Join Andy Beane for an in-depth discussion in this video References, references, references, part of Maya: Advanced Modeling.
- [Narrator] So before we begin creating any 3D models, we first need to know what it is we're going to create. Is it a car? Is it a brownstone apartment? A vase? A fire hydrant? Books? Once we know what it is we're going to create, we need to find reference material to help us with our modeling process. This reference material can be design sheets from an art department, photographs of the real object or, at the minimum, simple sketches of the object in question on a napkin. What I do not recommend at all is to just jump into Maya and start creating object from either your memory or trying to design the shape of the model in Maya during the modeling process.
It is much faster to take a few minutes and find reference material, and model from those images. The Navy Seals have a saying that goes, "Slow, smooth, and smooth is fast." This is applicable to us as 3D modelers because having the design or reference from the beginning will take most, if not all, of the design and guess work out of the modeling process, which is time consuming enough on its own, and to get 3/4 of the way to completion of a model and to have to start over due to a design flaw or lack of knowing what it is you are creating is extremely defeating.
Collecting this reference is one of the most important things you can do as a 3D artist or modeler. You must truly learn how to see your object and to know what it is your trying to create. Many young artists will just jump right into Maya and start modeling an object from what they think it looks like from memory, but our memory as humans is sketchy at best. Let's take a test to see how accurate this memory failure is. Let's say your tasked to model a bike. Think of a bike in your mind right now. Got it? Good.
Did it look like this? Or maybe this? Or this? How many teeth were on the crank of the bike? How many bolts on the crank shaft? How many gears on the front crank? Or the back? How many spokes are on the tire? How thick are the tires compared to the rims? You probably have a memory of a bike that you owned or knew of growing up, but there are so many different types of bikes and many details that you need to know to get this model correct. The art of learning to really see what an object looks like from all angles takes practice and study, but will only make your final models that much better.
In the real world, every object has a story to tell. That story of an object comes from how the object was physically made or created and then how every imperfection was added. These stories and imperfections are what will make your 3D models look better than just run-of-the-mill 3D models. They will have the details that will make them stand out. Now where do you find these reference images? Well, there are two places most people find their reference images. They take their own photographs or they scour the internet.
Both of these methods have their own pros and cons to finding and using reference images. Taking your own photographs is typically the best option of finding exactly what you want and getting all the angles that you need for reference, but if you needed reference of a building in another country than you live in, this can become very difficult for you depending on where you live. The internet, on the other hand, can help you find almost anything that you want, but you may run into a couple of issues like, having too many images to dig through and not having exactly what you're looking for can be a huge waste of time.
And two, you must take into account copyright and actually being able to use the reference material. Now personal reference is just that. It's for you to look at for your own personal inspiration and study, but if you do not own or have the rights to an image, you cannot use that image in the final imagery of your project. So when looking for reference for what you are modeling, the internet is wide open. From getting blueprints, to cars and buildings, to pictures of buildings, and any object from as many angles as you can find will only be useful to you while you are modeling.
So here are some websites that you can use to find reference materials and textures for your 3D objects. Some of these will allow you to use their images for free and some will not. Please check their user rights of any images before using them for the final imagery of your project. Knowing that our human memory is not as reliable as we think it is, finding and then using reference material is so crucial in the creation of 3D models. Don't guess or assume you know what it is you're about to model.
It is always better to have those reference images for you to work from. Always keep looking for reference and inspiration. It will only make you a better modeler.
- Modeling workflows
- Geometry conversion
- Working with small room objects
- Modeling the top, middle base, and floor base of a table
- Blocking chair shapes in Maya
- Retopology in Mudbox for Maya
- Cleaning up model files
- Managing files and importing