Modeling Zanzi

Maya Modeling: Character

In This Class You’ll Access…
This class ‘Modeling Zanzi’ covers the complete modeling of Zanzi to a final animation ready mesh. Compressing the 3:40hr total time down to a 40 min time-lapse with full commentary Andrew will slow the footage in the more interesting areas and explain the harder concepts in more detail. Combined with the previous lessons we should have a solid idea about how to model simple characters in Maya.


We’ll be using the C3dC hotkeys as per usual. And Part 1/4 is repeated from the “Blocking Characters” page.

The next sections will include difficult areas like, joining arms and legs, creating the mouth area, connecting fingers and detailing the wings.

One of the most popular pages here, enjoy watching Andrew create a full character with commentary over 46 mins.

Running Time: 46 mins
Software: Maya 2016
Instructor: Andrew Silke

Class Time: 46 mins

1. Blocking Zanzi With Primitive Modeling (16 mins)

1.1 – Blocking Zanzi (16 mins)

2. Modeling The Mouth and Joining The Hands (12 mins)

2.1 – Mouth And Hands (12 mins)

3. Tweaking And Joining The Arms And Legs (11 mins)

3.1 – Tweaks/Join Arms/Legs (11 mins)

4. Finishing And Creating Wing Structure (5:41 mins)

4.1 – Wings And Finishing (5:41 mins)
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  1. Richard Williams
    July 10, 2017 at 8:41 am ·

    Thanks for these wonderful videos! I’ve been following along modeling Zanzi and have a few questions about your tweaking process.

    First, at the 55 second mark of Modeling Zanzi, video 3.1, you make a cut that made me laugh. To help define the thumb pad you cut across your rectilinear grid, creating two triangles and a 5-sided ngon. Later, you resolve the 5-ngon and one of the triangles—(and I’ve seen your video on when to ignore the quad rule), but this cut made me wonder how many moves ahead did you know you were going to make this cut? Were you setting it up with your previous cuts/moves? Or did it happen ad hoc and you were simply confident you would resolve it later?

    My second question is about your tweaking hotkey workflow. Frequently in video 3.1, you were moving verts in hull polygon mode—and as you worked it occurred to me you knew what the tweaks would look like when you went to SubD smooth mode. Is that right? When I tweak in hull polygon mode, I’m always jumping to smooth to evaluate each tweak, with what seems to me a clunky workflow:
    1. Select mesh
    2. Alt-1 vertex mode
    3. Select vertex
    4. W/translate vertex Ctrl-Alt-3 Smooth
    5. Alt-q for object mode
    6. Alt-q deselect to evaluate

    Is this how you do it? Is there an easier way to evaluate in SubD smooth mode a hull polygon tweak?

    Finally, at the one minute 2 second mark in video 3.1, you were in sculpt mode manipulating the mesh with the grab brush. Was there a particular reason you didn’t show the wireframe frame mesh as you tweaked? When I try it, I’ve got to know the topology so I know what/where to grab.

    Again, thanks for these videos–they’re tremendously fun! 🙂

    • Andrew Silke
      July 10, 2017 at 1:12 pm ·

      Hi Richard all good questions.

      Re 55sec mark in 3.1. I’m just cutting and I’m confident I’ll be able to fix it later. I can’t keep complexity like that in my brain but I trust it’s easy to solve later. You can actually see I’m trying a few things then undoing and changing my mind. I have an old video of this called hack and slash on youtube. This style isn’t as important with modern workflows (I’d quad draw more these days) but the way I think about topology is much the same…

      Yes as you progress with your modeling you won’t need to see the smoothed version of every tweak. Try to keep the mesh in hull modes for longer and view less of the smoothed would be my recommendation overall. You’ll start to feel the smoothed version with time. The hard-lined hull mode is much more informative in most cases. Those hotkeys are basically right. A couple of people have let me know they prefer the component modes on direct hotkeys 1,2,3 and the alt for the wires-haded. But I’ve always been an animator which is why it’s setup that way and animators don’t need component modes. Anyways yes you shouldn’t have to switch ctrl alt 1 and ctrl alt 3 that much, it will click with practice. Having hard hotkeys there may encourage good habits there! 🙂 You could make a hotkey for previewing the smoothed mode and on the hotkey release, you could have it go back to hull and drop. I’ll think about it but I probably won’t put that it. Maybe. For the short term just try to evaluate less.

      As for sculpting without wireframe, yes, that mesh is pretty dense, or dense enough, so no need for wires. I know the mesh is dense and using large brushes I’ll assume I’m tweaking many verts at once. I guess I am seeing the mesh in my head a little, I kind of know what it looks like roughly. With denser meshes wires become less important, ZBrush, for example, the meshes can be basically solid with wires. Proper hires sculpting, Mudbox and ZBrush has taught me those practices and I use those on base meshes like the hands here.

  2. Richard Williams
    July 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm ·

    I can’t keep complexity like that in my brain but I trust it’s easy to solve later.

    That’s how I write. I never worry anymore about getting words down–just get something down and sort it out later! 🙂

  3. ojkoorde
    September 27, 2017 at 5:19 pm ·

    This is probably silly question but I cannot figure this out (or maybe this is my impression since it is time lapse video). When you relax mesh using quad draw relax feature it looks like you drag your mouse over live object with shift selected and mesh relaxes at the point where cursor is. For me relaxing works with click only. Mesh just relaxes when I LMB click, dragging does nothing. I just have to click tens of times all over the mesh to relax it. IS it working for you the same and I just have such impression because video plays faster than actual modeling or there is some magic key combination I cannot find to make it relax while keeping SHIFT and LMB dragging where I want mesh to relax?

    • Andrew Silke
      September 28, 2017 at 12:35 am ·

      Yes that does sounds strange. Hold shift then click and drag with left mouse click (click drag and hold down the mouse button) that should relax the mesh and you don’t have to click lots of times. Give that a go. If that’s not working for you then something is bugging out with Maya.

  4. Martin Woutisseth
    April 2, 2023 at 4:35 pm ·

    Very handy ! As a character designer in 2D and I was struggling a little in Maya, but I’m getting better with time. Now I can finally make my design alive in 3D.

    Since my native tongue is not English, you speak a little bit too fast for me to understand. I sometimes need to rewatch some parts or to really pay attention. Subtitles in English would be helpful too but I know it is complicated, unlike Youtube. Thanks for the extra information in the text too. Everything is very pro and it is underrated content.

  5. Andrew Silke
    April 2, 2023 at 4:38 pm ·

    Thanks Martin, that came up quite a lot, so later videos have been slowed down re the voice.

    Vimeo now supports subtitles too, I wonder if I can switch them on for these old vids? I’ll take a look.

    Keep an eye out for the new stuff coming, I’m now returning to some of this with Zoo2, keep an eye on the updates/social media or discord.

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