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- Extruding edges and faces
- Working symmetrically
- Setting up the image planes
- Creating the basic facial structure and features
- Modeling and fleshing out the body
- Creating the hair with extruded NURBS curves
- Modeling clothes
- Putting on finishing touches
- Understanding UVW maps and seams
- Dealing with UVW maps across multiple objects
Skill Level Intermediate
Whether you're designing your character yourself or you are basing it on an existing concept, there are some ways of thinking about the shapes that can help you with the character's artistic appeal. What I want to show you is that there are some principles of good appealing character modeling that can really help create the best-looking model that you can make. When it comes to the artistry, don't think in terms of rules, because rules will always be broken. These are principles to keep in mind in order to guide the way you think about the model. The first thing I want to talk about is silhouette. What does a character look like in silhouette? Does the character read in silhouette? The audience often has only a few seconds to see a character on the screen and won't be able to take in all the details.
A well-defined silhouette will help the viewer to instantly recognize the character by the overall shape. So, one way that you can really get a good sense of the silhouette is by turning on Consistent Colors. I am also going to turn off Edged Faces. So in Consistent Colors mode it turns off all of the shading and you just see the overall shape of the character. It really helps you to be able to focus on just the outline. So you can see we have the different parts of the body, like the shoulder. Different anatomical structures are reading in silhouette.
You should be able to look at his character from any different angle and instantly recognize that it's this character and not any other character, just by the silhouette. Okay, let's put it back in Shaded mode. Another principle is simplicity. Ask yourself, when adding detail, form, or shape, is this necessary? What is it adding to the design of the character? Is the design as good or better without it? Sometimes you might want to think, less is more. Don't just add things because it looks cool; add things because without it the design would be less effective.
So for example, with Hank, we could have gone and put all kinds of muscle detail in here and just made him totally ripped, but that would take away from the overall simplistic cartoony nature of his design. One of the most important focus points of the Hank character is the fact that he has got this giant, huge upper torso. So if we went and put extra detail in places like the abs, or really made him have really detailed hands, that might distract from the fact that he just has a really big torso and that's an important part of his design.
A related principle is focus. You want to think about the features that are most important to the character and emphasize them. You can also deemphasize the things that aren't important. If everything is given importance then nothing is important. You want to give the character a focal point, a hierarchy of importance. You might want to ask yourself, what feature of the face is most important? So, for example, on Hank, I think his most important feature is his giant jaw. By making other parts of the face smaller, it emphasizes how large his jaw is.
So his eyes are relatively small and his ears are relatively small. You should be able let some parts of your model be the star of the show and other parts can take a backseat. The last principle I want to talk about is rhythm. You should be able to look at the different forms of the model and see a rhythm to their forms. So for example, looking at the pec muscles you see there is kind of this curving shape, and it comes up to the shoulder, and there is just this undulation and a rhythm to the forms as they move along the character.
Cartoony models especially can be compared to cars. Because especially in modern cars, there is a rhythm to those as well. The surface of the car is designed to be impeccably smooth and then the surfaces are punctuated with crisp edges and sharp lines. Cartoony characters especially can benefit from this way of thinking. As you get more experienced to character modeling, you'll find yourself automatically drawing on these principles as you work. It will become second nature to evaluate the forms as you model them and ask yourself if these artistic principles could guide you to improve the character.
Don't get frustrated if at first the model isn't coming out the way you hoped; this is a skill that can be learned with practice. Important thing is to keep trying and you'll keep improving over the course of time.