Character Images

(Article written by Pandora)

An avatar is a graphical image that represents a character.

Avatar Example Character Avatars are what a lot of people use to represent their characters, visually.  Since we are playing in a medium that requires writing, some players will write a description of their characters in an introduction post, or first post.  If players didn't have an avatar, some might feel a responsibility to reintroduce their character's description more than once, which can be tedious to some players.  Which can sometimes distract from play.  Plus, having an Avatar sometimes helps the player write a post from their character's perspective or to another character.  Other players only will have an avatar for their character on their character sheet, for many reasons, but the most common reason I've heard is because a player feels the image distracts from the writing (this is only something some players, who do not use an avatar, have expressed to me).  For whatever reason a player uses an avatar, this is undoubtedly true; Most players have an avatar for their character.   I personally use an avatar, and feel that having an avatar helps me keep in character, and I tend to use the avatar as a muse.  But I personally also include a description of my character (how they are dressed, their eye color, other distinguishing features) when the character meets a new person, changes clothes, or the mood in the game calls for it.   I hope I can help new players, with this article, by guiding you through the basics of picking an avatar and give you the resources to make your avatar fit your character best.   So, to start off you will have needed to decide the basics about your character:

  • Sex, 
  • age, 
  • weight, 
  • height, 
  • hair color & length (if they have hair), 
  • eye color, 
  • skin color, 
  • defining features (moles, scars, tattoos, body hair, etc.), 
  • build (lanky, burly, svelte, etc.).  
  • And any other additional features that are important to your character's appearance. 

See the article "How to Begin" for more basics on how to build your character overall, in this article we are only dealing with character appearance.   Next you need to decide on a base model or picture.  Searching for an image may be the hardest part of all of this.

  • Many players use images from comic books, and many times these are the easiest avatars to create, however if you want to edit your picture it may prove to be a longer and more difficult task.   But it can be done, especially with the software available.  
  • If you are looking for a base model, a good place to start is by having the name of a person/model in mind and googling them  You can also enter keywords like "Brunette+male+model" or similar, according to your avatar needs.  Be ware though, you may run into pornographic images doing these searches; to reduce the possibility,  turn the "Safe Search" feature on, even if you use another search engine.  
  • Do not discredit those adult images!  Many images can be edited to cover up naughty-bits.  And sometimes you will find a picture, that while it is racy, will have a perfect setting, a good looking model, or a perfect look to it.  Some sites to look to: Maxim, Maxim UK, Ralphs, Playboy, Playgirl, Penthouse.  A warning: Some sites that have these images may carry viruses, its up to you to decide the risks are, or are not worth it.  AND, if you are a minor do not go to those sites, and do not use those pictures as a base for your model; your parents should be aware of your internet use and have the ability to protect you from that exposure.  I am not your Mommy, I will not take responsibility for your actions or the content you view or expose your computer to,  and I cannot nor will I try to protect you from that.   
  • Another good site, for super-hero images is Heromorph.  These images have been edited or created by various graphic artists, using models (sometimes adult material), but happen to be excellent work.  Whatever you do, do not claim ownership of an image you found on heromorph, and if possible give credit where it is due.  

Tip! A cardinal rule in creating an avatar is to not claim to have edited or designed an image if you did not truly do the work.  

  • Try desktop wallpaper sites, they sometimes have high quality large images from which to work with.  SexyDesktop is a good site.

Tip! A good rule of thumb in finding a good picture to make an avatar from, is to find the largest and highest resolution

  •  If you still can't find an image that you like, look up fan sites for an actor or model you have in mind for your character.  Many times these sites will have some of the best quality images, and in some cases have rare photoshoot images.  Just enter the name of the person in a search engine, and you should find fan sites associated with that person.  In my experience the actor/models "official" site will not have images that you can use, they may be embeded in flash, or small pictures, or images they want you to pay a fee to see.  Do not spend money for an avatar base image.  Its not worth it, and it makes what we do for our enjoyment a commodity.  
  • Lastly, I recommend a site called Use my Computer.  This is my "diamond mine" that I wouldn't ordinarily tell people about, but in an effort to make role playing more accessible for the players, I'm letting you in on this little secret of mine.  It has a limited resource for male models, but it has an EXCELLENT cache of female models (actresses, models, etc.) in the gallery section of the site.  And while you are there, do the site owner a good turn for the excellent pictures, and click on the banner ads so that the site owner can keep the site open for all of us to use.

