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Low-Poly Character Modeling and Texturing

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(Score 4.59 out of 5 after 78 Votes)
Date Added: 9th December 2009
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In the Top View select the edges along the heel and toe and repeat. Now you've made a division down the center of the side and top of the foot. From the top now select the sides of the foot and click the button next to connect, this time we want 2 segments.

Go back to vertex mode now and start moving things around in the different viewports so it matches the shape of the foot. Switch between the side and top viewports to get the shape better. For the part of the foot where it starts coming up in the front, I select the edges along the top of the foot, but not the bottom and hit connect (only 1 segment) then connected the edge verts to one of the near verts to avoid n-gons.

Go to the Perspective Viewport now and take a look at the foot. Obviously it's not going to be quite right, but it's closer. Start bringing in areas like the top of the shoe, around the heel, etc.

The temptation will be to start adding more geometry so you can match the shape better, but TRY NOT TO. You will add detail with the texture. Think of this as a big lump of clay and you're just aiming to get the general mass and shape of the object. Try to achieve the best shape you can with as little geometry as possible. There's no point wasting a bunch of verts on the feet when you've got a tight budget.

But Some new geometry is sometimes necessary... I decided that I wanted to define the heel of the shoe, so I selected the edges circled above and clicked connect with the box. Change segments to 2 and adjust the values of Slide and Pinch so that it's closer to the actual heel. Then select one row of verts and pull them up.
Make sure to connect the new verts to other verts to avoid n-gons. Tris (3-sided polys) are okay, Quads (4-sided polys) are okay, but not 5 or more.

Check all the various angles frequently to judge if you're getting the volume and shape right.

Smoothing Groups

3D Studio Max uses smoothing groups to make low-poly geometry look smooth. In Real-time it's called "Normal Smoothing". Most all 3D apps have the feature, but each call it something different. (In Maya it's just Hard or Soft Edges for example)

To control the smoothing groups you have to be in Polygon select mode. Select a group of polys (or your entire mesh if you want) and scroll down in the Polygon modifying area until you see the Polygon Properties rollout.

The smoothing groups area looks like a grid of numbers. Each number is a group that will be smoothed together. If you select a group of polys and you see several numbers grayed out that means that these polys do not all share the same groups.

For the foot, first select all of the polys and click the Clear All button. The model will now look completely faceted.

Now select just the heel, and the ball of the shoe (but not the indent) and click the 1 button.

Now select just the indent and click the 2 button.

Now select the rest of the shoe and click the 3 button.

You've now assigned smoothing groups.The shoes are one of the few areas will I will separate out areas for groups. For most of the model, I will have the entire mesh all be assigned to a single smoothing group.

Once you're satisfied with the shape of the shoe, select the polys that make up the top border and delete them. Then go to Border select mode and click on the open edge.

Now go to the Left viewport, HOLD DOWN SHIFT and MOVE the edges up. Instead of moving them, it has created new polys!


Do this a few more times, going up the lege to around the knee. Remember, the fewer edges you need to get the correct shape, the better. We're just working the left viewport right now, we will move to the front viewport in a moment but first, lets add in a few small details.

A lot of people feel like they need to add in an entire row of edges for every little detail, but that's a waste. We want a little bit of geometry for the major wrinkles near the bottom of the pant leg, but don't need an entire row of edges for it. Select the front edges and click connect and adjust the slide so that the new edges are lower. Connect the edge verts to an existing vert to avoid n-gons. Move the new verts outward to closer fit the contour of the leg.

Go ahead and do this around the knee area as well. Once you've got the side going up just past the knee and are happy with the basic shape, switch to the front view.


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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Glenn Campbell on Mon, 15 February 2016 11:28pm
The best 3DS Max tut online. Superbly handled and capable of engaging users at all levels of experience. A great deal of work went into this, a great deal of expertise was shared freely and by far and away the most effective, interesting, absorbing and enriching short course of its kind on the internet. My sincere gratitude for your efforts; I trust your career has since been nothing short of meteoric, as I'm certain mine will be, influenced as it is by you. That was awesome and more fun than you can shake a stick at.
Maru on Sat, 27 December 2014 4:20pm
Thank you for the tutorial! I would like to ask about a little detail, since I've just started using 3d max, it's quite confusing for me. Well, it's about the first step in the second page. I connected the two vertical edges of the foot, but i don't know how you got all the other edges :s Would you please explain it to me?
Again on Thu, 06 February 2014 11:06pm
Best tutorial for unwrapping !!! lots of usefull tips !!!
SEMO on Mon, 01 July 2013 10:14pm
great tutorial , can i make one by max scripts that include all process in order if i want to use this script in making human models ?
Chris on Mon, 03 June 2013 12:59am
Nice tutorial, very informative! I recommended this to some fellow students for a project we are doing. Well done!
Sudhir on Sun, 31 March 2013 3:39am
Very good tutorial for beginers I've made the same thing in 3ds max
Kjuu on Sun, 25 March 2012 4:03pm
Great tutorial. I'm just starting with 3d graphic and that helped me alot. Thanks! PS. XellD, it's much easier to use planes and apply images on them. Then you can easily manage their size.
Sizza on Mon, 27 February 2012 10:03am
A very in depth tutorial, just what I'm looking for, need to download 3DS MAX to try it! Thanks for your time making this.
ErroR on Sat, 25 February 2012 3:27pm
Excellent tutorial. Covers everything in-depth while keeping it pretty simple. Will definitely try this soon. Thanks!
Djcliverson on Thu, 26 January 2012 10:40pm
Great tutorial, these were my first few days of 3d graphics, and you teached me really a lot, easy and funny, thank you so much
Tanbeen Amin on Tue, 17 January 2012 10:26am
Thank you very much for your tutorial... :) i needed this ..!
XellD on Tue, 03 January 2012 12:08am
OK, i don't know if this is still recently read, but I got stuck already on the first page. When I add Backgrounds for front and left viewport (even if I take yours), they end up not being the same height for the feet (also both pictures have the same resolution and so on, as you mentioned). I found many people on forums having the same problem: the background image cannot be aligned inside of 3DS Max. What can I do about that?
Krisu on Wed, 21 December 2011 4:32pm
That is what i was looking for, this kind of tutorials! Thanks you all so much! >_
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