Lesson II: Modeling the Character

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The way I've come to model in Blender is a little bit unorthodox, and is a method that I have not seen demonstrated (exactly) in any other modeling tutorial I've seen, though I do not claim to have been the first to do this. It is a method that really works well for me, and hopefully can provide a new way of thinking about 3D modeling that may be useful for you. This method takes advantage of Blender's ability to have a single vertice isolated in space, as well as the ability to separate vertices to new objects and connect them back together easily.

Traditional methods of modeling commonly will start with a detail like the eyelid, and then extrude out from there to create the rest of the head, then down the neck, and so on, linearly and as one connected form. I would never draw this way, so why would I model this way? When drawing, I will always find the basic shapes and overall structure of the subject first, before adding any details, to ensure the overall proportions are correct and that the details, when added, are in their proper place. So that is how I model as well - find the basic forms with as few vertices as possible, refine the shape/topology of each piece, and then connect them all together.

You might call this method the 'vertex lego method' because that is essentially the mentality of it. For almost the entire process I work in vertex selection mode, and treat the vertices as building blocks (or lego pieces) which are connected together using edges and faces. I am never overwhelmed by the amount of modeling tools available because my task is always quite simple: I am arranging vertices and connecting them together. Sometimes I will use a primitive shape as a starting point if I want the shape to be accurate, but any basic shape can be created by starting with a single vertice and extruding/duplicating more from it. The exact steps of the method are as follows:
  • Create the basic forms using as few vertices as possible. These forms can be created starting with one vertice and extruding, or by refining a default shape (cube, sphere, etc..).
  • Refine the shapes to add more detail by adding loop cuts and subdivision. When adding more vertices in this way, they will be created along the existing mesh surface, and therefore will require very little tweaking to be positioned correctly.
  • Connect the individual parts back together, and re-define the edge flow of the surface as necessary.
The result is a modeling method that feels very much like drawing, by extruding vertices (to create edges), and then 'painting' in some faces. It keeps things simple, and generally makes the whole process less overwhelming and more manageable.

The following videos are a timelapsed recording of modeling Booster, so you can see how I work. Of course I am constantly improving my modeling technique, so I encourage you to take what you like and leave what you don't. I hope the videos illustrate the method I use clearly, and show you how efficient it can be.

The main hotkeys used are:

[tab]switch to edit mode/object mode
[ctrl+tab]Change component selection type (vertices/edges/faces)
[g]move (can constrain to axis with MMB or pressing x/y/z)
[r]rotate (double tap to free-rotate)
[alt+d]duplicate linked (objects share the same mesh data)
[ctrl+LMB]free selection
[b]box selection

[w]Specials (subdivide in particular)
[ctrl+e]Edge operations
[ctrl+v]Vertice operations
[ctrl+f]Face operations
[Mesh>>Automerge Editing+Point Snap]helps to quickly merge vertices by holding [ctrl] while translating [g] and snap them together.

[f]create face/edge (depending on selection)
[o]proportional editing (aka. 'soft selection')
[ctrl+r]loop cut (can also press [s] to loopcut smooth)
[p]separate mesh component to new object
[ctrl+j]join selected objects
[ctrl+n]recalculate normals to the outside

The total elapsed time in the videos was 4 hours, plus another 2 hours of post tweaks not shown in the videos (adding cuts and asymmetry to the jacket, and refining the shapes - more of the same).

Hand Image Reference Link (Blender Noobies)

Face Image Reference Link (Angela Guenette / Durian)

Creating Pixar Eyes Tutorial (Noob to Pro)

Here is an image of the result:

I decided to change his eyes to blue to maintain the color scheme. The colors in the image are done roughly using vertex colors. He still needs to be textured and feathered, but I will not be including that part in this tutorial as it is not my expertise.

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