Stylizing Toons: Chapter 1 - Concept and Modeling
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I am really glad to be invited to create this tutorial. Cartoon characters are by far my favorite subject, so it is a pleasure to write this for you. More than writing a step by step tutorial my objective is to teach you a process in which you can contribute with your own creativity and customize the character to your liking. After finishing this tutorial you should be ready to create your own characters.
It would be easier to supply you with a front and side view to use as a modeling reference, but I am not going to do that. We will start with an idea of a character and develop it along the way. Today's tools allow us to explore and study our concept whilst modeling and we are going to take advantage of that. We will be sketching in 3D and my favorite tool for that is ZBrush.
But that doesn't mean that we will pick up a sphere and model the full character from it. We will start by creating a very simple mesh with a topological base that will allow us to develop the model without a lot of trouble. For that we have to predict some of the pitfalls that we might face. We have to study our subject a bit before starting in order to understand its anatomy and particular features, which should be present in the base mesh.
For our animal character I have picked the kangaroo. (Fig.A) It's an animal with unique characteristics: it hops around, uses its tail for support, has funny proportions and is known for its boxing skills. As I had never modeled a kangaroo, the first step was to gather some information about it. I have searched the internet for kangaroo's photos, drawings and skeletons. Then I have started to draw some kangaroos while using the photos for reference. It is the best way to understand their anatomy, because you have to think about it while drawing, and the more you draw the more you know the subject. Sketching the subject's skeleton is also a great way to understand its structure. If your objective is to rig and animate the character, sketching the skeleton is a must. (Fig.B)
Kangaroos have got very powerful legs, with massive thighs, long leg bones and big feet. Most of their body mass is on the lower part of the body. Their arms look quite feeble, but the shoulder area is stronger and projected forward. The snout is long as well as their ears. The tail is thick and a lot of the time is used for support, such as when they are fighting and thrust their feet forward while standing on their tails! (Fig.C)
It is very important to be aware of these characteristics because they define the animal. Our challenge is to turn this charming animal into a cartoon.
What is a Cartoon?
What makes an animal character a cartoon rather than realistic?
Stylization - Cartoons are simple and clear in form with an immediately recognizable silhouette. The introduction of clear geometric shapes and sharp angles versus curved lines are part of the cartoon language. Also, complex forms like hair and fur tend to be reduced to masses or shapes (Warner Brothers cartoons are a great example of this).
Exaggeration - Extreme deformations or caricature contribute to stylization and humor, as well as to defining the personality of the character. We all know the stereotypes of the big headed scientist and the broad shouldered warrior.
Humor - I would say humor is what differentiates cartoons from action comics. Light humor, nonsense or sarcasm are all part of the cartoon universe. All dictionary definitions that I have found for "cartoon" mention humor as a defining characteristic.
Human characteristics - In cartoons we expect the character to inherit human characteristics, not only in terms of expression but also in their anatomy. Sometimes parts of the animal anatomy are fully altered, for example making both eyes face forward when the animal has eyes on the side of its head or giving human hands to mice and ducks, like Walt Disney did.
Color code - Cartoons' color code is usually very direct and saturated. These are characteristics that made the process of inking and coloring in traditional animation a lot easier, as each frame had to be painted individually and it is a lot more difficult to keep color and form consistency with multiple color gradients.
Attitude - Any character without personality is a dead character. His personality is transmitted to the viewer by the silhouette and the attitude, pose and facial expression. Make your character alive!
I have created a first character sketch to give me a reference through the modeling process (Fig.D), but it will be adjusted along the way in order to meet all the criteria defined above.
In this first chapter we will start by modeling the character starting in 3DS Max and continuing the exploration of form in ZBrush, trying to achieve the Stylization, Exaggeration and Human characteristics.
We will start by creating a low polygon mesh in 3DSMax using a box and polygon modeling tools.
Creating the Box (Fig.01)
-Set you scene units to Meters by going to the Customize menu, choosing Units Setup and picking "Metric" in the Display Unit Scale.
-Go to the Command Panel and from the Standard Primitives click on the Box button.
-In the Top view click and drag to create a box.
-With the box selected go to the Command Panel and change the box's dimensions to: length 0.65m, width 0.65m, height 2.0m. Use 1 segment for the length, 2 for the width and 8 for the height.
I am using meters as units, but you can use any units you feel familiar with. It is important to be aware of the correct scale of the scene. This way when you have to build props you can think of the dimensions they have in real life. If you use an arbitrary scale you will have to rely on the comparison between different objects to check if they are correct in size. In this case we will be modeling a kangaroo so I have decided to start with a height of 2 meters.
