This is the first tutorial of my four part series dealing with character animation. These tutorials are targeted for beginners wanting to learn the basics of organic modeling, uvw mapping, texturing, rigging, and creating a cute 3d monster. In this first part we’re going to create the geometry and you’ll learn about polygon modeling and subdivision surfaces. I’ll do my best to keep things as simple as possible.
In the picture below you see the 3d monster we’re going to create. There is a low polygon model on the left and the final subdivided model on the right. The goal is not to create the model as fast as possible but rather to give beginners a chance to experiment with different modeling tools. You need to know the basics about the interface, modifiers, and the transform tools to be able to complete this tutorial. I’m using 3ds Max 2011.
I recommend using reference photos/images whenever possible to make the modeling process easier. I have prepared two images that you can use while modeling the monster. Please download the following files:
Create a Plane () in the front viewport . Modify the Plane ( ) according to the following parameters :
Create another Plane in the left viewport with the same settings. Now we have two planes in the scene. Go to the left viewport and align () the planes vertically ( ).
Let’s apply the reference images to the planes. Open Material Editor () and create the materials for the planes:
If the images are displayed in low resolution go to the display driver settings and and maximize the resolution ().
Chances are that your planes are near zero or intersecting with each other. In either case, the planes will get in the way when we start the modeling. Let’s move them in the top viewport:
Now we’re ready to start the modeling process.
There are some keyboard shortcuts that are extremely useful during the modeling process:
We’re going to model polygon by polygon, so let’s create the very first polygon to have something to work with. Create a small Plane () in the front viewport and apply ( ) the following parameters to it:
Add Edit Poly modifier to it (). We’re going to start the modeling from the lower lip. Activate the vertex sub-object level and move the vertices according to picture below. I recommend concentrating on one vertex at a time. First position the vertex in the front viewport and then in the left viewport.
Now the first polygon is in place. Since our 3d monster will be symmetrical we’re going to create only half of it and complete it with the help of a Symmetry modifier. This character is going to be animated so we’ll create it by using quads () only. ( Quads deform better than triangles.)
Let’s create a new polygon by cloning:
Let’s repeat the cloning process several times to create polygons around the mouth. Whenever you create a new polygon, remember to move the vertices in both the front and left viewports!
Tip: Press ALT X in keyboard to make the selected object transparent. This might help when positioning the vertices.
You can also clone several edges at once:
So far we’ve created new polygons by cloning edges but we can also clone polygons:
Whenever there are two border edges that we want to connect with a polygon, we can use the Bridge tool:
Our goal is to create a unified surface where polygons share vertices with all adjacent polygons. Often there’s a need to weld vertices of adjacent polygons together. Let’s try this in practice:
The Scale tool can be an effective method of creating new polygons:
Let’s clone some polygons in the left viewport:
This is actually an optional step but highly recommended nevertheless. The idea of this tutorial is to create a half of a low polygon model, complete it with the Symmetry modifier, and smoothen the surface with the Turbosmooth modifier. I’ll show you how we can see the final surface while working on a low poly model:
Now you continue working with the original low poly monster model and you see the changes in the smoothed model in real time. If the smoothed model gets in the way you can just move or hide it. ( It’s also possible to add the modifiers to the original model you are working on, but personally I find that method more troublesome. )
Now you know everything you need to know to go on. Complete the rest of the head as you see fit. The front reference image doesn’t help you much when you create the back of the head. You just have to create new polygons, orbit around the head, and move the vertices. Remember to weld vertices together when necessary. If it feels hard, remember to concentrate on a one polygon at a time. Be patient and move the vertices until you get a nice round head. This is what polygon modeling is all about.
Now the hardest part is over. The rest of this 3d monster model is pretty simple to create. Let’s complete the torso:
Repeat the cloning two times and create the bottom of the monster according to the image below. Cloned edges and use Bridge tool when you can.
The arm is really easy to create with Extrude and Bevel tools:
Make sure to extrude the polygon only a little. We want a relatively sharp joint here so we need two edges that are close to each other. If you are not sure what I’m talking about, look at the smoothed model while extruding and compare different extrusion values.
Complete the arm:
Bevel works just like Extrude except it allows scaling just after the extrusion.
Let’s work with the eyes and mouth just a little more:
Finally orbit around your model and fix all bumps and errors in the surface. Create two spheres for eyes and the monster model is complete!
I rendered the final image with Mental Ray ().
My rendering setup:
Hopefully you learned enough to be able to create your own 3d monster models. Stay tuned for the unwrapping tutorial!