One of the current projects has me working on building a low poly character for a mobile game from concept to 3D. Some of the limitations set is that the character model must not exceed 1,000 tri’s and that it’s style must conform with a particular cartoon series which in this case is Gravity Falls. In addition to these two limitations my model must be posed along with my fellow group members models for a final shot to see how well we nailed the style. The concept phase typically went through numerous iterations of ideas from thumbnails to dynamics. Originally I settled upon a male version of Gruncle Stan but after some critical feedback I went back to thumbnails and landed upon a female child character, the details of which can be found here Character Concept.
Once the concept was approved I did up a model sheet to the best of my somewhat limited abilities when it comes to 2D and got stuck into creating the model base mesh. Straight away I ran into issues, due to my lacking 2D skills my model sheet was not proportionate throughout the different perspectives so when switching between the various views in 3DS Max my base mesh would be out of alignment. Unfortunately, with another project on the side I didn’t have time to redo the model sheet so I basically modelled to one perspective accurately and when switching between views I simply eyeballed the volume to make everything as proportionate as possible.
Reference issues aside, I found modelling a low poly character to be quite fun and not very challenging. I simply blocked everything in to the rough shape and then simply added detail where it was needed, especially at the joints or areas that would need a little more topology in order to deform properly. For the joints I decided to have a simple polygon on the face of the joint and to connect it at the side have a triangle that went back to the half way point of the arm. This method was also applied to the finger joints and worked quite well during the pose phase.
When I eventually got to modelling the head I ran into a few dilemmas. Originally I wanted the head to be one complete piece with all its features, however I realized that due to the tri limit I simply couldn’t do that. The amount of curvature in the face meant I needed enough edge loops to attain it however I would blow my tri limit if I built the hair with the same topology. I also needed even more topology for the nose as Gravity Falls characters have a rather defined protruding nose. So as a result I modeled the nose, hair and eyes separate of the face to bring my total tri’s to a lean 974/1,000.
With the model done I began the texturing process which went along smoothly. There was a limit to two 256 textures for the project so the detail would be limited. I kept the texture as minimalist as possible as it suits the style of Gravity Falls, there isn’t much detail with most items having only one colour with shadows and highlights. Being a low poly model it was actually easier then usual to paint on facial details as the UV Map provided an easy reference with so few poly’s to clutter it up. Once the base colours were set and there were no obvious inconsistencies along the seams I then painted on shadows and highlights to finish the texture off and give it slightly more definition. I avoided getting fancy with AO or Opacity maps this time as I don’t think it suits the style.