Symmetry Modifier (Fig.02)
-Under Modify in the Command Panel pick the Symmetry Modifier.
-Make sure it mirror is along the X Axis.
With the Symmetry Modifier we will only have to model half of the kangaroo, as everything we do in one half will be replicated to the other. I prefer to have the Symmetry modifier applied from the start as it allows us to check the volume of the full character as we model.
Edit Poly (Fig.03)
-From the Modifiers list pick Edit Poly.
-Drag "Edit Poly" down so that it is placed between the Box and Symmetry modifiers.
-Make sure the "Show end result toggle" is ON. This allows us to change a modifier in the middle of the stack but to see the result of the full stack. If it was OFF we wouldn't be able to see the result of the symmetry modifier.
Shaping 1 (Fig.04)
-Choose the Front view (press F).
-In the Edit Poly modifier pick the Vertex sub-object mode.
-Using a selection window, choose the vertexes on the right side of the box and move them in order to create a rough silhouette of a trunk and a head.
By using a selection window you make sure that you are selecting the vertexes on the front and the ones on the back simultaneously.
Shaping 2 (Fig.05)
-Choose an Orthographic View (press U)
-By dragging the Mouse with the middle button and pressing Alt you can orbit around your model. By dragging with the middle mouse button you can pan.
-Make sure you have the Orbit mode changed to Orbit Sub Object, this way you will always orbit around the area you are working on.
-Pick a comfortable point of view and keep shaping the vertexes as in the figure, in order to create a rounder head and body.
-Use the "World" Reference Coordinate System to move the vertexes. It will be easier to understand how you are moving them in space. If it gets confusing move the vertexes along one axis at a time, by dragging over the X, Y or Z axis on the coordinate system.
-Keep orbiting the model while shifting the vertexes to have a clear understanding of the overall form.
Shaping 3 (Fig.06)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Edge sub object.
-Pick one of the horizontal edges near the center line (check figure)
-Choose the Ring option for the edge selection
-Click the Connect tool
This will create an edge loop which will give us a better base to start extruding the arms and legs from.
Shaping 4 (Fig.07)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Vertex sub object mode.
-Shift the vertexes in order to give more volume to the belly, flatten the chest and make the neck rounder.
Try to place the vertexes in a position similar to the figure, but don't worry too much about precision, later we will have the ability to reposition everything in ZBrush.
Arms 1 (Fig.08)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Polygon sub object mode.
-Pick the polygon from which the arm should grow.
-Click the Dialog Box near the Extrude tool.
-In the Extrusion Height Field insert 0.9 meters.
Arms 2 (Fig.09)
-Turn on the Snap toggle (press S key) and make sure the snap3D is selected.
-With a right click on the Snap Toggle button you can change the Snap Settings, make sure Vertex is ON, so that it will snap to the vertexes.
-With the Polygon sub object mode selected and with the axis gizmo limited to moving along the Z Axis (press F7 key), pick one of the lower vertexes in the "hand area" and drag it to the "armpit" vertex. This will keep the arm horizontal, which is easier to model.
Arms 3 (Fig.10)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Edge sub object mode.
-Pick one of the edges along the arm.
-From the Selection Tools press Ring and it will select all the edges along the arm.
-Click the Connect tool dialog box and increase the number of segments to 3.
Arms 4 (Fig.11)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Vertex sub object mode.
-Move the edges in order to create a rough arm shape, placing the edges in the armpit, elbow and wrist area.
Arms 5 (Fig.12)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Edge sub object mode.
-Select the arm edges, Ring Select and use Connect (with 1 segment) to create new edge loops near the joint areas. You can use the Slide parameter inside the Connect dialog box to place the edge near the joint.
- Check the figure for the correct positioning of the edges.
Arms 6 (Fig.13)
-From the Edit Poly modifier choose the Vertex sub object mode.
-In Front View, move the vertexes of the arm in order to shape the forearm, shoulder, armpit.
-Also extend the hand area a bit.
Arms 7 (Fig.14)
-Change the view to Top and keep shaping the arm
-You can alternate to Orthographic view and Orbit around the area to understand the volume in 3D.
-You should define the arm shape and increase the volume of the hands. We will start modeling the boxing gloves in the same mesh as the body.
Hand 1 (Fig.15)
-Create 4 edge loops along the hand (with the Connect tool)
-Select the faces at the tip of the hand.
-With the faces selected, pick Bend from the modifiers list.
-Inside the Bend modifier pick X as the Bend Axis.
