post

Character Design: Modeling for 3D Animation

Enough of this old-hat, hand-drawn two-dimensional nonsense! Lets dial it ahead 100 years into the 21st century and talk about 3D character art!

In this blog post, we will look at what it takes to create a successful 3D representation of a 2D hand drawn character. The purpose of this post is not to teach you how to model, only to give pointers and suggestions to artists looking to successfully translate a 2D character drawing into a 3D environment.

In the blog entries leading up to this one, you have learned about doing your research ahead of time and designing your character around what you learned. You should have an idea of the size of each part of the body and how they move based on your model sheets. All of this ground work is 100% necessary before even stepping one foot into the 3D environment. It is a lot easier to draw an idea out on paper than it is to go into a 3D space and wing it. In other words, make sure you have done your homework first and get to know your 2D character in three dimensions before you move into 3D! It will save you a lot of time and extra work in the long run.

Begin Your 3D Model with 2D Drawings

You should always start your character model (or any other model, for that matter) by importing orthographic views of your character into the camera views. A front and side view are almost always necessary and a top view can often be helpful as well.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 10.13.32 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-22 at 10.13.05 PM

The drawings should be aligned so that the center of the character will be located at the origin. Use the grid lines to also help you ensure that the character will be built proportionally. In Dippy’s case, he is three heads high, so you will see where he is scaled to the third grid line.

Default Pose

A character should always be modeled in default pose. This is typically referred to as a rested position, with the character’s arms and other appendages (tails, hair, etc.) extended straight out from their body and a bored expression on their face. This will make the rigging process much easier and allow the character to bend and deform better. Never, ever, ever model a character in a posed position. This will limit all of your future uses of this model to only one pose! In other words, it will be completely useless!

A few basic modeling tips as you are blocking in your model:

  • The geometry on the chest should look like a cape that is draping over and around the shoulders.
  • The geometry around the eyes should loop around the entire eye, creating a socket.
  • Keep all of your polygons 4-sided quads for the best deformation. Don’t leave any irregular sided polygons.
  • Add additional polygons around areas that need to bend a lot, such as elbows, knees, fingers, toes, neck, back, tail, etc. Don’t try to do too much with too little!

In addition, keep in mind all the things that your character needs to be able to do. For instance, Dippy’s elbow bends in two different directions, depending on what he is doing. In his rested position, his elbows are inverse and folded at his sides against his body like a real duck. When he is using his wings, they sometimes bend like a human’s in this way. This means that Dippy requires additional geometry around the middle part of his wing in order to bend both directions. He will also need to have modified feathers, which can act like fingers.

3D Dippy Orthographic Views

Not all 2D features translate well to 3D

Sometimes you have to do a little creative thinking to figure out how to make it work! In the case of Dippy, he was originally drawn for Flash animation, which is a very, very flat graphic style. His beak was much less defined in his original Flash format.

To translate this into 3D, we had to create more definition to the beak and then add a toon shader in the texturing phase to keep the graphic look Flash creates.

One of my favorite examples of a successful 2D trick not translating well to 3D is none other than Mickey Mouse, specifically when it came to his ears. The problem here, is that Mickey’s ears are gyroscopic, meaning they are designed to “float” around on his head so that they are always facing the viewer no matter what direction his head turns. This is one of the very unique design elements that Disney used to add to the character’s appeal and recognition.

 

It’s a very successful 2-dimensional trick of the eye, but it unfortunately did not translate well into a 3D space. Disney has made several revisions to 3D Mickey over the years and had a lot of trouble translating this complex 2D concept to the 3D world. The more recent Mickey 3D attempts have been more successful at capturing this iconic design element.

As you can see, moving from a 2D to 3D environment often requires lots of creative problem solving!

When your model is complete, render a complete turnaround of your character. Set up a few lights and show off your work!

Next, it is time to move on to the next steps of texturing and rigging your character. More on that in a later blog post!

Schmitty out.

 

post

How to Draw… Dippy Duck

With all this talk about character design, I thought it was about time for me to follow-up with my very first “How To Draw…” blog post. Where better to start than with my star character, Dippy Duck? This will be the first in this series, which I hope you will find fun!

Tools of the Trade

All you need is some paper, pencils, and crayons (and maybe an eraser) and you’re set! Please remember to stay loose and draw lightly. Do not bear down on your pencil and allow the shapes to build up. It sometimes helps to practice drawing circles first to help you loosen up!

Please read some of the Character Design posts I’ve done as well; they’re sure to be helpful in helping improve your drawing skills.

Dippy Duck Front View

First, lets take a look at Dippy from the front view:

See, it’s easy and you can do it too! Lets break it down step by step.

