Character Modeling Method - Using Primitives to Build a human-like biped

W19 Loeb

You can use the method shown in the Tutorial for Roughing out your model to create a more human character. Here is how:

Creating an Arm

You can use a cylinder for the arm since it is a shape similar to an arm (note: you can also just extrude the arm out from the shoulder, but this is simpler and helps get a nice round shape).

Create a Poly Cylinder. Rotate it, place it over your arm in the front view.

Rotate it to fit over the arm (I'm working in a Y pose, but you are probably working in a T Pose). Change the Subdivision Axis to 8 in the INPUT node.

Scale the cylinder evenly to fit over the arm and grab the verts on the top, move them to the shoulder and the verts towards the hands and move them to the wrist to create a single clylindar along the entire arm.

When working with image planes, it is often helpful to work in X-ray shading (from Shading menu in view port.

Start in the Front View, limiting your translations to only the X direction (use Red handle on move tool). The go to the Side View to line it up there (using only the Z (blue) manipulator handle.

Next, insert edge loops to get the contour more in line with the image plane. You have two ways to do this. I have a very simple shape with no clothing, so I can simply add multiple edge loops, evenly spaced. If you are planning to move into Z brush, even spacing is more important. If not, work with the natural places for edges in your model, being sure to put an edge at the elbow and wrist!

One at the elbow, one at the wrist, etc. Just do a rough pass at the model for now. Fill in more along the way so the edges are relatively evenly spaced.

Use the Slide Edge tool to move an inserted edge. Rotate and scale as you go.

Keep the spacing between edges fairly even. Insert an edge anywhere there would be a bend in the arm and also where there is clothing you will build as straight geometry (as opposed to an nCloth or ZBrush soft cloth).

Go to the perspective view and work on the shape of the arm from the top. You've been scaling evenly and you need to fix the arm shape, especially around the elbow.

Look at your own arm to get a feel for the shape of an arm. Notice how the inner arm is less round than the outer arm, the shape of the wrist. You aren't going for precise at this point, but you want to get as good a rough shaping as you can.


Now for the torso. You can use a cube or a cylinder for the torso. I've done it both ways and there are pros and cons to each. For this model, we'll use a cylinder as it creates the rounding we want from the start. There are no straight lines on the human body.

Create a cylinder. Move it into place at the waist of your character.

Reduce the Subdivision Axis number to 8.

Select the top vertices and move them up and scale them in.

Then move the bottom verts down to the top of the hips.

Insert an edge loop at the waist and scale it in.

Insert another edge loop (remember you can hit the "g" key to repeat last command, which in this case was Insert Edge Loop) and put it at the bust. Scale it up.

Then match the side view to the image plane. You will see that the cylinder doesn't match. Make the appropriate changes. Add edge loops if needed.

Again, don't add more detail than you need but add in some edge loops if there is a clear edge that you will build up later or if the shape requires it. Move and shape your edges as you go. The goal is to have relatively evenly spaced horizontal edges along the torso, with edges where the body will bend, and edges that flow along the contours of the body and along any geometric clothing you are putting on the character.

Note: For those making clothing out on nCloth, you need to make your character naked--no need for extreme detail such as a belly button or hip bones unless those will show, but you still need edges at any bends and a good edge flow.

Note: For those making tight fitting geometry clothing, you can build that right into your base torso modeling.

Note: For those making looser fitting geometry clothing, it may be easier to start with a naked biped. You can actually duplicate parts of the base mesh and then scale them as needed to make the clothing. Some of it depends on how much of the character is showing through, and how loose or long the clothing is. A longer jacket or tunic, for example, would be better to do separately. A tight t-shirt can be modeled right onto the character as part of the base mesh.

Make sure your edges flow nicely around the body. Edge flow is critical when doing this kind of modeling, especially if there will be animation.

Delete half the model (in the negative X direction).

Pay close attention to the edges around the sides of the body to make sure you have a nice shaping to fit the curvature of the back and the shaping of the hips. A back is not flat! Nothing should be flat.

