Basic Building in SL

(please note, this is a work in progress and some sections may need updating, and accompanying images may not have been added yet) (want to contribute? email me or contact me in Second Life, I’ll consider adding it and will certainly correct/add anything truly pertinent!)

This is a *very* basic building intro, more advanced builders will probably be bored reading this!)


Written by Sera Lok ~2007 for a SL building class I taught briefly.
(this was in the olden days when v1 was the only v)

knowing your camera controls is the most important basic step. Remember that you are in a 3d world and you need to continually look at things from all angles.

–While your mouse is hovered over what you want to zoom in on, press and hold down your Alt key on your keyboard.
Your mouse icon should turn into a little magnifying glass with a  + sign on it.
Now click and hold your mouse button down, and move the mouse around.
You can zoom in and out and pan around this way.
–Another thing you can do is hold down both the Alt and Ctrl key at the same time. Your mouse icon will turn into a little square with a circly thing.
Move your mouse around, and you can see that this combination of keys allows you to rotate around what you are focused on.
–While you are focused on something, if you have a mouse wheel, you can scroll back and forth to zoom in and out.
–you can also use the arrow keys to move your camera around, instead of the mouse.


–A prim is the basic building unit in SL. It is short for primitive.
–You could think of a prim as a brick.  A building block.
–You can have a 1 prim object, or you can have a 150 or more prim object. An object is a set of prims linked together so they can be selected as one piece.
–Objects can be many things. They can be buildings, furniture, decorations, jewelry, hair, pieces of clothing (like a prim skirt), shoes, avatars….

–To create a prim, hover your mouse pointer over the ground directly in front of you. Right-click the ground, and select the menu item “Create.”
(You can also click “Build” at the bottom of your screen)
A box should pop up with several pictures of shapes. The box shape should be highlighted.
Your mouse pointer has turned into a little wand. Now, click the ground. You should now have a box!

Prim Types:

–In your object tab (click the “More>>” button if you don’t see the Object tab), there are 8 prim types in a dropdown menu: Box, Cylinder, Prism, Sphere, Torus, Tube, Ring and Sculpted.
–There are hour long classes just discussing the different types of prims and their capabilities. For now, it is good just to know that you have lots of choices in shape.
–Sculpted is a new prim type that was added within the last six months or so… and is not really a shape so much as something you apply a 3D texture to in order to create a shape.
–You can change shapes by using the dropdown menu under Building Block Type, or you can choose the shape you want to build before you click the ground to create it.


–You’ll know your prim is selected because it will have arrows coming from it and a line of little dots will be connecting your hand to the prim.
–To deselect the prim, simply close the Edit box, or press the Esc key a couple times.
–To select it again, right click the prim and select “Edit.”
–If you decide to delete your prim, right click it and select “Delete.”
–If you’d like to save it in your inventory, you have two options. You can “Take” the prim, which means you take the prim itself into inventory, and it is no longer inworld.
–Alternatively, you can “Take Copy,” which sends an exact copy to your inventory, leaving the original prim inworld.


–When a prim is selected, you should have 3 arrows coming out from the center in different directions…a red, green and blue line.
–These are your axes. You don’t really need to worry about what this means right now.
–What you DO need to know is that by clicking and dragging on either end of the arrows, you can move your prim around.


There are 5 tabs – General, Object, Features, Texture and Content.
Select the Object tab.

–LOCKED – when this is checked, no one, not even you, can move or edit the prim in any way.
You can  unlock the object by simply unchecking the box.
(And if you are prone to deleting/messing stuff up on impulse, you might  like the lock feature…)
–PHYSICAL – This is a feature used for weapons and gravity based items.  Just a note… physics based objects can cause lag.
So unless you have a specific reason to be using this feature, probably best to avoid it. (Although it’s fun to play with, for sure)
–TEMPORARY – Checking this makes your prims temporary.
Unless you have already taken a copy of your object/prim, or you just don’t give a crap what happens to it, don’t check this. If you do, it’s going to disappear forever in about 1-2 minutes.

