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Painting Weights and Skinning: A Straightforward Approach

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Date Added: 10th April 2013
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Most of the perceived difficulty of painting weights comes from frustration over one or more of the following:

• The mesh wasn't created to deform
• The joint placement was off
• Trying to weigh multiple, dense, or overlapping meshes
• Unclear process for painting weights
• Unaware of additional tools to save time
• Unrealistic expectations of skinned deformations

When some or all of these difficulties comes into play, painting weights can be miserable. However, with a clear mindset and exposure to certain tools and processes, you can overcome each of them fairly straightforwardly. This tutorial covers the following topics:

• The importance of joint placement
• Creating a low res mesh to weight and transferring those weights back to the highres
• Additional time saving tools for weighting and mirroring weights
• Other useful tips and information

Mesh Construction for Deformation

Even Spans Mean Even Weighting

This may sound like a no-brainer, but having enough spans to spread the weights and deformation over will help with the final result. You can see a great breakdown here:

You'll notice the high deformation areas of the torso, shoulders and hips have more spans that are evenly spaced. Whereas areas of less deformation, such as the shins, are spaced further apart.

Built for Anatomy or Simulation

If a character is going to have simulated elements, such as a t-shirt, then having the underlying body mesh with evenly spaced quads will be less troublesome for the solver. Again, the hippydrome mesh is a solid example (Fig.01).

Fig.01 - Even quad edge flow:

This even span construction also works well for more cartoony characters that may have more stylized deformation or an exaggerated range of motion. However, if a character is more muscular, such as a creature, then modeling to fit the muscles will produce more accurate deformation results.

Here you can see the model's construction fitting that of the underlying muscles (Fig.02).

Fig.02 - Anatomy edge flow:

And a more extreme example, from ZBrush Central (Fig.03).

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Joshua R. Dodson on Sun, 26 October 2014 8:20pm
Thank you this has helped to improve my understanding of Weight painting. In my own personal work I have found that the combination of Basic skin cluster, maya muscle and corrective blend shapes yield highly satisfactory results. It's always a great idea to have a low poly version of your model for animation and simulation testing aside from the full resolution detail model.
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