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Overview of the design process

From: Modeling a Character in 3ds Max

Video: Overview of the design process

A great character model starts with a great design. It's important to have good concept art to work with before you get into modeling. This is because even though modeling in 3ds Max is faster and more flexible than ever, it's still no match for good old-fashioned pencil and paper when it comes to planning out the design. If the character design that you're modeling is weak, the model will be weak as well and making changes to a finished model can be more trouble than it's worth. You may have heard the phrase "quality over quantity." That's not quite true when it comes to design--at least not completely.

Overview of the design process

A great character model starts with a great design. It's important to have good concept art to work with before you get into modeling. This is because even though modeling in 3ds Max is faster and more flexible than ever, it's still no match for good old-fashioned pencil and paper when it comes to planning out the design. If the character design that you're modeling is weak, the model will be weak as well and making changes to a finished model can be more trouble than it's worth. You may have heard the phrase "quality over quantity." That's not quite true when it comes to design--at least not completely.

You see the best path to quality is by doing a large quantity of quick sketches. Very rarely does the best character design happen on the first try. If you only do one drawing of a character, you'll never know if it was the best, because there aren't any to compare it to. The professional concept artist's secret is to do a huge quantity of drawings and only show the best few to other people. You may see the work of famous designers and think that everything they do is polished in detail beyond belief. But the fact is that most of their time is spent doing exploratory sketches that nobody will ever see.

My approach to character design is to first understand what the criteria of the character is. What is its purpose? If it's part of a story, what role does it play? You'll need to get into the character's personality and setting to truly understand how to design for it. The next thing to do is research existing people or creatures that have a similar role. Look for photos or read books about them. Get beyond the standard assumptions about what that type of character is supposed to look like. If your character is French, for example, you would want to look for ideas that go beyond the stereotypical striped shirt and beret.

Once you've collected reference material, start drawing pages full of very loose sketches. Don't worry about details or anatomical accuracy at this point. I practically scribble everything at this stage. Just work out variations on the overall shape and proportion of the character. Once you've done several pages full of this, you're ready to take what you like best about those sketches and start exploring the details. Again, I would do several pages full of sketches that deal with a particular part of the character. Sketch out lots of heads, lots of hands, and lots of props and accessories.

Give yourself time; it is going to take a while to really explore all of your options. Now that you've got lots of ideas to choose from, you can be confident that your design is at least the best out of many options. Take the best out of all your experimentations and do some more detailed drawings. These are finally the images that you would show to other people. Draw the character in several poses that would be expressive of its personality or nature. Also, most importantly for modeling, do a front and side orthographic drawing. Draw the character in a neutral pose facing head-on, as well as one from the side.

You'll want to make sure that every feature of the drawing is at the same height between the two orthographics. This is easy in Photoshop with guidelines that you can drag down to make sure that everything is at the same level. I usually scan these orthographics into Photoshop where I can even reposition things if they're not quite even. Now you're ready to send your design into 3ds Max for modeling. Character design is an art form with no absolute rules, and it can take years to truly get good at it. The most important thing is to just keep working at it.

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Modeling a Character in 3ds Max

42 video lessons · 7116 viewers

Ryan Kittleson
Author

 
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  1. 7m 36s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. What you need to know before watching this course
      52s
    3. Overview of the design process
      3m 26s
    4. Using the exercise files
      2m 16s
  2. 40m 7s
    1. Extruding edges and faces
      7m 42s
    2. Using Paint Deform
      8m 58s
    3. Working symmetrically
      5m 32s
    4. Using TurboSmooth
      4m 39s
    5. Setting up the image planes
      8m 28s
    6. Exploring edge flow
      4m 48s
  3. 1h 15m
    1. Creating the basic facial structure
      5m 26s
    2. Creating the basic facial features
      8m 51s
    3. Making the head and neck
      7m 55s
    4. Refining the mouth
      11m 24s
    5. Shaping the eyes
      10m 53s
    6. Building the nose
      6m 45s
    7. Crafting the ears
      6m 9s
    8. Making the teeth and gums
      10m 4s
    9. Modeling the tongue and eyebrows
      7m 43s
  4. 44m 38s
    1. Modeling the upper body
      9m 45s
    2. Building the hips, legs, and feet
      5m 8s
    3. Constructing the palm and thumb
      7m 14s
    4. Making fingers and finishing the hand
      7m 53s
    5. Fleshing out the body
      9m 22s
    6. Attaching body parts with different numbers of edges
      5m 16s
  5. 13m 39s
    1. Drawing the NURBS curves for hair
      4m 11s
    2. Sweeping the NURBS curves into polygon objects
      3m 32s
    3. Sculpting the polygon hair clumps
      5m 56s
  6. 49m 54s
    1. Modeling the pants
      7m 16s
    2. Making wrinkles in the pants
      9m 0s
    3. Modeling the belt
      5m 30s
    4. Making the belt loops
      6m 35s
    5. Creating the shirt
      9m 33s
    6. Making the shoes
      12m 0s
  7. 12m 7s
    1. Putting on the finishing touches
      6m 7s
    2. Thinking about artistic appeal
      3m 59s
    3. Recapping the most important concepts
      2m 1s
  8. 27m 24s
    1. Understanding UVW maps and seams
      6m 28s
    2. Using Peel to flatten the UVW maps
      3m 50s
    3. Dealing with UVW maps across multiple objects
      10m 5s
    4. Refining the UVW layout
      7m 1s
  9. 51s
    1. What's next
      51s

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