The first thing is of course to start with something. The typical choice is usually a box. Why a box? It is very simple to start with, you should always start with less and build up to your finally form, even when sketching, it is beneficial to start out with some basic shapes, like circles, square and so on to establish you figures gestures, posture, mood, action and so on.
Here I like to extrude up and back, keeping the shape relative the same between the extrude. By keeping them the same, I am establishing proportions. Generally, from the side of the head, from the bottom of the shin, to the eyes is your first box, from then the extruded face that went up is from the eye to the top of the head. Extruding back is from the start of the ear to the back of the head. If you look at the whole shape, from the side, it should look like a square with a bottom piece missing.
Here I scale out the model to a full head width, which is different than the head length that I was working with in pic 2. The head width will depend on what you are creating, but in my case the HW(head width) is about 2/3 of the HL(head length).
Once my basic sets of proportion of the head is done, I start just shaping the head with some tweaking. I also deleted half the head and instance mirror to the other side.
Here I select some edges at the bottom of the head to connect.
Here I delete the inner faces, because at this point I don't need them while I form the shape of the head. The more unnecessary elements you end up working with will save you time and keep your modeling more effecient.
Here I cut 2 edges with the connect tool and I connect the newly created vertices to start establishing some topology. Now this is important, because the sooner you get to establishing your topology, edge loops the faster and you be to forming your shape. While it is still early, you won't have alot to clean up or rework to fix your topology later down the road.
Here I tweak the vertices to form the shape.
I add an edge on one side of the model.
Once again I am establishing some topology. Here i form the edge loops for the middle of the face, which incompass the eyes, the brows, cheeks and upper no sé region.
Here I bevel an edge that will be for the eye socket area.
I delete the faces in the eye area and I tweak the surrounding shape.
Once again I am creating loops for my topology. This is goes from the middle of the mouth to the forehead.
Again, I am connecting edges and creating edge loops for more estabilshing of the topology.
Now these are just showing varying shots of the head as we are up to til now.
This entire process, should only take about 5 minutes or less for some. As you can see it is a rather simple process, mostly using the connect tool. What I wanted to show here is first, building the basic proportions, and second establishing some topology and edge loops. Now, with the Topology brush and all, why even bother with topology. The reason is simple, creating the basis for your form to be build upon you need to have a solid foundation. Your topology is your foundation, if you just model without establishing the building blocks for your model, in this case your topology(edge loops) the more disadvantages you will have when your shape gets more complicated and heavy in forming the shapes you want and also requiring more added reworking.
This is it for now. The next one will continue from here with more topology work and then to sculpting with software selection and then to retopologizing with the Topology Brush.
Now that I have a nice simple topology laid out for the head, I want to work on the neck.
I simply extrude out the neck portion and start adding some definition by creating new loops of edges and tweaking the shape.
At this point I wanted to see how my overall shape was working, so I deleted my instance mirrored geometry and I mirrored the shape and worked on some areas like the back of the head.
I deleted half the head again and recreated an instance mirror. Also at this point I subdivided the head to level 1 and refined control mesh. The reason I went this route, was because I needed to start adding definition to the mesh. Using refine control mesh comes in handy, to give me the added definition in one shot. Another added benefit of using RCM(Refine Control Mesh) is that it gives you the actual smooth versión, which if you did it by hand, would take some time. RCM is also a great tool to use when making hard surface models, like cars. For example, once you have your nice curvy shaped car, but need to add detail, adding an edge would most likely warp your shape, and you would have to tweak it to get it back into shape, which could prove daunting and frustrating at times. RCM in this case would save your smooth shape while giving you the needed higher definition, so you could add details to your car model.
Here I tweak out the shape using software selection as well as tweaking some points.
Some thoughts: I am not really following a set procedure at this point, it is more about roughing out the shape and I need enough definition in my mesh, while still keeping it simple. So, if I need to rework the topology in some spots, it won't too difficult.
Needs more upper body, so I extrude a select path down and tweak the shape out.
In this series of images, what I am doing is to work in some topology. What I have currently, only goes in 2 direction, but I need my topology also going in a 3rd direction. In these shots, you can see how I am reworking the topology to also include the muscle form that runs from the back of the jaw to the upper mid-point of the chest. Now, this isn't the fastest way to accomplish my goal, but I thought it might be beneficial to show some edge work.
