Learn 3D Graphics

Creating a Character

Learn the basics of modeling, rigging, and animating a character in Blender.

Character

As always, there are two main approaches to forming a character: drawing with vertices or modifying a basic mesh shape (ie. cube or uv sphere). Drawing with vertices is more challenging and time consuming. It can allow for more realism/complexity when used properly. Using a basic mesh (or multiple meshes) and subdividing, extruding & etc. can be faster and easier. That method is often less realistic/complex. Choose whichever approach makes the most sense for your character and the amount of time.

  1. Create a new, separate file for each character
  2. Name the character with your first name, the initial of your last name, and the name of your character (ie. JohnS_George.blend)
  3. Create a new collection for your character
    1. In the Outliner, right-click on "Scene Collection"
    2. Double-click on the name of the new collection and give it a new, descriptive name (ie. Character, George, Squirrel)
  4. Using the cube as a starting point:
    1. Drag the default cube into the character collection if it will be the base of your character
    2. With the cube selected, enter "Edit" Mode (tab)
    3. Edit thte cube to create your character:
      1. Subdivide as needed
      2. Extrude faces as needed
      3. Add loop cuts to add detail to targeted areas
      4. Use proportional editing to adjust vertices/faces as needed
      5. Join with other objects as needed
  5. Using another mesh shape as a starting point:
    1. Delete the cube (X)
    2. Move the pivot point to the world origin (Shift+S → "Cursor to World Origin")
    3. With the character collection selected in the Outliner, add the needed mesh shape (Shift+A)
    4. Edit as needed in "Edit" Mode (tab):
      1. Subdivide as needed
      2. Extrude faces as needed
      3. Add loop cuts to add detail to targeted areas
      4. Use proportional editing to adjust vertices/faces as needed
      5. Join with other objects as needed
  6. Drawing with Vertices:
    1. Delete the cube (X)
    2. Move the pivot point to the world origin (Shift+S → "Cursor to World Origin")
    3. With the character collection selected in the Outliner, add a plane (Shift+A → Mesh → Plane)
    4. In "Edit" Mode (tab), select the entire plane (A)
    5. Delete the plane (X → Vertices)
    6. Switch to the top view (numpad 7 or the blue Z in the view widget)
    7. Draw with the vertices:
      1. Ctrl+left-click to add a vertex
      2. With vertex select active, select groups of 4 vertices to make faces (F)

When working more realistically, reference images can help you keep accurate proportions. This is most effective with 2 or more reference images of multiple viewpoints (ie. front & side views). Take your own reference images whenever possible. If you must use images belonging to others, make sure they are in the public domain and keep track of where they are from. When using multiple images, make sure that they are the same scale and have the person/animal in the same pose.

  1. Switch to the correct viewpoint for the image (ie. top - numbpad 7)
  2. Move the pivot point to the world origin (Shift+S → "Cursor to World Origin")
  3. Add the image:
    1. Shift+A → Image → Background
    2. Select the image and choose "Load Background Image"
  4. In Properties, optionally adjust the image settings below as needed:
    1. Change the image size:
      1. Increase/decrease the size value in Properties or drag on the yellow corners of the image object
    2. Make the image object visible from any angle:
      1. Under Empty, check "Display Perspective"
    3. Make the image display as an overlay instead of displaying behind your mesh:
      1. Set "Depth" to "Front"
      2. Check "Use Alpha"
      3. Lower the Transparency number to a decimal (ie. .5)
    4. Make the image visible from behind:
      1. Change the "Side" value to "Both"
  5. Reposition the reference image as needed using the move or transform widgets
  6. If adding another reference image, repeat all of the steps above with a different viewpoint active (ie. front - numpad 1 or the green circle in the view widget)
  1. Use "Quads"
    1. Only make faces with groups of 4 vertices - otherwise many features like subdivide and loopcuts will not work properly
  2. Use the mirror modifier (for symmetrical characters)
  3. Look in Quad View (Ctrl+alt+Q) occasionally to make sure everything is lined up correctly
  4. Occasionally make sure to remove overlapping vertices
    1. In Edit Mode, select all (A)
    2. Use the shortcur alt+M
    3. Select "By Distance"
  5. Use loop cuts in joint areas to allow arms/legs & etc. to bend
  6. Pack external data if using image textures

Rigging

The process of creating a skeletal structure or armature is called rigging. Make sure to pay close attention to the mode while working on the armature.

