Lately, I’ve been wanting to do some fantasy character artwork but unfortunately I suck at Photoshop and Gimp. They’re just not a comfortable or natural flow for me. So, continually inspired by the people at Pixar, I started considering 3d modeling and rendering as a possible alternative form of digital art and went pretty much straight to the awesome set of open source 3D modeling and animation tools known as Blender. To be clear, I don’t have any information on whether anyone at Pixar uses Blender, but I am genuinely impressed at the quality of work which can be produced using this suite of tools once a proficient skill set is obtained ( check out the Blender Gallery for examples ). So I installed it ( easy install for OSX ) and started messing around with it. This post is a running commentary on my efforts. It should in no way be construed as seasoned advice, rather quite the opposite. If I continue with the software, you may see other Blender related posts as well.

Prologue: My first effort was to follow the ubiquitous Gingerbread Man tutorial in which I became familiar with a fraction of the tools, and produced the most geometric gingerbread man ever made. A few subsequent efforts were made to better understand the transform functions of Grab, Extrude, Scale, and Rotate. And then I found the Sculpt Mode. So that’s where the running commentary picks up with this model which I’ve titled, “Somber Lizard Man”. Also, small neophyte disclaimer: I haven’t yet messed with the camera, lighting, and rendering set ups yet, so these are all screenshots directly from the editor.


So here I started by deleting the default mesh cube, centering the cursor on x:0,y:0,z:0 and putting a UV sphere in its place. I also added a Multiresolution Modifier ( “multires” for short ), increased the Subdivide level to 2, and turned on Symmetry on the X axis. Side note: The symmetry option in Sculpt Mode is really nice! Its like having another set of hands that mimic every change you make on the other side of the object for you, so your model is always as symmetrical as you want it to be. This small feature alone makes this tool immensely useful IMHO. Anyway, I then used the Grease pencil ( D + Left Click ) to draw the basic profile I was going to create. Now I don’t recommend this part but its what I did because I didn’t know better. In Sculpt Mode, I used the clay brush on Subtract and basically slowly, tediously, shaved away the clay in some areas and added it in others to match the grease pencil outline I had made. I now know a much faster way to do this is to use the grab brush ( G ), increase the radius ( F + mouse scroll ), and just click and drag the poly mesh to fit the outline. If you do this in Edit Mode, you can see the polygons as you drag and can more easily shift them as needed to keep everything as uniform as possible.


Here I’m playing with the basic skull and watching it start to take shape. I was originally going to go for some sort of primate or early hominid but the “clay” had a different idea, so I went with it.


Here I’m mostly using the clay brush to add volume and shape on top of the sphere as needed.


This angle shows the horn ridges along his cheek bones, jaw line, and neck line. I like the nose here, too. The definition comes from the crease brush. I also used subdivide a few times to increase the poly count making the model smoother than in the first few frames.


Front view of Somber Lizard Man. I must have done at least a halfway decent job with this model because when I uploaded this pic to Facebook it asked me to tag the person in it lol.


Here’s a good view of the brow ridges. Too bad humans don’t have these. They’re awesome.


Side shot showing the bone ridges all the way down the neck.


Three-quarter view. Somber Lizard Man is somber.

Overall, I think not bad for a first focused effort on modeling/sculpting. For my own future reference this model was made in a little over an hour. That’s about it. Thanks for reading.