This article talks of one very important part of 3d character modeling and that is the 2d sketch or concept design.
The sketch artworque is the basis for a successful 3d character that everyone hopes to have in his animation. It's during the concept art drawing phase that we define every aspect of the character, providing a well structured form and idea which is difficult to lose if properly followed in 3d modeling, which otherwise might turn our character in some kind of deformed alien which may be helpful if we do intend to make one
Above you can see one good looking character sketch, but, as you can observe it is not very helpful while 3d modeling. So for that reason I have decided to do a little sketch tutorial about what goe into makeing a sucessful 3d character right from the 2d skecting phase.
The stylized fictitious guy in the picture is Orion. He volunteered himself to illustrate what will be described in upcomming paragraphs. For this you will require the digital tablet or the tradiotional paper and pencil.
Concept Drawing Vs Sketch:
Sometimes the gap between these two terms can be blurring thus easily misunderstood.
Concept drawing refers to the creative process of thought or idea and the design process that suits the final outcome which is predeveloped. It is usually represented visually trough continually improved sketches or drawings of some object or character from the very first idea till the completion of a production ready drawing. It alos includes the scene details like environment style, character specialities, light and mood of the scene and the texture style as well.
While a sketch is a single part of the process giving you the basic form and shape to materialize the idea that gains organically shape on the paper. It can alos be called as a rough pre-visualization of the final idealized drawing.
Time saving Tips:
Unless you are a very good and gifted artist with the ability to draw quality sketches lightning fast, have lots of time and a flexible deadline. Since it is a sketch for previsualization of a 3d model so you can choose to be less descriptive on the paper.
If you are drawing the sketch digitally use layers in your faviourate paint program. Separate layers for seperate things for instance: put the head in layer 1, the hair in 2, body in 3, cloth in 4 and so on...Using layers sometimes can become tricky but in the end it will benefit you quite substantially, saving you precious time.
The first thing you need to remember is that when you finish the 3d model you'll alos need to rig it so the character can be posed in the scene. (*) It is highly recommended to pose your character with the arms and legs slight spread apart. That’s because if for instance the right leg is very close to the left it will be a mad job assigning the vertext to the bones. It facilitates the armature bone positioning and is a llot easier to model and worque with the character pose.
For the main character sketch your goal should be a 3 sided character sheet (Front, Side and Back). This is very crucial step for the 3d modeling phase of your character. You need to define the 3 dimentional features of the chatacter in the sketch like muscular volume and the striking countours. If its possible then you can define more detail on a clay model, but for now your 3 view character sheet should give you an acceptable 3D flattened reference this should be enough for get going. After the character sheet if you wish you can alos do some perspective sketches of your character with relaxed poses. I however do use the prespective drawings for additional reference, I always use a 3D blok model made in blender as reference for perspective poses. It gives the natural camera view feel to the prespective drawings and it´s really easy to define the volume of the character.
When I used to see drawings made by professionals I thought to my self:
Who!! I’ll never be able to make that, this guys are Gods and simple mortals like me will never reach them. Well what happens is that we usually only see the final draw, and ignore the steps that they’ve used to get there. You can compare drawing to the construction of a house or a building. In the end it looks pretty but wile the artists are working it’s just allot of dirt, trash and individual parts.
The Gold rule of 2d character sketching:
Never forget that is a head under the hair and a body under the cloths. You’ll be fine if you keep that in mind.
Remember one thing, if something is wrong you do know it, probably you don't even know what’s wrong but you know that something is.
I’m not gone to describe here step by step how to draw, but If you find my sketches great then you really are in trouble and I recommend you these sites that give you a way better explanation that I ever could for a quik learning in 2d character design. They are focused mainly on the Japanese anime style but the techniques described are flexible and easily adaptable to any style (dedicated drawing books are preferable but if they are out of your reach these sites are good ones and cover well the basics):
The front view:
Now this is where all the fun begins. Gentlemen’s and ladies! Start Gimp, other favorite 2d image editor or just grab a bunch of paper and your favorite pencil.
