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Understanding the sculpting workflow

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 6: HyperNURB Modeling and Sculpting

Video: Understanding the sculpting workflow

The sculpting workflow is entirely new to CINEMA 4D R14, and it really represents a new idea in the way you create models. When I first heard about it, I really couldn't figure out a good use for sculpting in my workflow; I have to be perfectly honest. That's because I'm a motion graphics artist. I don't do a lot of intense organic modeling, where I'm having to create characters, or other types of really complex organic shapes. If that's the kind of work that you do, then the Sculpting tool is absolutely critical. What I'm going to do within this chapter is try to put the Sculpting tool in context for how I would normally work with it, and that's as a motion graphics artist.

Understanding the sculpting workflow

The sculpting workflow is entirely new to CINEMA 4D R14, and it really represents a new idea in the way you create models. When I first heard about it, I really couldn't figure out a good use for sculpting in my workflow; I have to be perfectly honest. That's because I'm a motion graphics artist. I don't do a lot of intense organic modeling, where I'm having to create characters, or other types of really complex organic shapes. If that's the kind of work that you do, then the Sculpting tool is absolutely critical. What I'm going to do within this chapter is try to put the Sculpting tool in context for how I would normally work with it, and that's as a motion graphics artist.

What I want to try to create over the course of this chapter is the beaded weld on this type object here. Now, that may not seem like such a big deal, but the interesting about this beaded weld is that it is entirely done with geometry. It is not a texture. That means that I can push in really close on it. So, for example, if this were the logo for a movie, then I could zoom in on this type all the way to full screen, and it would hold up under intense scrutiny on a big screen. That's going to be critical for type workflows for creating movie titles, and that's kind of how I wanted to approach this chapter.

So let's take a look at the geometry for this. And this is that same scene file. Let's zoom in on that. I want you to see the actual geometry. If you zoom in on that, you can see that there are tons and tons of polygons. I'm going to select my object, which is this right here, and I'm going to go to the Display, and change it to Gouraud Shading (Lines). When I do that, you can now see all of the geometry that was created with the Sculpt object. Now, there is a lot of geometry here, and this is not the kind of workflow you'd want to use for a simple, coming up next on, you know, whatever network you're working on.

The workflow is a bit time consuming, but the results are worth it, especially for a main title logo like this. So how does the sculpting engine work? The sculpting engine really is part of a new workflow. Let's make a new document here, and we'll talk about some of the key sculpting tools. I'm going to add a Cube to the scene. Like a lot of things in the modeling process, we start with a cube. Now I'm going to switch my Layout from Startup to Sculpting. When I do that, I see this new sculpting interface here, and on the right-hand side, we've got the Sculpting Layers manager, and then down below we have our attributes.

In this middle panel here, we've got the key sculpting tools that are available to us. Now, they're all grayed out. The reason they're all grayed out is because my object, the cube here, is not ready for sculpting. You have to sculpt on objects that are made out of polygons. So what I need to do is go over to the Objects manager, and then click on the Cube, and then click the make object editable button. Once I do that, I now see the Subdivide command available to me. Now, there's a little icon here at the end of this. If I click that, that presents me with the Subdivide Sculpting Options.

I normally leave my Smoothness all the way up to 100%, so I'll just cancel out of that, and let's go back to the Sculpting Layers, and talk about what's going to happen here. When I click the Subdivide button, I'm going to get a new sculpting layer. So let's go ahead and click that now, and you can see that my cube has now become a little bit more rounded, and that's because the Subdivide command begins the process of smoothing out this model. When you subdivide in the sculptor, it smooths the object, and adds more detail; more polygons to the surface.

Each time I click this, you're going to see the level go up, and it's going to add more detail to the model, and you can see that the Polygon Count is currently at six. When you first click the Subdivide button, it prepares the model for subdivision, but it didn't really subdivide it. It's still got six polygons, just like a regular cube. So let's go ahead and click that again. You will see that the Polygon Count went up to 24. It's subdivided them four times; four times six being 24. The other thing you notice is that the cube got more and more round. Let's click this Subdivide a couple more times. One, two, in fact, let's take it all the way up to Level 5.

One of the interesting gotchas with the Sculpting tool -- and it got me -- when I first got to Sculpting tool, I immediately subdivided an object, and then tried to use one of the tools on it, but I wasn't getting any results. The reason I wasn't getting any results was because I hadn't subdivided my object enough. In fact, I'll undo. I'll take the level back down to Level 2, and I'm going to grab the Pull. And when I go out on the object and try pulling, you'll see that nothing's happened. I'm clicking and dragging with the pull on the surface of the object, and nothing happened at all.

