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Watch as author Ryan Kittleson introduces the skills digital artists need to create photorealistic 3D creatures for film, video, and game production. This course covers basic design, sculpting, texturing, posing, and lighting and demonstrates real-world workflow, starting with the basic sculpture in ZBrush and moving it into Maya for finishing, while editing textures in Photoshop.
Here's another far too often overlooked phase of creature modeling, the midrange details. These are the shapes and structures of your model that are smaller than the big things like limbs and heads, but are bigger than wrinkles and scales. Midrange details are things like the muscles that make up a limb. So a good example of a midrange detail here is kind of the way this muscle overlaps this limb right here. It's kind of creating a separate shape from the limb over all.
It's also these little folds of flesh that kind of hang off the skin here. Same thing with these bits of skin here on the neck the way they hang off. Looking at this kangaroo here, some good midrange details are these bits of tendon and muscle that are surrounding this joint right here. This is going to come in really handy on a dew hopper, because we can look at this and see how these different muscles connect to the joint. Same thing with this frog. There are little details that are bigger than the tiny little warts. So for example, this little lump here on the back.
And that's a good midrange detail. It's not as big as a big limb or a head. These are the details that bring believability to a creature. Unfortunately, too many modelers get distracted by the temptation to sculpt the fun wrinkles and skin bumps before they really give this phase the attention that it deserves. While sculpting this type of detail, be sure to look at your reference closely. I'll be looking at images like these to help me maintain a sense of anatomical believability as well as artistic appeal. So let's load up our exercise file.
I am going to go to the Exercise Files, Chap_3, 03_05, simplemesh.ZPR. So I am going to hit Shift+F to show the wireframe and just zoom in here. So you can see that there's a good number of polygons, but it's not really heavily detailed. It's just enough to give me this midrange detail. Usually, I try to get all of the shapes into a subdivision level that I possibly can before subdividing again. This keeps me from getting bogged down in fine detail before I am ready.
I am just going to hit Shift+ F to turn off the wireframe. So let's look at an example of one way in which midrange details can be done wrong. I am going to go into my Crease Brush. So BCJ. So what happens a lot of times is people will sculpt in muscles and joints in such a way that it separates the joints from each other. So what you will see is kind of a line that separates two joints, and I am going to go into my Custom Clay Brush and also sculpt on some muscles here.
So what you see a lot of times is muscles that bulge on either side of a joint. It kind of creates a separation from the top of the leg to the bottom of the leg. And that lacks believability and it's not as nose interesting to look at. So I am just going to hit Ctrl+Z to undo all of this. What's more believable is if you sculpt on muscles in such a way that it creates a pattern. So if you look at your reference, you can see oftentimes that muscles will attach on one limb and then they extend down onto the other.
So these muscles of the forearm actually attach up on the upper arm. Similarly, with the bicep, the muscle attaches down on the bone of the forearm and then continues up onto the upper arm. I am just going to tweak this some more. So now you can see that the muscles kind of have this zigzag pattern which is much more believable and much more interesting to look at. Let's look at another example. I am going to hind leg and I just want to subdivide the model a few times to give myself more detail.
I am going to go to the Crease Brush to just show you what you see sometimes. Sometimes people will try to create separations between muscles by just scratching on a line and try to define and separate muscle this way. The problem with that is that the shape of the muscle might be there, but it doesn't really have the volume of a muscle. It just looks like lines on a surface. So let me undo that. What tends to work better is sculpting on the volume of the muscle. So I am going to my Custom Clay Brush and I just want to sculpt on the size and shape and volume of that muscle rather than lines between them.
Of course, I'll probably spend a lot more time refining the shapes of these, but you get the idea that seeing the volume of the muscle is much more believable and appealing than just seeing lines scratched on between them. Sometime also I'd like to consider when sculpting in midrange detail is that you don't really need to be all that careful with it. You can just go in and be wild and just experiment with different things and if they don't work very well it's very easy to just smooth them out.
Then just try something else. It's also a good idea to try to use variations. So let's say I want to put in some ribs of this character. I am going to do some thin ones and some thick ones and just try to get some variety, and then you can smooth things out and continue working into it. You can overlap muscles. So for example, you've got this muscle that comes off the shoulder right here and onto the back and it overlaps ribs.
So I just like to work back and forth and just try different things and overlap different things and eventually with time you get some good results. It can be hard to know when you've gone far enough with this. What I usually like to do is try to force myself to go too far to really pull out these muscles to the point where it's just silly and then just tone it back until it looks right. Kind of like you never know if you have gone far enough until you've gone too far.
Another thing you can do is ask yourself, if you can sense the volume of each muscle underneath the skin. If not, if your muscles are just defined as lines on the surface, you should work more developing those forms. It's very common for beginners to overlook this stage of sculpting, but if you keep it in mind every time you work, it will become second nature.
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