Delete the top and bottom cap faces of the cylinder.

You only need to have 8-10 faces around the body (7 vertical internal edges) at this point. The more edges you add here, the more edges you need in the legs, arms and neck because they are all going to be merged together very soon and all the edges need to meet edges from the rest of the body.

Work up to the bottom of the neck area and top of the hips as shown below:


You'll do the left leg in just the same way you did the arm. Create a cylinder and move it into place.

You need to set up the cylinder to match the torso, so that the edges line up. Count your vertical edges. Set your INPUTS for the leg to match.

Scale your cylinder up to match the leg size of your character and move it into place roughly.

Select the verts at the bottom and scale them uniformly by using the blue cube in the center of the manipulator for scaling or hit CTRL and the moving the Y axis manipulator (to scale all but Y) or use the green square as your manipulator handle to do the same thing (scale in all directions but the direction that matches the color --red x green y blue z). Remember this trick while modeling your biped. It is often handy to move, scale or rotate in two directions, as opposed to one or three. To do that, find the direction you aren't using and either hit CTRL and that manipulator handle or use the handy squares that do the same thing.

Scale down at the ankle and up at the upper thigh. Do the same thing you did with the arm, adding edges and scaling. Again, you can add them uniformly with the Insert Edge Loop Tool or add them one at a time, moving them into place as you go.

Be sure to match it in the Side view as much as you can. You are building a solid foundation for adding more resolution later.

Tip: As soon as you have your rough base mesh, you can do a trick from the game industry and start laying out your UV's. Laying them out when the model is rough is much easier than after you add more resolution!

Tip: If you want to straighten out a set of vertices along an edge, you can use the scale tool. For example, if I had Vertices like the one below, I could use the Scale in --

Try to keep horizontal edges pretty straight, and all edges moving along the contours.


Delete the bottom cap of the cylinder where the feet will be. To make the feet, make sure your bottom edge is straight, with the shaping the way you want it to be (check the roundness and shape in the perspective window.

yours should. I tried a different way when making this tutorial, but I think keeping the cap is simpler).

Here Is how I like to work:

Extrude the bottom at the ankle, all the way to the bottom of the heel. The select the front four faces and extrude the forward to the front of the foot.

Clean up the edges and make sure your ankle is in the right place and edge flow up the lower leg is good.

Round out the edges on the foot.

Keep making sure your edges along the ankle are nice and straight

Now insert an edge loop around the foot and scale in X

Add more edges as shown

Shape it nicely.

If you are doing toes, don't extrude as far forward at first. Then, you will need to create another face for the little toe and tuck that extra edge into the top and bottom of the foot, making a triangle if needed. Then shape each toe so the vertices are in a good shape for that toe (pay attention to how toes are shaped) and then extrude once to the joint in the toe, reshape and extrude again to the tip of each toe (do them one at a time). Keep checking in 3 mode. Move and shape and scale until you get the look you like.

Look closely at your image plane but also at foot images and your own foot/shoes to get the shaping correct. Size your toes appropriately. Each toe will be two extrusions, one to the center of the toe and then shape the verts and then another extrusion to the tip of the toe, scale and shape as shown above.

Check your model in 3 smoothed mode along the way.

Freeze transformations

Delete the history.


Create a cylinder for the hand, rotate it and put it into place. Make the subdivision axis to 8. Match the verts to the verts at the arm.

You can duplicate and create each of the fingers. Delete all the faces on the front and back of the finger and palm.

Continue along, roughing out the foundation. Keep duplicating and moving

Do the same for the thumb.

Select all the objects and choose Mesh> Combine. Now they are all one object.

Select two edges on each finger, between the pointer and middle finger. Extrude and scale in Y

Then merge the vertices (Merge to Center)

Do the same for the other fingers.

Keep going until all four fingers are connected by the webbing.

Select the edges facing the palm and extrude toward the palm, then extrude again as shown

There are too many vertices to merge this to the palm of the hand. Select the verts at the edge where the web comes together and merge them to center

Do the same for all the fingers

Then delete the edges that are in the middle of each of the triangles you just created and delete them to make a quad.

