Hacking Attempt

Once in a while there’s a hack attempt targeting this blog. Few hours ago there was an SQL injection attack. Luckily, one of the plugins is up to date otherwise who knows what could have happened. Running a blog is a lot of works, and can come with a lot of headaches when things go south.

I disabled a lot of stuff behind the scene, such as user registrations for a purpose. I am just one person, who happens to be a bit tech savvy, and I want to focus on my art and sharing my insights on it. I don’t want to micromanage a website. That’s why user registrations is disabled.

I will produce more quality contents later on once I have my custom-built PC, and all my things are together. Currently the only system I have and work on is a laptop. Will switch to Linux in the future, it won’t be a complete switch even though I wanted to, because there are a few apps on macOS that aren’t available in Linux.

Modeling Problem #1

It’s interesting what you’ll encounter as you move away from character modeling.

I wanted to straighten all the vertices diagonally. The most common way to go about doing this is “S” (for scale) and then Axis [X, Y or Z] and then “0.” But to achieve this diagonally, you need to reposition the Gizmos. After a bit of thinking, my approach is this: Set the Transformation orientation to “Normal.” And Transform Pivot Point to “Active Element.” Select all the edges that you want to straighten… make sure not to select the straight edge first. The edge that is straight should be the last to be selected, so that it becomes the active element, and all other edges will line up.

This will work out perfectly if your active element is actually “perfectly straight.” But what if it’s not? You can manually reposition it so that to the human eyes it looks straight, but you can’t be certain that it is.

Luckily, I had the outer ring untouched the whole time. I used that edge as the active element. And voila!

Just think ahead. Make a duplicate of an edge from the start and leave it there in case you might need to use it as an active element to straighten your vertices down the road. If you know of another way, I would love to hear it in the comment section.

LoopTools

LoopTools is a free addon that comes with Blender, disabled by default. I believe the reason why it’s not on by default is because if all addons were enabled, it would clutter the app. For example, I’m not into animation, so I don’t need all the extra features for animation in Blender enabled by default. So… if you’re a modeler, LoopTools is a very useful and handy addon to speed up your modeling. Once you get into shading, Node Wrangler will be your friend. Know what you do and enable the addons accordingly.

Here’s a LoopTools’ Curve feature. By selecting the first, mid and last points, I was able to create a curve that matched the blueprint.

Wings3D on Mac

I have used Wings3D before, on Windows. It’s a great software if all you’re into is 3d modeling. I don’t know how people manage to model hard surface (talking about complicated stuff) in it, but for character / creature modeling it was a joy when I first used it.

Currently I’m on macOS, but am planning to switch to Linux later on for Blender and Krita. In the meantime, I want to revisit Wings3D to see how things have improved but Wings3D doesn’t play nice on macOS (navigating the viewport with mouse) for some reasons

Observational Modeling

One of my future projects is called “Observational Modeling.” A PDF with video demonstrations on modeling what you see, with an emphasis on observing and simplifying. Taking this idea from “Observational Drawing.”

Modeling things from your imagination, or just making things up as you go isn’t the best way to grow your modeling skill. It’s also hard for others (and you!) to judge your skill or progress. But if you model an object or things that exist in the real world, then others will have something to compare to. Think of it this way: If you model or sculpt a creature, you can get away with it with lots of details. But if you try to model or sculpt a well known person, no amount of details can cover up your inability to capture the likeness of that person.

If your goal is to become a character modeler, then by all means, start with character modeling. However, if your goal is to improve and grow as a modeler in general, then I recommend that you start with hard surface. As for me, I started off with creature/character, and now struggling a bit with hard surface. Both have its own challenges to overcome.

Here’s a model I did earlier. The reference looks simple. So I thought! But don’t underestimate. A reference of the thing you want to model might look simple, but you won’t know the challenges you’ll face until you begin modeling it in the 3d viewport. Since this is based on a reference, I can look at my model and see which area I need to work on/improve. If this was purely from imagination, there’s no way to know where I struggle or where the challenge lies. Hence, observational modeling is the way to learn, grow and improve.

