Introduction: This tutorial will cover my personal workflow for 3d modeling, 3d sculpting, retopo / optimizing, UV’s, normal map generation, light map generation, and texturing.
The Creature Summary: Paragalis is literally a walking parasite that’s approximately the size of a large dog from tentacle tip to tale. The creature is an ambush predator who catches its prey with a tongue that can extend to twice the size of its body. Paragalis’s tentacle like mouth contains rows of teeth for gripping its prey, with a barb at the end of its tongue that injects toxic venom. Once the prey has been caught it's then quickly digested with its remains excreted from the creatures back hump in a gassy form. “I’d suggest that if you were to run into this thing to run the other way, quickly!”
The Specs: Lowpoly model / 7,000 triangles, Textures / 2024x2024 / diffuse, spec, normal
Tools: 3ds max 8 / 9, Photoshop, Mudbox, Zbrush 3.1, Crazybump, Polyboost
Step One: From concept to model
I'll usually proceeded right into to the modeling phase once the design of the creature is illustrated. I find it helpful to have some sort of concept or rough outline to work from when making a symmetrical creature. This makes things much easier on the modeling end and reduces the guesswork when trying to nail the profile. I used a simple box modeling technique for this subject to quickly rough out the base mesh, just remember that I wasn’t going for any high-level detail and only focused on the broad strokes. This is important to remember since the model will change to some degree in the sculpting stage. I tend to keep in mind how much detail will be required in certain parts of the creature when modeling the base mesh. For instance, I know that the tongue, tale, and tentacles will need a good amount of detail, which is why I added additional edge loops. This level of thinking is also applied to characters work as well. Areas such as hands, feet, and the head tend to benefit from additional edge loops.
As you can see from the images below I simply extruded a bunch of edges and faces in 3dsmax “editable poly mode”. I'll usually switch over to the perspective view once I'm satisfied with the profile, and will then begin roughing out the forms and proportions. Since I didn’t draw a front sketch of the creature I had to use a bit of imagination on how wide it would look. I usually judge characters and creatures width by heads but had to make due with its tail instead due to the creatures unusual design. As an artist it’s always good to have references of actual creatures, people, places and things when making judgment calls on forms and proportions. Having these extra materials can work wonders when you're in the initial modeling phase. The total modeling time was around an hour and a half and it’s completely made up of quads.
Step Two: Separate Elements
When it comes to creating a base mesh it’s always good to think two steps ahead so you don’t run into any issues later on down the road. This is why I created the tongue separately, doing so will free me up in the sculpting stage too not only hide that part of the mesh easily but also subdivide it for more detail. I can get away with this method since the tongue goes pretty far back in its mouth. The tounge also doesn’t contain any obvious skin interaction, which is a plus.
Step Three: Subdivide smooth Test
I usually run a few tests with 3ds max “turbo smooth modifier” once I’ve completed the base mesh. I always make sure that my quad based meshes can withstand a turbo smooth before moving forward. This is important since it'll give me a heads up on how the mesh is going to smooth in either Mudbox or Zbrush, not only that but I can also look out for any weird pinching in obvious areas.
Step Four: Preparing for Export
After I finished checking the base mesh for any smoothing oddities it’s time to get it ready for export. I’m pretty paranoid about errors like double faces, multiple edges, holes, etc. That being the case, I'll make sure to run the 3dsmax “STL check modifier”. This will instantly highlight any errors my base mesh contains. Once the modifier has been run it’s time to “Reset Xform” which basically resets all transforms made to my base mesh. Last but not the least is setting up my pivots, I tend to center my pivots to the object and then adjust it to a comfortable position. The reason for this is so that both the pivots in my modeling app and sculpting app match up. I find this to be helpful when working with multiple mesh elements, such as a space marine with lots of separate gear.