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Marcelo Pinheiro's top modeling tips

3D character artist Marcelo Pinheiro presents his top 5 tips for modeling, including topology tricks and avoiding pinched corners...

3D character artist Marcelo Pinheiro presents his top 5 tips for modeling, including topology tricks and avoiding pinched corners...

Tip 1: Topology Tricks

Software: Any modeling package
Polygonal modeling can be hard if you are beginning, but it becomes easy if you see it as Lego bricks. You just need to build a mental library of the basic pieces. For example, the basic shape of a cylinder for subdivision is an eight-sided cylinder with a cross on top. You see this shape repeated over and over again whenever you see a cylindrical form. A sphere made of quads can be achieved by dividing a perfect cube once. As you can see, the quad-sphere and the 8-side cylinder match up perfectly if you bridge them.

Basic polygonal shape of the cylinder and the sphere

Basic polygonal shape of the cylinder and the sphere

Tip 2: Corner control

Software: Any modeling package
One of the hardest things to do in polygonal modeling is a square window with sharp corners in a spherical object, without creating a pinch in the surface. The first thing to do is create an edge loop around the border to create a sharp edge. The convex corner is a little easier and a bit more obvious. You only need to keep the edges of the border going until they cross, then delete the original diagonal edge. The concave one is a little harder, and most people try to do it the same way as the convex, which leaves an ugly pinch in the corner. The right way to do is illustrated below.

Simple way to solve the square window in the sphere

Simple way to solve the square window in the sphere

Tip 3: Extruding a cylinder from a plane

Software: 3ds Max or Maya
This one is pretty cool, but I don't know if it works in all software. To extrude a cylinder from basically anywhere, all you need to do is:

- Find a square polygon with a cross in the middle and connect all the corner vertex to the centre
- Select the centre vertex and chamfer it. If you're doing this in 3ds Max the result will be an 8-sided cylinder
- If you're doing it in Maya there is this extra step. The resulting chamfer will be square, so you will need to select only the corners and scale them down until it forms the 8-sided cylinder
- From there, you can do anything you want with the cylinder, just remember to finish it up with the cross on the top

Extruding a cylinder from a plane

Extruding a cylinder from a plane

Tip 4: Begin from the inside

Software: Any modeling package.
Sometimes when dealing with cylindrical objects it is better to begin from the inside. To illustrate this, I've created this screw starting from the centre where I knew it would need a lot of edges to hold the sharp corners. After, I counted the number of sides in the border and made a tube with that exact number of sides, deleting everything except the top. Then you can bridge both borders without a problem, and keep extruding the outer edge loop to finish it up.

The reason for doing it this way is that the cylinder can have any number of sides, so long as they are all the same size it will look good once smoothed. This way it can be created last, only when you know the exact number of sides you will need.

Building the screw from the inside

Building the screw from the inside

Tip 5: Learn to observe.

Software: Any modeling package.
When I was beginning I used to be addicted to collecting wireframe images of professional artists, and still today I like to analyze them, searching for a topology trick that I don't already know. Once you know the Lego bricks concept, it becomes fun to search for them in professional wireframes. Take a look at the Hammerjack wireframe and see how many of these topology tricks you can find. They are all over the place.

Hammerjack wireframe

Hammerjack wireframe

Related links

Check out Marcelo's website
Buy a copy of 3ds Max Projects

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