  1. If your character’s mesh is not already in its own collection, create a new collection for your character in the Outliner and drag the character’s mesh into it
  2. If your character is not already in the center of the grid, reposition it:
    1. Make sure the pivot is set to "3D Cursor" (. → "3D Cursor")
    2. Move the cursor to the world origin (Shift+S → "Cursor to World Origin")
    3. Select the character
    4. Move the character to the cursor (Shift+S → "Selection to Cursor")
  3. Switch to the Front view (numpad 1 or the green circle in the view widget)
  4. Create and setup the start of an armature:
    1. In "Object" mode, add an armature (Shift+A → Armature) - this will creates an armature with a single bone
    2. In the "Armature" tab of properties, under “Viewport Display” enable “In Front” so you can see the armature through the mesh
    3. In the "Bone" tab of properties, name the bone descriptively (ie. Lower Torso)
    4. Switch to "Edit" mode (tab)
    5. In a side view (numpad 3 or red circle in the view widget) make sure that the bone is inside of the mesh, in the lower torso area:
      1. To move the entire bone, click on the middle of the bone
      2. Use the shortcut "G" or the move/transform widgets to reposition
    6. Resize the bone if needed to take up the lower half of the torso:
      1. Select the end/joint area of the bone (right-click) and use either the shortcut "G" or the move/transform widget to resize
    7. Switch back to the front view
  5. Add the rest of the spine:
    1. Add the upper torso:
      1. Select the top joint of the bone
      2. Extrude (E) along the Z-axis (Z) to add the next segment, ending about at the shoulder
      3. In the bone properties, rename the bone descriptively (ie. Upper Torso)
    2. Add the head bone:
      1. Select the top joint of the upper torso bone
      2. Extrude one more time to create a bone for the head (E) along the Z axis (Z)
      3. Rename the bone descriptively
    3. From a side view, make sure the bones are lined up properly - make adjustments as needed
  6. Add the left arm:
    1. Switch back to the Front view
    2. Move the pivot point to the left shoulder (left-click)
    3. Still in "Edit" mode, add the upper arm bone (Shift-A)
    4. Grab the top joint of the bone (G) and move it to the elbow area of the arm
    5. Rename the bone descriptively, with .L at the end of the name (ie. Upper Arm.L)
    6. Extrude down from the elbow (E) to the wrist area
    7. In a side view, make sure the arm bones are positioned properly - adjust as necessary
    8. Return to the front view
  7. Add the left leg:
    1. Move the pivot point to the left hip area (left-click)
    2. Still in "Edit" mode, add the thigh bone (Shift-A)
    3. Grab the top joint of the bone (G) and move it to the knee area of the leg
    4. Rename the bone descriptively, with .L at the end of the name (ie. Upper Arm.L)
    5. Extrude down from the elbow (E) to the ankle area
    6. From the ankle joint, extrude a bone for the foot, ending at the toe area
    7. In a side view (numpad 3 or the red circle in the view widget), make sure the leg bones are positioned properly - adjust as necessary

Next we're going to add some control bones that will move the entire arm or the entire leg, by moving the a single bone. Enabling "Inverse kinematics" (IK) gives us this functionality.

  1. Adding the IK bones:
    1. Add the left arm IK bone:
      1. Select the lowest joint for the arm (wrist area)
      2. Extrude straight back (E) along the Y axis (Y)
    2. Add the left leg IK bone:
      1. Select the lowest joint for the leg (ankle area)
      2. Extrude straight back (E) along the Y axis (Y)
  2. Add "target" bones to control the rotation of the arm and leg:
    1. Left-click in front of the elbow area (about 1/2 of the arm's length away) to move the pivot point
    2. Shift-A to add a bone
    3. Make sure the bone is lined up in front of the elbow area in another view
    4. Repeat these steps for a "knee" target bone - placing it in front of the knee area
  3. Clear the parent for both target bones and both IK bones by selecting each bone and then using the shortcut "Alt+p"
  4. In Bone Properties for each target/IK bone:
    1. Rename each bone descriptively (ie. Elbow.L or Arm IK.L)
    2. In the Bone settings, uncheck "Deform"
    3. Make sure there is no parent listed under "Relations" - if there is, remove it by clicking on the "X" next to the parent name
  5. Add inverse kinematics constraints:
    1. Switch to "Pose" mode
    2. Select the arm IK bone and then "Shift" select the lower arm bone
    3. Open the constraints window (Shift+ctrl+C) and select "Inverse Kinematics"
    4. In the "constraints" properties set:
      1. "Target" to "Armature"
      2. "Bone" to "Arm IK.L"
      3. "Pole Target" to "Armature"
      4. "Bone" to "Elbow.L"
      5. "Chain length" to "2"
    5. Repeat these steps for the leg (selecting the leg IK bone and then the lower leg) and using "Leg IK.L" & "Knee.L" as the bone values
  1. In "Edit" mode, change the foot to rotate with the leg IK bone:
    1. Select the foot bone and then "Shift" select the leg IK bone
    2. Use shortcut "Ctrl+P" and then select "Keep Offset"
  2. Duplicate the arm & leg bones:

Weight Painting

Animating