Building a Base Mesh pt 3: Box-modelling a foot in Silo

Building a Base Mesh pt 3: Box-modelling a foot in Silo

Part three of Building a base mesh series. I use two boxes to model a foot and then layout UVs. Take notice that I make sure my foot has an octogon (8-sided polygon) at the top. This will be important when I put the pieces together.

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.


Get the most out of Blender

Rather than type out text tutorials, I thought I would collect links to some of the best video tutorials for Blender. Most of the tutorials give tips for rendering but the last tutorial shows how to use GoB, an unofficial GoZ for sending models between Blender and ZBrush.

LuxRender tutorials

  1. Introduction to LuxRender in Blender 2.5 from BlenderCookie (26:36 minutes)
    Basic setup information on LuxRender by Jonathan Williamsonluxrender_on_blendercookie

  2. Introduction to Lighting in Luxrender and Blender (9:07 minutes)
    Is your LuxRender a black screen? You may have the lights turned the wrong way. Avoid this with the help of Frederik Steinmetz

  3. The Secrets of Realistic Texturing in Blender (34:27)
    Although done in Cycles, the advice applies to other renderers. Make your renders look better with texture advice from Andrew Price.

Blender & ZBrush

  1. GoB Zbrush Import-Export for Blender (10:05 minutes)

Blender with BSurfaces: My Dream 3D app come true?

BSurfaces v1.5 on Vimeo

Image taken from a video by Blend_ideas at vimeo.

Three years ago, I knew about Blender but it still had many usability issues and had poor implementations of the things I was used to in commercial software.

The move to the new 2.5 interface made Blender more attractive and easier to learn. With the addition of BSurfaces and Cycles, Blender is seriously giving commercial software a run for its money in the areas of modeling and rendering respectively. External renderers like YafaRay and LuxRender make Blender even more competitive. Sculpting and animation are two areas where Blender is still not as strong as compared to commercial software like ZBrush (can’t rebuild subdivision levels, can’t handle billion+ polygon counts, and a limited number of sculpting tools) or Maya (more compatibility with other 3D apps and sophisticated rigging and animation tools) but given the rate of improvement this could change.

What is so great about BSurfaces? Put simply, BSurfaces allows an artist to create an intricate surface with just a few hand drawn lines; ZBrush has a similar feature but Blender’s version preserves good topology. BSurfaces also supports retopology in a method very similar to Topogun. Draw the guidelines and BSurfaces fills in the polygons. Although it does not come standard with Blender, you can download the addon from Blender Artists Bsurfaces thread (Dec. 1, 2015). If Blender had been this good in 2009, I could have saved myself some serious change. Click on the image above to see BSurfaces in action in a video by Blend_Ideas.

Update August 17, 2012: QRemesher in ZBrush 4R4 provides similar topology functions to Blender’s BSurfaces.

ZBrush 4R2 – DynaMesh: Bye bye manual retopology?

Update Jan 29, 2013: Even with ZBrush 4 Release 5,  QRemesher and the topology brush, the dream of never having to do manual retopology is just that a dream. Manual still gives the best results, although I am sure Pixologic will improve their algorithms. The title of the article is a bit misleading but I keep it for historical purposes.

Update Oct 8, 2011: Free ZBrush 4 Release 2 Tutorials from Pixologic

DynaMesh is a new feature of ZBrush 4 release 2 that allows the user to add to a mesh while at the same time maintaining an evenly distributed topology! What is even better about DynaMesh is that the new topology is mostly made of quads, making it easier to sculpt in ZBrush and animate in other 3D apps. I am not certain but I suspect this instant retopology technology was borrowed from Sculptris after it was acquired by Pixologic. The main difference between Sculptris and ZBrush with instant retopology is that Sculptris only uses triangles whereas ZBrush uses mostly quads. While DynaMesh reduces the work required for retopology it is not perfect. Stray triangles may appear in the retopologized surface that will need to be edited out manually.

To make use of DynaMesh, here are the steps.

