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Tutorial 1 - 3ds Max Modelling Tutorial


Here I will teach you a modelling technique that has always served me well and you can use to create nice game characters.

Figure 1.

A Character Template

Figure 2.

This is a character a work collegue of mine drew for a 2d game. I have done my best to create a front image of the character(See Figure 3.) because the modelling technique used in this tutorial is much easier if you use a front image.

Figure 3.

If you want to use this character as a template then right click the image and Save Target As or Save Image As (in Chrome) to save it to your computer.

Note: You can use any sprite similar to the one above for this tutorial, it doesn't have to be that one; Just make sure it is a front view of a character.

Start a new Project

Open 3ds Max.

Figure 4.

Step 1.

Select "Plane" under "Standard Primitives" and click and drag in the Front viewport to create a new plane of any size.

Figure 5.

Step 2.

Open the Material Editor and select one of the Material Slots. Click the box next to Diffuse and Double-Click Bitmap

Figure 6.

Navigate to the sprite e.g. barbarian_front.png and click Open

Make sure the Plane is selected and click Assign Material To Selection.

Figure 7.

Click Show Shaded Material in Viewport

Figure 8.

Switch to Shaded view in the front viewport.

Figure 9.

Step 3.

In the Parameters Roll-out for the Plane, set the width and height to the dimensions of the .png image e.g. 64x64 pixels.

Figure 10.

Now the image is the right size on the plane, so it is not for example stretched too much wide or high.

Note: The Pan tool(See Figure 11) is very useful for panning a view. When you select the pan option, you can click and drag in any of the four views and move them around. Try it out to get used to it because you will need it.

Figure 11.

Select the Scale modifier and scale the plane up a bit so it is bigger.

Figure 12.

Figure 13.

This let's us see the image a bit better so we can model around it.

Note: The Scale tool is very useful when working with vertices; If you need to scale a selection of vertices then you can use the scale tool.

Step 4.

Save the project. I've named it "barbarian_front.max".

Step 5.

Now we are going to create the 3d character.
We will start by modelling the head.

Zoom in on the head(in Front view) using the Zoom tool (See Figure 15).

Figure 14.

Pan the view if you need to.

Figure 15.

Create a plane on the chin. Make it quite small because this will be the tip of the chin.

Figure 16.

Set Length Segs to 1 and Width Segs to 1.

Step 6.

Add an Edit Mesh Modifier to the plane.

Figure 17.

Now. Zoom in a bit more.

Figure 18.

Switch to Vertex Mode.

Figure 19.

We are going to create the chin and mouth and gradually create the whole face. First we will model one half of the head and then copy it to get the other half. Since heads are usually quite symmetrical this works pretty well for game characters.

Drag a box around the bottom two vertices and use the "Move" tool to drag them to the centre of the chin. To move them just click the yellow box(see Figure 20.) and drag.

Figure 20.

Go to Edge Mode and select the top edge.

Figure 21.

Drag the edge up a bit(Move) so it is in line with the top of the chin and the bottom of the mouth. (Note: You can use the X and Y sliders to give you more control.)

Hold down the Shift key and click and drag the Y-slider(See Figure 22.) up to create part of the charater's bottom lip. This creates a new edge

Figure 22.

We will continue using this Shift+drag process to create the distinctive parts of the face. Remember that this is Front view we are working in so all these edges are completely flat. In other words we have not given the chin any depth and it is a completely flat chin. Later we will make the chin round by dragging the vertices outward.

I will demonstrate what I mean by example.

Step 7.

Create some more edges till you get something like this:

Figure 23.

Go back into vertex mode and re-position the vertex on the left:

Figure 24.

Create another edge:

Figure 25.

Now we will weld three vertices together.

Go into Vertex Mode and select the three vertices we want to join:

Figure 26.

Scroll the panel on the right down until you see Weld:

Figure 27.

Enter a large number in the box:

Figure 28.

Click Selected and the vertices will be welded together.

Step 8.

Now you can continue creating edges and use the Move, Scale, Pan, Zoom and Weld tools to create all the distinctive parts of the face.

Note: You can select multiple edges and vertices by holding down CTRL+click edge or vertex

Note: You can de-select edges/vetrices by holding down ALT+click edge or vertex

Note: You may also find it useful to make the model you are working with wireframe: Right-Click and select Object Properties, Click See-Through.

Soon you will end up with something like the following:

Figure 29.

Still the face is completely flat so we need to give it a 3rd dimension.

Start by selecting one or a few vertices that you want to make 3d(See Figure 30); I have selected part of the chin:

Figure 30.

