As a note, I will be using the FEMALE template. The templates themselves for male and female are nearly identical, save the soles of the feet. If you check Keef's resources a bit further down, you'll see what I mean.
In order to get started with skins, it's important to understand the mapping IMVU uses for it's skins. Below is a general / visual set of resources to give you a quick overview of the maps.
The first resource:
PIXELPUSHER. Not to toot this sites own horn, but Keef's greatness was one thing that really got a lot of us started. Keef's pages on skinning are SUPER DUPER helful if you have NO idea where to start.
Read it. Favorite it. Cherish it.
I also have a couple of body maps from an old skin freebie (for the full freebie scroll down and look for Minorty83), which have some elements that match/mimic color match help directly in the file itself.
keef's head map with highlighted connec ... of items
Now this head works for both guys and girls skins. Every matching color on these are where the parts connect to each other, on both files. Super important for learning how the map "maps" out.
Some more maps to look at to really get the idea of how things connect and where they sit:
Minorty83's body map with connection highlights n body part labels
Minority83/Parcel's body map with white lines (added by me, Parcel) showing locations of things like elbows, shoulder blades, butt, chest, belly button, and knees
*A important note the Keef brings up:
NOTE: It is important that you make your skin so BOTH neck areas look correct as these necks are interchangeable depending on the outfit the avatar is wearing.
I HIGHLY recommend reading over Keef's skinning page for more info on that, because the male one is miles different than the female one. [READ ME]
Different clothing pieces could use either the neck on the head portion of the skin, or on the body of the skin. It does vary by piece.
It's good in general to keep an eye on what connects where, you'll notice the back is split in half on the sides of the wireframe, so whatever you do on the left HAS to match what is on the right or your shading can look all kinds of silly on the body itself.
-------------------------[ Bases to get you started! ]-------------------------
IMVU's Provided DEFAULT BASES
Minority83's slightly enhanced base.
(This is where those lovely body maps come from. If you would like them already in PSD format, I suggest downloading this skin template)
Philospher male skin template
LadyMorphine's Head / Second head / Body templates.
AVOID USING GOOGLE FOR FREE FILES. Some of those are stolen and you may face DMCA actions against you.
DO NOT download freebies unless they are from a trusted source. This is one of the major reasons IMVU has stopped letting them in their forums in the first place. It is FAR too easy to just take a nose that was stolen directly off someone else's work, or worse, was a file someone had been selling.
------------------------- [ Video and Forum Tutorials ] -------------------------
Video / Youtube
Amaranth's Speed Body Enhance Vid
Babbit's Sexy men abbs tutorial
Babbit Face Tut (male, but still gives general idea)
Amaranths Eye Crease Tut
If all this still doesn't satisfy you:
Search on youtube
Honestly, I cannot recomennd Amaranth's channel enough. She has so many good video tutorials, not just for skins, but all kinds of things.
She is also a super trustworthy person if you ever want to purchase files/bases for things.
IMVU Forum tutorials*
IMVU FORUM SKIN TUTORIAL DIRECTORY
Battle's Dimple Tutorial
iRot (lips n hips)
(Irot/Pastelrot - Now Ghoulette - is a good friend of mine, I highly recommend checking out her stuff!)
*I don't want to run under the assumption that IMVU will delete these posts ("at least until the end of March 2017" was what the IMVU post says >.>) if in the case of mass destruction, these links will probably just be removed or modified to link to anyone who moves their items here.
-----------------------[ DO YOU WANT REALISM? ]-----------------------
Now it was stated for more realistic skins in another post by the user Zephyr that you may want to use different dimensions for the size of your actual textures. Imvu uses 256x256 pixels for the face and 256x512 for the body textures.
Try using 512x256 for face and 512x512 body. it's rather distorted in the texture, but when you add details to, IMVU engine will make it looks quite nice. Although there's still stretching and whatnot, but it's not avoidable
I personally haven't tried this, but I say go for it.
As long as you follow the mapping of the face and body as displayed in the images provided, I have no doubt that this technique will work.
(Seriously, Zephyr makes amazing skins, so I would trust this advice!)
