Beginners’ Building Tutorial

This tutorial is aimed at the absolute beginner builder in SL, IW or one of the other Open Simulator Worlds. By the end of it you should have a good idea about prims, the build/edit tools and know a few useful tricks.

They say that everything starts with a wooden box. There are of course other things that you can start with, but it leads nicely into the question of:

Before we start on the chess piece proper, let’s have a quick look at the building tools with a simple Box primitive,

Click on the build button at the bottom of your screen,

You should now see the build window, which looks like this:

Click on the ground in front of you and a cube should appear

The coloured arrows are used to move the prim around in three dimensions,

  • Red = X Axis (East/West)
  • Green = Y Axis (North/South)
  • Blue = Z Axis. (Up/Down)

Click and hold an arrow as you drag the mouse to move the prim.

Look back at the Edit Window and Click on the Object Tab, it displays information about the prim’s position, size, rotation and all manner of controls for reshaping,
All of the SL Primitives have controls like this, although they’re not always exactly the same, for each prim has different possibilities for shaping and distorting

We can use the controls in the Edit Window to Size the object,

Another way to do this is to select Stretch from the upper part of the Edit Window, notice how the Handles change around the prim.

Tip: look at the keyboard short cut which is listed next to the Stretch button, by holding down the Ctrl key and the Shift Key at the same time, you can switch quickly to Stretch mode in the editor. Watch out for these Shortcuts in the Editor window and in other places in the Viewer. With a little practice the become second nature and it makes your work flow a lot faster.

You can now click on the handles to resize the prim. The colours are the same as for the movement handles:

  • Red = X Axis
  • Green = Y Axis
  • Blue = Z Axis.

But, there are also White handles, when you click and drag on these, it resizes the prim in all 3 dimensions at once, maintaining the same proportions.

Tip: Use the ALT Key and the Mouse together to zoom in and pan around on your objects as you work, it is impossible to build well without using this technique to zoom in and see things close up.

Experiment with the other controls to rotate, twist, hollow, taper and cut the box.

Another supremely useful control option is Use Grid. You can select it in the upper part of the Edit Window, it allows you to Move, Size or Rotate your objects incrementally by snapping to an on-screen grid as you drag the mouse. (Click the image below to see it in more detail.)

If the grid does not show in your viewer look for an option called “Use Grid” or “Snap to Grid” in the top section of the edit window.

Finally, don’t forget to keep an eye on the information display at the top of your screen, it tells you the position of your object, the dimensions or the rotation, depending on what you are doing to it at the time.


So, let’s get onto the Chess Piece!

Start with a prim… but not a box, we’re going to use one of the odd but very adaptable primitives, the Torus.

In the Edit Window, the shape beneath the box is the Torus, touch the shape to select it,

Then click on the ground in front of you to create the prim.

You can see in the Object Tab of the Edit Window that the Torus has some different controls to the box.

This first prim will be the base of the Chess Piece, the other prims will all need to be aligned with it, so it would be a really good idea to set the X and Y positions to a (fairly) round number before we start. Use the position controls in the Edit Window to set it in a suitable place, or use the position handles and the grid to drag it into place.

Now use the controls in the Edit Window to set the following parameters for the Torus:

  • Size
  • X :: 0.060
  • Y :: 0.450
  • Z ::0.450
  • Rotation
  • X :: 270.00
  • Y :: 0.00
  • Z :: 90.00
  • Hole size
  • X :: 1.00
  • Y :: 0.50

This is how it looks in the edit window:

And your prim should end up looking something like this:

The next part is also made from a Torus. An easy way to create a prim that is aligned (in two axes) with a previously created prim is to use SHIFT+DRAG to make a copy.
Make sure the prim is selected, hold down the Shift Key and drag the position handle for the Z Axis upwards until you see a copy of your prim appear.

Now adjust the parameters for the new Torus as follows:

  • Size
  • X:: 0.560
  • Y :: 0.400
  • Z :: 0.400
  • Rotation
  • X :: 270.00
  • Y :: 0.00
  • Z :: 90.00
  • Hollow
  • 95.0
  • Hole size
  • X :: 1.00
  • Y :: 0.35
  • Profile Cut
  • B :: 0.050
  • E :: 0.500

Once these are set, use the position handle (Z) to move it down so that it fits snugly into the base.

