Some Modeling Basics
1. Drawing and planning. Some people do a little, some do a lot, but everyone does it. The importance of planning
your model as much as possible before you sit down at a computer cannot be overstated. Doing your homework
means that you spend more time realizing your vision and less time trying to sort out what your vision is. If, like me,
you are not a great 2d artist, you can still gain benefits from drawing your character out a few times; maybe you
will find a pose you especially like, or a head shape that suits their personality better, or a facial expression
that will take you in a different direction with the body model.
2. Basic to specific. One important part of modeling that is often overlooked is the idea of working from basic to
specific. This means starting with simple shapes and reconstructing and refining them into more specific shapes. This is
akin to good sketching practice, where the artist begins with the most rough outlines and forms and, through a process
of redrawing and continual refinement, gradually brings the sketch closer to the his or her ideal. For me, this usually
entails starting out with primitive polygons objects, like cubes and cylinders and spheres, and making a very rough 3d
"sketch" of my character. This allows me to figure out proportions, bulk, and overall style in 3d space. From there
I can combine objects, add edges, pull points, and all of the other techniques necessary to bringing the character
closer to my vision.
3. Saving. Save often. Save often. Save often. You are probably thinking to yourself, "okay, okay, i got it," but you
haven't really gotten it until you have lost four hours of hard work to a computer crash. Unfortunately, I can virtually
guarantee that if you spend more than a few hours of your life working in a 3d application, you will have to suffer through
computer crashes. Saving often helps you recover from your crashes sooner (and helps prevent keyboard-shaped
In addition to saving often, it is worthwhile to develop a good file management protocol for yourself. Part of this is working
within a proper project heirarchy, part of it is using incremental saves (ie HeadModel_wip01, HeadModel_wip02, etc.), and part
of it is implementing a good backup regimen.
4. Maintain Quads. When modeling anything in 3d, and especially when modeling organic or other deforming objects, you want to
keep all of the polygons you create to four sides each. there are several reasons for this, but I will only mention the most important
one now: when the software renders the object, it tesselates it (meaning it divides the existing polygons) into triangles. So, if you
have four sided polygons like this:
the software converts it into triangles, like this:
When you model an object in quads, the tessellation that the computer performs is fairly predictable, and you won't have any
nasty surprises when you go to render your character. If you model your character with a variety of polygon shapes, the computer
will perform unpredictable tessellation, or, even worse, tessellate your geometry differently on different frames of the animation,
leading to ugly artifacts.
5. Geometry Flow. People who have been working in 3d for a while talk about the way a piece of geometry flows. What
they are talking about is somewhat hard to put into words, but I will give it a shot. When a piece of geometry has good flow, you
can see patterns of lines within the geometry that are smooth, fairly evenly spaced, and run in directions conducive to good
deformation once the character has been bound to a set of bones.
One of the most important facets of geometry flow to become familiar with is edge looping, particularly in the area of the face. Learning
the basics of edge looping is fundamental to having a clean, well-deforming character. A character has good edge looping when
the lines that make up the face run in concentric circles around the eyes and the mouth. The placement of the lines corresponds to
the muscles of the face, which in turn lends itself to believeable and anatomically realistic face shapes. A more specific treatment
of edge looping can be found in my head modeling tutorial.
copyright © 2003 cameron widen. all rights reserved.