  1. Start with a circle. Add a vertical guideline through the center of the circle top to bottom. Then, add a horizontal guideline towards the bottom of the circle, approximately 1/4 of the way from the bottom.
  2. Add eye shapes. Dippy has large, egg-shaped eyes, they are about half the height of the full circle. To help you make the eyes the same size on either side of the head, it is often helpful to draw another guideline. You will also note that they dip a little below the horizontal guideline.
  3. Eyebrows. Draw two upside-down ‘U’ shapes, one above each eye. The curve of the eyebrow should mimic the same curve as the top of his eye.
  4. Bridge of bill and cheeks. Draw three more upside-down ‘U’ shapes. The first one is stretched out in between his eyes, curving from the bottom of the left eye to the bottom of the right eye. This is the bridge of his bill, or where his nose would be (if he had one). The other two, will make up his cheeks on either side. They will curve off of the eye and outside of the circle for now.
  5. Add his tuft of feathers. This is just a ‘shark fin’ shape that sits right on top of his eyebrows.
  6. Bottom of the bill. At the bottom of the circle, draw a curved line. It will just float here for now.
  7. Sides of the bill. On either side of the curved line, you will need to draw two ‘S’ curves (or maybe question marks ‘?’ if you prefer). the one on the right will be a forward ‘S’ and the one on the left will be a backwards ‘S’. this will connect to the curved line at the bottom of the bill, and end just under his cheek.
  8. Adding depth to his bill. Above the bottom of Dippy’s bill, draw another curved line that follows that same curve. This adds a foreshortening effect, giving the bill an illusion of depth.
  9. Finish off the cheeks. Starting where you ended your cheeks, curve them back around to meet the sides of the bill we drew earlier.
  10. Add the mouth. Draw another ‘U’ shape under the bottom of the bill. Make sure that the mouth “connects” with the cheeks. You can do this by drawing some guidelines lightly through the bill.
  11. Draw the neck. Dippy’s neck is basically just a tube shape that will connect to your original circle, tapering slightly. You can draw lightly through the bill to make sure it connects.
  12. Connect the bill to the head. Above the cheeks on either side, draw a curved line off the top of the cheek that connects back to the side of the circle. This is the muscle that connects Dippy’s bill to his head.
  13. Add pupils. Dippy’s pupils are large oval shapes. Draw the entire oval in the corner of his eye, making sure that it stays grounded. The pupil takes up about a third of the total height of his eye.
  14. Clean up. Erase all of your guidelines, including the horizontal and vertical guides, parts of the original circle, and any other guidelines you may have drawn.
  15. Color and complete! Dippy has bright, cerulean blue feathers unlike other ducks and a very bright orange bill!

That’s it!

Dippy Duck 3/4 View

Now that you’re a master at drawing Dippy Duck from the front view, lets take a look at him from a 3/4 angle:

Dippy from 3/4 has very similar steps as Dippy from a front view. Let’s take a look below.

  1. Start with a circle. Add a vertical guideline through the center of the circle top to bottom. Then, add a horizontal guideline towards the bottom of the circle, approximately 1/4 of the way from the bottom. These will both have a slight curve to them now, since Dippy is turning his head to a 3/4 view.
  2. Add eye shapes. Dippy has large, egg-shaped eyes, they are about half the height of the full circle. The eye on the left will be flattened a bit, due to the perspective. You will also note that both eyes dip a little below the horizontal guideline.
  3. Eyebrows. Draw two upside-down ‘U’ shapes, one above each eye. The curve of the eyebrow should mimic the same curve as the top of his eye. The one on the left is smaller since it is further away.
  4. Bridge of bill and cheeks. Draw three more upside-down ‘U’ shapes. The first one is stretched out in between his eyes, curving from the bottom of the left eye to the bottom of the right eye. This is the bridge of his bill, or where his nose would be (if he had one). The other two, will make up his cheeks on either side. They will curve off of the eye and outside of the circle for now.
  5. Add his tuft of feathers. This is just a ‘shark fin’ shape that sits right on top of his eyebrows.
  6. Bottom of the bill. Starting below his right cheek, draw an elongated ‘J’ shape that curves outside the circle, starting to curve back up.
  7. Top of the bill. Starting where you ended the bottom of the bill, draw a hook shape that curves back the other direction, following the shape of the bottom of his bill.
  8. Dimples! Under each cheek, draw a curved line. The one on the left curves off of the top of his bill and the one on the right is a curved line at the top of his smile.
  9. Finish off the cheeks. Starting where you ended your cheeks, curve them back around to meet the sides of the bill.
  10. Add the mouth. Draw another ‘U’ shape under the bottom of the bill. Make sure that the mouth “connects” with the cheeks. You can do this by drawing some guidelines lightly through the bill.
  11. Draw the neck. Dippy’s neck is basically just a tube shape that will connect to your original circle, tapering slightly. You can draw lightly through the bill to make sure it connects.
  12. Connect the bill to the head. Above the cheeks on either side, draw a curved line off the top of the cheek that connects back to the side of the circle. This is the muscle that connects Dippy’s bill to his head.
  13. Add pupils. Dippy’s pupils are large oval shapes. Draw the entire oval in the corner of his eye, making sure that it stays grounded. The pupil takes up about a third of the total height of his eye.
  14. Clean up. Erase all of your guidelines, including the horizontal and vertical guides, parts of the original circle, and any other guidelines you may have drawn.
  15. Color and complete! Dippy has bright, cerulean blue feathers unlike other ducks and a very bright orange bill!

And there you have it!

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it. Truth is, I love teaching things like this and I really miss it. It was a huge part of my younger adult life when I was working for Disney and I just don’t have the opportunity to do it anymore.

I plan to teach several more of my Schmitty’s Toons! characters in this series. If you have a favorite that you would like to do next, please notify me in the comments.

In the comments below, I would also love to see your beautiful creations! Please don’t be afraid to share!

Schmitty out.