Move the edges along the palm of the and so they match better with the edges along the pinkie and pointer.

Insert edge loops along the palm as shown

And then one in the middle

The tumb connects at the four faces along the thumb side. Delete those faces

Insert edges to meet the web of each hand.

Shape the palm a bit.

Insert a few more edge loops so the hands connect nicely to the edges of each finger.

Plus a couple along the palm as shown above.

Connect the vertices as shown

This will help the palm bend nicely.

Then use the split poly tool to connect an edge between the two verts and make a straight edge from down the palm as shown

Move the thumb verts into place to see how they will connect.

Merge the vertices of the thumb to the verts of the palm.

Remember that the g key repeats the last command so you can select two verts and hit g.

Do the same along the palm of the hand and fingers. We need to fix the top of the hand still, so that will be next.

Keep going as far as you can around the top of the hand, but you won't be able to get very far.

Insert 6 edge loops along the top to match. Use the Multiple Edge Loops Option in the Insert Edge Loops Options Box. Choose 6

Insert 6 edge loops along the top to match. Use the Multiple Edge Loops Option in the Insert Edge Loops Options Box. Choose 6

Insert 6 edge loops along the top to match. Use the Multiple Edge Loops Option in the Insert Edge Loops Options Box. Choose 6

Insert 6 edge loops along the top to match. Use the Multiple Edge Loops Option in the Insert Edge Loops Options Box. Choose 6

Insert the 6 edge loops on each side of the center.

Merge verts between the fingers and the top of the

Then you just need to clean up the shape a bit to look more like a hand.

Add another edge loop right below where the fingers and palm meet

To reduce the number of edges going into the arm, merge vertices to the center as shown

Then you can delete the edges that will connect up as shown here

And, as before, delete the edges in the center of the triangles to make a quad

You can slide edges and use soft select to select verts and shape the hand. The add a bunch of edges along the index finger, putting three edges at each of the knuckles for lots of bend.

To make the tips of the fingers, select the edge ring at the tip and go to Mesh>Fill Hole

Then use Multi Cut tool to cut the shape into quads by making a cross in the tip.

Do the same for the thumb. Shape the hand, moving the thumb down a bit as it does on your hand. And add bend. Add edges as needed.

Do the same for all the other fingers and shape as needed.

Merge the arm to the shoulder.

And shape the upper edge of the thigh so it is rounded as the thigh is. The top Edge loop around the top of the leg should go up and around the hip, with the outer edge much higher than where the crotch will be

Select two edges at the bottom of the torso in the front at the center of the body and shift select the two at the back in the center. Go to Edit Mesh>Bridge>Options Box and choose Smooth path and Curve and 3 divisions. This will create the crotch. Now shape the opening to the leg so it will fit nicely with the leg and then merge the vertices.

The go to the neck area and start to build the neck opening shape. Extrude the edges up twice for the neck.

Look at the front view to be sure all the verts are right on the Y axis, using the X key to snap to grid.

Save. Delete By type. Center Pivot. Go to

Mesh>Mirror Geometry>Options

Mirror direction will be in --X

Merge with original will be on

Merge vertices on.

Hit Mirror

Depending on how close to the Y axis all your verts are, the verts should all be merged. If you have a few stragglers, you can merge by hand or increase the Merge Threshold. The Merge Threshold is giving you and area around the center verts and if there are any verts nearby they will merge. So if the threshold is too big, you will have verts you didn't intend being merged. If that is the case, make the Merge Threshold a smaller number, like .0001.

Now all that is left is to refine the shape a bit. You can use the symmetry settings to refine them both. But don't add too much more resolution as you go.

Be sure to shape the back, the butt, the under arms.

It is good to add an edge around the shoulder to make it move better, using the multi cut tool

You will notice this create one triangle in the front and back and one n-sided polygon. Split it with one line as shown

Do this on the front and back of both arms.