Modeling Human Anatomy (3ds max) Chapter 1
The ear is one of the features that modelers least like to model. Clearly the function of ears is really important, but they often cause problems when we model because they contain a lot of detail and distinct shapes that make them easy to get wrong. Their form is somewhat complex and if you don't follow the proper steps to create them you may not get the desired result. One of the problems I have is that I find it difficult to create the right thickness and volume. If I am honest there have been occasions in the past where I have noticed parts that have been modeled badly on the ears when I have been looking at the skin and the shaders.
Before modeling it is important to study references closely. Although there are many different perspectives and angles to consider, the most important view at the beginning is from the side (Fig.01).
I've painted the most important areas of the ear to isolate the contours and allow cleaner work. Organization is a fundamental key for a modeler and any preliminary topological study or sketch is useful when you're modeling (Fig.02).
There are many different ways to begin modeling an ear. Depending on the software you use, you can start in a variety of ways. In Maya or XSI it is normal to use nurbs and polygons, whilst Max works best with splines and polygons. As a modeler you should be aware of the different ways to work more effectively, but the purpose of this tutorial is to model with Max and so I will explain the system that best works for me in this software.
Draw two splines following the isolated areas on the ear blueprint. Activate "Enable In Renderer" and "Enable In Viewport" to see the geometry in the viewport. There are two ways to represent the mesh; the default selection "Radial" will be perfect for our model. Change Sides to 8. At this point we have to limit everything to simple shapes. Add an Edit Poly modifier to each spline because to use the new Freeform tools we need to work in Edit Poly mode (Fig.03).
Graphire tools are more flexible and fun when making changes to the shape. Press Shift and change the shape. It is easiest to do this with a graphics tablet, but if you don't have one don't worry because it is just as easy to manipulate the shape with just the mouse. Always try to follow the reference or blueprint. Continue to use the new Graphire Modeling tools to add further detail where it is needed. The Connect Flow function is perfect for adding fast loops (Fig.04).
The next step is to add more parts to our model. Remember to do things in this order: Spline > Edit Poly > Freeform tools and then finally attach them. Collapse all the modifiers to convert it to one Edit Poly object. Keep adding more edge loops or using bridges to join the edges. At this point the ear is taking shape (Fig.05).
So far we have only worked in the viewport so our model is completely flat and has no characteristics or volume. Now let's return to Fig.01 and have a look at the image with the different views of the ear in it. From this point you should work in viewport perspective to get a real sense of 3D. We will use a lot of useful tools such as Soft Selection to move big areas in a fluid fashion. It is important to understand most of the tools that you can use when in Edit Poly mode for an efficient work workflow. Using Relax in Soft Selection mode is a good way to smooth polygons, edges or vertices. This saves time and stops things getting messy.
On this occasion I want to clean the geometry that is unnecessary at this point. In modeling, as in other areas of CG, you should work from general to detail. Making sure you have a clean mesh with regular quads is a fundamental key to helping you progress. Remember to work with general shapes at the beginning (Fig.06).
With a simple cylinder you can add the interior. As with the splines, attach the two objects and join the edges with a bridge (Fig.07).
After a session of cleaning and detailing geometry we have most of what we want. This is when you should go back to your references to see how your model corresponds to them. Whilst comparing the two images we can see the likeness between them. It often happens that when working in perspective with several references we lose a bit of accuracy. This is not usually a problem when doing the ears as they do not require exact resemblance to the reference. But for the purpose of this tutorial let's try to achieve the closest possible resemblance to the reference (Fig.08).
Reducing the opacity of the material means that we can see the wireframe and the reference at the same time. You could also activate "See-through". As we can see there are three main areas that are wrong. There are several different ways you can move large areas. I usually use Soft Selection or Freeform tools and would recommend using Freeform Paint tools in particular. They are basic sculpting tools and although they may be a bit tricky to use if you don't have a tablet, they can be controlled fairly easily. With the Push/Pull tool I've added more roundness (Fig.09).
We are not far from the final result. At this point I still haven't used any special tools; I've just concentrated on working with the tools described above (Freeform and Soft Selection).
I'm pretty happy with the shape so it's time to add the final details. You may add a few small holes or slopes as they are in the reference by using Extrude Vertex, or adding some irregularities with more edge loops which will create a more natural feeling.
You can see that I haven't lost the edge flow from the splines. That's why I model with splines; you can keep a good edge flow from the beginning and you won't waste time trying to do it later. I hope you enjoyed reading this short tutorial as much I enjoyed creating it (Fig.10).
To see more by Jose Lázaro, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 8