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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
The Sculpt Geometry tool is a powerful character modeling tool that can make modifications to your models quickly and smoothly. You want to use this to make artistic organic changes to your models, because it behaves in a very intuitive artist-friendly way. It differs from standalone sculpting packages like Zbrush or Mudbox in one major way in that it doesn't subdivide your mesh in order to create finer details. It only works with the mesh that you give it. If the mesh isn't dense enough to create fine details, Sculpt Geometry will not be able to do it.
So, we've got our Hank mesh here. It's a very blocky simple version of him. One of the thing that Sculpt Geometry tool is really good at is smoothing out blocky detail. Right now, if we turn on the Smooth Preview you can see that he's pretty smooth all over. There are actually not a lot of rough things going on. But if we want to increase the level of detail, so it's kind of like a real world situation, we want to Insert Edge Loop tool. We want to give him some more geometry more detail to work with, like we might see in the real world.
We've given him some more detail now. So, if we go into the Smooth Preview now you can see that there's these kind of blocky flat spots. There is some weird lines and edges going on in the body and that's not very appealing we want to get rid of that. Sculpt Geometry is really good at dealing with those kinds of things. So, let's go into the Sculpt Geometry tool up here on the shelf and make sure we've got the tool settings turned on. So what we see is a whole lot of settings and it can be a kind of intimidating at first because there's really a lot of a things to look at. But really there's only a few of them that you're going to need on a regular basis.
To tell you the truth, 99% of the time I only use very few of these settings and I'll just show you what those settings are. The big one is Opacity. This changes the amount of affect that you are going to get from any of the brushing. By default it's at 1 and I think that's just way too much. I like to build up any strokes that I make gradually. So I'll bring the Opacity way down. I am just scrolling way down here. You can see there is another setting that I'll like to use all the time. It's Show wireframe. So, if you can turn off Show wireframe, now you can see just what the mesh looks like without any of the wireframe to get in the way.
Sometimes seeing the wireframe is helpful and sometimes it gets in the way. So, it's up to you to decide when to use it and when not to use it. Another setting I use all the time is under the Stroke menu there is Reflection. So, you can see when Reflection is turned on I get two brushes. When Reflection is turned off, there is just one brush, so you can sculpt asymmetrically. For the most part I want to have Reflection turned on. The last section of the Sculpt Geometry tool that I use all the time is here under Operation.
So, there is different ways that you can use the tool. There is Push, which is pretty self- explanatory. If we just zoom in here on the model you can see, if we want to push-in on the model, it sort of shrinks things or pushes them away from the brush. I am going to undo that and let's see what Pull does. It's pretty much the same thing. It just pulls outwards. There is this Smooth tool and you can see what this does. It just kind of pushes down any rough spots and spreads out the geometries to keep things from being too rough.
Then there's the Relax, which is very similar to Smooth. It's actually kind of hard to describe what the difference is. There are very subtle different way in which it behaves. So, you probably better off just experimenting with the two different brushes to see which one gives you the better result. Then there is Pinch, which kind of pulls things together. I should probably increase the Opacity for this one so the effect is more pronounced. It just kind of sucks things towards the brush. Then there's the Erase tool and this has the effect of just simply removing any sculpting that you have done.
So, the Sculpt Geometry tool is a powerful way to directly affect the surface of your model in a more naturalistic way. With knowledge of just these few important settings, a wide array of sculpting possibilities are at your fingertips. Even though it doesn't always replace the need to tweak vertices by hand, you'll find that in many situations it's much faster and much more convenient to use the Sculpt Geometry tool.
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