Author Archives: Webmaster K

Building a Base Mesh pt 1: Box-modelling a hand in Silo

Happy New Year!

I am beginning a new series where I show how to build a base mesh for sculpting and animation step by step. This mesh will be designed to use fewer polygons for better subdivision. This first part shows how to build a hand. I’ve created two versions of the tutorial, one with no words the other with verbal and written descriptions. I’m hoping the non-verbal version will be useful for non-English speakers. Please let me know in the comments which version you prefer.

Five Tips for a general purpose 3D workstation

I’ve developed 3D content for a few years and have gained some insights in working with the hardware. Most of my experience is in dealing with ZBrush, Silo3D, and Blender. I’ve also worked a little with Maya. Here are five general guidelines for selecting or building a 3D workstation in 2017.

1) Get more cores and more CPUs.

3D content creation software is mostly multithreaded. A multicore processor can better handle multithreaded tasks. Having more than one CPU with multiple cores further increases the efficiency and speed of a computer. For 3D functions, multiple cores are more important than clock speed. A dual CPU 3.46 GHz hexacore unit (2 x 6 cores = 12 cores total) can outpace a machine with a single CPU 4GHz quad core (4 cores total).

2) Get more RAM but not too much.

RAM is also a consideration when getting more cores but more RAM is not necessarily going to improve performance beyond a certain level. More RAM will cost more money. Get at least 16 GB of RAM. Hexacore processors tend to prefer RAM in multiples of three (3×4=12, 3×8=24, 3×16=48, etc.) but check with the manufacturer of your CPU for the best set up. I wouldn’t go much beyond 64 GB. I think buying 128 GB of RAM is a waste of money. Your kids’ college tuition could be cheaper than the RAM 😉

3) Get more Drive space.

3D files are gigantic. More drive space provides creators more flexibility for storing data and the ability to work on larger more complex scenes. A solid state drive (SSD) improves load times of software but using it for storage can significantly increase the cost of the machine. I tend to go with a hybrid approach. Store the software on a smaller SSD (120 GB to 512 GB) and store my files on a separate larger hard drive or RAID (4 TB or higher).

4) Avoid non-upgradeable machines.

The ability to replace and upgrade parts in a 3D workstation extends the life of that workstation. It gives the owner the flexibility to add components as needed and enhance parts that began at a basic level. All-in-one computers and laptops tend to be less upgradable than tower computers. If you do get a less expandable machine, you’ll have to get the top of the line at the beginning to ensure maximum work life, but that also means top dollar. With an upgradable machine, you can begin at a low level with less money and gradually enhance it to the top tier as you buy new components.

For those that prefer Macs, the ability to upgrade has caused some professional studios to stick with the classic Mac Pro (2009-2012) rather than getting the newer 2013 Mac Pro. A used tower off eBay or OWC can cost less than half the price of a new Mac Pro with almost the same performance. The classic can also house many components instead of sprawling them across the desk in external enclosures. If you do go that route, ensure the older machine has the upgraded dual CPU Xeon 3.46 GHz hexacore processors to provide the best performance. Another option is to wait until 2018; Apple recently announced that in 2018 the Mac Pro would return to a modular (upgradable) design.

5) Select the appropriate GPU.

Gaming is not the same as creating 3D content. The GPU draws the game on the screen and is critical for fast, smooth gameplay. In gameplay, the GPU outputs frames in milliseconds to give users immediate feedback and details are omitted or drawn very roughly to improve speed. For 3D content creation, fine detail is critical for high quality still images and breathtaking animations. 3D render engines can take anywhere from minutes to several days to develop a single frame of a feature-length animation; that is why game promo videos often look much sharper than the actual gameplay.

The importance of the GPU varies markedly depending on the 3D software employed. Mental Ray uses the CPU far more than the GPU for creating maximum resolution pictures. KeyShot does not use the GPU at all. ZBrush is CPU and RAM bound. Octane Render fully depends on GPUs for generating high-resolution images (see Octane Render GPU Performance Comparison). The more powerful the GPU, the better. It also favors Nvidia’s proprietary CUDA core technology (see OpenCL vs. CUDA: Which has better application support?).  Blender can use the GPU for rendering in Cycles and LuxRender, but the amount of RAM in the GPU limits utilization. In Blender, a complex scene containing large textures can overwhelm the GPU, thus forcing CPU rendering. An ultra-wide screen performs better with an ultra-quality GPU. Buy the GPU appropriate for the applications and hardware you plan to use.

In summary, when building or buying a 3D workstation the choice of 3D software should influence the selection of hardware. More money spent on components does not necessarily translate into better performance.  Finally, the ability to upgrade can extend the life of a machine.

A sculptural approach to drawing

“Line is an artistic invention. It does not exist in nature

Chiaroscuro, the drawing method I will teach you to use in this book provides an alternative, and more convincing, way to give the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface.”

The artist’s complete guide to drawing the head by William L. Maughan, p. 22

I am purposefully hyperbolic when I say that The artist’s complete guide to drawing the head by William L. Maughan is the best book on drawing I have ever read. Light and dark defines the edges and shapes of three-dimensional surfaces. Maughan uses this insight to create realistic portraits and demonstrates his methods in clear, simple language for all levels of readers. I remember learning about Chiaroscuro from my favorite high school art teacher, Mr. Dan Miller more years ago than I care to admit:) This book goes in depth and fleshes out the technique Mr. Miller tried to teach me long ago.

