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The basics

1. How to prepare a concept sketch

 

You have your creature/character out of your head and onto the page. You may have taken it all the way from pencil to vector and even got some nice colors and patterns into it. This section looks at how to prepare a design for 3D modeling. Does the design work in 3D? Is it going to look ok from the side or does it need to be adjusted? Do you actually know what it will look like from a top down view?

This first video explains how to take a 2D concept image into Photoshop and adjust it ready to be used in a 3D modeling package. This process is useful for lots of modeling projects as very often you will have to work from reference that isn’t your own.

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2. Getting the reference image into a viewport

 

Now that you know how your creation will look from all angles you may need to re-draw it in those views. For certain types of modeling you can import those sketches into the software and actually use them as a plan to follow as you model.

Following this video you will understand how to use your reference images in two different ways. The first is to import the images into the viewports of a 3D package and the second method puts the images onto a plane object.

 

 

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3. Understanding the basics of Sub-division modeling

 

There are two well used types of 3D modeling around (there are loads but these are the two well known standards) NURBS (Non rational uniform B Spines) and  Sub-division modeling. NURBS or Polys!

We will be using  Subdivision surfaces as this is a well used standard for 3D modeling and they are used to create characters for animations, film, tv and games. One of the core principles to learn here is how a low polygon cage (a cube for example) can be used to drive a high polygon shape (a smooth sphere-like head for example)

The key to understanding how to model with subdivision surfaces is to learn a set of basic principals that you will find in every 3D package.

Depending on your knowledge and experience you may want to watch my Mintotaur Modeling Series or Silo Fundamentals  before moving on any further into these tutorials.

This video will give you a quick look at some of the features you will need to be aware of to model with Sub-D’s.

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4. Box modeling v point by point modeling

The two types of Subdivision modeling we will cover are Box modeling and Point by Point (or Edge) modeling.

Box modeling is like carving a bust out of a block of marble. You start with a box and by adding point and edges you shape it into your design. The second method is point-by-point (or edge by edge) where we start with nothing and by adding and moving points or edges we build up a character. It is best to learn both and use both as needed. The best modelers simply switch between both methods in almost every job.

 

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5. Using primitive shapes to build up your character

 

Some times it’s easy just to use some shapes that we have to hand rather than making something from scratch. If the character has a sphere for a head then it is much simpler to use a primitive sphere and adjust it rather than build it from scratch.

Most characters can be blocked out with primitive shapes which can then be refined by adding detail.

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6. Modling in parts and managing your objects

 

As we model we need to keep things organized and broken down into sets. Object/scene management is very important as later on in the process we need to add materials and textures to certain parts of the model.

Having it all broken down into logical sets makes it all easier to handle. With a lot of modern 3D programs and file formats (like wavefront .OBJ) it is easy to break down a model into parts and then retain those sets when you move the model to another program.

Most object management or scene management systems give you options to turn visibility on or off, change shading modes, group objects together, add textures and even lock a part of an object so it can’t be selected by accident. Every program is different so you will need to learn the specifics of the software you choose to use.

 

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7. Using material sets to colour your characters

 

When a model is complete there are two main ways to add colour and texture. These are adding a texture map onto of a set of UV’s or on a per-polygon basis. Most 3D packages with render capability will allow you to add materials in some way. To add the materials to specific parts of the model you will need to break it down into selection sets. In this video the Twitter bird model is used again and in SIlo3D it is given material sets with different colour’s applied to the different selection sets. This is then exported from Silo3D and imported into Cinema4D which retains those same sets. Each selection area is then given its own individual material.

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8. Creating and using UV maps

 


To give a character detail you sometimes need to add a texture map. To do this you need to give the model a set of UV co-ordinates.

There are many ways to do this and most programs have at least some basic UV tools. As characters are generally more organic in nature I like to use a program called Headus UV Layout for most UV unwrapping.

Using UVLayout could be described as the opposite of dress making; instead of cutting out a flat pattern and sewing that up to make clothing, in UVLayout the object is cut into pieces that are then flattened out to make the pattern. These flattened UV shells are not just planar projections; a dynamics based algorithm is used to spread the UV’s out, as you watch, so that there’s minimal stretching, compression or skewing of textures when they’re applied to the object.

 

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9. Creating texture maps from a UV template

 

 

When we have a set of UV’s we can use a UV map as a template to paint on. This means that what we paint will fit onto the character in the right place. There are loads of options for texture creation. I favour Photoshop or ZBrush for most work because of the layer and blending options. ZBrush for fixing seams and generating bump and displacement maps. Maxons body paint for some types of 3D models. There are some strong newcomers to the market not least of all the amazing 3DCoat and the amazing Mari

The video shown here gives a very quick and dirty way to texture map the Rabbit character from the UV section.

 

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10. Lighting your character (video by Rob Redman)

 

For the last two sections of the Basics area I’ve enlisted the help of a good friend of mine called Rob Redman. Robs runs Pariah Studios in the UK and is well know for his 3D training videos and his regular contributions to the larger 3D magazines. In this Lighting section Rob gives a great introduction into how to light a 3D character using Cinema4D. As we’ve have said all along the 3D package is largely irrelevant as the skills can be emulated in almost all of the packages that have render capability.

 

 

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11. Rendering your character

 

And finally we come to rendering out your character. Again, Rob talks us through how to setup a basic render and get some great result with minimal effort.

 

 

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