Basic Humanoid

Introduction

In the interest of dispersing information fairly and accurately, I decided the other evening to sit down and map out the entire progression of events I went through in trying to put together a model for worldforge. As it's not in use yet, and the quality therein has yet to be judged truly by the masses I thought it only fitting to start keeping track of my progress and keeping screen captures as I went along. It leaves me now with a taste in my mouth not unlike soap from a mother's hand, and as such I'm being civic minded enough to share my knowledge with utmost humility. If you should find flaw, or feature within this brief tutorial, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will make my best efforts to improve upon this base foundation.

Goal

This brief lesson at 3d modelling is meant to serve two purposes.
The first goal in mind is the dissemination of my knowledge of using Blender to perform rudimentary functions to achieve the end of creating recognizable objects in 3d space. I will clue you in to a few of the more subtle nuances of Blender and in that, hopefully prepare you for a further set of lessons and discourse on the use of it to create content for Worldforge.
The second aim in mind is to explain in detail my process for achieving the human form in 3d space, such that my methods may be made available for public scrutiny within the project to further homogenize our efforts such that in the end we will all have models that look as though they were created with a similar technical and artistic vision in mind.
I had originally thought that I would simply start creating artwork for worldforge, but after a brief period of unrest, I discovered that however pure my intent, my artwork was not going to look like anyone else's. In this matter I am hoping that by making my process available to other artists, I will be able to share in the influence and structuring of those core artistic principles that constitute a single collective 'vision'. This point requires that you, the reader or student take the time to give me back input as to my methods so that in turn I can curb my own methodology back toward the others in the group who have as much merit and weight to their own thoughts and methods.

Tools

Running blender does not require a great deal of horsepower from your computer, however I advise against performing backups or burning cd's while you are using it. If you aren't new to blender, you know what your machine is capable of.
Blender can be obtained at The Blender Website It is free of charge for non-profit, and a professional version can be purchased. There are several concepts that are completely new to fresh users however, and you should definately stick with the free version as long as you can.
You will need a 3 button mouse (three), Blender uses the middle mouse button to move/rotate/zoom the view and working without this functionality just plain sucks.
Also you'll need some oxygen/nitrogen mix, but we'll cover that later on. ;)

Basic Setup

When Blender first opens you'll have a large single view at the top, and some option buttons at the bottom. There is a small divider line between these two sections. Approach the divider with the pointer from the top view pane and just when you are above the line click the center mouse button (CMB) then, Split the view. This will give you two view panes to work with. You can change to another orthagonal view by using the numeric keypad '7' = Top , '1' = Front , '3' = Side.
Feel free to split the view as much as you want, I like the four pane setup, with the bottom right pane my '3d' Camera view.

Enough Already - Let's get this show on the road

If you are an artist of learned ability, I'm about to break about a thousand kagillion rules, don't worry though, there is light beyond the grey lines.

1. Create a Proportions Template

Because I'm not starting with a sketch or anything, I need to have some way of judging where I'm at in my model proportionally. To achieve this end, I set up a boxed out character made up entirely of head sized cubes.


To create the proportion template:
  • Enter the Top view and hit the spacebar, select 'Add' then 'Plane'.
  • You'll be switched to edit mode immediately, to leave edit mode hit 'Tab', to get back into edit mode, hit 'Tab' again with the object you wish to edit selected.
  • Select All by hitting 'A' and then hit 'X' selecting Faces Only. This clears the shape of any face data that has been generated and will reduce the number of polygonal triangles that need to be computed by not including any 'internal' faces (faces that you don't see)
  • Switch to side or front view and hit 'E' to extrude the shape upward. Holding down the Ctrl key will constrain your cursor to move in full grid block increments. I move mine up 3 full units.
  • As you can see I added some bevels to mine so that I would see where the cubes ended in shaded mode. (because it looks nicer)
  • Once you are done with your 'head' shape, exit edit mode with a 'Tab'
Now that the basic unit of measurement for our 'humanoid' is complete, we can play around with different proportions by laying out the cubes to make up a 'block-man'.

While in front mode:
  • Select the cube shape and then hold 'Alt' and hit D. This will create a linked copy of the object such that if you were to change any of the shapes derived from it, the rest would be updated with the changes. The alternate of this is using 'Shift' + D which creates an isolated instance of this object (which in this case doesn't matter, but you might still want to add a beveled edge.) Also, using Alt+D here will allow you later to simple scale down the shape itself to 'hide' it while you work the rest of the model. while at the same time not destroying your template (which is trivial really).
  • Once you've duplicated the object, it will want you to choose a place to set it down. Using Ctrl+Move-the-mouse, just lay out your pieces however you want them. You could use my model as a reference here.
  • For the arms, I just turned the piece just off the should 90 degrees by hitting 'R' and holding Ctrl again to constrain to 5 degrees.
Once your Proportional Template is complete, it's a really good time to save your work. Ctrl+W will get you where you need to be, or you can go to the 'File' Menu and Save, or Save As.