-In the Bend sub objects pick Center.
-Move the Center to the left and align it with the union with the hand.
-Increase the Bend Angle to 196.
Hand 2 (Fig.16)
-Right Click on the Bend modifier.
-Choose Collapse To.
-Choose "Yes" to collapse the stack.
-Make sure "Show end result" is ON
-Create an edge loop on the hand around the back of the hand.
-Select the face from which we will extrude the thumb.
-Pick the Extrude Tool Dialog Box and extrude about 0.13m to create the thumb.
Hand 3 (Fig.17)
-In Top View, select the thumb vertexes.
-Pull them to the right.
-Create an edge loop in the middle of the thumb.
-Shape the vertexes to create a larger thumb slightly bent.
Hand 4 (Fig.18)
-Pull the thumb vertexes down in order to make the thumb to look more natural.
-Create an edge loop around the forearm.
-Select the faces of the hand and half of the forearm.
-Pick "Detach" from "Edit Geometry"
-Pick Detach to Element and press OK. Now the glove is separated from the arm.
Hand 5 (Fig.19)
-Right Click on the Scale Button from the Tool bar and set the scale to 120%
-Move the glove to separate it from the arm.
-Using the "Border" sub object selection mode pick the open edge of the arm and glove.
-Choose "Cap" from "Edit Borders" and the holes will be closed.
Hand 6 (Fig.20)
-Extend the face on the front of the forearm and scale it down a bit.
-With "Element" sub object selected pick the glove and place it correctly relative to the arm.
Legs 1 (Fig.21)
-Create a vertical edge loop as indicated in the figure
-In Edge sub object mode, Pick Create from "Edit Geometry" and click on the 2 vertexes in the figure, this will create an edge that separates the lower belly from the thigh.
Legs 2 (Fig.22)
-Move the indicated vertexes forward to start creating the upper thigh.
-Select the faces under the thigh.
Legs 3 (Fig.23)
-Use the Extrude dialog box in Face sub object mode, and use a value of about 0.30m
-In Vertex sub object mode, reshape the thigh as shown in the figure.
Legs 4 (Fig.24)
-Create another edge loop which splits the thigh vertically (check figure)
-Reposition the new vertexes in order to shape the thigh section in a sort of chamfered rectangle. This will give us a good section to keep extruding the leg.
Legs 5 (Fig.25)
-Extrude the leg section about 0.60 m.
-Create 2 edge loops around the leg.
-Shift the top edge loop up to create the knee area.
-Shift the lower edge loop down.
Legs 6 (Fig.26)
-Choose an Orthographic view from the Right.
-Press F3 to view the model in Wireframe.
-Turn on Snap (press S). Change the Snap to 2.5 Mode (Left Click on the Snap button and pick the 2.5 option). This way the vertexes will only move parallel to the screen space.
-Align all the vertexes on both sides of the leg by dragging them to the nearest vertex.
With the vertexes aligned, when we use a selection window we will be sure to be selecting the vertexes on both sides of the leg.
Legs 7 (Fig.27)
-Press F3 again to go back to shaded mode.
-Keep the Orthographic view from the Right.
-With a window selection pick the vertexes and shape the thigh, knee and leg (like figure).
-Change the view to Front.
-Shape the thigh and leg from the front (like figure).
Legs 8 (Fig.28)
-Select the lower vertexes of the leg.
-Rotate the selection, in order to prepare for the extrusion of the feet.
-Select the faces of the section and extrude the feet.
-Choose the Right viewport and move the section up.
Legs 9 (Fig.29)
-With the section still selected rotate it in order to be vertical.
-Scale the section non uniformly along the world Z axis until all the edges are parallel.
-Extrude the section once again.
Legs 10 (Fig.30)
-Shape the vertexes at the tip of the foot in order to make it wider and flatter.
-Connect the edges of the wider face at the tip of the foot using the Connect dialog box.
-Use 2 connecting segments and a pinch value of 30.
-Select the edges marked on the figure and pick the Remove option from "Edit Edges", this will allow us to extrude the 3 fingers simultaneously.
Legs 11 (Fig.31)
-Select the 3 polygons from which we will extrude the fingers.
-Use the Extrude dialog box from "Edit Polygons", make sure that the Extrusion Type is "By Polygon". Use an extrusion value of about 0.13m.
-Select each polygon at the finger tip and spread them apart.
Legs 12 (Fig.32)
-Create 2 edge loops along the fingers.
-Create an extra edge loop at the ankle
-Recreate the edges we had removed before.
-With one of these new edges selected, use the Ring option, followed by Connect. This will create a new edge loop that will split the fingers horizontally.
