A Tutorial on 3D Human Modeling

Written by darrin koltow
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A Tutorial on 3D Human Modeling
CAD software can create 3D models of humans. (human body image by Alhazm Salemi from Fotolia.com)

Modelling a human with 3D design using computer aided design software might seem a daunting task if you've had no training in anatomy or CAD. The human body is visually complex, and people are quick to notice any irregularities in another person's physical appearance. But, complex shapes can be broken down into simpler ones. Once you've learnt to do this with other objects that are progressively more complex, you'll be ready to tackle the human body.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • CAD (computer aided design) program

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  1. 1

    Get JPEG or other image files for the following views of the human body: top, left and front.

  2. 2

    Create plane objects for each of the reference images, sizing each plane to its image's dimensions. For example, if the front image's file is 950 by 1024 pixels, make the front plane 950 by 1024. Then, use the material or texture editor to load the image files onto the planes.

  3. 3

    Arrange all reference planes at right angles to each other to form a diorama. Verify you've assembled the diorama correctly by rotating it and sensing the three dimensions of the face from the 2D reference images.

  4. 4

    Begin the torso: Create a cylinder whose height and diameter match the front view's reference image. In left view, scale the cylinder's width to match the torso's width.

  5. 5

    Using the front and right views, identify locations on your cylinder that don't match the reference images.

  6. 6

    Turn on your program's soft selection feature, also called proportional editing and select a vertex at the centre of a mismatched region. While watching front and right views, move the vertex to its correct location. The soft selection mode will adjust surrounding vertices to ensure the torso's surface remains smooth. Repeat this adjustment for each region.

  7. 7

    Form the right leg: Create a cylinder in front view that matches the top one eighth of the right thigh.

  8. 8

    Extrude the cylinder's bottom face a short distance down, following the outline of the front reference image. Extrusion is stretching, in 3D modelling terms.

  9. 9

    Apply the rotate, move and scale tools to adjust the plane to match the reference image.

  10. 10

    Perform the previous two steps repeatedly until the complete leg is finished. Do not make the left leg. You'll do that task later.

  11. 11

    Form the right foot: make a box object sized to the broad dimensions of the right and front reference views. Build the ankle by tapering the box's rear with a modifier or soft selection, then pulling upward with soft selection. Attach the foot to the leg.

  12. 12

    Form the upper and lower arms in the same fashion as the right leg, starting with a cylinder and then stretching it in a series of short cylindrical segments down to the wrist. Make hands as square boxes. Make each finger as a chain of three small cylinders, except the thumb, which has just two cylinders. Attach each finger to the hand.

  13. 13

    Form the neck as a cylinder extruded from the top centre of the torso.

  14. 14

    Make the head: Use the cut tool to trace the right view's outline, the profile, onto a segmented plane.

  15. 15

    Delete the segments outside the profile. Then, as you did with the arms and legs, extrude the head in chunks. Work from left to right, and be sure each chunk's top and bottom follow the front view's outline of the head. Correct misshaped regions with the soft selection tool. Make the ear as a small box with curved corners and tapered bottom.

  16. 16

    Slice the complete figure with a vertical plane running through the figure's horizontal centre. Delete the left half of the figure, then restore it by applying your program's symmetry modifier.

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