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While Mudbox is primarily used to add details and texture to models that are already created, it can also be used to design new assets. There are a few limitations to take into account however. To demonstrate how Mudbox can be used as a Design tool for Characters and Props, I'm going to start sculpting on one of the built-in models. Don't worry if you can't follow along with what I'm doing right now, I'll go over all these tools and options later. For now I just want to demonstrate how Mudbox works at a fundamental level.
Let's say that we want to design a character that is basically humanoid. Mudbox comes with a generic human model that can get us started in the right direction. So I'm just going to make a few adjustments to the model right now. You can use Mudbox to stretch things out and to make changes to the overall proportions of the character. Experiment with various body proportions and different designs. So for making very general and limited adjustments to a model, Mudbox works great. But what if we want to do something more drastic? That can be done as well, but with some limitations.
Let me show you what I mean. I want to give the character some big bunny ears, so let's see what happens. Now I am just going to turn on the wireframe, you can see that the polygons get really stretched out, there's only a few polygons defining the whole ear. In order to make this look like an ear we'll have to subdivide the model, which creates more polygons. When I do that you see that every polygon has been split into smaller polygons, this gives us more detail to work with.
We could use this detail to sculpt on more realistic anatomy or to give the bunny ears more shape. So now I could sculpt a bend shape into the ears, for example. The problem that we run into now is that all those polygons in the ear are stretched. This can make it difficult to sculpt finer details on the surface, so let's see what happens if we zoom in and try to sculpt something more detailed. You can see that it's not actually turning out very good, this is called tearing. When sculpting results in this jagged edge, for this reason I only recommend making drastic modifications to a model in Mudbox for sketching purposes, not for use in final production.
Now that we've made some high-resolution details and shapes let's see what that did to the model at its original density. You can see that all those finer details go away. Depending on how you plan to use this model, making drastic changes may or may not be acceptable, for example, if you wanted to use this model in a video game you would want to export a low-density version of the model. But since the ears aren't really defined at this level at all, the model would look bad and animate poorly. In order to use this model for games you would want to use a separate modeling program to model the ears onto the character, and then bring that back into Mudbox for the finer details.
However, let's say that you only want to make a 3D print of the model. In that case, you can send the high-resolution model to the Printer, and not worry about all this tearing. Another way that you could use the model is the Export for use in a 3D rendered scene in a program like Maya or 3ds Max. In that case, you could export the low resolution density along with the Displacement Map that would recreate the high density details on a low-density model when you render. However, the ears would still not work very well for animation purposes because there is not enough polygons to make smooth deformations, also Displacement Mapping can get complicated and cause more problems than its worth.
If you want to animate the ears you'll have to model them in a separate program, and then import that back into Mudbox for detailing. Feel free to distort the shapes and structures of the models in Mudbox, but just be aware that as you push it further from its original shape, the model will more likely need to be retopologized, or remodeled in some other program.
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