Sculpting’s First Stage

Here’s a quick test I did earlier (roughly 5 minutes?), starting with the good old Cube. In total only three brushes were used: 1) Blob, 2) Snake Hook, 3) Smooth (that’s it!). From what I understand, the first stage of sculpting is the form and shape. In Blender, the Blob, Grab (does not add geometry) and the Snake Hook (add geometries) brushes are there to aid you in that process.

The difficult part of starting out is not knowing where to begin! What tool do I use? What’s the setting? With traditional sculpting you don’t have to worry about the settings, but with all things digital, there’s always a technical side to it. I was going to create a video demonstration of the tools but the screencast app I’m using is demo. I’ll do a lot of demonstrations later on once I purchased a license for it, so wait for it.


Note: This was a fluke! I didn’t know that I could block out the form with a Snake Hook on a Cube, but thank God I played with it because now I know something. I was thinking to myself, “How on earth am I going to block out the head? Ok let’s pull this one out, wait… oh! This is amazing.”

Free Model (CF_01) (obj file only)preview_cf_01

In total there are 31 blend files for this model, starting with a form (file #1). A lot of tweaking but in the end I was not satisfied with the final result. Went through them and file #27 has the look that I’m pleased with, but not fully satisfied. I couldn’t get the look or result that I was after because I didn’t use any reference, which is a very bad practice. On top of this I don’t have much experience with creature modelling. There’s a purpose in this experiment and when there’s an opportunity I’ll talk more about it later on in the future.

Take Notes

takenotesGreat learners take notes and they take a lot of them. One of the great preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones [1899-1981], once said: “For many, many years I have never read my Bible without having a scribbling pad either on my table or in my pocket.” We not only see this in preachers but in artists as well and Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind.

As a 3d modeller, I do take a lot of notes and keep them on my computer. I also skim through a lot of books and hold fast to that which is good to expand my horizon. When I do my own experiment and practicing, I pay careful attention to what I’m doing and record a lot of them down.

Don’t be afraid to sketch or scribble. After all, notes are personal and they’re for you to remind you of what you have learned or discovered. Sometimes going through my own notes inspire me to blog about it.

Can’t Match References Perfectly


If you’re just starting out then there’s a chance that you’re using references (I hope so!). Not only that, but you’re trying to match what you see. Then to your surprise, things aren’t lining up no matter how hard you tried! If you get the front view correct then the right view (profile) will be out of proportion. If you fixed the right view then the front view will be screwed and it’s an endless cycle of going back and forth. That was my experience with blocking out the form of this head with a head references in the viewports. What I learned from this is that it’s best to approximate. Don’t aim to match your references 100% perfectly. Instead, see references as guides and don’t be afraid to exaggerate or even go outside of the reference(s).

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Mesh Cleanup in Blender

NOTE: Will fix the videos when I have a chance. Apparently it doesn’t work on iOS. I put together these videos using QuickTime player recording. Now I have a better screen recording app which will work on iOS. — March 04, 2016.

This is an example of how I approach it in Blender. In the picture and videos, what you’re looking at is the top of the nose flowing to the mouth area. There’s a thought process behind it which I’ll talk more later in the future (God willing).


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Texture artists don’t like it. Rig artists don’t like it, and a lot of people just hate it. So the best thing to do is just avoid it! Modelling for yourself is different, but when you’re working with other artists it’s best to play by the rule that they all go by: No n-gons.

Since I am modelling for myself and experimenting, I can be flexible in this area. Sometimes I’m just lazy to clean up the mesh or haven’t decided on where things should go, so I end it with an N-gon to get back later. Cleaning up N-gons requires a bit of thinking, depending on your modelling experiences, but it’s very easy once you know what you’re doing.

A Note on Topologies

As of this writing and from what I know, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “one topology to rule them all,” and you won’t know how good a topology is until you start to get into deformation of the mesh (animating it). Not to mention that all modellers are different in their approach and each mesh has a unique flow or structure to it. However, there is a general guidelines that all modellers follow, such as the mouth and eyes areas and so on. If we get the part for the mouth and eyes setup correctly then the rest will slowly fall into their proper places as you try to piece them together. How you go about piecing them together will be different from how others go about it.