2. Sketching your figure.

So now we have a basic proportions grid laid out in 3d space that we can mark against to make sure the legs are the right size in comparison to the chest and so on. The next few steps involve the actaul sketching that traditionally we'd have done on paper before ever sitting down to model. Since you have a clean proportion grid set, you might want to split your versioning now so that you can always go back to a clean grid. Also here, you might want to look into object naming so that you can in the future use other files as libraries and more easily import objects from other scenes.


Switch to the side view:
  • Spacebar, Add, Plane, Select All, 'X' Delete All. This will make an empty object into which you can freely draw.
  • Hold down the Ctrl key, and left click anywhere along the outline of the profile you wish to put down. You will see that where you click, a new vertice is generated. Move to a new location and Ctrl+LMB click again. You can make lines in this manner to fill in around the entire piece. You can move the points as you go along and the line will continue from the currently selected vertice.
  • In my example I did seperate sections for the torso and leg, because I wanted to have two outlines for the legs such that I'd see both in the 3d view. I accomplished this by duplicating the polyline and moving it out to the left leg in front view, and then moving the original to the right.
Once the side view is completed, we can switch to the front and add half of the body's profile there as well.

  • Start adding points in the same manner as before, taking into account that you are only doing the right or left half of the shape.
  • Don't spare any points while describing the shape of the model. You'll not be using this polyline to actually create geometry so you don't have to worry about face count or any of that. This is just to define the shape as you want it to end up looking, just like sketching on paper.
  • Once you are done with the half of the model you are working on. Make sure that the 3d cursor is in the middle of the model.
  • Hit the period key '.' or click on the button labeled as such in the cap.
  • Select all of the points making up the half of the model you've just completed.
  • Shift+D to duplicate and then hit enter to drop it where it is.
  • Hit 'S' to scale the side of the shape, and then 'X' to flip it along the X axis of the current view 'front'
  • With the period transform method selected you'll see that the shape is reflected across the 3d cursor to the other side of the model
  • Hit enter to drop the scaled side, and then 'Tab' out of edit mode to see the finished polyline.
You can see here in my example that I've not done any work on a head. I think that alot of people just getting started with 3d do a lot of work on heads but never find time to finish the whole model. You can employ the same methods I've described here to build the head and add as little-or much geometry you want. To later be traced with real 'face' tools and shapes later on.

Profiling the Arms

The arms are a bit more difficult to give shape to, but not all that different from the above methods. Another way to give the outline form, is by creating a series of ribs that vary in shape and scale along the length of the form.


Switch to side view
  • Move the 3d cursor to the center of where the arms will be.
  • Add a circle with 8 points.
  • Switch to front or top view
  • Duplicate this circle out along the length of the arm to give you enough resolution to describe the arm.
  • Scale each piece into position
  • Shape the pieces to give finer definition to the space.

You can keep working in this method until every surface of the model is outlined, but this usually shouldn't necessary. You now have a complete set of guidewires with which you can work visually to make shapes to fill the space.

4. Build the Mesh


  • In top view, add a circle with 10-12 points on it.
  • Shape the circle on all sides to accurately fill in based on your outlines.
  • Turn on SubSurf (Default level is fine)
  • Take care when dropping duplicates of this first polyline to make the distance between any two poitns ease any 'curve' that those points may soon describe. This will assist you in avoiding any sharp surfaces when rendering.
I have only made surface points for the torso here to save time while building this tutorial. But in the rest of the model I will use the same methods described here to finish it.

Make Faces


Turn on 'Draw Faces' & Turn Off 'Double Sided'
Switch to Shaded View 'Z' so that you can see which direction the face is pointing when you 'make'
As you select 3 adjacent points and make faces 'F' if the face appears to be black and unresponsive to light, it's most likely backward. To fix this, hit 'W' then 8 or select Flip Normals.

Using 'A' to deselect the currently selected face can help in clarifying what points are actually selected before facing.
If you should happen to make a bad face, just select the two points connecting the good face to the bad vertice and hit 'X' deleting only 'Edges' this will presever your vertices

The undo buffer in Blender is a little bit different from what you're used to, you have to Tab out of edit mode and back in to reset the buffer. This can be a little complicated some times, so I recommend doing it after each face until you have the hang of manipulating the view to get better angles on the faces you inted to create.
Subsurf will allow you to see your polylines in shaded mode, if Subsurf isn't on, you won't know where the lines are, but only see points. Try playing around with the level of subdivision on the shape to get more detail.

Conclusion

Well folks, that's it for now, I'll try and add more to this procedure as time permits. Hopefully we'll get some feedback from people trying to complete or replicate the stuff I've done here and that will push this introduction forward. Get ahold of me via the media@ list.