After I have established the reworked topology, I want to clean-up the surrounding edges to follow in the same direction as the original topology.
More of the same, but you can see in the last image, that now my topology runs in the direction that I wanted.
Here is another example that I wanted to demo, for a circle pole topology in a square area of your model. I create the circle pattern by connecting edges and vertices. I bevel the newly create edge loop. I like using bevel in this type of situation, because, with pole topologies you always end up needing to add more circle edges, you could extrude out or cut other surrounding edges. With bevel I get both with just the one tool. After that, I just extrude the inner edges foward and scale them in(I changed the position of the manipulator for the select)and convert the selection to vertices and use the new SMOOTH function to average out the vertices, a very helpfull tools, something you will see me use more when I do more sculpting with software selection. And finally I tweak the vertices to get my shape.
Notes: I didn't need to rework the topology for the neck if I plan on using the topology brush later on, but I wanted to show some of the work that goes into creating topology, and also my thought process. Generally, at that point, when I need to add in a topology, I have to see how the topology is flowing and what changes I need to add in. I like to break things down to simple steps in my head this way. So, in one of the images, I have yellow and red arrows with what direction things were going. I try to follow the muscle in this regard as much as possible. The best way for anybody to know what to work out for topology, is for them to refer to any good artist anatomy book, I always have varies ones alround, man and animals.
Another thing I wanted to bring up is the concept of pole topology. Some of the most used pole topology is for areas like the eyes, mouth, ears and so on. Creating good pole topology can sometimes be tricky, if you try to create one similiar to the grid like pattern I added the mouth pole on, you might have to rework the surrounding mesh. In my case there were just a little reworking. It is generally best to get these type of topology in early or in areas that are not too dense or complicated.
An important issue of 5-point. 5-point occurs in your mesh when you have 5 edges converging into one vertex. 5-point can cause problems during deformation, causing unslightly creases where you don't want it. For this reason, it is a good idea to push the 5-points to area with no or less deformation.
Another of the reason I choosed to bevel on the circle topology I created was to push any possibility of a 5-point further away as you can see on the following image:
The No sé
Okay, now for the no sé. I do not model the no sé until about now. The reason is because the no sé is a b*tch to model. It generally has many topology consideration that needs to work for facial animation and just so it looks good. It also demands a lot of reworking of the surrounding topology, but if you have a nice topology flow already established it will help more than hurt.
One of the thing that makes the no sé so tricky to model is that it requires more densely packed definition in a small area and that can cause problems, especially if it produces 5-points that won't play nice with deformation.
Now a little rundown of what I did in this series. As you can see I extrude the area of the no sé and I tweak the shape into place. I add an extra edge loop from the no sé to the mouth. This is good, because I know I could use some more edges from the brow and the mouth, and this didn't happen due to luck, but to a solid foundation I already had in place. The extra edge loop cause a bit of warping, but I selected a generous amount of vertices surrounding the newly created vertices and SMOOTH them a few times to smooth out the rough shape.
Not much to say here, I am just forming the shape and tweaking as I go along.
Here I am reworking some of the surrounding topology to work with the no sé. I am also giving the no sé more definition, since I wanted the no sé to look meaner, sort of like a broken and bulging beaten-up boxer's no sé.
I got the look I want for the no sé, but I don't like the way the nostrils came out and as you can see in the last set of images, there is an undesirable crease showing due to a 5-point. I have a bit of a snarl to the facial expression, so it is easier to see what might happen during such a expression if it was being deformed that way. It is always a good idea to check out issues that might occur during deformation, with some quick deformation test. I sometimes like to start out with an expression like anger, than a neutral pose. An anger expression really works the face, using a lot of muscle edge flows to create a good expression. It is a good way to establish a solid topology for facial expression. You neutral expression, like your other expression will be morphs of this expression.
I am just re-working some edge flows and getting my topology the way I want it flowing. I have a U shape edge flow going, from the brow down the underside of the no sé, and I have edge flowing in the direction of muscle reaction during a snarling or growling expression. I also redid the nostril to a more extreme, anger expression, which fits what I had in mind.
There are still some 5-point areas on the no sé mesh, but due to their placement, it is hard to notice any unsightly distortion during this extreme facial expression.
