I have always believed that the smaller details are the ones that make the difference. Look at the dragon for example, it just won't be the same without all the spikes, fins and other details on it. Having said that, this tutorial isn't about making your model from scratch, its about taking your creature (dragon, serpent, orc, demon etc') and giving it personality with those details. I will go through all the major points of adding these details using my dragon model to demonstrate it, starting with how to setup the topology of your model to prepare it for the modeling and then move on to the modeling, starting with creating a basic spike/horn, creating fins of all sorts, modeling the bottom scales / spines, and ending up with using those techniques to create a dragon's wing.
Before we get started
The point of this tutorial is to show you how to approach adding details to YOUR model, keep in mind that all the following steps are for demonstration and will probably require modifications on your models as each model is different. there is no right and wrong here (besides perhaps some basic rules of "correct clean modeling" which I will mention next) and I strongly suggest that you go through this tutorial just to get an idea on how to approach things and not to just clone each step as I show.
3 tips before we get started
1. This should be your basic guideline when you model anything: Try to use as LESS polygons as possible to get what you want, its important to keep everything under control. Have a dense mesh where you want lots of details, but be cheap on polygons where you don't. Always try to keep it all quads when you go from dense areas to flat areas because polygons that aren't quads usually don't. get smoothed well and don't. give you as much control over your model (like edge loops for example). when making changes in the model, keeping all the polygons 4 sided is sometimes as hard as solving a rubiks cube, keep in mind that 2 triangles can cancel each other (see example).
2. A few very useful shortcuts and tips when modeling:
While poly modeling, it is advised to often check how things look both before and after the smoothing. To do so quickly without getting out of the sub object mode, use the "show end result button". Things might get a little cluttered when you look at the end result so it is advised to set ISOLINE DISPLAY on your turbosmooth modifier, it will then only show you the edges of the base mode (see example 2A).
Display shortcuts -
"F2" - color fill selected polygons.
"F3" - wireframe mode.
"F4" - edged faces mode
Sub object shortcuts -
"1" - vertex mode
"2" - edge mode
"4" - Polygon mode
*Very useful - If you hold CONTROL while switching from one sub-object mode to another using the icons (not the shortcuts), the selection will get converted (see example 2B).
3. You do not have to worry about making the "right" amount of polygons (like when you extrude for example) to get what you want at the first attempt. It is always recommended to try and start with the minimal amount and if you decide to add more it should be easy when the model is clean. For example -if you made a spike and you now decided you wanna make it longer and with a more defined shape, you could select an edge and hit ring and then connect to add more edges and re-shape it. (see example 3A). When your model already has too much of a dense topology in a certain area and you are looking for a quick way to flatten / soften it, using relax + soft selection can work very well sometimes (see example 3B).
It is recommended to often give different ID's to polygon groups so that they could be selected easily with a single click.
You might also want to give a Multi sub object material to your object so that you could color those groups separately. (Note that in this tutorial I am only using 2 ID's but when Things get complex, you might wanna use more.