Topic Summary:

Let's Start Building Class 1: Introduction to Building


Prims are the building blocks of everything you see in SL. Nearly every building, furniture, hair, jewellery, shoes, airplanes, surf boards, waves, waterfalls, everything you see in Second Life has been constructed via Prims.

What is a Prim?

A Prim is a Primitive, meaning the basic, single-object shapes that are used by the building grid: cube, cone, sphere, prism, cylinder, Torus, tube, ring - these are the building blocks for Second Life. These prims are created, re-sized, shaped, textured, then linked with other prims to build up a final object.

Prim hair can typically have up to 100 prims, made up of modified and textured Torus and Cylinders. Jewellery typically uses many prims, as do shoes. Other objects such as houses, furniture, vehicles and accessories vary in the number of prims they use depending on the complexity and detailing of the design.

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Let's discuss some more terminology:

As in to rez a prim - This basically creates a prim inworld, or instantiates a prim object for the coding-minded :)So, we rez a prim, then we start making changes to it, then add another prim to it, until we slowly build up our end object. We then link it all together to complete the object build.
Prim Torture
This basically means the slicing and dicing of a prim :) The more extreme explanation also refers to altering prims in such manner that they take on abnormal characteristics. For example, jewellery makers can create nano-prims that are smaller than the smallest prim size of 0.010m x 0.010m x 0.010m
Prim Efficiency
The ability to build an object with the least amount of prims. For example, using 2 prims instead of 5 to obtain the same end result. A vital skill to have when prim count is important.
Sculpty Prim
A Sculpty is not a typical prim, in that it is not created via the standard prims of box, cylinder, sphere, prism, torus, tube, ring. The shape of a Sculpty is determined by a Texture Map. Texture maps are generally created in external 3D modelling applications (eg: Wings 3D, Blender, Rokuro), and the completed texture map is imported into Second Life, then applied to a sculpted prim. The sculpted prim can then be textured as per usual processes. Sculpties are one prim objects and have only one surface for texturing.

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Prim sizes

The largest prim you can make is 10m x 10m x 10m

The smallest prim you can make is 0.010m x 0.010m x 0.010m

OK, Let's Start Building!

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Rez a prim

There are usually several ways to build and do things in Second Life, including entering building mode. I'll mention all of them, then focus on using the easiest one of them.

Build button
At the bottom of your screen there is a Build button. Click on this button to enter Create Mode. Your cursor should change to the create cursor, with the # symbol at the top of it, or wand. Click on the ground in front of you with your cursor and - whoosh!, a plywood cube will appear where you have clicked.
Right click -> Create
Right click with your mouse on the ground in front of you to bring up the pie menu. Select the Create option that is located at the 2 o'clock position then click your wand on the ground in front of you to rez a prim.

Start Building

Use the keyboard shortcut of Alt-4 to bring up the create cursor/wand. Click on the ground in front of you to rez a prim.
Menu -> Tools -> Select Tool -> Create
Use the menu bar at the top of your screen to open the Tools menu, then select the Select Tools and finally the Create option to rez a prim.

All of the above 4 methods will create a prim for you, so feel free to use which ever one you prefer - there is no right or wrong way.

The default prim is usually a cube, however, if you have previously selected a different prim in your build project, the system will rez that prim for you. Not a problem - just change the prim shape to the one you want.

As soon as you have rezzed a prim, the system automatically opens up the Edit window for you.

Make sure that the Edit window is fully opened - if you can see a button with More>>, click on this button to fully open up the Edit window and all its options.

This Edit window is the complete application for all prim building in Second Life. The options in this window and in the 5 tabs provide all the tools you will need to build anything you want to build in Second Life.

So, now we have a prim on the ground in front of us and an open Edit window. Lets's have a closer look at our building space.

The default mode when you rez a prim is the Position Mode. That means that the Position radio button is selected in the top left hand corner of the Edit window, and more obviously, there are red, green and blue lines intersecting the centre of the prim. The intersection point of these 3 axes is the X, Y, Z position of the prim. This is represented by the numbers in the Position fields under the Object tab.

Object Tab

Note: the X, Y, Z position numbers always refer to the centre point of the prim, not the edges of the prim.

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Move a Prim

Now, let's move the prim. Notice that the prim is outlined in yellow; this indicates that THIS prim is the current selected prim. Not too much of an issue when you only have one prim, but when you are editing one prim amongst many linked prims, this is useful to know.

To move a prim, place your cursor on one of the arrow heads of the red, green or blue lines. Hold down your mouse on the arrowhead and DRAG the prim in the direction of the selected arrow. You have to touch the arrow head or tail correctly to grab it; I find it glows a bit more when you are positioned right on top of it.

Position Mode

Practice moving the prim in all of the three directions. Note how the numbers in the Position field in the Object tab change as you move the position of the prim. For an extra challenge, why not try manually entering numbers into the position fields for the X, Y and Z co-ordinates. PS: Make sure you don't loose your prim in the ground, or send it into orbit!

The building grid uses the metric system, so all measurements are in metres. This should not be an issue as you are aligning prims along a grid this is also metric - you will not have to worry about converting any numbers and measurements while building as the whole 3D world around you uses the same scale of measurement.

