Epoq 2.2 How To Build in Second Life
Dr. Anthony Curtis – University of North Carolina at Pembroke

An updated version of the information on this page is available as a PDF for download: How To Build in Second Life pdf

This page also is available translated into the German language.


+ Prims
+ Prims look like...
+ Prims come from...
+ Where to build?
+ Sandboxes
+ How to start...
+ Editing a prim
+ Like plywood?
+ Changing size
+ Rotating a prim
+ Naming an object
+ Texturing a prim
+ Coloring a prim
+ Let there be light
+ Copying a prim
+ Linking prims
+ Don't litter
+ Prims do stuff
+ A fun exercise
+ Learn more
Second Life is a 3D virtual world created entirely by its Residents. –Linden Lab

How to start creating in Second Life

Here's an easy introduction to creating objects in Second Life.

The creation tools within Second Life will enable you to construct just about anything you want to make. With a bit of practice you'll have your own mansion, jet plane or biodiverse forest in no time.

Let's start with some small wooden boxes. ;-)


Prim is short for primitive. Prims are the building blocks of Second Life. Everything is constructed of prims.

All objects in Second Life are made of prims, except for avatars, the natural ground, and trees.

People say "prim dress" or " prim hair" or "prim shoes." They mean those objects have been made by someone from prims.

What do prims look like?

They come in 15 different original shapes. Your choice. The default prim shape is a cube.

Prims can be colored and textured as you wish (explanation is below).

Some samples of prim shapes

Where do prims come from?

Prims come out of your "magic wand" building tool.

People say they "rez" a prim. What is "rezzing?" To "rez" something means to create it or to pull it from inventory. A brand new prim comes from the "magic wand" building tool, rather than from inventory.

Prims can be made anywhere you are allowed to build.

Prims costs L$0 (zero linden dollars) and are unlimited in supply. There is a limit to how many prims any one parcel of land can hold, but no limit on how many prims you can create in total.

If the maximum number prims on a parcel of land is reached, no more prims can be made until some are deleted or moved into inventory.

Where to build?

You can create prims, and build things with those prims, anywhere in Second Life where you have permission to build. That could be your own land, someone else's land with permission, or a public sandbox.

Landowners control the act of building on their land. Most landowners will have that permission blocked. You always can ask them to turn it on for you, but don't expect that. Rather, go to a public build area known as a "sandbox."


In a sandbox you can build freely.

You can use the in-world Search to find sandboxes. There are many across the SL world.

Sandboxes usually are "cleaned" automatically every few hours. The length of times between cleanings should be posted at the sandbox. Be sure to "Take" your work into your inventory periodically so you don't lose it entirely during a sandbox cleaning. To do so, right-click on your object and select "Take" from the pie-shaped menu.

Here's a link to UNCP's sandbox:   http://slurl.com/secondlife/Myungsimbogam/11/211/63
SLURL stands for Second Life URL, the Web link to a specific place in Second Life

Here is a different sandbox, at the Morris welcome area:

Morris sandbox SLURL:   http://slurl.com/secondlife/Morris/196/84/32
SLURL stands for Second Life URL, the Web link to a specific place in Second Life

How to start creating

There are two ways to obtain a fresh prim.
  • Right-click on the ground and select "Create." A Build Toolbox window will open on screen and your mouse cursor will turn into a magic wand. Click on the ground with the wand to create a plywood-looking virgin prim cube.

  • Left-click the "Build" button at the bottom of your viewer screen. A Build Toolbox window will open on screen and your mouse cursor will turn into a magic wand. Click on the ground with the wand to create a plywood-looking virgin prim cube.
Do one of those two things, then select a prim shape from the 15 choices shown as tiny icons at the top of the Build Toolbox window, and right-click on the ground to generate your first shape.

Experiment with creating various prim shapes.

Editing a prim

Right-click on the prim. Select "Edit" from the pie-shaped menu. This will expose red, blue and green drag arrows used to move the prim. Red is the x-axis. Green is the y-axis. Blue is the z-axis.

Alternatively, if you have the Build Toolbox window open, you can select the "Edit" icon. It's next to the "Create" icon. Click on the prim. This will expose red, blue and green drag arrows used to move the prim.

Click on a colored arrow to move the prim in that direction.

An alternative way to move a prim is click the Object tab in the Build Toolbox window and then change the numbers in the X,Y, Z locations in the "Position (meters)" slots.

