Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Low-Poly Character Modeling Secrets!

(Quick note before starting. I wrote this at an beginner to intermediate level with 3Ds Max in mind. Most of the tips and tricks will translate well to other 3D software, so keep that in mind for whichever software you prefer.)

Character modeling isn't easy.
I try to tell people, but I get asked pretty often about 3D modeling. Usually for little hints, tips, tricks that will ease the process of moving a character from the squishy parts of your brain-pan to the cold, harsh (virtual)reality of the computer. My go to answer is one taught to me by an excellent instructor of mine.

"Suck less."

But more on that later. Now for the short-cuts that will indeed make you suck less.

1. Start Simple! - Take your favorite high poly character from this generation of games and I can guarantee you that it started it's life as less than one-thousand polygons on a screen. How can I be so sure? I just am; trust me. If you want a real short-cut, use the map below to make a low poly female form. As you can see, the arms are cut off mid-bicep, there is no head, and the leg is cut mid-calf. If you can't figure out how to from that, go back to fundamentals and practice practice practice. I'll go over hand, feet, and head/face modeling later, but in this post, we're focusing on tips to help your process.
Low poly female form.

2. Patch Model! - One of the best things to learn in my opinion is how to patch model. This involves taking an edge of a polygon, and extruding it our to create new geometry. You can to do this by holding shift and dragging out once you select your edge. I like to start all of my projects with either a plane or a cube before converting it to an editable poly. Find what works best for you and try to speed up your process over time. That means practice. Seriously.

3. Throw it Out! - Don't ever be satisfied. If you create one that you love, save it. If you're just having a bitch of a time getting your geometry to work the way you want and you're dumping hours into one model
that is ugly, start over from scratch. You'll get a feeling like you just wasted hours of your life and you have nothing to show for it. Get used to it. I think maybe 10% of my models are successful, and that's with my ego pushing that number higher! It's better to go back to the right path than keep trudging away down the wrong one.

4. Connect! - Use it! In edit poly of a cylinder, grab all the edges around the object. Now hit that little connect button. See that? A line all the way through! NEW GEOMETRY! WOOO! Now you know how to create more splines, vertex, edges, and polys to work with without using that pain in the ass cut tool! (Wow, lots of W's in that last sentence...) 

5. Suck Less! - So here it is. Suck less. This means practice. You can get all the little short-cuts and secrets in the world, but without practice, you'll still suck. Chances are you'll even suck worse. But practice. Study anatomy, watch people, draw, get a physical hobby, take breaks, study psychology. That's all a part of practice! If you want to make character models, you need to know how characters work. I know a guy that wants so bad to be a concept artist, but doesn't listen to advice at all. He just sits and draws the same flawed anatomy (think Popeye's forearms, but on all major muscle groups and covered in a splash of anime) without willing to stop and see how it really works because he thinks he's better than everyone else. 
Don't be that guy.

Just be more awesome and less of a bitch.

So yeah, that's my quick little guide to better character modeling.

Until next time,
(Guess that was more of a rant than anything else...)

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