Now in the left viewport pull the vertices out using the X-Slider:

Figure 31.

Do the same thing for the other vertices until it looks right. You have to guess a bit how much you need to pull each vertex outward. Pay attention to the light areas and shadows on the character's face; You can use the light and shadowing to determine how much you need to pull each vertex out in the left viewport.

Note: You may also find it useful to work with vertices in the Perspective viewport.

Once you are done, you might get something that looks a bit like this:

Figure 32.

Creating Polygons

You can create triangles and polygons by going into Polygon Mode and select Create:

Figure 33.

Then to create a triangle for example select 3 vertices, double-click the third vertex you select, and a triangle will be created (See Figure 34):

Figure 34.

Step 9.

Hopefully you know enough now to model the left side of the character's head.

Note: You only have to model one half of the character. The other half will be a copy of that.

Eventually you might get something like this:

Figure 35.

I created the hood using the same edge-creation technique but I created a new plane to start creating the hood.

To make the curves of the hood I mostly made new edges from multiple selected edges and used the Scale Tool for example:

Figure 36.

For the head I had to guess what the back of the character might look like to model the back of the head.

Modelling the Body

I have started creating the body from the neck of the character. Notice that I have made quite a number of edges around the thigh (See Figure 37). More edges means it is easier to make a round leg.

Figure 37.

After about 10 or so hours this is the resulting left half of the character's body:

Figure 38.

Figure 39.

Creating the other Half

Select the character and click mirror (See Figure 40):

Figure 40.

Select Copy and click OK

Figure 41.

Position the new half using the X-Slider in front view so it is correct, so the two halves meet at the centre.

Figure 42.

Do the same for the hood and the arm band.

Joining the two halves

Select one of the two halves of the body and click Attach

Then select the other half to join them into one mesh.

Figure 43.

Now you are ready to join the middle vertices.

Go into Vertex Mode and select all the middle vertices(See Figure 44):

Figure 44.

Set the Weld Threshhold to something small. We want it to be small so that only vertices close together, the middle ones, will be welded together. You may need to experiment with this value.

Figure 45.

Fixing Invisible Polygons

If you go into Polygon Mode and select all the polygons CTRL+A, if any of them are dark then select the dark ones and click Flip(See Figure 46) to flip the normals(direction they are facing).

Figure 46.

Texturing the Character

Select the character in front view and open the Material Editor

Assign the existing material to the character model.

Make sure Show Shaded Material In Viewport is selected.

Figure 47.

Close the Material Editor.

Add an Unwrap UVW modifier to the character mesh.

Figure 48.

Select Polygon Under the Unwrap UVW options and Hold down CTRL+A to select all the polygons.

Figure 49.

Scroll down in the panel and select Planar Map and then View Align (See Figure 50)

Note: Make sure you are in Front view when you do this, otherwise View Align will use a different projection.

Figure 50.

Now scroll up and select Open UV Editor

Figure 51.

In the UV Editor, click and hold the Scale Icon and select the horizontal scaling icon(See Figure 52).

Figure 52.

Click and drag in the red and notice in the Front Viewport the image on the model changes while you scale the red texture coordinates.

Use the Move and Scale tools in the UV Editor to position the texture until it looks roughly right in the front viewport. You can unselect the red polygons by clicking in the Front viewport and re-select them by pressing CTRL+A in the UV Editor

Hopefully you will get something like Figure 53.

Figure 53.

Now we need to fix the areas that don't look right.

In the front viewport select the polygons on the leg that aren't textured correctly(See Figure 54).

Note: Make sure the UV Editor is still open

Figure 54.

Now you need to use the Move and Scale tools again in the UV Editor just like you did before but this time not for the whole model, just for the polygons that you have selected. Try to make the texture look right. You can zoom in in the front view to get a better view of the texturing. I find CTRL+Z is very useful here to de-select and return to what you have selected.

See the difference in the legs:

Figure 55.

Now if you've followed the steps up until now you should be able to finish your character texturing by yourself. In order to make the character complete, continue to use this method of texturing until you have fixed all the polygons that need to be modified.

Good Luck!

To make the hands the right colour I used the body of the barbarian like the following:

Figure 56.

This is the result I got for the front of the barbarian:

Figure 57.

To do the back, you can either create/use an existing image of the back of the character or do what I did with the hand and estimate the colours. I'm not aware of another way to do it but vertex colouring might be something you can look into.

Here's the finished barbarian ready for animating:

Figure 58.

Figure 59.