Legs 13 (Fig.33)
-Start shaping the vertexes of the foot in order to make the fingers rounder. You can try to make the final position in your model resemble the figure, but it is not mandatory, everything will be reshaped in ZBrush later. I have presented different points of view so that you can follow it better. It is also helpful to momentarily disable the symmetry modifier so that you have a clearer view of the inner side of the foot. Don't forget to use the Edge Constraint (under Edit Geometry>Constraints>Edge) if you wish to move vertexes along the edges.
Head 1 (Fig.34)
We will now start creating a base shape for the head.
Our main concern will be to create a workable geometry in the area of the snout, ears and eyes.
-Select the 2 polygons in the middle of the face.
-Use the Extrude Dialog Box and insert a value of 0,40m (don't forget to set the extrusion type back to "Group" or it will extrude each face individually).
Head 2 (Fig.35)
-Create one edge loop horizontally across the snout, and 2 edge loops horizontally across the top half of the face.
-Create 2 edge loops along the snout.
Head 3 (Fig.36)
-Select the polygons on the top of the head (see figure) and extrude them 0.50 m.
-Create a horizontal edge loop that splits the ears.
Head 4 (Fig.37)
We will start shaping the head freely:
-Move the vertexes to shape the snout to resemble the initial sketch roughly. There aren't a lot of tricks here, just moving the vertexes in space and orbiting around the volume to check the volume.
TIP: In Orthographic View only move the vertexes along one of the axis (X, Y or Z) at a time, it is easier not to get lost in space. :). Use the Constraints inside "Edit Geometry" to limit the vertex movement along the edges or in the same plane of the surrounding faces.
Head 5 (Fig.38)
-Keep shaping the head, making the cheeks rounder.
-Move the vertexes in the eye area, creating a rough round shape. Use the Face Constraint inside Edit Geometry to move the eye contour vertexes on the same plane.
-Move the vertexes of the ears to shape them correctly.
Head 6 (Fig.39)
-Always moving the vertexes, on the back of the head, make it rounder and the ears thinner.
-Make two new edge loops along the ears. Select the vertexes of the ears and rotate them slightly outwards.
-Move the vertexes on the back of the ears to make them rounder.
Head 7 (Fig.40)
-Select the vertexes of the neck and scale them on the X and Y plane to increase its thickness.
-Select all the vertexes of the head and pull it up and slightly forward to make the neck longer.
-Scale the vertexes at the base of the neck a little bit more to make it thicker in this area.
-Pull the vertexes of the area where the head meets the neck a little bit back so that the back of the head is more in tune with the neck.
Head 8 (Fig.41)
-Select the polygon in the nose area and extrude it about 0.07m.
-The nose might split as we extrude the polygon, if it is facing outwards. If that happens, select the edge nearer the symmetry plane, and pull it to the other side of the mirror, the vertexes will weld automatically.
-Select the edges at the tip of the nose with the exception of the edge at the mirror plane.
-Use the Chamfer dialog box and insert a Chamfer amount of about 0,02m to make the nose "round".
Head 9 (Fig.42)
-Select the 2 polygons that define the eyes.
-Click the Inset dialog box and insert an Inset Amount of about 0,016m.
-Create a new edge loop at the brow area.
Head 10 (Fig.43)
-Select the polygons of the brow area and pull it forward and slightly upwards.
-Move the vertexes to shape the area around the eye and cheeks (Please check the figure).
Head 11 (Fig.44)
-Select the polygons under the snout (as in the figure).
-Extrude the polygons about 0.07m.
-In a Side view move the vertexes to create the mouth.
Head 12 (Fig.45)
-Select the polygon at the front of the mouth.
-Extrude it about 0,07m.
-Create an edge loop around the lip area (check figure).
Head 13 (Fig.46)
-Move the vertexes according to the figure to define the mouth area.
Head 14 (Fig.47)
-Select the inner polygons of the ears.
-Use the Inset Dialog box with an Inset amount of about 0,02m.
-Push the vertexes inside the ears inward to create a cavity.
Arms 1 (Fig.48)
-Create one horizontal edge loop above the shoulder line.
-Create another horizontal edge loop along the length of the arms.
-Extend the length of the forearm and bicep area in order to make the arm more proportional with the character.
Arms 2 (Fig.49)
-Move the vertexes of the shoulder area to create the rough form of a deltoid.
-You can also move the vertexes of the bicep area to shape it.
Arms 3 (Fig.50)
-Create 2 edge loops in the arm and forearm areas.
