though it is specifically created with working artists in the furry community in mind. Maybe you’ve got a bit of experience creating furry art, you’ve drawn a few conbadges and ref sheets, maybe you have a little cottage business already making Telegram stickers, or like those big goofy mascot costumes I keep seeing at bowling alleys, and lately you’ve been having a lot of fun in VRchat, and you wanna to learn how you can apply your skills here – but you’re a relative newcomer to Blender and you find the toolset intimidating, and you are having a difficult time locating a clear starting point in the wealth of material that is already available.

And if you’re not a furry, but you just wanna know how to make stuff in Blender, I guess that’s fine. You should consider getting a fursona though. It’s the 21st century, come on. Not having a fursona at this point is a little weird. A fursona opens a lot of doors for you. You can put it on your resume for most tech jobs, and there’s actually some places in silicon valley and in Seattle that won’t even consider your application without one. It gets you access to the secret menu at Petsmart. You don’t even have to use your fursona if you don’t really want to, but having one in home emergency kit is generally a good idea. Make sure you rotate the batteries every six months though.

The Process

The 3d character creation process involves several steps that, in an actual production environment – in a videogame studio, is usually divided up into several different roles – concept art, character modeling, texturing, or materials, rigging, and animating. This tutorial series is going to be broken up into roughly corresponding steps – modeling, UV layout, materials, rigging, visemes, and how to import the completed avatar into the various social VR platforms.

Typically artists working in this field specialize in one particular discipline, and doing it all yourself will require you to gain some familiarity with all of them.

And I will tell you right now – it’s a lot to take on board, so be patient with yourself. It is totally okay to give up halfway through and start again at the beginning, if you feel like you’ve dug yourself into a hole, or if you feel like your facility with the tools has significantly exceeded where you were when you first started with the project. Give up and start over again! It’s fine!

When you are working in blender, you need to have a lot of tabs for the manual open and you need to have a lot of cusswords ready. It’s okay if this is slow your first time. Or your fifth time.

It’s also okay to feel frustrated if you don’t feel like you’re getting everything right away. Frustration aids retention – the stuff you are struggling with, the stuff that you have to work at in order to understand, that’s the stuff that’s going to stick.

Generally if something comes easily to you right away, it’s tempting to believe that it’s easy because you’re naturally good at it – which then leads to the corollary, that if something is initially difficult for you, the reason it’s difficult is because you’ll never be good at it. Don’t be fooled by this kind of pernicious self-talk! If it hurts, you’re learning. You gotta be willing to get comfortable with discomfort.

So – with all that said, download Blender if you haven’t already. Install it. Get excited, you’re about to learn a new tool.

Next, we’ll talk about the Blender interface, the specific tools you’ll be using for polygon modeling, and how to set up reference images for your project. I’ll see you in a minute.

Continue to: Avatar Creation for Social VR, Part 2: The Blender Interface and Project Setup

Avatar Creation for Social VR, Part 1: Introduction
Scroll to top