3D Character Design
August 21, 2010
This model was initially designed to be part of a custom character database for my CyberGRID project. Developing an entire custom character database of this level of detail posed to be a very time-consuming endeavor. Thus, the project turned out to be a terrific learning experience on 3D character modeling and texturing, but we ended up purchasing (from turbosquid.com) a line of much less attractive models that were pre-rigged. Note that this post is somewhat of a walk-through tutorial, but it assumes that the reader has at least a basic understanding of the Autodesk Maya software.
I used these tutorials as assistance for modeling and texturing. They go into further detail about the steps involved in both processes:
3D Character Modeling: http://www.creativecrash.com/tutorials/real-time-character-modeling-tutorial#tabs
Texturing a 3D Character: http://www.3dtotal.com/index_tutorial_detailed.php?id=825#.TzQYQExWrDY
Step 1) I started by drawing a front-view symmetrical sketch of the male anatomy, as well as, a profile sketch that matched the scale of the front view drawing (below). The rear-view drawing was used as a reference once I need to texture the model.
Step 2) In Maya, I created simple cylindrical polygons with 8 axis subdivisions (varying numbers of spans depending on the part of the body) and scaled the vertices of the polygons to match the various major limbs (arm and leg) of one half of the body. I only modeled half of the body so that I would be able to mirror what I had done to create a symmetrical mesh. I used the front and side sketches above as Image Planes in the front and side windows respectively. For the torso I used half of a cylinder (deleted the faces of the other half). Once the arm, leg and half-torso were finished I sewed them together, combining the meshes using the Merge Vertex Tool.
Step 3) I then used the same technique to model the fingers, thumb, and palm of the hand on the side of the body that I had already modeled. After it was finished I combined the hand mesh with the rest of the body and then used the Merge Vertex Tool to close the gaps between the meshes.
Step 4) After this I undertook a similar process for the foot but didn’t put as much detail into it under the assumption that the foot would go into a shoe once the character was rigged and animated. I then duplicated the half of the body (without the head) and mirrored it to produce a symmetrical body:
Step 5) I then used a similar process to create the head of the model. This process was more complex than the body parts due to the topographical abnormalities of a human head (nose, mouth, eyes, ears). It required more frequent use of the Split Polygon and Insert Edge Loop tools.
Step 6) Once the model was complete, I used the Cut UVs tool to separate the UV map of the model into flat sections that would be easier to illustrate in Photoshop. To do this I tried to make all of the UV “seams” in less visible areas (i.e. under the arms, sides of torso, inside of legs). A good technique is to make the seems along heavy muscle contours – areas where it looks ok to have an abrupt change in color. I then exported the UV Map and used it as a reference (overlay) to digitally produce the texture in Photoshop. This process takes a good amount of tweaking because of the counterintuitive nature of drawing a 3D picture on a 2D surface.
Step 7) I then found a generic eyeball texture from the Internet and mapped it onto two spheres within the head. In addition, I created a mesh for the hair and used a generic hair texture that I also found on the web. I then rendered the model using the built-in Mental Ray renderer in Maya. Most of the rendered images use a standard directional light; the ligher render uses a Physical Sun and Sky (Indirect Lighting). Here are some of the final renders:
What’s Next) Next, I want to rig and animate the character, something that I have some experience doing (see my Emperor’s Champion post). I also want to finally give the guy some clothes! After that, I plan to make a female counterpart to this model and then sell both of them on a 3D model database like Turbosquid.