I've always been a big fan of Donald's nephews ever since I was a little kid. The new looks they received in Quak Pak and their portrayal as teenagers with distinct personalities made them cooler than ever. And now that I have laid my hands on Blender, I couldn't resist the idea of making one of them in 3D.
I started looking for some reference pictures of the trio on the web. Louie was the one that resembled my view of what a teenager is like the most, so I decided to model him. I couldn't find perfectly matching front and side profiles and, to be honest, I was too lazy to draw them myself. So I decided to go with what I had. The head started out as a simple cube, subdivided twice and converted into a sphere using the To Sphere tool in the Edit Buttons (F9). Then I made the eye sockets by extruding a couple of faces inward. The beaque was modeled using a poly-by-poly approach starting from a simple plane.
The T-shirt, pants and cap were all modeled by starting with circles, then extruding, moving and merging vértices as necessary. I then added some loopcuts [Ctrl+R] to the T-shirt and pants and moved the vértices to create the folds and wrinkles.
To model the hands, I started by making the fingers and worked my way backward from there. Then I made a duplicate of one hand, deleted the fingers and scaled it up a bit to make the glove. I had absolutely no idea how to make his shoes, so I looked for some reference photos. I found some nice looking trainers from Nike, so I modeled one of them and scaled it somewhat to give it a cartoony shape that fits the look of the character.
Rigging & Posing
This is the part that I enjoy the most, despite my modest rigging skills, I must say. I went for a simple rig as I wasn't planning on animating this character at that time. The arms and legs were rigged using IK chains. The hands were rigged in the same way that was used in Emo & Proog's rigs. I alos added two bones to function as Trak To targets for the eyes.
He two bones were parented to a third bone that was used to control the eyes. Since I didn't have to cover a wide range of facial expressions, a couple of shape keys that control the position of the eyebrows were more than enough. I must admit this was one of my first complete rigs and it had many errors that nearly drove me nuts while posing the character.
I guess I'll have to redo this rig when I start learning animation. I had planned since the beginning that I would put him in different poses against a white background. The poses had to be cool, show character, and have clear silhouettes that make the character instantly recognizable. I made seven different poses, two of which have never seen the light, as I didn't like how they turned out. Another two poses I was told didn't look good enough, so I settled for the three that you see in the final render.
The lighting setup I used was fairly simple. It is illustrated in Fig.4:
1 Key light (Spot) from an upper right angle – Buffer shadows enabled.
2 Fill light (Spot) from the left, a little bit lower than the key light.
3 Bounce lights (Spots). Those were used to simulate light rays bouncing from the ground on the character.
4 This Hemi light was used to light the ground. It had it's energy level finely tuned so that the degree of white on the ground matches the color of the background.
5 This light (Spot) was used to produce the orange spot on the ground. Of course, the ground was already fully lit by the Hemi light, so a normal orange light source wouldn't work. The only way to produce the orange spot was to get rid of the complementary color (blue). So this light source was negative with a blue color to subtract the blue and leave the orange.
6 Shadow Only spot light to produce the shadow on the ground. This was important to show that the character's feet had a firm contact with the ground.
The eyes had a lighting setup of their own. They had been modeled using the method described in the well-known "Creating Pixar-Looking Eyes in Blender” tutorial (Fig.5). If you like that method of making the eyes as much as I do, you must be using it and abusing it. But to get the most of it you really need to pay close attention to the lighting. Unfortunately, Blender doesn't allow assigning lights to different objects, so you'll just have to use different layers. I separated the irises from the eyes (to do this select them in Edit Mode, hit P, then choose “Selected”) and then placed each eye and each iris on a separate layer.
Each eye was lit by a Hemi light and had a spot light carefully positioned to get a specular highlight on the cornea. Each iris was lit by a spotlight shining from an angle to get a nice color gradient across the iris. This really makes it look a lot better and gives some depth to it. Of course, you could achieve the same effect by using a Blend texture mapped to the Color channel of the iris with a Multiply blending mode, but controlling the light angle wouldn't be as easy. I finally parented the irises and the lights to the eyes so that they look the same wherever they point.
Materials & Shading
It was tempting at first to see what he would look like with 3D shading. I have to admit it was a lousy idea. Sometimes you just have to let the classics be the classics, if the term applies. So I decided to use a Toon shader for his body. What I don't like about the way people use the Toon shader in Blender is that they like to have those sharp transitions between lit and shaded areas.
What people just don't seem to realize is that they can get nice looking toon characters by the exact opposite, a highly smooth transition between lit and shaded areas. It alos helps if you give the shader a medium-tohigh “Size” value to make the shaded area as small as possible, especially if your character is in front of a light background.
The other shaders I used were mainly Lambert for the glove and Minnaert for the clothes and the beak. It's really just a matter of playing with the settings to see which combination works best. Nearly all the materials I used had a ramp shader, which gives a nice looking, peach-like color falloff. For the body material, the ramp shader didn't only serve the aesthetics of the image, but it alos helped separate the character from the background, as they had the same color.
The only textures I used were a jeans texture that I found on the web and the Mighty Ducks logo that you see on his chest. The logo needed some color adjustments so that it would match with the color of the T-shirt.
Both textures were mapped using the basic texture mapping modes available in Blender, so no UV mapping was needed. The figure below shows the material settings I used.
Not much was going on at this stage, except for an ambient occlusion pass I rendered to enhance the lighting of the image, and the motion blur effect for the yo-yo and the basketball. It's a shame that some potentially great renders fall flat just because they need a little bit of AO. Even if you are making a cartoony render, a little bit of AO always helps, unless you are planning on making your render super-stylized and 2D like. But just enabling AO and rendering doesn't help very much, as it comes out multiplied and results in a grainy render, even with a maximum number of samples.
It's always better to render it as a separate pass and then combine it with your rendered image using the Node Editor, or your favorite 2D editing program. To render the pass, first enable “Ambient Occlusion” in the world settings, then go to your Scene settings (F10) and make sure “Ray” and “Do Composite” are enabled. Alos make sure AO is enabled in the “Render Layers” tab. Finally go to the Node Editor, switch to “Composite Nodes”, hit “Use Nodes” and connect the AO output of your render layer to the Composite node (Fig.10).
Once you have your AO pass, try combining it with your rendered image using different blending modes. For this image I used two layers of AO, one set to Overlay and the other one set to Burn. You should alos blur the pass a bit and play with the opacity to get rid of the noise. Sometimes the AO pass can ruin your effort to have a special lighting for the eyes of your character, so you might want to erase that part of the pass.
If you are using the composite nodes, you'll have to use the ID Masque node to do this job. There is a fair amount of information about this node in the Blender documentation. As a final touch I added the motion blur effect. To do this I used Blender's Vector Blur node (Fig.12), after animating the yo-yo and the basketball. Again, this is just a matter of playing around with the settings and the animation speed to see which combination works best.
Well, I guess this pretty much wraps it up. I hope this 'making of' proves somewhat helpful when the time comes and you decide to make a cartoony character.
Good luk and happy blending everyone!