1) Drop your Ztool onto the canvas
2) Enter edit mode (press ‘T’)
3) Make the tool Polymesh3D
4) Open the Geometry palette
5) Click on the ‘DynaMesh’ button

Once DynaMesh is enabled, ZBrush can automatically retopologize your mesh every time you hold down the control key while clicking and dragging on the canvas. Simply clicking and dragging turns sculpted features into a more uniform mesh and maintains quads for most of the new retopologized mesh. This is useful for fixing topology after stretching a model with the Morph Elastic Brush or the Snake Hook Brush.

Dynamesh really shines when retopologizing after inserting a mesh. ZBrush 4 Realase 2 has added a number of “Insertion Brushes” which allow the artist to add meshes to the current mesh. In my example I inserted a nose on a sphere. Control clicking and dragging will combine the old mesh with the inserted mesh. The combined mesh will again be composed mostly of quads with no breaks between the previously separate meshes. To prevent two meshes from being combined, remember to use Group split before remeshing to turn them into separate subtools.

You can also control the resolution of your retoplogized mesh with the slider underneath the DynaMesh button. Increasing the slider before remeshing creates a finer mesh. Decreasing the slider before remeshing creates a coarser mesh.

Below is my DynaMesh example sped up 5 times.

Simple Camera Control in Blender 2.5

Here is a simple method for controlling a camera in blender.

1) In the standard Blender file, use SHIFT+A in the 3D View to create an Empty Mesh. This will be invisible in a render.

2) Select the Camera in the Outliner by clicking on it.

3) Holding down the SHIFT key, select the Empty in the Outliner  so that both Camera and Empty are selected.

4) Click inside the 3D View.

5) Type ‘CTRL T’. This will pull up the constraint menu. Click on the middle option ‘Track to constraint’

It matters that the Camera is selected first and the Empty  is selected second. In this order, wherever you move the cube, the Camera will turn to track it. In the opposite order, the empty will track the camera. To see what the camera sees, click ‘0’ on the number pad. If you do not have a number pad, remember to enable number pad emulation in User preferences under Input. I’ve saved this file as my default so that I can easily control the camera direction in my renders.

From Daz Studio to Blender 2.5

There are two methods to send Daz figures from Daz Studio to Blender 2.5. Which method to use depends on the final purpose of the transfer, animation in Blender or static illustration in Blender. These methods work in both Daz Studio 3 and the newer Daz Studio 4. They won’t work in versions of Blender prior to 2.5. I use Blender 2.58 at the time of this writing. Unfortunately, with both methods, you will need to re-assign your materials to the figure in Blender. With both methods you will have to fix the file to show textures in Blender.

Method One: Animation

With this method, none of your poses will be preserved by Blender. You will need to repose your Daz Figure inside Blender.

Step 1)Export your Daz Studio scene in Collada Digital Asset Exchange format (*.dae). This will preserve rigging from Daz to Blender. In Blender, rigging is called an Armature. Make certain you have the following settings:

Standard Collada
Weld geometry
Remove unused vertices
Ignore invisible nodes
Bake scale
Merge skeletons
Collect Maps

Step 2)

Move your Collada file into the same folder as your exported images. It should have the same name asyoput file. e.g. move myfile.dae into the folder myfile.

Step 3)

Edit the Collada file in any text editor by removing the path to your texture maps. e.g. change “./myfile/texture.jpg” into “texture.jpg”. This can be done with a simple Find and Replace.

Step 4)

Open Blender and remove any objects in scene. You can select items in Blender by clicking on the object’s label inside the Outliner panel or by clicking on the object in the 3D view. Tapping ‘x’ for delete and hitting enter will delete the object. Don’t remove the lights or the camera unless you plan to create new ones.

Step 5)

Import the Collada File > Import > COLLADA (*.dae)

After scrolling to zoom out, you should end up with a figure on the ground like this:


Open the Root Node in the Outliner then select the Armature. This is the visual representation of your rigging. You can change it so that it is less obtrusive using the Armature tab in the Properties panel. I selected ‘Stick’ view for my armature.

Step 7)

At this point you can select the Root Node then resize and rotate your imported figure.

Step8 )

To pose parts of the figure, first expand the hierarchy for the armature in the Outliner. Select the part you want to move and use the rotator tool to rotate the limb. As mentioned before you will still need to re-assign materials but all of them should be in a Maps folder created when the Collada file was created. Now start animating!