Another view, but as a whole head:
The Eye Region
The technique I am doing here is something new I have recently started with. In this case I am using the topology brush to create new geometry. The topology brush is such a great tool, and it has multiple usage. it is a powerful tool, yet it remains so easy to use. My background is strongly from an illustrative side so I LOVE this tool, because I can quickly sketch in new geometry or fix certain areas in my mesh, without being destructive to my mesh. I give props to Dave Cardwell from Weta for the idea, but my hat goes off to the Nevercenter guys for bringing to reality this great revolutionary tool, while keeping it simple for users.
Here we go with creating the eye region:
I start creating some edges and tweaking the shape. I then create a sphere and subdivide it 2 times. After that I RCM(refine control mesh) the sphere. The reason I do that is because I want the resulting mesh from the topology brush to match closely to a smooth spherical shape as much as possible, instead of a blocky sphere shape.
Once I scale and move the sphere which will serve as my eyeball into place, I check and setup the proportion for the eye region. I sort of did myself a disservice by posing the no sé in an extreme expression. I need to setup my proportion for a neutral pose, so I will have to guesstimate where the nostril will be to setup my proportion.
Once all is good with proportions, I move on to the Topology Brush Options. I leave it at its default, and I make sure the offset is set to something greater than 0, as I want the eye lid to fit the eyeball with a bit of cushion and not right smack on the eyeball.
I multi-select the eyeball and the face, because I want to sketch new geometry based on the two surfaces. I follow the original topology lines and then I create the eyelid lines. I cross the lines for the upper and lower eyelid lines and I make sure they follow the original topology lines. I now start sketching in the other lines following once again the original topology lines. Once I have finished with the lines, I check in wireframe that my lines are good. I notice that I have a couple of mistakes, or missed lines, so I add more lines and MMB an existing line to continue its sketch to cross the outer ring. Once that is done I enter to create my eyelid mesh.
I check the new mesh, instance mirror it to the other side. If I am happy with it I'll move on or I'll go back into sketch mode and fix things up. I am happy with how the mesh can out so I'll move on. Ok, now the reason I chose to match the topology for the new mesh to the original mesh was because I want to merge the two meshes together as is demo below. I do another proportion check.
Okay, now to shape the eye region. Once again we are working with a pole topology, and I know right off the bat I need more definition to shape my eye, so I ring select->connect->bevel. There is some unwanted bulkiness, so I once again select a generous amount of vertices and smooth a few times to smooth out the region. Now the stuff after this is pretty much self-explanatory.
Final shape and mirror to check out the mesh.
More Facial Detail
This part went by pretty quickly. I decided to give some flesh color to the character and model the cornea. I like to model the cornea, because one, I can spot if I made a mistake with the eye lids; two, to spot if I framed the eye incorrectly, sometimes you might not notice after the fact, that the your eyes come out looking cross-eyed. You can contribute this to bad framing. Three, it gives the character some "life".
I added detail to the eyes region as you can see from the first 2 images. Then I went and reworked the chin, since it is obvious by now the type of character I am going for here is a brute-type, so a nice round chin isn't going to cut it for this type of character. I want to get a squared-in dimpled chin.
Here is more of the same, but I come to a 5-point problem, with an obvious creasing problem. Now 5-point doesn't necessary mean just a 5-point, you could have more like in this situation, it is generally a term of in which such creasing problems become visible due to having more than 4 merging edges into 1 point. Here I just rework the edges and push the 5-point into a flat surface area, which will have very little or no-deformation.
This series of images is pretty much self-explanatory, on how I am forming the lips.
Modeled the gums and teeth to see the full effect:
I am finishing things off with the ear.
I start off with adding edges so I will have enough definition to form the shape of the ear. I also start things off by creating a pole-type topology for the ear. I connect and then rotate the newly-created ring.
Now since I have the basis for the ear, I break it from the main mesh. I do this for 2 reason, one I will need to add more edge definition to the ear mesh to model the shape of the ear, two I don't want to rework the surrounding topology as I build the ear to compensate for the newly added edges. This would causing too much of a mess that needs cleaning up while I model. Once again, less things that I have to deal with the better. In the last image you can see that I RCM(refine control mesh) the ear mesh to get me my added definition.