The Mirror modifier can save a lot of time, but in Edit Mode, how do you model the top and not have to repeat it for the bottom? And is that even possible? If I repeat the same for the bottom it can be tedious. Perhaps there’s another way, but that would mean I have to start all over? I don’t have enough experience with hard surface to answer this. This is an example of one of the challenges I faced with something that looks simple.

Radial Symmetry

I came across a Maya tutorial and was inspired to do a test model of a weight plate.

The math is basic. I’m planning to convert that tutorial into Blender for others to follow, but there’s one problem I’m trying to work out before I get to writing it. Two modifiers were used: Mirror and Array (in that specific order). The problem? Mirror has clipping to prevent vertices from crossing (blue), Array has merge but it doesn’t work like Mirror (Red). Not sure if it’s even possible to have Array clips like Mirror. It would definitely save a lot of time from having to go about fixing it in a round about way.

EDIT: After playing around with the Array modifier, it seems like clipping is not possible. Merge first and last is the closest one can get.

Isometric

This is my first time doing Isometric. I have come to realize that this is a great way to practice for the following reasons:

  • It doesn’t have to be 100 accurate. You can be casual and learn in the process of modeling. The image you see above is based on an actual basement. Even though it’s based on it, it doesn’t have to look exactly like it.
  • You don’t have to model the entire environment. Just the corner and what you want to communicate.
  • You can experiment with rendering or save that for later and just focus on the modeling.
  • Modeling non-human forces you to know the tool. I find myself looking up for tutorials on curves and setting the Origin.

I’m more into character/creature modeling than anything else, so this is out of my comfort zone. However, Isometric is a great way to explore it! If you want to get started, the first thing you must learn is setting up the camera for Isometric. Also, knowing how to control the camera is good knowledge to have.

The Node System

Blender has come a long way! You can create a lot of amazing renders for glass, metal, rubber etc… Here’s a test scene that I put together that didn’t take much work. However, to make things look unique and creating real world materials, with stains, scratches, and many imperfection that we see in the real world, is an art in itself.

I don’t see myself specializing in this area. It takes a lot of work! I have seen some samples of the node trees that people put together to create a specific material (all done procedurally), and it’s like a programming language—the logic and math that went behind it boggles my mind.

My focus is mainly on concepting and the art side of things. I don’t focus that much on the technical side of art such as the Node system of Blender. However, it’s still good to know how things work, and to know enough to make a few changes here and there. But for more advanced looking procedural materials, I would definitely go down the route of purchasing them from those that are specialized in this area.

With that said, here are a few resources that I find helpful to give you an idea of how the Node system works. Knowing how it works will help you to create non-procedural materials (less technical compared to procedural). This knowledge will help you later down the road if you do get into compositional nodes:

Learn by Examples

Blender’s Pose Brush

Last March I wrote a short post to talk about how sculpting the hand can be a challenge without the ability to quickly pose the sculpt. You can read it here. Today I found out that 2.81 has it and you have no idea how excited I am. Someone posted a video demonstrating that brush here. Earlier I reopened that unfinished hand sculpt file to test out the brush and it’s amazing.

This one below is another test to see how convenient it is with modeling. All I can say is WOW. You can tab in and out of “Edit Mode” to “Sculpt Mode.” Edit Mode to model, Sculpt Mode to use the Pose Brush without damaging or make any changes to your mesh poly count! I’m impressed.

This Pose Brush is making Box modeling fun again.

Pen or Display Tablet?

Recently I borrowed a Cintiq 13HD from someone to try it out to see if it’ll help me with line art—if it does I’ll have an easier time on deciding whether I should get a better one later on—but I can’t seem to get it to work on my MacBook Pro. So I’ll talk about something else.

Last year I asked a very skilled cartoonist what tablet he was using, whether it’s pen or display. He told me that he works better with a display tablet because he gets to see his hand and stroke at the same time. That really got me to think, because I noticed that I have no problem sketching on the fly with a pen tablet. However, I struggle when it comes to refining that sketch! When things are loose, and accuracy isn’t that important, I have no problem with a pen tablet. But if I want to add weight to my lines, and to bend or curve it a certain way, then I find myself undoing it a lot because I’m looking at the monitor and not my hand.

I hope to write a post and talk more about this in the future.