–So, for most general building, Locked, Physical and Temporary really won’t be that important to you. But it is good to know what they mean.

–PHANTOM – When checked, this feature makes it so you can walk right through your prim.
This can be useful for when you have a tight space and need to be able to get around.
Otherwise avatars tend to get stuck in objects and it’s sometimes hard to escape…
Obviously you don’t want to make things like floors or stairs phantom. Then people will sink right through them.


In the object tab you see a bunch of numbers.
–If you take a moment to study all this info, you’ll see that the first set of numbers, “Position,” details where your prim is in  3D space.
–The next set of numbers is “Size.”
There are a few ways to adjust size. One way is to simply change the numbers in the fields.
A second way to resize your prim is a bit less exact.
Move your mouse over your box and right click-Edit, then press the Ctrl and Shift buttons on your keyboard. You will see a bunch of little squares around your prim.
–First let’s focus on the white squares. These allow you to resize the WHOLE prim equally on all sides.
Move your mouse so that one of the white squares becomes highlighted, then click and drag to make your prim smaller or larger.
Now, you can adjust any of the little squares by dragging and releasing – the red ones, blue ones, green ones…

Now, I said this wasn’t exact…but it can be.,,,


–First, make sure your prim is selected and go to Tools in the upper menu of your screen.  If there is not an X in front of “Snap to Grid,” click that option to turn it on.
–Go back to your menu box, and see if the box in front of “Use Grid” is checked. If it’s not, check it.
–Then click the “Options…” button just to the right.
–Make sure that the box in front of “Enable Sub-Unit Snapping” is checked. (Leave the number after Grid Unit at 0.5 which is the default.)
–Then close that box by clicking the X in the upper right hand corner, and go back to your box.
–Now drag one of the colored squares again (Ctrl+Shift) and put your mouse icon near the lines that appear. With subunit snapping, you can give your object more exact numbers for measurements than just moving the mouse around willy-nilly.
–You can tell when it snaps when a little white triangle appears on the grid line. In my opinion, resizing prims this way is a lot easier than punching in a bunch of numbers. But we all have our preferences. 🙂

-Another tidbit about resizing – look at the top of your Edit box and find the “Stretch Both Sides” checkbox.

If you check that, both sides of the prim will be resized when you drag the red, green or blue squares.

–One more note – if you resize your prim and want to go back to the previous size (or move it and want to go back to the previous location) – press Ctrl-Z.
Maybe you’ll decide you want it back to the location you had before you pressed Ctrl-Z… in this case press Ctrl-Y.


As with resizing, there are some different ways to do this.

Go back to the Object tab. The last set of numbers on the bottom left are your prim’s rotations. You can manually change the numbers here.

The other way of rotating your prims (and the way I prefer) is to press the Ctrl key on your keyboard and hold it down.
You will see the the red, green and blue lines turn into circles that surround your prim.

If you hover your mouse over one of the circles, it will become highlighted.
Now press and hold your mouse button and move it around. Your prim should follow your movement.

If your sub-unit snapping is still on, you can make exact rotations (in this case, you need to move your mouse outside of the grid circle to make it snap).


–Let’s move over to Path Cuts, right under the Building Block Type. (Under the Object tab)
To see what this feature does, you simply need to hover your mouse over one of the white fields after B or E and scroll up or down, or just plug in some numbers and watch your prim change.
–Hollow – well this is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
Type “90” into that field, and you’ll see your cylinder go almost completely hollow.
The highest number you can put in here is 95.
–Now…the last three sets of numbers here are Twist, Taper and Top Shear.
These are useful for various things, but for now I just want you to see a little sampling of what they do.
Under Twist, for B type -90, for E type 90.
Under Taper, for X type -0.55, for Y type 0.5
Under Top Shear, for X type 0.45, for Y type 0.5
You can see that your prim has been completely altered from its original shape.
To make things interesting, go to Building Block Type and see what different shapes look like with these numbers.


Ok, let’s check out the General Tab. First you’ve got name and description.

The one most important thing I will say to new builders is: NAME YOUR PRIMS!!!!
Otherwise, you are going to have a bunch of stuff in your inventory called “Object.” And speaking from experience, that’s really freakin annoying.

