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Topology Chapter 1

By Diego Maia
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Date Added: 15th May 2013
Software used:
3ds Max

Most tutorials start by teaching the box-modeling technique and it's really important to know how to use and understand these tools, but today we have the retopology process. This allows us to separate the art/sculpture process from the technical one. We can focus on the shapes, gesture and design without coming across technical issues all the time (a spiral loop or triangles for example). This means that you can create the model in an artistic way and then clean the topology afterwards.

To do this you would use tools like the Snap tool, which allow us to work freely by changing the direction of loops, and deleting and creating polygons. It's faster to do things this way and means that the result is 100% clean and functional topology. However, this does highlight one of the problems with box modeling. It means there are many loops and polygons that will appear useless.

These days the process no longer needs to be linear. We can come and go easily from one program to another to make adjustments using the Projection tool or the GoZ plugin. In addition, all major 3D programs import .obj extensions. For this tutorial I will use XSI for polygonal modeling, ZBrush for sculpting and Silo for the retopology.

I will be looking at a character that has organic and inorganic forms. We will start the tutorial with a rough base without worrying about the loops as we just need something to work with in ZBrush. Fortunately for us artists new tools are appearing all the time that help us avoid the base mesh process, such as ZSpheres.

So to start with you need a rough base mesh, which in my case was made in XSI. Note that I don't even have loops for the eyes and mouth, etc (Fig.04).


After you have created the base mesh, export the .obj file into ZBrush (Fig.05). The next step is to start the blocking process, which in my opinion is the fun part. As it's not the point of this tutorial I won't talk about the sculpting of my image; you will have to create your own character and then we will look at the topology of it. To make my model I primarily used three tools: the Standard, Clay and Move brushes.

Fig. 05

Fig.06 - 07 show a few of the stages of my modeling process. Work with your character until you have the shape and proportions you are happy with. Don't forget that things can still be adjusted after you have handled the topology, but we will come back to that later.


I worked with stylized characters proportions: a big head, heavy hands and thin arms (Fig.08 - 9). You can see the legs before and after the sculpting process in Fig.10 - 12.



Fig. 11


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