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: