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3ds Max Character Creation - Chapter 1

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Date Added: 16th May 2014


The next thing to tackle is the hands. I make a box with four sections (one for each finger) and one length section to help place the thumb. An eight-sided cylinder forms the finger base. Next, I copy and position the four fingers as instances, so I only need to work on one of them. The thumb is a copy (not an instance), as it will be a different shape to the fingers. Each finger's object scale is adjusted to resemble actual finger sizes; object transforms won't affect the instancing here.
The hand is shaped and smoothed by adding edges with the Connect tool. The wrist is extruded from a hole in the end of the box and shaped. I add more detail to the fingers, such as three edge loops around each joint to aid deformation, and the fingernails which are created by extruding four fingertip polygons downwards to create a recess, then upwards and beyond the fingertip's length to create the nail.

Edges are cut into the hand to form knuckles and accommodate the extra edges we will need to attach the fingers and thumb. Once the hand and thumb holes are matched to the finger and thumb ends, I delete the Cap polygons on the fingers, and begin attaching them one by one and collapsing the points to seal the gaps. Finally I subdivide the hand and fine-tune the shape and topology (Fig.08).


Legs, Feet and Shoes

The finished hands are attached to the arms and the edges are joined. Her legs are made by extruding them downwards, then adding and scaling edge loop sections to shape them. You can see the development of the foot in Fig.09.


The foot profile is extruded from the leg edges and built up by capping the polygons, and then cutting new edges on the sides. The shoe is made from a separated extrusion of her sole, and two edited poly strips for the straps. The toes are cut edges that are extruded inwards and shaped. The toenails are made the same way I made the fingernails.

Next, I spend some time fine-tuning the body with Soft Selection/Point Manipulation until I am happy with the shape of it.


Now that I am happy with the body, I can start modeling the clothes properly. I start by clone detaching two polygon selection groups from the base body and assigning simple materials. These selections should represent the boundaries of the clothed areas. I add a Push modifier to inflate these new objects away from the body slightly, and add a Shell modifier to them to add thickness. I now begin adding detail by moving, cutting, extruding and chamfering edges. I don't worry too much about detailing the back, as we will never see it.

The belt loops on her hot pants are made with separate poly strips. When I am happy with the t-shirt, I collapse the Symmetry modifier and begin to make it asymmetrical. I pull it over one shoulder and create a bunched up area with a knot, like in the reference photo. The knot is made from two modified cylinders. I make a bra strap from a poly strip (with a Shell modifier on) to give a bit of layered detail.

Fig.10 shows the progression of her clothes, with her arms hidden to make it easier to work with.


Finishing up the Model

The last thing to do is the hair and the bandana. Using previously covered techniques I make the rear hair strips, add a Shell modifier, then edit and sharpen them to give them a chunky, sculpted feel. The bandana is given creases and the knot is remade to look better. Again, I use poly strips with a Shell modifier on. The eyebrow polys are clone detached, given a thickness, and shaped. The eyes are made into a ?death star' shape by extruding and curving the colored part inwards.

Fig.11 shows the un-subdivided and subdivided wireframe of the finished head, hair, eye and bandana.


Rigging and Skinning

I like to rig/skin my models as soon as I'm done modeling, so I can check proportions, shapes, and to do some test poses to see if I need to change anything on the model. I create a 3ds Max Biped rig and position it at the center of the grid. In Figure mode, I adjust the rotation and scale of the limbs to match the model, and then apply a Skin modifier to the meshes, assigning them to the relevant bones. I keyframe some test/calibration poses and adjust the skinning envelopes until I'm happy with it.

Two null/point objects parented to a dummy object have been used as look-at rotation targets for the eyes, and then parented to the rig's head. Fig.12 shows the Biped rig in its resting pose with the mesh wires overlaid on top, and it also shows my calibration pose with the thigh's skin envelope being adjusted.



That's it for part one! Feel free to experiment with proportions and shapes; this is just a guideline to how I made this specific character. You can adapt these steps to begin most human characters of varying styles and levels of detail (Fig.13).
In the next part, I will cover UV'ing, texturing, lighting, the creation of the background and the composition.

Fig. 13

Related links

To see more by Andrew Hickinbottom, check out 3ds Max Projects and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Johnny Fraser on Sat, 17 May 2014 10:16am
I love Andrew Hickinbottom's work, its amazing. However im a little confused by this tutorial (yes im a noob), i hope someone can help. refer to fig 03 Take a box primative, turbosmooth and collapse, which gives you pretty much 4 quads per face, but then when AH describes using "edge rings" to connect, it being a sphere im not sure where the edge rings are, in anycase, I use the connect tool to make the extra geometry as Mr H does, but look again at Fig03, where did the centre horizontal edge go? Am i meant to delete this? Prior to AH chamfering the eye vertices he has a shpere(oid) with the front plane sporting a 4x3 config........ im lost.
Jemmoh on Fri, 16 May 2014 5:55pm
i like your technique i'd like to exchange modelling ideas with you
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