-----------------------[ Tips: Use Palettes ]-----------------------
Best bit of advice i EVER heard was stay away from putting things on OVERLAY/SOFT LIGHT, and NEVER EVER touch the burn/dodge tool. ON ANY TEXTURE. Unless you are working with a gray/black texture DON'T USE OVERLAY/SOFT LIGHT. All they end up doing is making your shadows and highlights too harsh.
In many cases you can look for Palletes. Now around the web (especially deviantart) you can find free skin pallettes to look at.
Notice how they have different light and dark colors.
I really like this one. It give you the "base color" as the largest blob, and then gives you all the other colors as small ones.
When you begin, use the first color with an eye dropper tool. Fill in the whole skin with your base color. Begin shading and highlighting with the other colors given to you. Palette use 101 right there.
Use darker shades of the colors you used as a base. PERIOD. If you were using oil paints, there is no such thing as burn or dodge. A painter has no use for overlay or soft light either... Does that make sense?
Unless you are doing cell shading leave black out of the equation for your colored textures...
(think comic book, or, if you're a gamer, think borderlands).
LAYERS. A new layer for everything you do. I'm not even kidding. Because if you don't and you mess something up, you can screw yourself.
Things like photoshop and gimp use layers. MAKE MANY LAYERS. (Don't be like me, name them with exactly what they are so there is no confusion later).
-----------------------[ Tip: DON'T GIVE UP!!]-----------------------
The best advice to keep you from giving up after only one or two attempts:
DO NOT COMPARE YOUR WORK TO OTHER PEOPLES!
Especially if you're just starting out. It's going to take time. Like any skill, it is going to take practice.
Just because your first attempt doesn't look like So-n-So's item on the *cough* front page of the catty item, that is NO grounds to just give up. Its going to take some time to get it to look right. Trust me. My first skins looked like nails on a chalkboard. Let me show you one of my first attempts at skins..
[beware your eyeballs...]
Sad but true, some of my friends bought that. Though i think it was just to make me feel better T__T
I use this mostly as a hobby now. I don't create or obsess over my tiers or getting to the front page of the catalog. I do this because I like it. And that's good enough for me.
-----------------------[ FINDING INSPIRATION ]-----------------------
Lastly, where does one find inspiration? The skin catty is OVERLOADED with the same makeup and same looking skins everywhere you look. I make it a priority to never do the same makeup twice.
UTILIZE YOUR INTERNET TIME. Don't know how to draw winged eyeliner. Google image search. Take an image you like and try to draw it.
Draw it, redraw it. Scratch it out and restart as many times as you need until you feel satisfied enough with it. Truthfully, if you want to teach yourself how to make ANY texture, that's probably going to be the best method. Look at images, people, things. Draw it, and redraw it as many times as it takes.
-----------------------[ You have a base you're happy with. Now what? ]-----------------------
Got a skin base but no ideas for makeup, or been making skins and are running out of unique ideas? (Boy do I know that feel)
I suggest tumblr.. I follow a bunch of fashion blogs on there, just to get some unique ideas for makeup. Search the tags couture, fashion, makeup.
Trust me, there is a plethora of Ideas to be found on some of the different photo sites. /r/makeupaddiction (reddit) is also a GREAT place to look.
I end up getting distracted by the pretty makeups at times. There's so many great ideas to be had when you look online.
Find a makeup look you like? SAVE THE IMAGE, screenshot it. SAVE THAT S***. For the love of peet... save it. You will not remember the name of it later and you will be so angry that you can't find it again.
Do your best to draw it out.
An example of doing this from my catty:
Image of the makeup I wanted to recreate. Image of final Skin submitted.
[Skin in question]
Now it isn't an exact replica of the makeup, but I'm very happy with how it turned out. (I will also possibly be making that heart shape lip as a tutorial in the future. ikd yet)
And again, don't go comparing yourself. That's the WORST thing you can ever do as a creator/artist. You have your own personality and flair in art. Just because it doesn't look like your favorite skin creators' doesn't mean it isn't lovely in its own right.....
A quote from tumblr to leave you all with.
"...Flowers are pretty but so are Christmas lights and they look nothing alike."