Let's undo that. The reason nothing happened is that I don't have enough geometry in my object in order to register that tool. So let's take it back up to Level 5. So let's go back on that object, and increase the subdivision Level up to 5, and let's take it up, in fact, to 6; one more level. And you can't do that by clicking on it. You have to click the Subdivide command, that takes it up to 6. Now that I've got that subdivision Level at 6, let's zoom in a little bit on this now sphere.

And now I'll start to push and pull. And you can see that when I click and drag with the Pull tool, I'm now getting a response, and it's in fact pulling the geometry out of the surface. If I orbit around, you can see that it's actually moving those polygons around. If I hold down the Control key with the Pull tool, it will push inward, and I can keep pushing in. I'm running over the same spot a bunch of times; you can see that it makes a groove, and it gets deeper each time. Now, over in the right-hand side, we've got the Pull tool attributes. Before we talk about that, though, I want to make a special note about the layers.

Now, I just used the Pull tool on the base object layer, and that's not normally the way you want to do it. One of the beauties of the Sculpting tool is that it relies on the idea of layers in order to give you a very flexible workflow. So what you should do is, first, subdivide your object into the base layer, and then create a new layer on top, just like you would in Photoshop. So I'm going to undo those brush strokes; Command+Z or Control+Z until I get back to my clean object. And then I'm going to add a new sculpting layer. When I do that, I get a new sculpting layer called Layer 1, and I can name this layer whatever I want.

For now, I'll just leave it called Layer 1. And you want to make sure that you actually have that sculpting layer active, highlighted yellow, when you go to sculpt. So now that I'm on the Pull tool, I can go back, and push and pull on these polygons, and move them around. Now, the beauty of this workflow is the flexibility. If I don't like these strokes, I can simply turn off that layer, and they're gone. If I want to bring them back, I'll turn the layer on. I can also adjust the strength. I can dial the strength for that layer down, and reduce the intensity of those strokes.

You can see them getting more and more faint. I'll bring that back up to a 100%. It's really a lot like Photoshop. It's almost like modeling in Photoshop, and that's the beauty of the workflow. So let's take a look at some of the options for the tools. Each of the tools has a Settings, and the Settings is where you adjust the Size, and the Pressure, and something called Steady Stroke. And I'm going to undo that brush stroke real quick, and adjust the Size of my brush. And there's a great way to interactively adjust the Size of your brush. You see the yellow circle there; if I hold down the middle mouse key, and drag to the left or right, then I'm increasing the Size of that brush.

If I let go of the middle mouse, click again, and drag up and down, then I'm adjusting the Pressure. So I'll increase the Pressure all the way up to 100%, and you can go beyond a 100% if you want. I'll bring it up to around a 100%, and I'll increase the Size of my brush a little bit more. And now I can click and drag, and you see I'm really pulling on that sphere. If I hold down the Control key, I can push those polygons back in again, and I've made this really interesting indentation on my object. The Steady Stroke option is a really amazing thing.

It's something I kind of wish we had in Photoshop. What it allows you to do is to smooth out your stroke, and I'll undo this recent stroke again, and I'm going to make my brush a little bit smaller. The Steady Stroke is an option I really wish we had in Photoshop. I'm going to turn that on, and I'm going to change my brush Size to 20, and bring this back to the default value of 2. Now, when I go out to paint on my object, you'll see it doesn't really look much different. I'm going to undo that for a second by cranking the Steady Stroke value up; let's bring it up to like 16 or so.

Now when I paint on my object, I get this little line that drags out, and that line smooths your brush stroke out as you move along the object. You can see that it's very hard for me to make a crooked line on my object. When the steady stroke is off, it really makes it much easier to make a jittery line on the surface of your object. This is really crucial for when you're painting with the Wacom tablet, or you've got a really small brush. It's going to help really smooth out the strokes you're making. The Buildup relates to how much pressure is added as you hold the mouse down over a stroke.

With the Buildup pressure set to 50 right now, as I hold the mouse down, over the length of the stroke, I get more intense results from that brush. If I bring this value down to 1, as I paint, I'll get a less intense brush. You can see I have to really do a lot of strokes in the same spot by holding the mouse down to get that result to happen. So I'll leave the Buildup set to a default value of 50 for now. Next step is the Falloff, and the Falloff controls the shape of the brush. I'm going to make a new sculpting layer, and I'll call this layer falloff, and I'll turn off the layer below it.

I love being able to do that. Now, you notice on the brush, as I'm on the surface of the object now, there's a little sort of curved line. That curved line represents what this line would look like if it were projected, and flipped over on the other side. It would make a bell curve. If I take this line, and make it a shape like this, I'm going to get a very different type of brushstroke, and notice that the line on the brush is changed here. Let's bring this back up for a second. I'll make two different brushstrokes; one with the Falloff like that, and then let's take the brushstroke, and adjust it down here, and then I'll go in and do another brushstroke.