The two small rings around the Chess Piece are also Torii, so use Shift and Drag to make another copy of the base and lift it up.

Set the parameters for this part as follows:

  • Size
  • X:: 0.060
  • Y :: 0.300
  • Z :: 0.300
  • Rotation
  • X :: 270.00
  • Y :: 0.00
  • Z :: 90.00
  • Hollow
  • 0.0
  • Hole size
  • X :: 0.85
  • Y :: 0.20
  • Profile Cut
  • B :: 0.000
  • E :: 1.000

…and lift it up into place.

Tip: It is often helpful to make the prims different colours when you are working, it makes them easier to distinguish from each other when you are trying to get them lined up.

  • Select the prim that you want to colour.
  • Choose the Texture Tab from the Edit Window.
  • Click on the Color swatch.
  • Choose a colour from the Color Picker Window and hit Select.

The second of the upper rings will be a copy of the one you just made, so Shift and Drag to copy it and change just the following parameters:

  • Size
  • X:: 0.060
  • Y :: 0.230
  • Z :: 0.230

Then move it into place,

We’re going to use a different primitive shape for the next part of the Chess Piece, a Cylinder. Click on the Create Button in the Edit Window and choose the Cylinder Primitive.
Click on the ground near your existing prims to create the new primitive.
Set the following parameters in the Edit Window:

  • Size
  • X:: 0.230
  • Y :: 0.230
  • Z :: 0.125
  • Rotation
  • X :: 270.00
  • Y :: 0.00
  • Z :: 90.00
  • Taper
  • X :: -0.25
  • Y :: -0.25

It should look like this:

You can then copy the numbers from the X and Y positions for one of the other parts in the Edit Window and use them to line it up with the rest of your prim. Just in case you don’t know, you can copy and paste text in the viewer by highlighting the text to copy (in this case the values in the X and Y position boxes, but you can do it from chat history and Notecards too) and pressing Ctrl+C on the keyboard to Copy, then move to wherever you wish to paste and press Ctrl+V.

For the Z position you can just lift it into place on the Z position handle. Something like this:

For the little dome on the top of the Chess Piece, we’re going to use another primitive, a sphere. But, in order to get it aligned quickly and easily, we’re going to copy the cylinder that we just made and make it into a Sphere afterwards.

Use Shift and Drag to make a copy of the Cylinder above the original one:

In the Edit window’s Object Tab, change the Building Block Type from Cylinder to Sphere.

Now find the Path Cut controls in the Object tab and set the values on the Sphere as follows:

  • B :: 0.000
  • E :: 0.500

It should look like this:

And lower it down to touch the top of the Cylinder. Use the ALT+Mouse to zoom in and position it carefully until you have something that looks like this:

The little cross shape on the top of the Chess Piece is made from four small boxes.

Create a box.
Line it up in X and Y with your other prims and position it above the dome.

Set the parameters for the box as follows:

  • Size
  • X :: 0.055
  • Y :: 0.055
  • Z :: 0.047
  • Taper
  • X :: 0.20
  • Y :: 0.20

You should have something that looks like this:

We need another Box like that, but with the Taper settings reversed to sit top of the one that you just made.But, before you go off and make it with Shift + Drag, have a look at this. This is called “Copy Selection” and it’s a really neat way to make prims line up precisely and it will really come into its own when you start to make houses and other buildings.

With the Box selected, choose the Create Button in the Edit Window and check the little box called Copy Selection.

Position your view point carefully so that you can see the top of the Box clearly and Click the Mouse near the centre of the top face.

This will make an exact copy of the first Box and place the new Box right on the top face of the first one.

Select the top Box and change the Taper setting to:

  • X :: -0.20
  • Y :: -0.20

It should now look like this:

The horizontal part of the Cross is made from copies of those two boxes which are then rotated though 90 degrees.

Click on the lower box, hold down the Shift Key and Click on the upper box – the pair of boxes are now both selected together.

Use the Tools => Link (or CTRL+L on your Keyboard to Link the two Boxes together).

Notice how the one of the outlines around the prims changes to blue when the prims are linked.

Prims that are linked together like this are known as a Linked Set.