Here is where I really start working on the ear. Now the first thing that I do, which is consistent with what I do when modeling anything is consider the edge flow/topology in the simplest manner possible. I break down the flow into 3 flows, one the overall ear is sort of a number 9 shape. The second is a curving Y shape and the third is just a pole shape. With these 3 edge flow/topology goals in mind I start working the flows/topologies in to the ear mesh.
Now in these series of images, I am reworking the edge flows, I am using edge spin a lot here, you can see how I use it in the third top image the 3 edges that are now flowing more with the number 9 edge flow I had in mind.
Once I am done with the ear I merge it back with the head mesh. I merge vertices and I add in new edges into the head mesh to deal with the extra added edges from the ear. I use smooth to smooth out some bumpy spots. It is much easier and less work to smooth out the rough spots and compensate with extra edges to match the edges in the ear. This is why I prefer to build my ears this way, I have my final ear shape, so I only need to "clean-up" and match it to the main mesh only once. If I had modeled the ear right on the main mesh, I would have had to "clean-up" while I model the ear more often that I would like, which just slows my modeling.
So that is it for the head. In final thought, I would recommend taking a look at the wireframe of the head and examining the edge flow, then go back and rereading the sets of tutorial and recognizing how they came to be. If you look at the finished head and the original basic head, you will see that not much changed in terms of you established basic topology flow, the foundation. Like I stated, start simple with a solid foundation and build your way up, getting your basic topology flow established will go along way in helping you realize your modeling quickly, efficiently and less frustrating in the end.
The Upper Body
I like to model the upper body separately from the head. It is the way I like to work, others might like to continue on from the neck on down, but like with the ear I prefer to concentrate solely on the task at hand.
This went by pretty quick. I look over some anatomy references I have on hand and I pretty much have an idea of how I want the upper body to look like. Big over developed pecks, big lats and back muscles, and so on.
Most of the stuff here is pretty self-explanatory.
I was asked what type of modeling I prefer, box or poly-poly. I can't say I do one or the other exclusively. I think edge modeling is more appropriate term for the type of modeling I do, because the only time I actually work with a box is in the very beginning and after that I am really working on edges and edge flow.
I was also asked about tweaking, and how much time I spend tweaking. I do a lot of tweaking, but it is almost always quick tweaks, if I have to spend a lot of time tweaking things into the shape, then there is something wrong with my edge flow. A good edge flow helps to form your shapes quickly and efficiently, a bad one with do the opposite and may cause you into adding more unnecessary edges and add to your headache.
Finishing the Torso Area
Finishing up the body portion of the character. Lower abs, some fatty obliques, and lower back.
Building arm. I notice that I have 5-points directly in the fault lines where my area will deform, not wanting to risk deformation problem later on, I rework the edge flow.
In here I need to add more edges, extra definition for proper smoother deformation. The shoulder-upper arm area is always tricky area of deformation, and requires a good amount of definition(edge loops) to get good deformation.
I am forming the shape of the upper arm. Generally, there are 2 muscle shapes you have to be aware of. One the biggest muscle in your upper arm, the bicep which forms more towards in the direction of the body, than being in the center of the upper arm, this is something many people tend not to do properly, and the tricep which runs counter to the bicep, so it forms more away from the body than towards.
To form the 2 muscles, I mainly redirect edges, using spin edge and reconnecting edges or creating new loops.
Another area of deformation is in between your upper arm and the forearm, the elbow region. In this area, it is a standard practice to have more than enough edge loops, to get good deformation out of the area. The arm needs to flex from 0 degree up to maybe 135 degree, so the deformation is pretty extreme. As a rule of thumb you shouldn't have anything less than 5 edge loops in that surrounding elbow region if you want to deform that region properly.
Another mirror check. Needs some minor fixing and tweaking, but so far so good.
Right about this time I almost always do a quick deformation check. It is a good idea to do so, to spot areas that are having deformation problems and needs further work. I catch some minor issues, but I am pretty happy how things are deforming, the shoulder bend at the right spots, shape is maintained. The pecks stretches with the shoulder and bicep, as the edges fans out, which was what I wanted.
