Right after the concept artist has some of the final renders of the character concept, the character artist starts working on making the 3D model.
They try to capture the essence of the character, the iconic elements that make the character unique and easily recognizable, and even enhance them if possible.
CREATING A PROXY MODEL
The first thing that is made is a so-called proxy model which is just big blocks of shape and color to determine the proportions and the silhouette of the character to check how it looks in-game.
And then there are adjustments made to it by pushing the proportions and contrast for easier readability and highlighting focal points. And that is the first 3D model of the character. But what is a 3D model actually?
But what is a 3D model actually?
Well, a 3D model is just a bunch of points in 3D space called vertices which are connected with lines and form planes called faces or polygons. If you arrange them correctly you will get a 3D model called polygon mesh or the character in the game.
3D CHARACTER MODELING
The characters below are made in different programs like Autodesk Maya, Pixologic ZBrush, and many others which we will talk about in more detail in the following articles.
Once we make the proxy model and have the right proportions, we go to the next step, ie detailing the model. You can see this in the second photo above.
This type of sculpture contains millions, even hundreds of millions of polygons, which can be a memory problem for the game to calculate, so we will have to simplify the sculpture but keep the details.
It is very likely possible to lose the details, with the low poly model we lose most of the details, but we will restore them with something called UV maps and texture baking. The UV map is a 2D form of the 3D model.
When the UV map is made, then comes the texture baking process that will restore all those beautiful details.
Example of a model before and after baking on low poly with high poly mesh.
Learning the software isn’t the biggest obstacle you have to face. You have to learn the anatomy of the body mainly the bones and the muscles in order to sculpt believable characters.
And if you want to create some fictional characters like dragons, this anatomy will be the base knowledge you need to create them, then bend the rules of anatomy to make the creature you need.
Also, the anatomy of birds, insects, and other animals will also help in the making.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
From concept to 3D, we try to capture the key elements, especially with the proxy model.
Then comes the high poly sculpture that we change to low poly mesh.
We make the UV map from low poly mesh and bake it using high poly mesh.
Next is the texture or coloring of the character.
And do not forget that to know all this you need a great knowledge of anatomy.