Mouse Character Model – Part 2

On May 15, 2012, in All Posts, Artwork, Games, by stu
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Last week I posted a intermediate-level tutorial on how to model a mouse from sketches in Blender. This week I continue with how to add eyes and a tail. For a refresher, here’s where I left off last time, after completing the ears:

Making The Eyes

Edit the body mesh (TAB) and cut a starting hole for the eyes by selecting a polygon near the eye and deleting it (X-Key):

In my concept sketches, the eye is an oval shape, but to animate the eyes properly, they need to be spherical. We can achieve the oval shape by positioning a large eye ball mostly inside the body and shape the eye socket to create the oval (look at your own eyes in the mirror).

To create an eye ball, switch back to Object Mode (TAB) and in the Add menu, select Mesh -> UV Sphere. Scale and position the eye so that it is roughly where you want it. It might help to add a pupil texture to help with positioning it. I won’t cover texturing in this tutorial, but there are a lot of resources on the web.

   

Then I said “Oops!” and replaced the eye with a lower-polygon-count UV sphere. :-)  Eye meshes are easy to create, so you can always change the triangle count later. Create a linked duplicate for the left eye so that the left eye shares the mesh with the right eye. Position it mirrored (copy the X coordinate and make it negative). Now we can begin creating the socket shape around the eye ball.

Begin by shaping the edge around the polygon that you cut out. Subdivide the edges using the Knife Tool (K-key) and drag the edge vertices out from the eye until you have a socket that is quite a bit larger than the eye ball. Here I’ve selected all the edges that I either subdivided or added:

Next, select the inner edge loop around the socket and extrude with scale (E, S). Extrude twice to create nice quad loops around the eye ball:

Then one more extrude with scale. This time you also want to pull the loop down into the eye ball to create the edge of an eye lid. I’m also going to add a white material to the eye ball so that it stands out better:

These loops around the eye will be important if an animator needs to manipulate the eye lids to give the mouse more emotional character. At this point there are several problems. My mouse is looking a bit sleepy here, so I need to flatten out the loops around the eye. The resolution looks a bit low as well, so I added some more cuts. I did about two hours worth of knife cutting and shaping to get it all looking perfect (give me a break, this is my first time modeling eyes). Et voila!

    

From the side, the eye is looking oval-shaped as I wanted in my sketch. Great!  I also did some work to scale in the body, as my mouse was looking a bit wide. All ready to add the tail…

A Tale of A Tail

The tail was actually quite easy to model compared to the eyes, the hard part was figuring out how many segments it should have to look smooth when the bones are bending. Too few segments and it will look jagged. I made a separate tail model and experimented with a few different bone counts. I ended up with a 16-segment tail, but your count may vary depending on length and target screen. The iPad is pretty detailed, so I don’t want to cheat on polygons.

Start by shaping the “tail hole” so that it’s round and the right number of edges around. I chose 10 (decagon). If you change your mind on this later, you’ll probably have to redo the tail. No pressure.

    

From here, you’ll be doing one short Extrude and Scale (E&S) to start the tail, then a very long E&S to establish the length. You may notice that when you scale, it pulls the vertices away from the center (X=0). This is because we’re using the Mirror Modifier, so the vertices we actually have selected are just the ones on the right half of the tail (see origin in the above images). Scaling around that center pulls the vertices away from the Y-Z plane. There are two ways to fix this:

  • Method 1: After scaling, select only the vertex that is closest to X=0. Copy its X coordinate. Then select the vertices in the loop you just scaled and translate them using this X coordinate: hit G (grab) and then Enter (confirm). Then in the tools panel you can paste the X translation amount and negate it to move all the vertices back towards the center of the tail.
  • Method 2: Before scaling your extruded edge loop, perform a “Snap -> Cursor to Selected.” This will place the 3D cursor in the center of the extruded half-loop. Next, move the 3D cursor on to the Y-Z plane by setting the 3D cursor X coordinate in the properties panel (N-Key) to zero. Select 3D cursor as the Pivot Point, then scale.

