Modelling Overview

Overview Of Modelling

This Page Is Beta: Temp vids and some content may not match.


Modelling is fundamental to 3d, without models we have nothing to view. Generally any object with a solid shape will be modelled. Elements that are not modelled might include fur, hair, smoke, fire etc.

There are 2 main styles of modelling I’ll be teaching…

1. Polygonal modelling/Sub division surface modelling
2. Sculpting90

Sculpting simply uses many more polygons and tools that can accomodate handling large amounts of polys, much like pixels.

I teach polygon modelling in Maya and Sculpting in ZBrush. Newer versions of Maya now have sculpting (2016+)

Here’s two videos demonstrating each approach.

Poly Modelling In Maya: Proffessor 6 hr timelapse (Andrew Silke)


Sculpting: Bill Murray 1:30hr timelapse (Andrew Silke)


Sculpting might look faster and easier and can include more details, but millions of polygons makes it very difficult to animate and render even in modern software. So we’ll usually have to convert back to polygons base meshes which are much lighter for animation.

Here snailman shows this in the retopology in Topogun. Although these days we’d use the quadraw in Maya this process still holds pretty true.

Sculpt and Retopology: Snailman 2.5 hrs (Andrew Silke)


A quick anim test on snailman, *note the details are resculpted back into the mesh and displaced using a displacement texture map. This allows us to get a lot of detail on an aniamtable mesh.

Although I modified the shell in the final version, the bodies base mesh is basically what you’ll see at the end of the sculpt retopo timelapse result.

Anim: Snailman Test(Andrew Silke)


There are also automatic retopology tool that can potentially speed up the process though it still requires a it of manual work for characters. Props however can sometimes be much rougher depending on what’s needed.

The following video is a retopology in 1:20hrs using ZRemesher which is the autoretopology tool in ZBrush.

Automatic Retopology: Devil Girl 1hr 20 mins hrs (Andrew Silke)




We also often divide hard surface (machined) and organic models. We generally divide the two because the approaches are a little different. Hard Surface modelling requires smooth machined object and make use of computer generated splines. Organic modelling requires more attention to variation and often includes more sculpting or organic shape manipulation. Hardsurfaced is more machined and logical, and usually for students unintuatively it’s a lot easier!

Hardsurface Maya: Shotgun 2hrs Timelapse (Andrew Silke)


You can also hardsurface in ZBrush, though I still prefer polys in many situations, but for radically complex shapes ZBrush is really good.



Topology On Pinterest



*Please ignore this section for now.
In this course there are 7 Main Lessons for a beginner. By lesson 7 you will have a good idea on the modeling process, but by no means will you be proficient. After lesson 7 we will focus on your project and continue to refine your modeling process.

The more you can study in your own time using 3rd Party Courses the more of my time can be spent reviewing your work and answering Maya questions.

Many students skip lessons 1-4 if they already have modeling experience.


*Please ignore this section for now.

Modeling 1. Overview, Beginner (Maya, Polygons)
– Overview (Thorny Devil Lizard)
– Interface (shelf, perspective, switching to 4 views, toolbox, outliner, creating primitives)
– The Polygon
– Objects
– Navigating the view port
– Moving objects, rotate and scale

Modeling 2. Roughing Out Primitives, Beginner (Maya, Polygons)
– Building models from primitive objects
– placing objects, translate, rotate, scale
– using the move manipulator detail, clicking on arrows and moving planar to camera
– using two views to check 3d space, where an object is in 3d space
– frame selected
– Build a simple cartoon block model
– wireframe and shaded view mode

Modeling 3. Tweaking Basics (Maya, Polygons)
– cameras, orthographic and make camera 1 to show the perspective camera
– Difference between object and component mode (right click)
– Demo combining objects example
– tweaking vertices
– tweaking groups of vertices example
– polygon primitive options and modifying after
– Subd hotkeys
– duplicate
– delete
– double clicking to select edges demo on plane when edge will stop (quads)
– group and mirror (neg scale)
– show outliner how it works like a folder structure
– display selected and hide selected
– create a cartoony face just out of primitives, ears (tweak) nose tweak and eyes

Modeling 4. Mesh Tools (Maya, Polygons)
– Basic tools for cutting into polygons (split poly, edgeloop)
– Combining and extracting models
– Merging vertices and bridge and append to polygon tools
– extrude and bevel
– subdivision surface toggle
– create an object by combining different primitive shapes
– basic topology demo
– Deleting history

video: Subdivision Surfaces
video: Topology

Modeling 5. Modeling Fast (Maya, Polygons)
– Installing and Using Andrew’s Preferences
– Becoming faster modeler with hotkeys
– exercise, student works to combine shapes quickly memorizing hotkeys
– snapping points
– different ways of using the move tool

Modeling 6. Managing Vertices (Maya, Polygons)
– Exercise tweaking verts efficiently
– Triangulate tumble method of tweaking
– Soft selection
– Sculpt Polygon tool
– Exporting models between Mudbox and Maya
– Basic sculpting tools in Mudbox
– Rearranging tools in Mudbox

Modeling 7. Combining Mudbox and Maya Workflow (Maya, Polygons)
– Demo building a head in polys and sculpting in mudbox demo
– Using keyframes to compare old models in Maya
– Using a sculpt as reference to topologise
– Mudbox Overview
– Sculpt tools
– Sculpting Layers
– Masking
– Sculpt layers
– Managing models
– Sudividing In Mudbox

Modeling Area: Sculpting
Sculpting in cg is the process of subdividing a model almost to the pixel, sometimes models have millions of polygons and the artist uses brushes and masks to sculpt geometry rather than tweaking topology. Sculpting is extremely useful for creating form free of topology constraints, still sculptures etc. However if a model needs to be animated it must be retopologised to a base mesh.

I encourage students to learn sculpting to discover form and to get into a more creative head space. But we must always keep in mind that if we want our models to be animated topology is extremely important.

Modelling Area: Topology
Learning Topology is a must if you want to animate your characters. You may see a lot of very high detailed sculpts on the web made in ZBrush but always note how many of those models are ever animated!


Andrew Silke

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