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By Chad Walker
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November 20, 2001




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The Basics of Designing and Creating Low Polygon Models


Basic Modeling Principles
The following examples illustrate a basic method for making models. The main tools you need to be familiar with are the vertex, edge, and face tools. A good understanding of those and their accompanying options will help you to easily maneuver through your next project. This and the modeling aspects are illustrated in greater detail in our book, showing you each step involved in modeling the head, body, hands, and just about everything else you'd want to know about. So, to have an idea of what goes on, we'll demonstrate it here.

The Side View
The first and foremost important view you'll ever need is the side view. Many people attempt to model characters and creatures using a front view technique, but to no avail. The importance of a side view is to capture the stance, the true outlining form, which you cannot get from a front view. Don't forget, when you are modeling a character, be sure and use a side view so that the likeness, posture, and everything else is placed correctly on to the character.

When modeling the character, you will need to place the side view sketch on the background of the view port and trace around it. So, with the 2D Line Tool (drawing tool), divide each shape as shown in below. While you are outlining the picture, make sure that you are placing the vertices around the same location as I have done. If you want a character that has a higher polygon count you will need to add more vertices around his outlining shape so that it will be smoother.

Divided Side View

Once the outline of the character has been established, we need to give it some life in the 3D world. Us the Extrude Tool and extrude the character's body and head to half the width of the actual character. Then extrude the leg and arm the full width of their actual shapes. You can get the proper widths by using the front view sketch that we did earlier. Next, divide the character two more times down the center. This will give us about all the vertices we will need to finish modeling the character.

Extruded and Divided Outline

Now that the model is properly extruded, you can start to refine each of the shapes. As you see above, the character is very rough and has extremely hard angles. The side view is really good but we need to start working over the front and perspective views. First, let's hide the arm so that we have a clear view of the body and leg. Next, select the Vertices Tool and select the outside vertices of the leg. Then with the Scale Tool, bring all the vertices inward as shown below. Notice that you don't have to use the Scale Tool. Most of time I'll just use the vertices tool and pull each vertex inward until it looks good. Once, you've moved the outside vertices, it's time to work the front view of the leg over. Be sure that while you're moving the knee cap vertices in, that you have the front view sketch either as the background image or at least next to you as reference.


Now that the leg is refined, let's move on to the arm. (If you've hidden it, you can bring it back now.) Select the arm and use the rotate tool to raise the arm up so that it's perpendicular to the body. Once the arm is up, go ahead and start refining the shape from the front view with the vertices tool. As you can see, we've pulled the vertices around the elbow inward, given some slight definition to the shoulder, and tapered off the forearm and hand.

Refining the shape of the arm.

In the image below, we have completed smoothing the body. With each set of vertices, we've slowly pulled them inward so that they will start sculpting and refining the body. Then in the front view, notice how we've managed to create a smooth looking waist and jacket bottom. Don't forget to use the front view sketch for the basic outline refinement of the character.

Final smoothing.

Now that the character is refined, you will need to attach the arm to the body. (Note: the leg and the head will not be attached, but if you want to attach them, then go for it!) The image below shows the arm before being attached. Before you begin attaching the arm, move it as close to the body as possible.

Connecting the arm.


With the arm next to the body, all we have to do is build a handful of faces with the Face Tool ('build' new polygons). Be sure that once the faces are built, that you delete any polygons that are hidden or no longer needed.

Connected arm.

The character is ready for it's twin. Select the whole character and make a copy. Now that was easy! We now have a perfect match.

Select the whole character and make a copy.

Select the copy of the character and Mirror it, so that it'll be the exact opposite of the original half. Then move the model right next to the original character. Be sure that they are as close together as they can get and then weld all the vertices in the center together. On occasion, you may have to build a few faces if there are any open areas so make sure to give it a good look over before continuing. After the character is welded, take one more look at it and you might notice that the chest line could be pulled inward as well as the spine, to give it some more depth. If you find something that looks in need of refinement, then select a tool and go to town.

Complete model.

After the character is done, you can start working over all the accessories. We have already made all the weapons and placed them on the character. If you'd like some good practice with easy shapes, take a moment to model out each shape like we've done. (Note: Most of the shapes are very easy because they are basically boxes and spheres.)



The character is now complete! Great job!! Now let's touch on one more thing that you need to keep in mind while you're modeling…


I have often heard this expression used and felt that it would apply nicely here. Since we are in the business of creating low polygon models and are required to make them look fascinating, then keep this in mind when you're modeling…Keep It Simple, Stupid. If things start looking complicated and high, then they probably are, so whenever you get a chance to remove unnecessary polygons or collapse several vertices together, then do it! Remember to try and keep the angles soft, but don't 'waste' a ton of polygons doing it.


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