Once you've got the basics, try experimenting with some of the other editing options -- hollow out a cube, squish a sphere, etc.

Don't like plywood?

The default prim is a plywood-looking cube. No matter their shapes, all prims look like plywood when first rezzed.

To change the material a prim is made of, click the Object tab in the Build Toolbox window and look for the "Material" drop-down menu at the bottom of that window. Using the Material menu, you may select from stone, metal, glass, wood, flesh, plastic or rubber.

Note: The default material for a virgin prim is wood and the texture is plywood. The Material selection won't change the plywood texture. You will have to do that yourself by making a selection of texture or color at the Texture tab.

What does Material do then? It changes how an object acts and reacts. For instance, it makes a prim sound different if someone were to bump it or jump on it. It also changes how physics affect a prim. For example, a rubber ball will be more bouncy than a stone ball, and make a different sound if dropped.

Changing the size of a prim

Right-click on the prim and select Edit. Hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys. Small color axis boxes will appear on he edges and corners of the prim. Drag them to resize your prim in that direction.

An alternative way to resize a prim is click the Object tab in the Build Toolbox window and then change the numbers in the X,Y, Z dimensions in the "Size (meters)" slots.

A prim can be no larger than 10m x 10m x 10m. To create larger objects, link several prims.

The smallest dimensions possible are 0.01m x 0.01m x 0.01m

Rotating a prim

While in Edit mode, hold down the Ctrl key to turn the red, blue and green drag drag arrows into rotation handles or hold down both Shift and Ctrl keys to produce stretch handles.

To rotate, right-click on the prim and select Edit. Hold down the Ctrl key. The color arrows will change to the color bands of the rotation mode. Holding down the Ctrl key and drag a color band with the mouse to rotate the prim around that axis.

An alternative way to rotate a prim is click the Object tab in the Build Toolbox window and then change the numbers in the X,Y, Z dimensions in the "Rotation (degrees)" slots.

Naming an object

In the Build Toolbox window, click the General tab. You will find your prim is named "object." Give it a new name. If you don't do this, your inventory will be cluttered with items all labeled "object."

Texturing a prim

Prims start out looking like plywood. That is totally changeable.

Adding a texture can make a prim or set of prims look like something recognizable. The same for coloring.

To add or change the surface texture of a prim, go in the Build Toolbox window to the Texture tab and click the image at middle left of a sample "Texture." If you have never changed it, the sample will look like plywood. Clicking it will open the "Pick Texture" panel. There you can browse or search through the textures in your inventory. Find one you like and click "Select."

There are buttons on the panel labeled "Default" and "Blank." Default returns the to the plywood texture. Black makes the surface white with no pattern.

(See the examples of textured prims in the practice exercise walls below.)

Coloring a prim

To add or change the surface color of a prim, go in the Build Toolbox window to the Texture tab and click the image of a sample "Color" at center.

If you have never changed the color, the sample will be white.

Clicking it will open the "Color Picker" panel. There you can click to select from 32 predefined colors. Or you can click in the color mixing area above the predefined colors. Find a color you like and click "Select."

You also can make glass, plexiglass or clear plastic from a prim by using the Transparency option under the Texture tab in the Build Toolbox window.

Some samples of prim colors

Let there be light

Click the Features tab in the Build Toolbox window and look for the "Light" checkbox.

An object can be set to emit light, so avatars who have "Nearby local lights" enabled in viewer Preferences can see a halo effect and the object will appear brightly lit.

To enable the viewer, go up to the menubar: Edit > Preferences > Graphics > Custom > Lighting Detail > Nearby local lights.

Back in the Build Toolbox window, the intensity of the light, the radius of the circle of light, and the falloff of light can be adjusted.

Generating light this way has an effect on performance of the viewer, so a better alternative often is to check the "Full Bright" option under the Texture tab.

Copying a prim

Right-click on a prim. Select edit. This will expose the red, blue, green position arrows used to move the prim.

Hold down your Shift key, grab one of the arrowheads, and drag off a copy of the prim. Release the Shift key and stop dragging the arrowhead. You will have a copy of the original prim.

Alternatively, you can duplicate a prim while in Edit by selecting the prim and pressing the Ctrl and D keys. The he prim will be duplicated and offset from the first by 0.5m.

Linking prims

You can hook several prims together to form a set that will allow you to move the prims in unison.

