Because of the relatively high complexity of the modeling process (and the lak of pages in this magazine
), I decided to write this tutorial for the intermediate blender artists. There will be passages, where you need to continue working on yourself on the model until the next important step is being explained. At all, this is not a step-by-step instruction guide; it is an attempt to show you how to create organic models based on a butterfly with highlights on the most important parts of the animal. Do not forget that a modeling process is a process of continuous detailing and refining.
What is the model being made for?
I decided to make a film for a portfolio presentation, in which the butterfly plays the role of a guide. In that case, there will be many close-up and animation shots. Since the shots will be close, I made the butterfly relatively detailed, but not too detailed because of the long animation rendering times. You will need to trade off the detail of your model for yourself, watching it's final destination.
I decided to model a naturalistic butterfly. Because I had not really had any clue about this sort of animal at all, I successfully rented a showcase and a booque about butterflies from school. Trust me, the booque did a good job after all, the butterflies in the showcase were too small to use them as a modeling reference. So before starting, you should have a reference, take a look into the library or the Internet. (Fig. 1 and 2) show the references that I used. There is a side perspective as well as a perspective of the half-front head.
As you should do with almost every organic model, first make a simple construction out of primitives and refine it later.
I did not use a reference picture in the background, but you can do so if you like. Use View>>Background Image>>Image to add an image to your background.
Fine. Let's do the thing from the bak on and start with the abdomen. I used a cube from the side perspective [Num 3] and extruded it 4 times. Then, I inserted two vertex rows by entering [K] in edit mode [TAB], using a loop cut. As an alternative, you can alos use normal cuts [K] or multicuts [K] or subdivide it twice or several times, but with the last method, you will probably have to deal with unwanted vertice rows at the end. (Fig. 3) shows how the extruded cube looks after aligning it on the simple shape of the butterfly abdomen.
Now you will need to continue extruding the mesh right to the thorax part (Fig.4). After aligning the primitive mesh to the butterfly shape from the side perspective, you will alos have to do the same from the top one [Num 7]. Try to make the model smooth and round.
You can alos already use Subsurfs (Editing>>Modifiers>>Subsurf>>Levels) to see how the model looks smoothed. (Fig. 5) Pay attention to the highlighted vertex row in (Fig. 5). Later, it should become the border between the upper-body (insect shell) and the lower body. As you can see in (Fig.5) too, I alos already added 2 cuts to every vertical one to indicate the later borders between the shell segments, as well as to refine the back-end of the insect.
Now it is time to define the different shell segments the first time. Select the middle of the 3 rows which indicate a shell división and scale it a bit smaller [s] (Fig. 6). You should repeat this with every row, then continue with the next step.
Okay, now we will continue defining the different segments of the abdomen. To define the upper shell, use the face-select mode and select all faces that are lower than the border line between the shell and the lower-body (Fig. 7).
Now we use [E] to extrude the lower part and insert one more row of faces and the scale-tool [S] to scale the whole lower part just a bit smaller. Let's move the whole thing [G+MMB] vertically until both lines (the upper line of the selected segment and the shell border line) nearly cover each other (Fig.
As you can see, the vértices of the upper row of the selected segment do not stand directly under the ones of the border line anymore. Use the scale-tool [S+MMB] again and just scale the lower part horizontally this time, until each vertice appears under its neighbor again. You can alos use the move-tool [G] for this, but it definitely will need more time because you will need to move every pair of vértices on their own.
The Thorax + Head
Proceed extruding the mesh right to the head and align it to the insect shape again. Do not forget to align it alos from the top perspective!
For the head, we can use a simple box subdivided by the lines we already got, so just extrude the thorax again a little bit. Look on (Fig. 9) to see the whole process so far.
You should alos pay attention to the refinement of the back-end which I already did. Now continue to make the head smoother, making it look like a low-detailed half-sphere from the side perspective. Use the move-tools [G] to achieve this by easily moving the vértices which we already got due to our former cuts (Fig. 10). (Fig. 11) shows an image of the model we got so far with Subsurface turned on (level 2).