The general tab is where you decide what permissions to give others, should you decide to share your creations.

And if you decide to sell your creations, this is where you put the price and how it is to be sold.


If you want to create several prims of the same type, there is a much easier way than creating prim after prim using the Create tool.
Select the prim you already created, press and hold down your Shift key, and drag the blue arrow up.
A copy of your first prim is created. This method also has the benefit of keeping your prims aligned.

To link a set of prims together, you need to select them all first.
To select multiple prims, first select one of them. Then press and hold your Shift key, and click once on all your other prims. (Make sure not to select anyone else’s prims, otherwise you won’t have permission to link them.)
When you have all prims selected, press Ctrl-L.  (Alternatively, you can go to the Tools menu and click “Link.”) Now all your prims should be linked.

You will notice that all the prims have a blue halo surrounding them, except for one, which has a yellow halo.
The prim with the yellow halo is your Root Prim. At this point, you don’t need to know a lot about the root prim except that:
1) The root prim is the one that holds the Description info for the whole object
2) The root prim is always decided by the LAST prim you select.

If you decide you want to unlink your prims, press Ctrl-Shift-L, or go to the Tools menu and click “Unlink.”

You can also Shift copy whole linked objects (or several unlinked prims) like you did with individual prims.


The Texture tab is where you decide what your prim is going to look like in terms of textures and colors.
LL has been kind enough to give every avatar a basic set of textures to play around with.
There are also several free texture sets available here, at other institutions, and freebie places.
In fact, there are TONS of free textures out there.
Until you are looking for something really specific, I advise you not to buy textures. Just play with what you can get for free.

Now, let’s focus on the stuff under the Texture tab: click the wooden square right above the word “Texture.”  A box will open up displaying the current texture (Default) and all the folders in your inventory that have textures in them.
If you are new to SL, you might just have a folder called “Library” displayed.
Go ahead and open the Library folder by clicking on the arrow in front of it. Then open the Textures folder.
Go to the Wood folder, open it and find “Brazilian rosewood.” Click it, and the texture will display on your prim.
(If it doesn’t display, click the checkbox in front of “Apply Immediately.”)

Let’s say you decide you really don’t want to apply that texture. Just hit cancel, and your prim goes back to the way it was before.

Click the texture box again and I’ll show you another way to find a texture. See the little space that says “Type here to search”? Type  “braz” in there.
Brazilian rosewood and any other texture with the letters ‘braz’ in it will appear.
Now, click on Brazilian rosewood and click the “Select Button.” This changes your prim to that texture.

Now…you can select individual faces of a prim to texture, but that is a little advanced for this class.
The easiest way for a beginner to change only one side of a prim is to open the Inventory folder (The button on the lower right hand of your screen)
Make sure your object isn’t selected (no colored arrows spewing from your prim), find a texture in your inventory, and drag it from your inventory onto your prim.
This is about as far as I’m going to go into textures, as with object types, there are whole classes devoted to just textures.


The Features tab is where you can make your prims flexible and give them lighting properties.
–If you end up making hair or clothing, the Flexible Path properties will be very important to you.
And it’s another feature that whole classes are devoted to.
–The light feature can be fun, and it’s fairly easy to use.
Let’s say it’s dark outside and you want to have some light.
Just make a prim, and check the box in front of Light.
You can play around with the individual properties for light. Probably the most important one is Radius – this is where you decide how far your light extends.
If you want things really bright, set that to 20.
(Oh, and if you want to be able to see the light… you need to go to Edit>Preferences, Graphics Detail, and select “Nearby local lights.)


The content area is where you will put any scripts, notecards, landmarks, etc….
You may have experienced those highly annoying (IMO) objects that send you notecards and landmarks every time you visit a store?
Well, those notecards and LMs are stored in the contents folder of whatever object is sending you the info, along with a script that tells the object to send them to any avatar nearby.
Until you are a little more familiar with building, (unless you are building things primarily to test your scripts in), the contents tab will be of secondary importance.


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