The reason I say that this book presents a sculptural approach to drawing is that when sculpting, artists must also concern themselves with the application of light and dark to define form. Sculpting is more challenging than drawing in that form changes depending upon the angle you view your sculpture whereas drawing is a single static view. The techniques in this book apply to any realistic visual art which is what makes it the best book on illustrating I have ever read.

Although the book focuses on portraiture on paper, the principles of Chiaroscuro apply more generally to all attempts at mimicking three-dimensional form. Without light and dark to define form, the human eye cannot distinguish valleys from mountains or noses from faces. The artist’s complete guide to drawing the head by William L. Maughan is a clear, concise book with wider uses than just drawing on paper.

The excellent illustration above is by William L. Maughan.

Kitbashing: Creating a figure from parts

Category : 3-D Modeling

Kitbash is the practice of putting together different models (kits) to create a newer model. The embedded videos show kitbashes of my previous sculpts of an arm, a leg and a base sculpt to create a male character and a female character.

The A-B-C’s of Artistic Anatomy: 10 Great resources for learning


In studying anatomy, one resource is never sufficient. Every teacher, author and software developer has a different approach to anatomy. Combining these approaches gives the artist a full appreciation of the complexity and sophistication of the human figure. Here are 10 Apps, Books and Courses that provide the A-B-Cs for learning human anatomy.

1) Scott Eaton’s Anatomy for Artists Online (Course)

In this 8 week course, Scott Eaton goes in depth to describe every muscle and bone that has an affect on the surface anatomy of the human body. Scott has a background in both engineering and art and applies his knowledge in both fields to effectively teach anatomy for artists. He explains step by step each portion of the human body beginning with the axial skeleton (head and torso) and moving out to the appendicular skeleton (arms and legs). He also points out common anatomical mistakes made by artists in his “Gallery abominate”. This course is expensive, especially in Canadian dollars :), but it is definitely worth every penny. Students have the option of full enrolment with feedback directly from Eaton or standard enrolment with no feedback.

2) Artistic Anatomy by Dr. Paul Richer (Book)

This book is the granddaddy of all art anatomy books and is still a useful resource despite being over 125 years old! Translated from French to English in 1971, the book gives detailed illustrations of the muscles and bones relevant for artists. All illustrations are done without perspective to make clear the relationships between body parts.

3) Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Elliot Goldfinger (Book)

This book is unique in that is has both clear illustrations of the muscles and bones alongside photos from life. There is also a section on facial expression. In many ways it is improvement over Dr. Richer’s book.

4) 3D Anatomy for the Artist  (Mac, iPad and iPhone App)

Developed by Catfish Animation Studio, This app is as close to real life dissection as possible. Users can view all the muscles and peel each one off to view the relationships between them. I find this app extremely useful for studying arm and leg anatomy and seeing how the muscles twist around the ulna and radius (forearm) or the tibia and fibula (lower leg).

5) L’écorché App (Mac, iPad and iPhone App)

Developed by Michael Defoe and Scott Eaton, this 3D app is based upon the original L’écorché sculpture by the French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon (completed in 1767). Updated with modern discoveries of human anatomy, this is mostly faithful to the original sculpture and gives a good overview of surface anatomy that can be viewed as a whole figure or in parts.

6) Anatomy for 3D Artists: The Essential Guide for CG Professionals by Chris Legaspi (Author), 3dtotal Publishing (Editor) (Book)

Great examples of how to construct the human figure in 3D software. This book is also useful for demonstrating the insertions and origins for muscles in various poses. This is one of the few resources that give equal time to describing female and male anatomy.

7) Anatomy for Sculptors: Understanding Human Anatomy by Uldis Zarins with Sandis Kondrats (Authors), Monika Hanley (Editor), Sabina Grams (Photographer), Edgars Vegners (Illustrator) (Book)

This book focuses mainly on illustrations of the human form from many different views. There is little commentary or description. In some ways this has advantages over other anatomy books in that the artists can avoid being distracted by words. Sometimes descriptions are required however, that is why the other resources on this list are still essential.

8) Proko TV (Course/Youtube Channel) and the Skelly App (App)
Stan Prokopenko has a playful approach to studying human anatomy. He goes in depth with describing the origins and insertions of muscles with the help of his 3d animated sidekick, Skelly. With the Skelly App, artists can experiment with posing the skeleton. He encourages artists to practice drawing muscles over the skeleton to improve their understanding.

9) Figure Drawing (for all it’s worth) by Andrew Loomis (Book)

This book is another classic anatomy book. The book focuses more on aesthetics than detailed human anatomy. His illustrations are beautiful and he borrows examples from Dr. Paul Richer (p 62-63) and Jean-Antoine Houdon (p 175)

10) UArtsy by Ryan Kinslien et al. (Courses)

Kingslein and his collaborators offer various courses for learning anatomy and applying that knowledge to drawing and sculpture.


Another sculpt in

Here is another sculpt stored in I used Decimation Master in ZBrush to reduce the file size and UV Master to preserve my colors. Using, the viewer can pitch, roll and zoom in on a 3d object. Click inside the dark rectangle above to see how it works.

Gender with Bammes Skeleton

The final video in my Bammes Skeleton Trilogy. This shows differences between the genders.

Ecorche on Bammes Skeleton

I’ve added muscles to my Bammes skeleton based upon reference from Dr. Paul Richer and Scott Eaton.