Details of the head
As you can see, the butterfly on the reference picture has got antennas on his head. There are different, breed-specific antennas but we will try to imitate these ones. Select two faces which are large enough to become the antennas on the upper head from the top view and extrude them by [E>>Individual Faces] the way it is shown in (Fig. 12). If you need to select two or more faces on each side of the head (each side should be equal, as mirrored if you did everything right so far), you need to extrude the antennas separately. If you need so, do it with one, then copy it and connect the lower faces with the faces of the head [V] as you can see in (Fig. 12).
I first did the extrusion with one or two faces, then inserted some more rows in it and scaled them a bit vertically/horizontally from the top view to make the antennas a bit smoother, not that cubic. Try to give these parts of the body their specific look by extruding straight, extruding and sizing, extruding and sizing again and then extruding straight again... alos try to make the individual segments different from each other to give the model a random look. As you can see on the reference image, the antennas become larger at the top, so let's do them as shown in (Fig. 13).
You should alos always take a look on the other perspectives (front [Num 1], side [Num 3]) to prevent an unwanted shifting of the vértices. In both last Fig., I already bent the antennas a bit to the left and right (seen from the front) by selecting some of the upper vértices, turning Proportional Edit Falloff on [O], selecting a given falloff method (here I used a combination of smooth and root falloff) and moving the whole thing with the move-tool [G]. Probably you will need to experiment a bit with the right falloff method to reach satisfying results. Try it on your own. If there are alos unwanted vértices, e.g. from the neighbor antenna shifted with, try to move the other antenna far away with Proportional Edit Falloff off and shift them bak later (Fig. 14 shows the whole, finished antenna of my model).
Fine. Let's make the head a bit more complex now. I added facet-eyes to the head by adding an Icosphere (4 Subdivisions), moving it to the correct place from the front and side perspective and erasing the part of it that protrudes into the insects head. I used to create the Icospheres out of the edit mode [TAB] to have them as a single mesh and on that way, separately for the later texturing process. Finally I got a bit more than a half Icosphere on each side which I fitted on the head by using the Proportional Edit Falloff Tools [O] again. This action could need some time until the whole eye fits (nearly) perfectly to the head. So take some coffee and be patient.
In addition, I alos added a ring, made by extruding a circle several times (using the scale-tool [S]) and fitted it on the head as well, as a kind of frame for the insect eyes (Fig. 15).
As a further effect, this reveals the unattractive area where the Icosphere hits the Head's Surface.
After applying the eyes, we will continue with the second instrument these animals have on their head. As you can see on (Fig. 15), they start out as nearly as under the eye and long until the upper end of it. Their structure is relatively equal to the one of the antennas, so use the same technique to create them.
As you can see in (Fig. 16), I alos created a beaque which hoists spiral under the head. You can easily create this by extruding one face from the upper middle head and continuing extruding [E] and rotating [R] it until you have a spiral.
I did the whole thing a bit more complex to give it a bit of structure as you can see in (Fig. 17). There is alos a "mouth" (or better: hole) shown where the beaque comes out. I tooque this screenshot with Subsurfaces turned off, so you have a better insight into the modeling structure. As you can see above the beaque (or mouth, seen from the top or front perspective), I had to make some more cuts to define them. Do not use loop cuts [K] all the time. Instead of this, use normal cuts [K] to increase just the part of geometry you really want to increase in detail and avoid problems with too many faces or problems with too chiseled edges (This occurs when too many edges come too close together on other regions of the mesh, e.g.) when turning Subsurf on again.
The legs and their connection to the body.
As seen on the reference image, the butterfly has a shell around it's legs as well as on the part which finally connects to the rest of the body. This part looks relatively complex which would need a lot of additional vértices in the thorax geometry and on that way could probably disturb the Subsurf functionality or easily increase the vertex count unnecessarily. Because of this, I did these elements as well as the legs separately. So - let's get of edit-mode [TAB] and first create two legs as seen on (Fig. 1
I started out with a circle (about 5-7 vértices) from the top view and extruded it until I reached a model as shown in the figure. To create the individual shell segments, you can use the same technique as already done with the abdomen or the antennas. To make the individual shell parts shifting under each other, move [G] and scale [S] them until they reach a bit under the neighbor shell segment, as seen in (Fig. 19).