To temporarily group prims, hold down the Shift key as you click on each prim. This is referred to as "shift-selecting."

When you have all the prims grouped and shift-selected, you can move them as one. However, deselecting them will break the link.

To make a permanent link, shift-select the objects, then press Ctrl + L to link them. Press Ctrl + Shift + L to unlink them.

Alternatively, you can link multiple shift-selected objects by using "Link" in the "Tools" menu. Just shift-select all the prims you wish to link together, open the "Tools" menu and select "Link." Now, as you move them around, they all will move in unison.

You can link upto 255 prims together in one grand object. The prims must be no farther than 30m apart from each other.

You can select "Edit Linked Objects" in the Build Toolbox window to move one prim in a linked set.

Sculpting a prim

A sculpted prim, known affectionately as a sculptie, is an object that has an organic shape and is more complex than the ordinary geometric prim shapes we have been talking about here. Take, for example, a very realistic red apple. Sculpties are textures created outside of Second Live with 3D modeling software and then uploaded to Second Life and applied to a prim.

The plate and fruits are sculpties at Linden Lab

Don't litter

Please don't litter the Second Life environment. Remember, there's a limit on how many prims a parcel of land can hold. We need to conserve as well as keep the land attractive.

When you are done working with a prim, right-click it and select either "Take" or "Delete." Clicking "Take" moves the prim into your inventory. "Delete" does away with it.

Making a prim do something

You can add behaviors to objects by using LSL -- the Linden Scripting Language.

To do so, you build in a code, which tells the object what to do. As an example try this out:

Create a cube, right-click it, and select "Edit" to open the Build Toolbox window. Click the "Content" tab in the Build Toolbox window. Click on "New Script." Click "Save" and then "Close" to see the script appear in the object's contents. Now close the Build Toolbox window and click the prim.

When an avatar clicks on the prim, it replies "Hello, Avatar!" and "Touched."

Here's what that script looks like:

llSay(0, "Hello, Avatar!");
touch_start(integer total_number)
llSay(0, "Touched.");

You can change what the prim says by right-clicking it and selecting Edit, clicking the Contents tab, double-clicking the script, replacing the words "Hello, Avatar!" and "Touched" with words of your own choosing, and saving the changes. When you leave the Edit mode and next click the prim, it will chat your new text.

In Second Life you will be able to find and use thousands of free scripts written by many people.

However, making just the right script for yourself can be easy and fun with Autoscript and with the graphical building blocks in Scratch. You tell either of them what you want and they will generate script lines to add interactive elements to things you build. You do not have to know how to write code. You simply copy and paste the generated lines from the Web page into a blank script in any object and it's ready to do what you have asked.

A fun practice exercise

Put a window in a wall by hollowing out a prim and inserting a glass.
  • Create a cube prim.
  • In the Edit window of the Build Toolboox, click the Object tab.
  • Locate the "Hollow" percentage setting. It will be 0%.
  • Increase the percentage and watch a hole open in the top face of the prim. Set the hollow percentage to 40%.
  • To see the hollow more clearly, rotate the prim so the hole faces you.
  • Use the Ctrl and Shift keys to resize the prim so it looks like a wall. Or use the "Size (meters)" settings under the Object tab. Try 4.0 x 4.0 x 0.2.
  • Create a second prim.
  • Resize it to slightly thinner than the wall. The window can be wider and taller than the hole because its thinner and therefore you can't see that part of the window inside the wall. If the wall is 0.2, try 0.19 for the window thickness and 1.325 x 1.325 for the window width and height. Your dimensions may have to be slightly larger.
  • Move the window so it fits in the hole in the wall.
  • Change the texture of the window to "Blank."
  • Increase the transparency percentage to something between 80% and 90%.
  • Look through the window in the wall.

These walls with windows are examples of how this practice exercise might turn out. One wall is a prim with a brick texture. The other prim wall has a siding texture.The prim that is the glass window, in each case, is set at 85% transparency. Notice there even is light reflecting from the glass.

Where to learn more about building
For help with building while in Second Life, send an IM to Stone Semyorka.

New Media »        New Media News »        News Media in SL »        Virtual Worlds and Second Life »        UNCP in SL »        Digital Storytelling »        Machinima »       
© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke    e-mail    home page
The name Second Life and the hand logo and logotype are registered trademarks of Linden Lab