-Move the vertexes in order to roughly shape the bicep, triceps, elbow and forearm.
Body 1 (Fig.51)
-Create one edge loop in the neck area, 2 edge loops around the belly area and another at the groin area. When creating the edge loop at the groin area, as there is a triangle you will have to manually create the edge splitting the triangle.
-Move the vertexes so that the edges form the pectoral muscles.
-Scale down the vertexes of the neck area slightly, so that the neck describes a slight curve between the head and the shoulders.
Body 2 (Fig.52)
-Move the vertexes at the belly area to make it rounder.
Body 3 (Fig.53)
-Create one edge loop at the thigh.
-Create 2 edge loops at the leg and feet.
-Move the vertexes to shape the heel and make the thighs bigger.
In ZBrush we will have to continue fixing these proportions, later.
-Select the glove element and scale it up a bit.
-Create 2 edge loops along the sides of the glove.
-Create 2 edge loops along the gloves.
-Move the vertexes of the glove to create a rounded volume.
-Create edge loops at the wrist, connection of the thumb with the hand and tip of the thumb.
The objective of these loops is to keep these areas in place when we subdivide them later in ZBrush.
-Scale up the vertexes at the wrist area of the glove to define it.
-Select the polygons at the lower back of the model.
-Use the Extrude dialog box, with an Extrusion Height of about 2.50m.
As the polygons are facing outwards you will notice that they will split as they extrude. We will move the end vertexes towards the mirror plane to weld together the 2 extrusions.
-Move the vertexes at the tip of the tail towards the symmetry plane and cross the vertexes to the other side of the plane. The Symmetry modifier will weld the vertexes.
-Move or Scale the vertexes at the tip of the tail to make it smaller.
-Move the vertexes that connect the tail to the body to make the tail profile rounder.
-Move the vertexes on the tip of the tail down until they touch the floor.
-Create 2 edge loops along the tail, one at the tail origin and another in the middle of the tail.
You can make these edge loops by using the Quick Slice tool inside the Edit Poly Modifier. Use the Side View viewport, select the tail polygons, choose Quick slice and click above and below the tail, a clean cut will be made on the surface.
-Rotate and scale the 2 edge loops created on the tail to position it as shown in the figure.
-Create more edge loops along the tail in order to have an even distribution.
-Move the edge loops to have a nice curve on the tail.
-Create some more edge loops in order to keep the whole mesh more even in terms of subdivision (legs, feet, abdomen).
-Select all polygons.
-Click the Auto Smooth button inside the Smoothing Groups with a value of 90.
-Right Click on the Symmetry modifier and pick Collapse All to reduce the mesh to an editable poly.
-After collapsing, confirm that the mesh pivot is at the center of the mesh and at the coordinates 0.0.0. It is not strictly necessary, but a very good habit when modeling symmetrical meshes.
Material IDs (Fig.61)
Now we will separate the mesh in different material Ids.
This will allow us to import the model into ZBrush and separate it in poly groups automatically.
-Create a new Multi/Sub-Object material.
-Click the "Set Number" button and set the number of materials to 20.
-By clicking on the color swatch at the right of the material attribute a random color to each material. This will help you to identify the assigned Material Ids.
-Select the Polygon sub-objects referring to each different anatomical part of the character. Please follow the figure, be careful to separate the mouth from the head, the thumb from the glove and the feet from the toes. Select everything symmetrically, for example when you choose the left forearm also include the right forearm in the same material ID.
-Create a sphere primitive with a radius of 0.06m and place it roughly at the eye socket.
-If you wish to isolate the eye press Alt + Q
-Add an Edit Poly modifier and pick the polygons that represent the pupil. You can do this quickly by restricting the polygon selection to be "By Angle" with a value of 3.0 and clicking one of the pupil polygons.
-Move the selected polygons inwards.
-Pick the Extrude Dialog box and set a value of -0.02m.
Let's make the eye globes symmetrical in relation to the character mesh. This will ease the symmetrical editing in ZBrush.
-If you have entered the Isolate mode, exit by clicking the "Exit Isolation Mode" button.
-Add Symmetry modifier to the eye.
-Inside the Symmetry modifier, select the mirror sub object.
-Click the Align button and pick the character body mesh.
-In the Align Dialog box choose the "X Position" and the "Center" of the Target Object.
And now is the time to export our character to ZBrush.
If you would like to build upon what you learnt in this article or if you would like to continue to follow this tutorial you can purchase the full eBook in the 3DTotal shop.
To see more by Jose Alves da Silva, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9 and ZBrush Character Sculpting