Modeling the Hand
I want to make a big hand for the brute, about the size of the forearm. Modeling a hand I have found over time becoming easier and easier, which is kind of funny since it was always the one thing that was difficult for me as an traditional artist, but because of 3D modeling it has helped me with sketching and drawing hands.
I start by just form the basic shape I want for the hand. I extrude the boundary edge of the wrist and then I create some additional segments. I tweak the shape out. Once I am happy with the proportion and form I break the mesh for the hand up behind the wrist.
The first thing on my mind is the topology/edge flow of the thumb. I like to model it as a pole type topology so I rework the edges to get a pole type topology. I delete the inner polys of the thumb, so I can get my clean pole topology and it saves me from having to rework the inner part at this point.
Here is just some work on the area opposite the thumb on the palm side. Also in the last set of images I am reworking the edge flow to deal with the folding of that area during deformation of the hand for example a fist.
A v-mirror check and more of the same. You can see now the folding area for the palm in the set of images at the end here. I also start building the thumb. I extrude the edge, convert the STILL highlighted edge to vertices and hit P for create polygon.
I started out making a pole for the thumb, but at the end I like to revert back into a grid pattern. The reason is because, of the pinching and crease that would be created if I end the pole right onto 1 vertex, which is NOT what we want, but a grid would give me a smoother surface. I add in more segments to the thumb and I tweak the form to shape the thumb.
Making the nail of the thumb, pretty much what you see in the images.
I like to start off with the middle finger. Extrude out 2 ploys and create more segments and tweak shape. Pretty easy and straight forward.
I copy the finished finger and then paste move, scale and rotate into place for the index finger. I merge object the 2 mesh and then begin to weld the vertices. If I have a stranded vertex that doesn't match up I just cut an edge and weld the stranded vertex, to be fixed later. I also make some changes to the mesh surrounding the area between the finger, because of the creasing from a 5-point that will occur during deformation. I push it back to an area of less deformation. I repeat the process for the other fingers.
Here I am cleaning up the 5-sided polys and work them into the mesh.
I merge the hand back onto the main mesh and since the vertices match up with the arm, not much work attaching. Another mirror check. It doesn't look quite right, the hands are fine, but I need to bulk up the forearm, bicep and shoulder muscles to match the big hands.
Lower Body and Legs
The lower body is pretty easy and quick to build. There really isn't many complex shapes, its actually simple when you break it down. Formulating the muscle shapes for the lower body and legs are really about edge flow redirection, by connecting, creating or spinning edges. The trick lies in knowing how to tweak the shapes out from the edge flow. For this you really need to have a trained eye as well as refer to good anatomy material. With experience, you will be able to spot how you want your edge to flow and how to tweak the shape, there is no magic here, you need to apply information you gathered and model what you have analyzed.
The first thing I need to do is a proportion check. I have a stylistic character, but I still want to maintain correct proportions. The little things like bad proportion could kill the believability of a character, even one that isn't really real. The brute in this case follows the 8-head Length proportion guideline. From the top of the head down to the groin is 4 heads and half of a full body length. I select the boundary edges and extrude down for my groin-lower body region. I select a generous amount of polys and break from the main mesh. Now you don't have to do that, but like usual I prefer to concentrate on the area I am modeling also the upper body doesn't obstruct my view while I am modeling the lower body. I select 4 vertices from the butt region and the groin region and create polygon and repeat again.
Now I tweak the shape and I get my groin shape. At this point I want to change the topology surrounding what will be the legs to a pole topology. It will also help me form the glut/butt shape. Simple redirection is all I need, by using spin edge and adding in more edge segments so I have enough to shape the leg later on.
More edge redirection by adding a edge which creates a tri and another edge which fans out. I split the tri into a quad, I split the edges right in the lower groin area so I can form a slightly define groin shape.
With an extruded LOOP I start forming the shape of the gluts. I do another check against the main mesh. So far so good, I extrude another loop down to the ankle. I make another proportion check. I don't go all the way down to fill up the 1/2 body length guide, I leave enough room for the foot. I add some extra segments in the leg, and I use software selection tweaking to form the a rough shape of the leg.
There are 2 quad leg muscles to deal with. I tackle the inner muscle first, since it will be the hardest to form out of all the other muscles on the leg. This sets of images is really about edge flow redirection, spin edges, connect, split and cleaning up any extra edges.
