In this entry, I will look at some of the software and considerations involved in creating a model ready to send to the stl stage.
The two principle pieces of software I use for model creation are Zbrush by Pixologic and Blender by the Blender Foundation.
Zbrush is my main tool of choice; it is the premier sculpting tool for 3D and has a number of features that make it particularly useful for creating meshes that will make good stl files. It even has its own 3D stl exporter, which works very well.
Blender is the tool I use for base mesh creation and modelling hard surface objects such as guns, swords and armour pieces. Blender is a powerful tool which has the advantage of being completely free, so I encourage anyone interested in 3D modelling to have a go with Blender!
So, with these two tools, how does a model get planned?
Here are two images, one of the gun from my previous entry and the Acthung Cthulhu Servitor Officer from Modiphius Entertainment.
The gun features a number of tiny elements- thin barrel, small trigger, numerous tiny embellishments, which are unsuitable for making a miniature. The nature of a resin, plastic or metal part is limited by both the strength of the material and the ability to force the material into the mould when casting. These tiny parts serve to make the gun unusable in its current state.
Compare it with the SMG the Officer carries- a much thicker barrel, and much less detail, this nonetheless ends up being a fine and detailed piece when it is finally made. A judgement on scale must be made at all stages, and the model on the screen can be deceptive.
It is worth noting here that there are not many guides to this process; most of the 3D modelling tutorials that you can find online have a VFX and videogame focus. Consequently, there is much written about animation, texturing, normal mapping and edgeloop topology which doesn't have any relevance to making minis. Digital Tutors, Gnomon and others offer many excellent tutorials and artist masters such as Ryan Kingslein have astonishing material available, but you need to be ready to pick, choose and adapt it to suit miniatures sculpting. In fact, some tutorials come with a potential health hazard:
Solutions for generating cool textures and maps for gaming can produce unusable files for printing!
Generally, sculptural tutorials and tutorials on core functions of programmes such as ZBrush are excellent. Tutorials about making the 'high res' models from game pipelines can also be helpful. However, much of the information about baking maps and fooling the eye in games, or setting up models for animation in VFX, can lead to adopting processes that make a mesh impossible to print- one example would be creating game efficient models by using double sided polygons to create blades or deleting unseen faces from the backs of pouches. Two common practices found in tutorials that creates the dreaded non manifold (real world impossible) mesh!
For a different take on things, the miniature sculpting tutorials at Miniature Mentor, whilst having nothing to do with digital sculpting, can offer some great insights into the miniature process for traditional mediums, which can be translated into the digital world.
Also, most computer and VFX targeted 3D models are proportionally different to the average miniature. Whilst sites such as Turbosquid offer great models for a price, an artist planning to make miniatures must be ready to make significant alterations to any model that is purchased.
That's all for this post. Next time, I shall detail making a simple weapon from scratch to show the full 3D process from concept art to finished file.
Thanks for reading!