Well it is a new day and so for this one I will touch on some basics when dealing with mesh for avatars, second life mesh clothing, mesh objects. First off when importing and uploading to second life different mesh items will have different methods that must be followed. For example a couch or chair made of mesh can be uploaded as a mesh object without the sit animations added, you would then add them the same as would with any other object mesh or prim before use. But objects such as mesh must be uploaded with a much more complex import. While on the subject of complexity I also should mention that mesh creation and manipulation is process that first is a steep learning curve and second can be time intensive. So if some one has great mesh that is fully rigged for animation and they are selling full perm for a high price ... well they more then likely put a lot of time into it. Creating a monster head in a program such as zbrush may only take me a few hours of sculpting, modeling and sketching, but for that item to be animated and imported well you may be talking at the least another 2 or 3 hours if not a another day to prepare it correctly. As well besides Blender the other manipulation tools are pro grade tools that are expensive I have over 10 K in to my system alone which include monitors multiple computers and software etc etc etc .... So this being foretold realize that even basic importing and exporting software, plugins and apps will cost you something.
So lets start with my favorite software that is not free, but if you already own it the plugin is free for creating a collada or .dae file. First off this is for either post work before animation or for stationary or non animated wearable mesh such as a hat or pair of shoes. The program is Zbrush and it is made by a company called Pixologic. It is the most powerful digital sculpting software available and it as well is the best for texture and creating highly detailed maps for your mesh. The learning curve is very high and it could be a year in tutorials to just learn the basics. If you are and artist is a must have program, and your work will improve year after year if studied correctly. But I am not trying to discourage you here I am just making sure everyone realizes people actually go to college for this type of occupation. So after you have Zbrush you will still need the plugin for converting your polymesh to a .dae file, this is free and easy to install just follow the directions on the link I am providing. The plugin called the Zsculpty maker converts both mesh and prims or sculptys to a dae file .... or a sculpt map depending on what and how you are making the item. You can find the Zbrush Mesh and Sculpty Plugin on the Zbrush Central Forum (this is a link straight to it ) or well just cut and paste
This plugin can convert for mesh and sculpty maps but you need to understand the use of the program and 3d in order to do it. For mesh you will need a high and low version and when exporting it asks if you would like to create levels of detail ... I always answer yes, as I also tell it to include the texture maps I created. If it is a hard edged or hard surface model like a car or gun or furniture etc ... then do not smooth if it is organic based then smoothing or not smoothing will be your choice. I can and atr a later time will go into more detail on this whole process and as well how to get there but for now this is how you use zbrush on inanimate objects or objects that are animated with out rigging. Despite the fact that these procedure are used for inanimate objects ... you can take the base mesh and import with the correct maps and topology into one of the animation software packages such as Maya or 3ds Max using the Go Z function and again this is a whole other lesson and explanation. Things you need to know when creating mesh ... first off the denser it is meaning the more polygons, the larger the .dae files and the longer to load and the more prims it costs. But in order to poly paint a model to look highly detailed you need a highly dense or high poly count model. Another aspect is the topology flow of your models and again this another lesson, Topology is a great thing to learn about but is such a large area of education it could not all be documented here. Retopologizing a model is a lot like dot to dot books when you were a child but the outcome of how the topology flows is extremely important. You can not make texture maps then retopo a model and use those same maps, you will need to either re texture or project the old textures to the new maps .... Again a whole new lesson, that you can read about on the web as well watch videos.
Next I will go on to explain tools for Blender in the next part of this blog series, each post I will try and bring up more great tools and apps in world and out in RL for building and editing mesh to animations, so stay tuned till tomorrow.