A place to start
Many times I come across new 3D modelers who expect to find great tutorials for learning 3D modeling for free. When their expectations are not met they are upset. While there are many great tutorials on youtube for 3D modeling there are things you should know before jumping in.
3D modeling tutorials on youtube can be outdated, have bad audio, video, and even bad lectures. The author or publisher of the video may have little to no experience 3D modeling or be an expert on the subject. That is why you should check the publishers background and ask yourself “Is this person someone I can learn from?”, that is, does this person have a degree related to the subject?, what kind of experience or portfolio does he/she present? What does this person do?.
There is no clear path on what you should be doing or looking for if you are interested in 3D modeling. New modelers tend to think that by watching a modeling video they can learn the subject without knowing the fundamentals. They expect that every video should be taught for everyone regardless of how much or how little experience you have in 3D modeling and that is a problem. If you’re learning from a tutorial on modeling the human form or a car and you don’t know about box modeling then you’re already jumping ahead of the fundamentals and expecting the tutorial to teach you this basic skill. You should have aquired this knowledge prior to watching said video.
3D modeling is an art form in itself and can be technical as well. Teaching someone about 3D modeling is time consuming. There are tons of information to provide the student when it comes to 3D modeling. People who are new to 3D modeling and want to learn the trade must be aware about the time it takes to create a teachable course so that YOU can grasp the concept and learn the fundamentals.
You get out what you put in
You may have heard this quote before “You get out what you put in”. If your idea of learning 3D modeling is going on youtube and searching “How to model a 3D Character” you may find what you are looking for, just dont expect it to be high quality and beginner friendly. However if you want to learn 3D modeling and you expect a high quality video that covers every subject and is beginner,intermediate,advanced friendly and you can build a portfolio then you might want to check out these professional resources.
- A Topology Workbook that will teach you crucial information in clean topology. Definitely something you don’t want to miss out on if you are serious about 3D modeling. The Pushing Points Topology Workbook by William Vaughan
- A great course for character modeling from concept to 3D. You can walk away with a full 3D character model made by yourself that you can add to your portfolio. Introduction to Character Modeling by CGcookie
- Incredible and free resource for modeling a character. Character Modeling by Tony Jung
- Box Modeling a Human Head in video Human Head Modeling by Masahiro Ushiyama
- Master modeling characters in Modo Creating A Character in MODO with Warner McGee
Why pay for something when I can learn for free?
I hear this a lot with beginners new to the 3D modeling world. Why should I pay to learn something when I can learn it for free?. You can also argue, why should I go to university when I can learn this myself and for free?. Are you able to work with others and know what they know? Imagine yourself surrounded by a group of korean speakers and you are the only person in the group who speaks english. Do you know what is happening? Did you miss something important? Why are they laughing? Are they laughing at you?. Now imagine yourself in a room full of doctors with degrees and you are the only one that does not have a degree, and you decided not to attend university because you can learn it by yourself for free. And now you’re telling yourself, “but…I just want to be a 3D modeler”.
When you attend university you’re learning from people who already have more experience that you do on a particular subject. They have already experienced and learned what you have not. The important thing here is not whether to go to university or not. That is for you to decide. It’s about “You get out what you put in”.
- Blender Guru goes in depth on Why you can’t afford to be a cheap artist.
What you should already know
Designing Characters can be a challenge when you’re out of motivation and don’t know where to look. There are many ways to get back on to being creative again.
Designing your character in 2D is one thing but creating them in 3D is hard work. Yes it’s rewarding and fun to sculpt, make the outfit and pose but this is the time when you grind.
Jumping into 3D for a 2D artist can be scary at first but im here to make it easy for you. One thing you should know about 3D modeling is before 3D sculpting applications were around everything had to be created by pushing points. In other words moving polygons around 3D space to make a character. It can be technical in some ways but the magic in it is called ‘subdivision surface’.
What is subdivision?
There are two words to know, ‘subdivision’ and ‘subdivide’. These words get thrown around alot and if you’re not familiar with them then you won’t know the difference. Subdivision surface is a smooth polygonal surface in 3D applications that gives you a preview of your model without having to increase the polygon count. To make it simple when you model a box with polygons it has 6 sides. Now when we subdivide this box it becomes round because each polygon has been divided by 4.
To sum it up ‘Subdivision Surface’ gives us a preview of what our model can look like if we increase the polygon count. ‘Subdivide’ is the actual process of subdividing the model so that each polygon is divided by 4 therefore increasing polygon count.
When modeling a character or any object we want to keep the polygon count down because this saves computer resources and makes it very easy to modify and change the model. If I were to try to model a characters face and I started with a sphere and subdivided it 6 times it would be bad news. Sure it will look smooth but moving around millions of polygons to model is a pain. So keep the polygon count down and remember that we constantly use catmul clark subdivision to preview subdivision and not subdivide. Subdivide is the last thing you do to your model when you finish modeling a character. Modeling for video games and animation are different and require specific polygon counts. This is crucial to game companies for a pipeline production. It’s not enough if you know how to model, you need to cover all areas such as low polygon count, edge flow, uv unwrapping, texturing, maps, and file formats that work seamlessly with current 3D software applications.
To do or Not to do?
You should be wary of triangles, fliped normals, and vertices pushed far away from the model to achieve volume. When modeling I tend to stick to quads or polygons with 4 sides. Triangles are fine if you’re modeling for video games as those require triangles. In animation however quads are an animators best friend. Clean topology, clean quads makes a happy model. In animation character models will stretch, smile, flip, bend, expand, and contract. To be able to achieve this effect we need clean topology and good edge flow. Poles are where 5 polygons connect at one vertex. These are inevitable and you want to place them where it wont affect or be visible to deformation. In a model preview window you wont notice these poles affecting much of the topology, but it becomes noticeable when rendering.
Models with good topology can deform well. Good topology requires the edges or the flow of the lines to follow the face such that when the character smiles the edges deform naturally. Bad topology can result in pinching or weird bumps.
To avoid these things topology is an important skill for a modeler. At first it may be a little tricky to get down but with good reference you can create great models. With enough practice you won’t need to use reference. The idea is that most topology is the same for a character so once you understand the basics of topology you can create more complex models.
Creating a Base
Modelers have a few base characters sitting around. You need to make one!. When it comes time to being creative you dont want to start from scratch. It’s up to you to make at least 3 different base models and a set of hands, feet, ears, noses, eyes, teeth, and tounge. It may seem like alot of work at first but you should have an arsenal ready for when a character is needed in production.
Lucky for you there is an amazing application called blender (full 3D animation pipeline software) that is free to use.
If you follow my tutorials you can use any modeling techniques I use in other 3D applications. The only difference are the shortcut keys and the user interface.