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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
Most characters that you model will probably be symmetrical. By modeling just one side of the character and then duplicating it over to the other side rather than modeling the whole at once, you save time and effort. So we've got a Hank model here and only half of it is existing in the scene right now. What we need to do is mirror it over to the other side. There is a little bit of prep work we have to do first. One of the things we've to do is make sure that the centerline of the character is flush with the center of the world and the way we do that is we go into the tool settings, and in the Move tool settings we want to make sure that we turn off Retain component spacing.
What this would do is make sure that when we move the centerline vertices they all snap to the center of the world. So I'm going to just zoom in really close, make sure I can select this border edge, and I'm just going to double click it, so that's going to select all of these edges around the centerline of the character. And when we go into the Top view and make sure that they snap to the center. So if you hold down X and then move these edges, you see that they snap to the gridlines. So just make sure that they're snapping to the very center of the world.
Okay, so let's go back out of Edge mode and into Object mode. Something else that we want to do is make sure that the pivot point of the objects is at the center of the world. So just zoom out a little bit in perspective view and we see that the pivot point is actually at the center of the world. If it's not, you can snap at there by holding down D. D goes in the pivot point move mode, where you can move the pivot point around. If you hold down D and X at the same time, then you can snap to the grid with the pivot point. So now it's at the center of the world.
And I think we're ready to actually mirror this character over. So select half of your model, go up into the Mesh menu, and do Mirror Geometry with options. Now by default, Mirror Direction is set to positive X. Let's see what happens when we do that. That is not what that we want, so let's undo that and go to negative X. However you set up your model originally, like which side of the model you're doing first will depend on which mirror direction you choose. So if one of them is not working, just switch its view in different one.
Then we want to merge with the original, so we want the mirror to be part of the same mesh as the original. And we also want to merge vertices, so there is a continuous surface from one side to the other. So let's Mirror it. Now I want to zoom in on the face to see something that happened here. What we can see is that it's merged too many vertices together, so you get this crunching effect along the centerline and we don't want that. So let's go into the Channel Box for the objects and scroll down. We can see that there is polyMirror.
So we've just mirrored half of this character and the Merge Threshold for the vertices was set too high. It was grabbing too many vertices and merging them together. So we want to reduce this. So what I usually do is 0.01 and hit Enter, and you can see that the result is now that the mesh has not merged unnecessary vertices together. So we're done with these tool settings. I'm just going to get out of the way and let's zoom out a little bit and see how reflection works.
So now we've got both halves and we want to make edits to one side of this model and have those edits affect the other side at the same time. So we go in the Vertex mode and select some of these vertices and then open up the tool settings and go into the very bottom at Reflection. If you turn on Reflection, any edits that you make on one side are automatically going to happen on the other side as well known. Now unfortunately, Reflection only works for Move, Rotate and Scale.
If you change the topology, for example, if you insert any edge loops or if you use the Cut Faces tool, those edits will not be mirrored automatically over on to the other side. So let's do a little example and see how that works. I'm going to zoom in and go into the Object mode and pick my Split Polygon tool. So I'm just going to randomly make a couple edits just to show how this works. So I'm just cutting up some faces, and zoom out and you can see that those edits have not happened on the other side.
So if you do any of those changes, you just have to make sure that you delete half of your model and mirror it over. So I'm just going to show you how I delete half of it. Really quick, I'm going to go on to the Top view and go in a Face mode and just select faces on one half of the model. Hit Delete, get any faces that I might have missed, and now we're back to where we started. So, you'll find yourself mirroring a model many times over throughout the course of modeling a character.
If you make any major changes, it's always good to mirror it over to get a sense of how the whole character looks.
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