Finish the tail with a couple more E&S operations, ending in a vertex merge (Alt+M) to create a point:

It’s important at this point, before you subdivide the tail into segments, that you get the tail tapering and size just right. Normally to subdivide something like this I would just use the “Loop Cut and Slide” command, but Blender doesn’t like the fact that the tail isn’t a true loop (again, due to the Mirror Modifier). To subdivide, the best method I’ve found is to select all the long edges running parallel with the tail (do not select any loop edges). Then simply subdivide those edges.

In the Tool Properties -> Subdivide, choose the number of cuts to create. In my case I wanted 12, but the interface only goes up to 10. I got around this by doing two subdivides first by 2 cuts and the second by 3 cuts. Here’s the result, all ready for rigging:

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Work-In-Progress Character Model

On May 11, 2012, in All Posts, Artwork, Games, by stu
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I’ve been in “artist mode” the last couple of days. This post will be the first (very rough) sneak peek at the character for the “indie” 3D mobile game I’m developing.

Concept Phase

First I made some quick sketches on my iPad using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro:

It’s challenging to sketch with my fat fingers, but if I zoom in a lot it works. I really enjoy sketching on it. I might buy a stylus at some point soon to improve the accuracy.

The layers in Sketchbook Pro make it very easy to rough sketch on a bottom-layer and then go in with ink and color later if you want. It’s good to try different shapes on multiple layers so you can compare them and select the best one. For example, from the side-view, I tried both the more “upright” and “forward” arching mouse shape (above), as well as a “semi-circle arc” shape – one that looked more like an actual mouse:

The more realistic I made the head shape, eyes, and nose, the less friendly and more “critter-like” the character became. Since I’m targeting casual gamers for this title and the story works best when the player has empathy for the mouse, I choose a friendlier art direction.

From 2D Sketch To 3D Mesh

Once I decided on a general direction with the sketch, I imported the sketches into Blender using the Background Images section in the 3D view options (N-key). This feature does exactly what I needed. It only shows the sketches when you’re aligned to a particular view direction (in orthographic) and you can easily blend the foreground polygons with the sketch so you can see it as you are modeling. Once you add a sketch image, the panel has options for scaling and moving the sketch around, so it was relatively easy to align it exactly to the size and offset that I needed.

There’s a decent tutorial on modeling from images that you can read here. I ended up using the first technique of extruding boxes, but with a mirror modifier along the X axis.

Another good Blender character modeling tutorial can be found here. This one showed me how to sculpt by extruding loop edges instead of faces (more on this below).

I began to extrude out a cube to approximately the right shape from the top and side views. Then I began loop cutting and shaping the body until it was round instead of rectangular.

I have coded some pretty compelling character physics tech (more in a later post). So I’m building this character to work with that tech. At this early phase of modeling, all I want is a rough shape so I can be sure the tech is going to work as expected. My first test of the tech was on a simple tail model, and it looked great, but the body is going to be a bit more challenging.

Here’s a “work-in-progress” capture of the mouse body (no tail, eyes, or whiskers yet). The feet and nose are just roughed-in for now. I think the front legs might be too far forward, what do you think?

Building the Ears

I used the “loop edge extrude” technique to build the ears. Start by extruding a row of faces from the top of the body to create an “wall” shape. The Knife Tool works well for sizing the faces before you extrude the ears. Then shape the top of the wall into a rough ear outline. You’ll need to subdivide those faces enough to create a somewhat smooth arc. Here’s what mine looked like at this point:

You’ll have a bunch of long quads formed when you extruded the ears out from the body, but you can just delete these (X-key). This leaves a hole, surrounded by a loop of quads that was once the “top” of your “ear wall.”

Now, in edge-select-mode, select the top edge of the loop (Alt-Right-Click) and then extrude the edges (E-key) and then hit S to scale them in. Repeat this a couple times.

        

To complete the ear center, extrude one last time and then hit Alt-M to merge the vertices to one center vertex. From this point you need to do the same for the back of the ear. Once you have the topology built, it’s time to sculpt. I used the Proportional editing tool with vertex grab (move). But the sculpting brushes will also work for this.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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