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Modeling a Character in 3ds Max with Ryan Kittleson covers the process of designing and building a 3D human character that can be used for feature film, broadcast, and games. The course begins with an overview of the 3ds Max tools and techniques used in character modeling, and how human anatomy is represented using 3D geometry. Once this foundation is in place, the rest of the course goes step by step through the actual process used to model a simple human character from the ground up, including facial features, musculature, and details such as hair and clothing.
UVW mapping is something that all models need in order to be textured. It's one of those odd jobs that isn't quite modeling, but it's not usually anybody else's job either, so modelers usually get to do it. Textures are 2D images that get wrapped around a 3D model. It's just like a map of the Earth, where a flat image represents the surface of a 3D object. And, like a map of the Earth, there are many different ways to cut it up and display it. The way that a 3D object is flattened to a 2D space is called UVW mapping.
UV is just a coordinate system, like latitude and longitude, or X and Y. Software like 3D Studio Max uses the letters U, V and W for texture mapping, because X, Y and Z is already used for 3D space. Unlike the rest of this course, this particular chapter only works in versions of 3ds Max 2012 and newer. I will be using Max's powerful new Peel Mapping tools. If you're using Max version 2011 or older, please check out the lynda.com videos on UVW unwrapping for previous versions of Max.
The first step in creating UVW maps is to cut the seams. The Peel tool is going to take a 3D model and flatten it out into a 2D map. So we have to tell Max we need to cut the model. Every character is different and can require different approaches to UV layout. With Hank, I will explain why I cut the seams the way I do, so that you can understand the thinking behind it. Many times I have to experiment with a few different seam arrangements before I get it just right. You basically want to cut the model up so that it can be laid flat. Imagine the character as a plush doll.
If you wanted to cut the fabric off of the stuffing, you'd need to cut down each limb. You can even cut entire parts off. We will be doing something similar with Hank. Cutting seams is not an exact science. It's a balance between a few different principles. One principle is that you don't want to have a lot of visible seams. You want to try to limit the number of seams so that you can't see them very well. That's because sometimes texture maps won't be quite exactly the same on opposite sides of a seam. By minimizing the visibility of seams, we can hide any problems with textures.
Let's look at some places on Hank where we might want to put the seams. One good place is to put seams anywhere it might be hid by clothing. So, for example, around his waist where the pants are or on the backside of the leg might be a good place. because it's not in a very visible location. So let's jump in and start cutting seams on Hank. Let's go up to the modifier stack and put an Unwrap UVW modifier on it. Now there are a lot of controls here, and it can be kind of confusing, but there are just a few that we are going to work with.
Seams are cut along edges, so let's go into Edge mode. So I am going to open up the Unwrap UVW subobject mode, and let's click on Edge. Ones seam that I want to make is along the inside of the mouth. All of these polygons inside the mouth are less important than the face, because they're much less visible. By cutting the mouth out, we give the face much more room in the UVW Map. So I am going to click on one of these edges here on the inside of the mouth.
And now let me go over here in the palette, up to the top, and there is a button right here called Loo. And what this is going to is it's just going to select the entire loop that that edge is part of. Now we need to cut this edge so that it becomes a seam. Let's scroll back down here. Okay, underneath this Seams section here there is a button that says Convert Edge Selection To Seams, so I am just going to click that. Notice how the selection turned blue. Blue edges are seams. Let's try a different method of cutting seams.
Go ahead and click on this button. This is Edit Seams mode. This let's us cut seams directly, rather than selecting edges first. Let's go around to the back side of the head. Let's cut a seam that separates the head from the body. You can use this tool to cut one seam at a time. Just clicking on individual edges. If you accidentally click on an edge that you don't want to be a seam, you can deselect it by Alt+Clicking on it.
Now I know that this edge that I am selecting is going to be hidden by the shirt, so it's a nice place to hide a seam. However, it can get kind of tedious clicking one edge at a time, so let's try out this other tool. This is point-to-point seams. Basically, you just click one vertex and then a second one, and the tool cuts a seam between the two. Let's see how this works. I am going to click once, and let's go around and click one over here. Now we want this seam to cut all the way around the neck and end up where we started, so we will just continue around, click on vertices as we go.
Now try it yourself on the rest of the model. So I am going to skip ahead now see what Hank looks like with all of his seams cut. It might be a little bit hard to see. Let me zoom in, so you can see a little bit more clearly. All of these blue edges are seams. So I cut across the back and down the arms and actually across all of the fingers and then down to the thumb. I also cut up the back of the head and then up to just about close to the forehead.
I also cut across each ear from side to side, and let's see, down the back, and I also cut across the waist where it's going to be hidden by the pants, down through the crotch and also down each leg and across each foot as well. I put seams here because these are all places that are not very visible. They are either hidden by clothing or they are in parts of the body that you don't see very often. We will use the Peel tool to actually flatten this out in the next movie, but remember that you can always undo the peel and rearrange your seams and then peel again.
That way you can experiment with the seams that work best for your character. Creating UVW maps used to be one of the most hated and tedious tasks in 3D animation. Now with tools like this in 3DS Max the task is much easier than it was in the past. It may not quite make sense to you yet where exactly you should cut the seams, but as you practice with the tools in the next few movies, you should get a better sense of how seams relate to UVW maps.
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