1 week retrospective

So, as some of you might have noticed from my twitter updates, I'm currently working on creating a 3D Eli model as practice, and with it being a week since I first began, I figured I'd write up a short retrospective to mark my progress so far, lessons learnt, and things to keep in mind (mostly for myself).


So, let's begin, shall we?


The reference sheet:


I always agonize more than I should over this stage, mostly because I know if I mess it up I'll be working on an awful-looking drawing. It doesn't help that things look different in 3D, so sometimes a drawing I think looks nice will look terrible in 3D. I normally always draw a completely nude blueprint, then add the clothes. This is mostly just so I can change her outfits, let's just say I might put her in a bikini in future (ohoho). One thing I did pick up this time around, however, was the Symmetrical Ruler tool in Clip, which you can find here:


It was super useful for me, mostly because my old approach used to be just draw the whole body, duplicate and flip it, then slowly clean up the parts that weren't perfect mirrors. This tool saved me a lot of time, 10/10 would use again.


The head:


I've never really done much in regards to facial rigging/animation, mostly because I've always worked relatively low-poly, so facial animations (if there were any) were mostly handled through texture swapping, as opposed to actual mesh defomation. I have, however, made one model with correct facial topology for animation before, and that was the Merry model from last year. I picked up a few more tips this time around, and I think ended up with a slightly cleaner version that I did in the past. Not a huge deal, but it's a slight improvement. I've broken down the most important edgeloops I had in mind while making the mesh, mostly the eye, the eye mask, nose/mouth, lips and the face. Of course, there's always more edgeloops you can involve, depending on the complexity of the model.


Now, given that I've never actually made a facial rig before, it will be interesting to see how well this mesh actually holds up to animation deforms. I guess I'll just have to wait and find out!


The hair:


This is probably one of my favorite parts to model, but it's also one of the last things I actually finish, since I mostly like getting the base of it down quickly, then slowly refining it after I have the rest of the model dealt with. No real tricks behind this step, it really just depends on having a good reference sheet. If you use zBrush, you don't even need a good reference sheet, hahah.


The body:


I always find the most difficult part of the body to model correctly is the ass. I never used to think it was a big deal, but after a few models, I noticed that my asses always deformed terribly with animation, and even though you never really saw any of my models asses (they were normally under a skirt or some piece of clothing) it really bothered me. You just gotta make sure the edgeloop cups the buttocks, so that it can remain in shape when deforming. I'll probably have to do more research into asses, to be honest...


The face:


Those souless eyes... this is mostly just to get the correct shape/size/positioning. You might be noticing a trend here. I'm largely just quickly putting the pieces together, not particularly concerned with any level of high polish at this point. I used to do that, but I would always end up changing things down the line as I progressed, so I learnt that it was just better to "draft" the model first, then refine later. Kind of like drawing an illustration, actually!


The clothing:


It's always difficult fitting the ass into the clothing... Normally, this wouldn't be a problem since you hide the part of the body that's being covered by clothing (for example, the arm mesh would be removed since you have sleeves) but for skirts... well, you can look up them (you pervert), so I kind of have to make sure you can still see the ass. It's largely just a balancing game between pushing the skirt out, but keeping her waist slim.


At this point I added in the arms/hands. Shoulder topology is incredibly important, since not only does it have an incredibly large range of motion, but it's one of the more obvious points if it deforms badly. Hands are another crucial aspect of modelling, but since the range of motion on fingers is not as extreme, it's a bit more simple (the mesh itself has greater density, but so long as you have a certain number of faces, it should come out looking alright).


And here we have it, the stage I'm currently at. Every important element in her model has been made, and while every single piece needs some polish, the "base" of the model has been created, so to speak. From here on out, it's largely a battle of refinement. It doesn't look amazing, and I feel with 3D models they normally look underwhelming until the textures are added, which will be one of the last steps for me. I mostly threw in some basic materials to give myself a vague idea of how it looks as I was working on it, much as you would have rough colours in a draft of your illustration.


What's left to do:

  • Create rig
  • Add textures (currently just applied default materials, will need to seam & unwrap the mesh before working on textures)
  • Refine topology (specifically, the face, ears, scrunchie, legs, ass, stomach and arms)
  • Add topology (specifically the ponytail, blazer & skirt)
  • Attach mesh to rig
  • Test mesh/rig with animations (basic face animations, test range of movement etc)


Things I need to look into:

  • Materials
  • Cycles rendering
  • Shape keys
  • Diffuse, bump & specular mapping
  • Advanced custom rigging


So that's it! Still plenty left to do, and much more to learn, but I'll get there eventually (´ヮ´)