If anyone else has resources that they use to find images, let me know.  I'll list your link, and a credit to you for the link.     Now, you will need an image editing program to shrink your image to room limits (our room limits are 500x500, under 70k).  This is an easy edit, and I will walk you through it in IrfanView.  IrfanView is a free, very basic, photo editing software.  So please download it.  I make use of it on a regular basis when editing pictures for various tasks, including the great thumbnail program bundled with it.   So, now you've downloaded IrfanView.  

  • To resize your image first you need to open your image using the IrfanView program.  Open the IrfanView program, and click File.  Click on Open, and browse your hard drive for where you store your avatar images.  Click on the image.
  • Now your image is open in Irfanview.  So now click on Image (menu option at the top of the program), Click on Resize/Resample...
  • Make sure "Preserve aspect ratio" is checked.
  • In Set new size, change the largest number of the width and height to the size within room limits (500 x 500 is our max. size).  
  • Click Ok.
  • Now, save the image by clicking on File and then  Save As...  type a name for the image, I usually name the image my character's name.  MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE SAVING YOUR PICTURE TO. 

You'll need to upload your image now.  If you don't have your own image space, you can sign up for space at photobucket.  This is a great place for storing your images to be shown on WBS.  For information on how to put up your image on WBS, after its been uploaded, please see the "Playing on WBS" article. But that's not all you can do! Now is the time to consider whether resizing your image is enough.  Many people want to put their character's name on their picture, or want to edit hair color, or something else.   Editing your picture, no matter if its from a comic book, or a photograph, may be difficult- but it can be done.  I'm a good example of that; I am self taught, and later took a college course on graphics and editing.  I wound up bored in the class, finishing all class projects about 6 weeks in advance, helping other students by request from the teacher, and playing computer games to pass the time; and despite all the wasting of time I passed the course with excellent scores on my projects.  This was thanks entirely to being self-taught, by editing my own character images.  And it is possible for all players to do this as well, I have no doubt about that because I am not extraordinary, and we all have imaginations.  But it takes time, effort, and developing an eye for this.  If you don't have the time to edit your own pictures, there are usually those in a role play room who are more than happy to help you out.  And if you just stick with a basic picture, you won't need to edit the image at all.   In fact, in many cases over-editing a picture doesn't mean its a good image.  Its entirely up to you, the player, if you think your image looks good or needs to be edited.  But whatever you do, do not think for a moment that your avatar is inferior to anyone elses.  I find that is a common feeling amongst some players who are just starting out with their avatar editing, but they often have really wonderful pictures for their characters.  So my biggest piece of advice is to be confident about your avatar and your character; getting discouraged or letting others make your feel inferior will only disrupt you in doing something you really enjoy, and I don't believe anyone should have that power.  And remember that when you do your best at anything, you have something to be proud of. Tip! Do not resize your image until after you have edited your image, but before you put any character name text on the picture. For more intense editing, you need a program like photoshop ($699 USD) or paintshop pro ($79.99 USD) because IrfanView won't do it with the quality you need.  OR, you can get a FREE program that is JUST as good as those programs.  Its called GIMP.  GIMP has many capabilities; It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.  Its written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms, but there are programs that render the program for use on Windows and Mac computers.  But a word of warning, I like GIMP 2.4.7, instead of 2.6.4 because of the usability. You can download older versions (like 2.4.7) of GIMP here. And for documentation on how to use GIMP, tutorials on what you can do and how to do it, go here. I can't help you out on how to do various things, because 1. a lot of GIMP's features are self explanatory, and 2. GIMP can do a lot.  But do check out the tutorials, and you will be able to do everything I can.. and you may even figure out features of GIMP I haven't even figured out.   Tip! Get new fonts!  Add fonts, in order to create new and interesting name text on images.  A text style can hint at your character's personality, just as the whole of the image can.. or can set the tone of a whole role play.  Run a search on google for fonts, you can find a lot of free fonts that are fantastic.    Good luck on your avatar!  And if there are any questions you have, that I may be able to help you with, don't hesitate to contact me any time!

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