More of the same inner leg muscle. In the end it comes out prefect for the shape, but required some edge flow work to get to that final point. Tweaking the shape as I go and I use Smooth as I tweak.
I noticed that the outer quad muscle is a little too thin and needs to be bulked up, so I just rework the edges to extend the bulky shape. I also notice that I have too many extra edges that serves no purpose. Now to get rid of such extra edge, I use spin edge to redirect edges and delete the 2 extra segments of edges from the leg. Some vertices clean-up and smooth to finish up. The muscle behind the leg the hamstrings is another easy shape to form, once again just simple redirection using spin edge and then I connect up the resulting tris and tweak the shape also using smooth.
I add another segment in the middle of the upper leg, because I know I don't have enough edges to get good deformation, so I SELECT RING and CONNECT to create the segment and SMOOTH to smooth out the shape. I go back to the back of the legs, this time I want to work on the calves. Once again simple redirection using spin edge and tweak.
I mirror the lower body, merge back to the main mesh and merge vertices.
A lot of times you don't need to create a whole segment of edges. Simple redirection is sometimes all that is required. Think things through first, ask yourself if the segment of edges will serve a purpose to the resulting mesh, and see if some redirection would work better.
If you look at the final wires, you can see that every edge has a purpose. I even had to delete some segments of edges. Keep your mesh efficient and clean, it benefits rendering and deformation.
I used to model the area between the butt and the leg heavier in the past. I have learned since then due to rigging, that it doesn't have to be heavy. It actually hurts rigging proper deformation when it is so densely packed. The key is to have enough, but not too much.
I have recently mapped Spin Edge to the mouse Scroll Wheel Up. Since I use it quite a bit I wanted to key it better. For some reason mapping it to the Scroll Wheel makes it feel nature and quick to use. I also been discovering how effective SMOOTH works while spinning an edge and tweaking. I have mapped it to the Scroll Wheel Down. Smooth saves me more time while tweaking, but I need to smooth a few times at least to get the desired result, so what would be more nature than scrolling the repeating action in a more nature manner.
Next and last part will be building the foot.
The foot is a tricky thing. The construction isn't all that hard, but making it work and be believable is. The foot needs to have a sense of weight, stability and strength. But if you plan on deforming the foot, you need to also set it up properly with toes spaced far enough so the weighting of each toe isn't too problematic, as well as not modeling the foot looking like it has too much weight on it. It is really a balancing act, something a modeler needs to envision how the foot will eventually need to look like, while modeling it in a very unnatural neutral pose.
Like usual I like to BREAK off an area of the mesh to form newer pieces. I select up to an area that won't be changing so I also have a guideline to follow with regard to proportions and shape.
I quickly build the heel and the instep of the foot. I refer back to my main mesh to see if the foot is going in the right direction of shape and proportion. I'm going for a really big-ass foot, so so far so good. Some redirection of edges to define the inner ankle of the leg.
I fill in the bottom of the foot by selecting vertices and creating a polygon. Also I am reworking the shape for the heel in a rounding topology.
Forming the area for the big toe, with some redirection of edges using spin edge.
Here I start to model the big toe. Like with the hand I create some polygons usually 2 to extrude.
Once I build one toe, I copy the mesh to use for my other toes. Since the other remaining toes are different from the big toe, I have sculpt the shape. Once I make my changes to the other toe I merge it back to the foot mesh and make the appropriate additional of edges and modifications to match the edges and keeping the results in quads.
I repeat the process by copying the second toe and making rotation changes and some tweaks. I have to keep the toe loose and not too curled up, a neutral like pose for rigging. I merge back, merge vertices, adding additional edges to the foot and so on.
I merge the foot back to the main mesh and I make some changes. For one the toes are way too thin, so I bulk them up by scaling and some software tweaks, but I still make sure I keep the toes farther apart as needed for rigging and maintaining their neutral pose.
So that is it for the bad-ass brute, well he's not really BAD, he's just modeled that way.
There will be some minor changes to the body mesh, stuff I will spot during the rigging phase. Once the rigging is done I will be moving on to adding detail to the character with Zbrush to really make the character pop and texture mapping. Adding clothing and accessories. And finally to posing, staging and rendering.
Text and Images Copyright © 2004 Tony Jung.