One of the reasons why I’m currently experimenting with creature’s heads is because it’s uncommon to see people post topology overview for monster’s heads. So I want to train myself to see topology overview for a varieties of models (human, monsters, creatures etc…). Right now I’m just guessing and learning as I go.

Digital modelling is both creative and technical but don’t let that turn you off!

How True Art Points to God

The center of reality is a God who is Creator. And since we are made in His image (Genesis 1), we too are creators, able to harness the necessary and practical aspects to make something into something new. In creating good art, we are allowed to mimic the one who created all things—the One who built a universe and said “it is good.” So we create because we were created. As Madeleine L’Engle says, “All true art is incarnational, and therefore ‘religious.’” (Link to Article)

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher [1813-87]

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

3 Ways Movies Are Searching for the Gospel

When I say movies are searching for the gospel, I don’t mean the [content] of the gospel, but more the [shape] of the gospel. Movies tap into our deepest emotions because they draw on truths and realities that only make sense in light of the gospel, and the questions they ask are only resolved in the gospel. (Read more)

Metric & Imperial Units In Blender

Blender provides three distinct types of unit that can be used to measure objects (distance) in a Scene; “None“, “Imperial” and “Metric“. Although relatively self explanatory in terms of what they represent, their use does come with some caveats the user needs to be aware of, which depends particularly upon the version of Blender being used. (Read more)

A Thought on Digital Modelling

The thing with digital modelling is that there are some hurdles and obstacles to get over. First, it’s the software that you’re using. Secondly, the theory and fundamentals of digital modelling (topology for example). These things can really hold you down if you’re the analytical type that wants to know the ins and outs before you even begin to do anything. With digital sculpting, you don’t have to worry too much about all that, but the downside is that you need a fast computer to really have a smooth and fun experience or experimentation.

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De Form

One of the advantages that Box modelling has over the rest is that you can quickly block out a form. It causes you to think big and allows you to experiment with topology and deformation. The more I use Blender, the more I like it because it has all of these features in one package.


Digital Sculpting in Blender

I personally have no sculpting experience (traditional or digital), but last month of this year I decided to just play around with it. For the first time, it finally clicked (one of those Eureka moments)! Overall, I really enjoyed it and the image below is the result of that first experiment with a Wacom tablet. I’ll talk more about sculpting in Blender later on with some thoughts and pointers for those that want to get into digital sculpting.

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Viewport’s References

A lot of people find the human hand to be challenging to model or block out (form) in a way that looks realistic. There are many ways to bring an image into Blender but when it comes to modelling the hand, this is the only method that I know of that can help and the good thing about it is that it doesn’t matter where you are in the viewport. In the example below, I zoomed into the hand from that angle and placed an empty object (Shift + A –> Empty –> Image). From there you can drag and drop the image into the border of that empty object or manually load the image in the properties window.


Don’t forget to check “Align to View” immediately after you placed the Empty

If you have some basic drawing skill, what you can do is sketch out the form/shape of the hand and use it as a guide. This same steps can be repeated for the foot.

Base Mesh and 3D Scan

There are a lot of resources out there and we just need to think outside the box to put them to good use. Besides collecting good references (images) I also collect base meshes and 3d scan obj files for study purposes. With meshes that have been triangulated (game models for example), you can use them as model sheets (see image below for example) or practice re-topologizing.


For demonstration purposes, I used ManuelLab character creation

Professionals use references…

William Vaughan in his “[digital] Modeling” book has this to say to those that would ask “How do I make my work look like what the pros are doing?”:

[Use as much reference material as possible and hone your observational skills].

Not exactly what you were expecting, huh? But yes, that is the mind-blowingly simple trade secret of the pros. It’s what separates a hobbyist from a professional. Remember that the sooner you come to the realization that there is no magic “Do My Job” button, the sooner you can start down the road of creating professional CG work.

The biggest problem I see for new artists is a lack of reference and observation. It immediately shows up in their work. Not only is it obvious to me, but most importantly, it’s obvious to those doing the hiring.

And I agree wholeheartedly! You can never have too much of it, so I suggest you get into the habit of collecting good references and store them in a digital morgue file. Using references is a skill and it doesn’t make you inferior, but will only make you a better artist in the long run. The more realism you want to see in your artworks, the more you’ll have to consult references.