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In Modeling a Character in Maya, join author Ryan Kittleson for a thorough demonstration on how to create a professional, realistic 3D character from scratch in Maya 2011. The course illustrates how key concepts and tools such as Soft Select and polygon extrusions apply to character modeling, and provides a simple step-by-step approach to building character anatomy, including the torso, limbs, hands, face, and hair. Also included are tutorials on modeling clothing and shoes, and refining character features to reach the final product. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Maya 2011 Essential Training
A big part of creating a believable model is the surface quality. Surface quality is the sense that the model is made of a particular type of material just by the way the surface is shaped. So let's look around at this model and see what types of surface qualities we see and they can be either artificial or organic. It can be round or beveled or angular or straight. So we can see here for example, I'm going to zoom in on the chest area. You can see we've got a hard edge right here. This is really defining the chest area and this is a very big muscular type of character, so we really want to define the chest area.
This crease is really helping us do that. I want to get even closer on this chest area and examine exactly why this area is creasing the way it is. I'm going to turnoff the Smooth Preview and we can see that there's a lot of edges here close together. They're closer than edges are in the rest of the model, and one thing that happens when you put edges close together is you form a tighter crease. This effect is often called a holding edge, because it holds a tighter corner. Now, we can control the edge quality of a model by moving edges closer or farther apart.
So if I were to go in closer to this and edit this, let me select a few of these vertices and I'm going to grab this one and this one here, and let's turn on Smooth Preview and I just want to move some of these edges a little farther apart from each other. So we can see, the crease has greatly diminished and there's a little bit of weird stretching in here, but the overall effect is that the crease has been diminished greatly. By the same token, you can make creases even sharper or tighter by moving edges and vertices closer together. So I'm just going to do that right here.
So, if I turn on Smooth Preview, you can see that that crease is much sharper. If I undo those changes, you can see the crease getting softer. So, let's create a brand new crease of our own. The forehead is a really good area to add some creases. There are very natural furrows that happen in the brow and so we should probably have a crease in here to really help the setup artist to know where to place the control so that we can create a furrowed brow. So let me zoom in here and see how we can do this. There is an edge running right now sort of halfway across the forehead that looks like it's in the right place for us to put a brow furrow.
So what I want to do is just select these edges that should be creased. Let me get out of the Smooth Preview and it'll be a little bit easier to select this edge. Okay, so we got that side. Okay, so I've selected all of these edges right across the forehead. Now, let's go up into Edit Mesh and Bevel but I want to do it with Options, because I wanted to actually create two segments. If I were to do it right now, hit Apply, it splits that one edge into two. I actually want to split it into three.
It creates two edges. I want to create three edges. I want to undo that and change Segments to 2 and see what happens. Okay, so we've got three edges where there used to be one. Let me close this now. There are some triangles here at the end. You can fix that really easily just by selecting that edge and deleting it. Now we can double-click on this edge right here and it just selects the entire edge loop right there in the middle. I just want to push this a little closer in to the forehead. Let's bring it down a little bit too.
All right, I'm going to smooth this model and let's see what effect this has. So by inserting those edge loops and increasing the detail on that area, you can see we get a really nice crease across the forehead. You could continue to tweak this, move some verts around, maybe take out the Sculpt Geometry tool, and smooth out this edge so you get a little more gradual transition. Actually let me show you how that works really quick. So, I've got Relax on. I'm just going to relax this area slightly.
Just to make the forehead crease fade out a little bit more gradually instead of stopping so abruptly. If you already have a good deal of edges in a particular area and you don't want to add anymore to create a crease, you can also crease things by just moving some vertices around. So for example, right here where the nose meets the face, it's a little bit soft. Let's say I want to make that crease a little bit sharper, so I can just go in here and select some of these vertices and let me zoom in on that. So I can take some of these vertices. I can tuck them in back here a little bit and maybe take these right here.
I just want to move them back a little bit. So you can see the effect that we get is a much tighter crease right here and it creates a more appealing effect as well. It really helps separate the nose from the rest of the face. So if I undo this, you can really see the difference. Now I'm going to redo it again really quick. So that just creates a much more appealing result on the face. You can also remove edges if you don't want a crease to be quite so hard.
So let me look right up here. Let's say this crease looks a little too hard for me. We can go in here and say maybe this edge right here, it's too much. We don't need all of this geometry right here to define this crease. So, one way to delete an entire edge loop is we hold down the Control or Command on a Mac, hold down the right mouse button and we get this little menu that pops up. If you mouse over to Edge Loop Utilities, you're going to get the second menu and then you move over To Edge Loop and Delete, and so that edge loop just disappeared.
So, let me undo that and so we can see the result. Okay, so there it is with the edge and I'm going to redo. So you can see that crease just softened up. So a lot of times if you want to decrease the amount of crease, one way is to smooth it out with the Sculpt Geometry tool, or you could just remove some geometry. You might have too much geometry in an area anyway and getting rid of some unnecessary edge loops can help clean up your model. So, how do you decide where creases should be sharper and where they should be softer? It really comes down to your artistic discretion.
When I'm doing cartoony models, I really like to create a pattern, almost a rhythm of hard and soft. If you're looking at this face, you can see there's all this soft area and then you get a harder crease for the laugh line or you get some creases around the lips. Creating sort of a pattern or a rhythm of these hard and soft areas can create a character that's much more appealing than one that just sort of has hard and sort of has soft areas all over. If you can simplify it and break your character down into areas that are going to have very smooth continuous surfaces that are broken up by sharper edges, that can really add to a character's appeal.
A character without any creases or hard edges would usually look way too soft and undefined. Cartoony models are going to have even more and obvious creases, while realistic models will have uneven and more subtle creases. But they're still going to be there and they're still necessary for creating models that have appealing surface quality.
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