There is alos the lowest part of the insect, its claws, shown. Modeling them highly detailed increases the visual complexity of your final model. We will use the technique shown here to refine the abdomen later in the details section. Now we should have models as in (Fig. 20) and in (Fig. 18, the other legs).
Now we will start out with the connections to the body. I did a cube at first, flattened it a bit [S+MMB], erased the bottom face and then inserted some loop cuts [K]. I continued moving the vértices until I reached a form as in the reference images. Then, I fitted them on the thorax by using the Proportional Edit Falloff tools from the 3d- and side-perspective [Num 3] and extruded one edge until they reached the upper middle of the thorax. As a last step, I mirrored the part and joined the two meshes by hitting [J]. Now I connected the parts I extruded before to the upper middle of the thorax together (Use [V]-key while having 2, 3 or 4 unconnected vértices selected to create a line, a tri, or a quad). That's it. Now you just need to make 2 variations of this form for the other 2 pairs of legs. You can alos create some deep-structure by making 3 vertical cuts again and moving the middle of them along the z-axis of the model. You can see this in (Fig. 21). Look for (Fig. 1
to see the connection parts from the side perspective.
Refining the main body
Okay... the model isn't looking bad, but there are still things that need to be more intensive, expressive to look naturalistic. For example: The shell segments (again!
). We will use the same method of moving one shell segment under its neighbor as we already did with the claws. Select one row of faces in face-select-mode, scale them a bit smaller [S] and move [G] them under the other face row. (Fig. 22)
Now we will finish-up the back-part of the insect. As seen in the reference again, there is a kind of incision in the shell where another part of the body is visible between the upper and lower shell. You may alos model this the following way: First elongate the upper part a bit and delete the faces between the upper and lower part. After this, extrude the border faces of the open lower part to the middle and secondly to the innermost part of the insect. Then, I extruded it again out of the mesh and formed the body part which is marked in (Fig. 23). Finally, do not forget to close the open mesh by selecting 4 vértices and hitting [V].
As a third detail, you can extrude some chosen faces of the top thorax and extrude them too, to create alos some shell segments on this place. See (Fig. 24) for this.
As you can alos see in (Fig. 24 and Fig. 25), I selected 2 pairs of faces and extruded them on both sides of the body in the top perspective [Num 7]. You can use the scale-tool [S] in that case to extrude them away from the midpoint after hitting [E] for extrude. Now, start to build a construct of muscles and/or veins which start at the body and become smaller and smaller in the wings region.
The look of these muscles/veins differs from each butterfly too, so take a look at your personal reference or easily do it as you like
. Do not forget to make the segments a bit thinner at the end, using the scale-tool [S] again. Please do this whole action for just one side at first. Now select your one-side construction, mirror it, and attach it to the other extruded ends on the other side by [V]-key (Fig. 26).
Okay. Let's start with the wings surfaces. There are several methods to achieve this, e.g. 3d splines, polygonal surfaces… etc. For now, we will continue with our technique we used so far: Go out of edit-mode [TAB] to make it easier to texture later. Now start with a simple cube again and flatten it so it becomes very thin (but don't forget that it probably becomes even thinner when Subsurfs are turned on). Try to create two shapes (Fig. 27) by extrusion [E] and refining ([K] for loop cuts or normal cuts etc.)
Whereas the upper one (as seen in (Fig. 2
) overlaps the lower one just a little bit. Now, turn subsurfaces on and make the wings in depth a bit irregular.
For this, we can alos use the Proportional Edit Falloff-Tool [O] despite we could alos use lattices, etc. But for now, we will try to minimize the assortment of tools used and take the first one. You should pay some attention to the wings that still overlap, but nearly connect to each other with their lower and upper surface. In (Fig. 29), the depths of the surface I used here are marked, just for example.
Now comes the last step we need to do: We will need to take a look to see if the muscles or veins we did just some steps before are still visibly connected to the wings in top [Num 7] and bottom perspective. If they are not, try to achieve this by moving or welding them with the Proportional Editing Tools [O] and/or the move-tool [G].
Okay - now recline and behold your model - did you ever imagine that a butterfly looks like thatí Chek your reference - if it's identical, you did a very good job.
The final, yet untextured and unrigged result can be seen in the gallery section of this magazine issue. I hope I have successfully covered all aspects of the model and have written a comprehensible tutorial.