Method Two: Static Illustration

Step 1)

Export a Wavefront object from Daz Studio at Blender Size (2%) using these settings:

Scale: 2%
Ignore invisible nodes
Use Bone welds
Remove unused vertices
Write Groups > Use Figure Name
Collect Maps

Step 2)

Re-Assign materials. This can be done quickly with obj files by moving your obj and mtl files into the Maps folder created during the export. Next edit the mtl file. Change all references from “/Maps/”  to just the name of the exported image file. For example “/Maps/skin.jpg” becomes “skin.jpg”. Another simple Find and Replace operation.

Step 3) Import the file into Blender. You’re done.

Which is better? the answer obviously depends upon whether you want to animate your figure in Blender or not.




Learning ZBrush 4 – Morphs

UPDATE Feb. 2013: Victoria 4 and Michael 4 are no longer FREE  but DazStudio 4.5 is FREE.

This article will focus on morph creation in ZBrush from an existing model. For my examples I will be using

  1. The free models Victoria 4 and Michael 4 available for download from Daz3D,
  2. DazStudio 3 from,
  3. MorphLoader Pro from
  4. Silo available from Nevercenter and
  5. ZBrush 4 from Pixologic

ZBrush’s sculpting tools are confusingly called “3D brushes”. If no model is present the currently active 3D brush is grayed out. When a model is on the canvas, 3D brushes can be accessed in Edit mode either by pressing the currently active brush button or by typing the letter ‘B’. None of the brushes will add or remove topology. They will only expand or contract parts of the mesh thus making them perfect for morph creation.

Each of the models pictured above were made from Victoria 4 using a combination of the Standard brush, the Move brush, the Clay brush, the Planar Flatten Brush, the Smooth brush, the Transpose Brush and their variants.

Let us now focus on aging the Daz models using ZBrush. I have gotten my best results by exporting an OBJ file from DazStudio. Unlike Poser, DazStudio allows it’s users to export models at different sizes for the different 3D modeling programs. I always select the Silo setting (1 unit = 10 cm) and turn on bone welds so that I get a large model for detailing. The UV settings don’t matter for export to ZBrush since you will need to recreate those later if you plan on texturing your model. The rest of the settings can be left at their defaults.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, always set the Z-intensity to a low level and gradually increase it to develop subtle changes in your digital sculpture. Starting with the Standard brush, follow the main muscle groups of the face. Wrinkles tend to follow muscle groupings as pictured in the écorché (flayed) face to the left. The orbicular muscles of the mouth and eyes tend to have rounded wrinkles that follow those contours. Wrinkles on the sides tend to straighten out and follow the Zygomatic process (cheek bone). Make the chin and ears sag using the Move brush. The new Move Topolgical brush is excellent for collapsing the lips. To create crevices hold down the ALT button in combination with your selected brush to push into the model. This is useful for pushing in the cheeks for sunken-in look.  You can also switch from ZAdd to ZSub to get the same pushing-in effect.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the different brushes to see what effect they will have. Try the Slash brush to make lines and the Clay brush to build up form. To make your brush strokes straighter, press L once to turn on lazy mouse. Pressing L again will turn lazy mouse off. Hold down the SHIFT key to go over and smooth your work. As you work, you may find it hard to add more detail into the existing DAZ model. This is good time to subdivide your model by pressing CTRL-D. This can also be changed in the Geometry palette by clicking on the DIVIDE button. Be careful about clicking the DEL Lower button. This will delete your lower subdivision level and make it impossible to import your morph. Once you have subdivided your model you can go down in subdivision levels by typing SHIFT-D and up in level by typing D. Remember you can always undo your strokes by hitting CTRL-Z.

For the final touches, combine Standard brush with one of the Alphas (preferably Alpha 58) to create random crevices in the mesh.

If you are satisfied with your morph, lower it to the lowest subdivision level with SHIFT-D or by moving the SDiv slider to 1 in the Geometry palette, then export it as an OBJ from the Tool palette. You can then use the MorphLoader Pro add-on for Daz Studio to apply your morph to your DAZ figure.

Remember to check “yes” for DazStudio Exported, “yes” for Used Bone Welds and “yes” for Reverse Deformations. Viola you have created your first morph using ZBrush.