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Low-Poly Character Modeling and Texturing

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(Score 4.59 out of 5 after 79 Votes)
Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:

Onto the Sleeves

In Border select mode, click on the edge opening for the arm, and then switch to the front view and hold down SHIFT and pull outwards to start the sleeve.

I moved the edges down a bit and rotated them to an angle. Then I selected just the top sleeve edges and connected just them. In vert select mode, I selected the new edge vert and connected it to existing verts (make sure to switch to perspective and check the back to make sure to connect it properly there).

Then in Vertex select mode I moved the vertices around so that they fit the shape of the arm better. Once I had the shoulder started, I selected the border of the sleeve and while holding down SHIFT I pulled it further down.

Continue working your way down, and use scale on the selected edges when you need to make them smaller because this will make them smaller from other angles as well and reduce the amount of fixing you'll need to do from the top/side views. It's hard to get a good second angle on the arm so you'll have to do a lot of tweaking in perspective.

Another important thing to take into account is how the arm will deform when rigged and animated. With this baggy simple sleeve, a lot of geometry really isn't needed, but if you have too little geometry in the joints, they will deform poorly. I decided that I needed one more loop at the elbow, so i selected the edges just below the elbow and clicked connect and adjusted the Slide so that the new edge was created near the elbow.


Time for some optimizing

When you're tight for polys, any extra or not-totally-necessary edges are important to remove. The arm has a lot of edges going around it - more then it needs, so I went back in and started welding together any areas that could afford it.

Do a general all-over pass for anything you can optimize or tweak at this point, and set the smoothing groups on the sleeve.

Okay, I know this is a big jump... and I'm sorry, but I honestly didn't feel like including a 'how to make a head' tutorial in with all the rest of the stuff I'm covering here. There are a gazillion 'face modeling tutorials' out there already... in fact, I, even wrote one already. So use one of them...

A few things to point out - There are no holes in this head for the mouth or eyes. It depends a lot on the game, and what the goals are, but a lot of very low-poly characters for games just have the eyes textured straight on the geometry with the rest of the face. Not actual geometry eyes. Having them painted directly in the texture tends to look better with really low-poly characters anyways, plus it uses a LOT less geometry.

If this character was going to need to talk during cut-scenes, I'd set it up with a mouth that could open and some very simple geometry for the interior of the mouth, but I'm not going to bother with that here.

One other thing to point out is that I selected the collar of the jacket and pulled in some faces so that it's not just a floating flat poly edge anymore.


So on to the hands

Most all of the hands detail is going to be in the texture. I'm going to leave the ring and pinky fingers connected to save polys, and have the hand in a loose slightly-curled position. This is using the assumption that the hand will not be animated. In this position the character can look like it's hand is just relaxed, but it can also look like the character is holding something.

Off to the side of the character, go to the top viewport and make a box. The box should be short in depth, and nearly square from the top view.

Select the two edges of one of the sides and connect with TWO SEGMENTS. Go to vertex mode and move the newly created edges so that the first two parts ar about the same size, and the last one is larger.

Select the three faces that now exist on this side and click the Bevel button and in Bevel Type, choose By Polygon so that it's extruding three separate segments instead of one large one.


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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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