When you touched one of the arrows and moved the prim - did you notice the rulers that appeared on either side? These are the grid rulers that help you to align prims, especially when you are trying to link them together.

Position Ruler

Class 4 will cover using the Grid Rulers in more detail.

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Rotate a Prim

To rotate a prim along the X, Y and Z axes, switch to Rotate mode. The 3 straight lines that previously intersected the prim in position mode have changed to 3 ring that surround the prim to indicate the directions it can move to.

To switch to Rotate mode, select the Rotate radio button from the top left corner of the Edit window.

Rotate Mode

You can manually enter the numbers in each of the Rotation fields to rotate the prim in the required direction.

Note: There is a current bug in the Second Life browser when entering numbers in the Rotation fields. For some perverse reason, by the time you enter the Z rotation numbers, the X numbers get re-set to zero! One work-around to this small, yet annoying problem is to enter the numbers starting from the Z field and working upwards to X.

The Rotate Mode also has rulers that assist you with the post ion of your prim. As with the position rulers, move your cursor over one of the rotation rings and drag the prim around in that direction. And yes, as with the post ion rulers, if you drag your cursor over the ruler line markings, a white position line and arrow head will link your prim to the ruler and enable you to snap-to-grid.

Rotate Ruler

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Stretch A Prim

We use the Stretch mode to re-size a prim. When you select the Stretch radio button from the top left corner of the Edit window, red, green and blue stretch handles will appear halfway along each edge of a prim and white handles will appear at 4 corners of a prim.

Stretch Mode

Place your cursor over one of the coloured handles and drag it outwards or push it inwards to re-size the prim. You can select any of the coloured handles and push or pull the prim up to the maximum or minimum prim sizes.

The white handles at the 4 corners of the prim provide the ability to proportionally increase or decrease the size of the whole prim.

You can stretch both sides of a prim equally by ensuring the Stretch Both Sides option is ticked at the top right hand corner of the Edit window. If this option is deselected, you can re-size one side of a prim at a time as required.

To summarise, we can re-position, rotate and re-size a prim by using the Position, Size and Rotation fields that are located on the left hand side of the Edit window under the Object tab.

We can switch modes whenever we like. A typical shortcut is to go directly to a specific position, size or rotation field and enter the numbers directly into the X, Y or Z fields. You don't have to constantly select a different radio button when you want to change edit modes.

For Power-Users, you can use the keyboard shortcuts to switch between modes even faster!

Don't worry about having to remember these keyboard short-cuts - they are included in brackets next to each Mode radio button at the top left hand corner of the Edit window.

The ability to select the other modes via the Edit window will be covered in a later class.

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General Tab

The General tab is where you name your prim by entering a name in the Name field. While it might seem like a hassle to name your prim, it is a good habit to get into as early as possible.

Be reassured - it will caused you any building problems as such if you don't name your prims; the system will simply save it with the default name of Object, so, you wont lose your prim. However, as you add more prims and objects into your Inventory folder, its going to be extremely difficult to find that specific prim in an Inventory folder with thousands of items called Object! Trust me on this one!

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Take your Prim

When you have finished changing your prim, or you want to put it away for the time being, you Take the item to your Inventory folder.

To Take the prim, exit Edit mode by pressing the ESC button on your keyboard or by closing the Edit window.

Now right click on your prim to bring up the pie menu and select the Take option that is located at the 9 o'clock position.

Your prim will disappear in a swirl of white particles and has been placed in your Inventory folder.

To find the prim, open your Inventory folder by clicking the Inventory button that is located in the bottom right corner of your screen. Scroll through the Inventory items until you find your prim.

Hint: as you have just taken your prim into your Inventory folder, it will be easier to find if your search under the Recent Items tab.

To rez your prim from your Inventory folder select the prim and DRAG if from your Inventory folder and DROP it onto the ground in front of you.

WHOOSH! Your prim will appear.

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Delete a Prim

To delete a prim, start as with the Take action by closing the Edit window or pressing the ESC button on your keyboard.

Right click on the prim to open up the pie menu. This time, select the More option that is located at the 6 o'clock position and then select the Delete option. Deleting a prim takes 2 mouse clicks, but then, we want to be sure before we delete, right?

Your prim has now been placed into the Trash folder of your Inventory folder. It will stay there until your select the Empty Trash option from the Inventory window menu bar.

So, if you have deleted you prim by mistake - no problem: go to the Trash folder of your Inventory, find your prim and Drag and Drop it from the Trash to the ground in front of you. Now that it is rezzed inworld you can continue to work on it, or Take it to Inventory

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Wrap Up

In this Introductory class to Building, we have rezzed a prim, moved it, rotated it, re-sized it, taken it to inventory and deleted it.

These are the basic skills for building in Second Life. There are of course many, many variations, options and complex adjustments that can be made to prims, however, they all reply on these fundamental skills as a starting point. All other skills are built upon these basics, so I urge you to find a sand box and practice, practice, practice! :)

Next Class: 2. Add Texture and Colour to Your Prim.

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