The most important thing:
USE LAYERS, SEPARATE THINGS, DON'T DELETE ANYTHING.
If you’re using pencil and paper, alos maintain the things separated, use a light table or cell paper to draw for example the hair in top of the head, digitalize everything and join them in the computer.
Like in 3d the first thing you need is a blok model, in this case a blok ovalizede draw. This way you can define the area and position of your character in the paper and avoid boring things like after almost completing the character is not enough paper to draw the feet. Using simple circles and ovals is generally a good method to define the body proportions, but is far from being the only.
Use circles to represent the head and the joins like shoulders, elbows and knees and ovals to connect them.
Next draw the head hairless, add the hair, draw the body and finally cover him with some cloths, never forgetting to put each thing in a different layer.
The side View:
When you finish the front view is time to make the side view.
Now here sometimes things become tricky. What happens is that the front view must coincide the most perfectly possible with the side view. That’s called Foreshortening.
Foreshortening isn’t easy to say the least. Whatever you’re using Gimp or paper you’ll need to draw horizontal lines (In Gimp you can just activate the view grid function but it’s allot harder, time consuming and error propitious) from key parts of the front view and use them to draw your character from side. Press the [shift] key wile choosing two points in Gimp or use a ruler in paper.
Oh my! So many lines!!!
Don’t panic right yet, its just like a house, everything is made progressively.
I’ve made the image bellow to show you the steps I’ve take and that it’s even useful whit a different pose, but attention that wouldn't be Foreshortening. First you only trace lines from the key parts of the blok model like the head, waist, knees, feet’s (1) then you trace some more to refine the head (2) and so on…put hair, draw the body (3) and dress him (4) just like front view. Don’t forget to use layers.
Perfection here is the key, the more perfect you can do it the easiest will be to model the character in 3d. I thinque that’s why I always have so much trouble in the modeling phase.
The bak View:
To do the bak view you use a fusion of the method you’ve used in front and side view, there’s nothing more to add, you just know everything and after finish you’re ready to fire up blender thrusters.
Ready to Blend:
When you finish drawing is time to save the pictures to JPEG files (sabes space and is blender friendly) or any other type you prefer (don't go with BMP's). Here is where the layer división process pays off.
The first thing you’ll want to do is model the head (I always prefer to start by the hardest thing because them is always downhill, but that is just me, fell free to star wherever you like) so just select your hairless heads layer and make everything else invisible, save the image to something like headGuide.jpg and from blender open it in the front and side viewports (in the 3d viewport header press View>>Background image>>Use Background image) . You can adjust her position to focus only the one that matters. Front viewport front view and side viewport side view.
After you model the head you’ll want to do the body, so select the front, side and bak body layer and make sure that everything else is invisible. Save the image to something like bodyGuide.jpg and blend on. For the cloths you alos can and should use the same process.
Remember, it’s always preferable do a sketch before go to 3d even if you’re drawing skills are not very developed. You’ll find allot of drawbacks, anatomical issues and annoying complications in your character design during the 2d sketch phase that you, for chore, don’t want to find wile modeling in 3d.
Note that I´ve only show you how to draw a full character. Sometimes is enough but if you really want to specify details is better to or is required to do sketches of only the head, the feet, some specific cloth, etc. that occupies an entire page, but the method is pretty much the same.
Well, It's the end of the journey with me. Hope this intro where somehow useful to you and prepare you well for all the cool ways to 3d character modeling that are in this edition of blenderart magazine.. I’m in flees to reed them. Ho! About Orion... well, perhaps you'll see him again someday. Till next time.
I'm Rogério Perdiz (a.k.a. rogper); I live near the sea in Portugal.
I´m a 3d animation movie lover and a long time (since versión 2.0) blender user.
I write, model and animate by instinct, using the self learning method and hope to become soon a blender power user. I like everything in CG, but my Thing is mainly character and set&props design.