What are VRChat Avatars?
VRChat is a phenomenon. A social VR platform for Windows or the Oculus Quest, VRChat allows users to meet in virtual spaces, play games, share art and explore virtual reality environments.
But when you’re exploring these virtual environments, you need to look the part. New avatars can be obtained within the game’s “worlds”, but many fans want a skin that will make them stand out in the sea of emotes and anime girls.
There are a bunch of different ways to get a custom VRChat avatar – from making your own in Blender to purchasing one on Fiverr.
So, without further ado, here’s the Ultimate Guide to VRChat Avatars.
Option 1: Downloading a 3D model
Designing, 3D modelling, and rigging your own VRChat skin can be a handful – and it requires a fair bit of technical knowhow. So, instead of hitting out alone, you may be better off having one created for you. Luckily, there’s a couple of good places to start:
The Unity Asset Store
By far the easiest place to start is the Unity Asset Store. This marketplace contains a number of 3D elements available, some of which are free and others which you’ll need to pay for. Since the Store isn’t technically designed for VRChat, you’ll need to search for a model you’d be interested in via a descriptor and then ensure it fits the criteria for VRChat.
First, the model must be fewer than 70,000 triangles on Windows or 10,000 triangles on Quest, otherwise VRChat will not let you upload the avatar. Secondly, VRChat explicitly asks you to gather relative permission before you use third party assets on their platform. For some Unity assets, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you find yourself paying for a skin, you must ensure you have permission to use it!
Sketchfab is a similar marketplace of user-generated 3D content. It’s worth a look, too!
If you’re looking for a custom avatar creation tool, but don’t have the skills to 3D model one yourself, then Tafi may be the platform you’re looking for. Tafi is a program which allows you to create bespoke 3D skins using the kind of character customization tools you’d find in a AAA RPG.
While this is probably a cheaper alternative than paying someone to make one for you, venturing beyond the most basic character customization options may end up costing you. Naturally, you’re also going to be limited to pretty standard customization options. In other words, you may struggle to come up with anything that isn’t vaguely humanoid. You’re welcome, deviantart stans.
If you want to realise your own creative aspiration while avoiding 3D modelling software like Blender or Unity, there you have it.
VRC Traders Discord Server
If you’re looking to get in touch with someone who is experienced in Blender or Unity though, you could hop on the VRC Traders Discord server. Although it’s a Discord Server, it is set up just like any other proper marketplace – with reviews, testimonials, proposals, and previews. There are other ways to get in touch with 3D design professionals, but VRC Traders may be a good place to start for your journey.
When it comes to a marketplace for any kind of digital content, you will likely find Fiverr as one of the first suggestions. You won’t be surprised to hear that bespoke 3D models for VRChat are no different.
Fiverr used to be, as the name would imply, a marketplace where everything cost $5. Well, things are a little more expensive now. A custom VRChat avatar may cost you anything from a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars, dependent on the artist’s experience, rates, and the specifications of your request. An animal or simple character? Probably on the cheaper side, but a bipedal pizza dragon with hands that are donuts? Might cost you a little extra.
However, you can save a bit of money if you go for a VRChat designer with a basic template they’ve already made. It may mean a limit on customisation, but it will certainly save you a bit on artist labour.
Be sure to shoot the artist a message with your idea and design brief before you order – you want to make sure the artist is comfortable realising your vision, within your timeframe, and that your ambition hasn’t outrun your budget. Oh, and be sure to tell the artist it is for VRChat so they can hand it off in a compatible format and ensure it fits the criteria for VRChat.
When you finally have your 3D Model – time to celebrate! But your quest isn’t over just yet.
Option 2: Building your own 3D model
You’d think that, naturally, I’d start this guide off with a quick tutorial on putting together your first custom VRChat avatar. But sadly, it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. It requires 3D modelling know-how. If you don’t yet have that, this is going to be more of a long-term project than a ten minute task.
Choosing your 3D Modelling Software
For a myriad of reasons, it is strongly recommended you try out Blender if you’re a beginner. It’s free, it’s reasonably user friendly, and there are thousands of tutorials out there to get you started off.
How to Configure and Upload your 3D model
The process of finally uploading your 3D model can be complex and frustrating, but armed with the wealth of YouTube tutorials on the subject, shouldn’t be an impossible challenge.
I will run through a few important points here, but I couldn’t recommend more this thorough series by YouTuber DEFEND DINGO, which he uploaded earlier this year to help his subscribers with this very issue. It runs you through the entire process, step by step, from installing the necessary programmes to uploading your masterpiece.
Installing Unity and configuring SDK
There is no way to rig and get uploading a custom VRChat avatar without Unity. But remember: this process is separate to actually creating the 3D character model.
First off, you will need two things to install and configure. First off, you’ll need to download and install the Unity game development tool. You’d do well to use the Unity Hub to ensure you’re working with the right version. Second, you’ll need the VRChat Software Development Kit (SDK), available from the VRChat website alongside instructions on how to integrate the VRChat SDK into Unity. Once again, you’ll need to make sure you’re grabbing the latest version of SDK2.
Note: If you haven’t got a VRChat account yet (for instance, if you’ve just been playing the game on Steam), you will need to make one before attempting this step.
Rigging in Unity
Rigging is possibly the most important task in this whole process… besides, you know, actually choosing or creating your VRChat avatar.
Basically, rigging is what will make your VRChat avatar work. It can do something as simple visemes to lip sync your avatars mouth to audio input from your headset, or even integrate eye tracking or full body tracking. The process can be complex, so it’s worth following along with DEFEND DINGO’s comprehensive tutorial on the process.
Uploading to VRChat
There is one final hurdle you may need to overcome, and that is that in-game content upload privileges are limited to “trusted users.” This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though, considering the SDK told you as much when you downloaded it.
This means that if your account is too new (in other words, if you haven’t played the game enough) you will not be able to flex your custom 3D skin.
Although there is no single way to get yourself to the “trusted user” level, there are a couple of factors that increase your rank and a few that do the opposite. Ranking up is based on friends, play time, and public content uploads being received well.
The latter are to be avoided at all costs. Do not, under any circumstances, have people block you, report you, collectively kick you, or get kicked by the world host.