Step 4: To follow or not follow anatomy
If the mesh is to deform for animation, then it is vital that the edge loops support this. Through trial and error, you'll find that the more you model and the more you deform your characters, you'll get a bearing of when to and when not to follow anatomy.
In the torso, we'll loosely follow the muscle structure of the external obliques. On the human form, these muscles come down at a 45 degree angle from ribs 5 to 12. If we were to mimic this behavior, we would have issues if the character was to twist. To combat this, we'll stick to a more grid-like approach around the region.
Deciding not to follow anatomy in places can produce better deformation
Step 5: Tidying up
Before calling it a day with the torso, go through and make the following checks. First, check that everything is in quads. I use the Mesh > Cleanup tool to aid me in this.
Set the Operation to Select matching polygons and Fix by Tesselation to 4-sided faces. This will select all the quads. I then go to Edit > Invert Selection to select all the triangles and n-gons. Once I know where they are, it's a case of going in and reworking that section.
Next, I'll even out all the faces so they are more square-like than rectangular. If I need to add a couple of extra edge loops here and there, then I will. Using the Mesh > Sculpt Geometry tool with the Operation set to Relax is a great way of evening out the edges.
We'll leave the torso here for now, but we'll come back to it for further refinement once the other forms have been built up.
Checking for n-gons, triangles and evening out the edges
Top tip 1: Figure out topology beforehand
Before I begin adding edge loops and performing extrusions here and there in Maya, I like to spend some time drafting how I think the topology should be laid out. Taking my reference into Photoshop, or, my personal favorite drawing app at the moment, ArtRage, I can quickly figure out where the key edge loops should go. I don't go into too much detail as I still want some freedom in Maya to experiment, but minutes spent here can save you hours later on.
A quick draw-over of the major muscle groups I'll be considering
Top tip 2: Sculpt out the forms
Moving points around in Maya can be time-consuming. As a result I like to import my model into a package such as ZBrush or Mudbox to make full use of the sculpting tools available. I then export the model back into Maya to continue refining the topology.
Using ZBrush to push the forms faster
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