You can see that I haven't changed the brush Size; the Falloff has changed, though, and it gives me a much more pinched stroke. Let's bring this back. I'll just reset it actually. The Stamp option is a really amazing thing. It allows you to load in an image, and use that image to stamp stuff onto the surface of your object. Let's undo these two brush strokes; Command+Z or Control+Z. And let's load in an image. I have something in the Exercise Files called chisel-marks, and I'll just select that. These are just some strokes that I made inside of Photoshop; hit Open.

Now, when I use my Stamp, you can see I'm using that stroke on my object. Now, let's make that much larger, and now when I click, you'll see that I actually get those marks. Now, one of the things that's interesting about the strokes is that you have to have a lot more geometry in order to really make the Stamp useful. And for the kinds of stuff that I've been doing, I haven't found it super useful, but when you get into really high polygon counts, then the Stamp becomes incredibly useful.

Symmetry allows you to work on both sides of an axis, and if I activate the Symmetry for YZ, now that's going to activate the symmetry across the YZ plane, which is this plane here. So now you'll see that when I make a stroke over here, it's going to make the same stroke on both sides of the object across the plane. The Stencil option is related to the Stamp in that it allows you to overlay an image on top of your object. Now, I'm going to turn the Symmetry off, and go to Stencil, and I'll load in those same chisel-marks.

And now these chisel-marks are projected over the image, and when I use the brush, you can see that it gets projected. These lines line up. I can actually scale that image as well. Let's bring that image down in resolution. Let's orbit to another side of my object, and I'll paint over here. Let's undo that. I'll just do a stroke right there. You can see that I have the same sort of issue. The resolution of my object is not quite enough to match the resolution of the image, and so I'm getting a little bit of jag in this. So if I turn this Use Stencil off, then you'll get to see that these lumps in here are the result of the polygon count in the sphere not being high enough to account for the resolution of the image.

So if you're planning on using the Stencil, you want to have a very high Polygon Count in your object. The other tools that you see here pretty much do what they say. The Wax tool allows you to kind of wax your object. It's a way of smoothing, but it's almost like a blur; not quite the same as Smoothing. Smoothing, if you run that across the object, really flattens the object out back to where it was. It's almost a little bit like erasing. The Erase tool does exactly that, though. The Erase tool erases what you had done on that sculpting layer, getting you back to the original shape underneath.

The Repeat allows you to repeat a pattern across an object, and let's load in that same chisel-mark. Oops! I accidentally loaded that into the Stencil. I'm going to clear that out by clicking the Clear button, and go back to the Settings for that. What I really meant to do is click the Load button under the Settings. So let's go to the Settings, and click on the Load button there, and you see we have all these really interesting patterns here. There's a great way to add rivets on your object, and these are these screws. Let's click on that Phillips screw, and now I can click and start to paint rivets on there.

But once again, I don't have quite enough resolution, so let's crank up the Pressure. And then when I do that, you'll see I get a little bit more definition. But once again, you have to have a lot of resolution in your object to make that useful. So all you're really getting is a little bit of an impression of that. There's a lot more tools down here. Rather than go through each of them, because I think you get the gist of how they work, I just want to talk about the ones that I'm going to use in this next exercise. The Inflate option is a very interesting tool.

What it does is it works an object along its normals. All of these are polygons, and each polygon has an axis called the normal axis. That's why the brush tends to jump around. It's trying to align itself with the normals. What the Inflate tool does is it moves the polygons based on their normal axis, and you'll see, as I pass it over this, it tends to puff thing up a little bit. If you run it over a piece of detail like this, it tends to blow that detail up. That's going to be very useful in the next exercise.

The Knife tool also allows you to make some cuts in your object. If you hold down the Control key, you can do really interesting pinches like that. You can come back and slice things up. It's really great for editing scars and detail to your object. The Pinch really allows you to pinch detail together. And if you run it on a smooth area, you really don't get much of an effect until you really run it over. You can see I was grabbing the polygons, and pulling them together. If I run it over an area like this, I'm going to get a much more interesting result.

It's going to pinch that edge, and create a much harder surface. Down below, you've got masking options that allow you to mask off sections of the sculpting layers. And then you've got the Bake Sculpt command. When I launch the Bake Sculpt command, the window is a little bit too big for recording, but what this allows you to do is to convert the results of the sculpting layers into a texture map, and that texture map can be saved out and modified. This is especially useful in game engine workflows, and I don't really use it in my workflow, so I'm going to leave this button alone for now, because there's another way to prepare models that involves the geometry itself once you're done sculpting.

So that's a very quick overview of the basic tools in the sculpting engine. Over the next few movies, we're going to create that type object that you saw earlier. The next step is to prepare the geometry.

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