The prim outlined in yellow is known as the Root Prim, the others (outlined in blue) are known as Child Prims.

Now use Shift and Drag to create a copy of the Linked Set.

Choose Rotate from the options in the top of the Edit Window (or just hold down the CTRL Key) to Rotate the Linked Set that you copied through 90 degrees.

You can use the numbers in the Edit Window for this, or use the Rotate Grid on-screen. You will need to rotate on either the X or the Y Axis, it will depend on the orientation of your build when you started work.

Select the Position tool from the Edit Window (or simply release your CTRL Key) and slide the rotated Linked Set back to line up with the original one. You will probably want to use the Position Grid for this manoeuvre.

Select one of the Linked Sets, hold down the Shift Key and Click on the other one, you can now move them all down the Z Axis together.

When you zoom back out, you should have something that resembles the King from a Staunton Chess Set.

Most of the prims are unlinked, now would be a very good time to turn the whole thing into a Linked Set.

Starting with the top of the cross, Select each prim in turn and work your way down the Chess Piece until you have selected all the prims.

Tip: If you look over at the General Tab in the Edit Window you will see that SL has identified the Chess Piece as a number of Objects and a number of Primitives.
In this context Objects are the Linked Sets (two separate Linked Sets in the Cross at the top) and Primitives are ALL the separate prims that you selected.

The base should be selected last and will become the Root Prim of the Object when you link everything together. Use Tools => Link (or CTRL+L) as before.

Now check the General Tab in the Edit Window again and see how the Object Count has changed.

I imagine that we can agree that it looks like a chess piece, but the colours look pretty silly, right?

With the Object selected, Click on the Texture Tab in the Edit Window.
Click on the Texture Swatch, Choose Blank from the Window that pops out and hit the Select Button.

The wood effect texture will be removed from the entire piece.

Back in the Edit Window, click on the Color Swatch, click on the Black panel in the from the pop out window and hit Select.
Check the little box for Full Bright.
Set the Shininess to Low.

Now go back to the Edit Window’s General Tab and give your Chess Piece a Name (and optionally a Description) by which to identify it.

Et Voila!


Hey, that was fun! What else can I do?

Well, how about making the rest of the peices?

If you make a copy of the King and Unlink it, you can reuse the base and many of the other prims to build the Queen, Rook, Bishop and Pawn… but the Kinight may be a little more tricky. (Use Tools => Unlink from the Viewer’s menu at the top or Ctrl+Shift+L to Unlink the prims.)

What about the chess board?

Right click this image and Save It to your computer.

In the Viewer window press Ctrl+U on your keyboard to open the Upload Window. Navigate to this image (black_white_squares.png) and Upload it. If you do this in Second Life there is a L$10 fee, on other grids, such as InWorldz, there is no few for uploads. The black and white squares image will appear in the Textures folder in your Inventory.

Use the Build tool to make a box. Set the X and Y Dimensions to about 4.00 metres.

In the top of the Edit window, click on the little Button that says “Select Texture” (it may say “Select Faces to Texture” or even “Select Face” depending on your Viewer). Click on the top face of your chessboard.

Now click on the Texture swatch in the Edit window and in the new window that pops open find your black and white squares texture.

But wait! That’s not enough squares!

Look in the Edit window for “Repeats per face” and set the Horizontal and Vertical repeats to 4.000.

Now you have eight squares per side.

My friend says that these chess pieces take up too many prims and that I should use sculpted prims. Is she right?

She has a good point. The King required 10 prims, the queen will probably take about the same, maybe the rook too. The Bishop a few less perhaps and the pawns about four each, but there are a lot of those and I’ve no idea how many you took to make that gorgeous Knight. All in all you could easily take up 200 prims with this. Using a sculpted prim for the King and regular prims for that little cross in the crown, we could halve the number of prims required to model the piece. If we made the little cross from a sculpty too, we could probably make the King with just two prims and we could make the pawns with one each. So maybe, in a later tutorial we can look at how to make them in Rokuro and save a LOT of prims.


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4 Responses to Beginners’ Building Tutorial

  1. Johnnytreadlightly Nightfire says:

    Great tutorial, Sandry! Thanks for taking the time to make this!

  2. Wheelerwood says:

    Will 3D mesh content created out of world be able to be uploaded in world?

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