3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 2

3D Modeling Cartoon Character – Part 1: Build from Scratch

3D Avatar Menia
3D Avatar Menia

Project Meina 3DX was one of my 3D modeling and 3D printing project a few years ago. The 3D cartoon avatar above was the product from the project. If you’re interested in tailor-making a cartoon figure by yourself, you shouldn’t miss this new series of posts that teach how to create a doll head from scratch.

The tutorial will contain step-by-step notes. This post is the first article of the series, and it will cover:

  • Planning mesh segmentation with a 2D picture
  • Importing the picture as a backdrop item for reference to a 3D model software 
  • Forming a symmetrical facial component
  • Shaping a freeform hair component

Modo was the 3D modeling software that I loved to build 3D objects at that time. You can do a similar practice with alternative software, such as Blender, 3Ds Max, etc.


⬢ Before Start

Step 1

Prepare a 2D Picture

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 3
Step 2

Outline mesh segmentation

meina 2d mesh segmentation planning

⬢ Model 3D parts from scratch using Modo 401

Step 3

Import image

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 4

Add images to the Image tab

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 5

Insert the image as a Backdrop Item for reference

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 6

Set the transparency of the backdrop item if necessary

Step 4

Add a new mesh named Head

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 7

Insert a 2x2x2 cube, then toggle to subdivision mode (Press Tab) and then scale the cube to the appropriate size.

Step 5

Shape with Sculpt tools

modo 401 sculpt move tool

Use the Sculpt tools (e.g. Move and Inflate) to rough out the shape of the face. Choose the brush size (right-click and drag) to obtain the desired effect

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 8

To view clearly, open View and Shading (Press O key) and change the settings. Hide the Grid and Enable ‘Overlay’ can display the meshes in clear orange.

Tip 1

Hide Grid

Step 6

Set Symmetry

  1. Delete half of the cube
  2. Select the edge as the figure
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 9

  3. Hold Alt key and click the convert to select vertices
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 10

  4. In the main menu, choose Geometry > Vertix > Set Position… , and then set X to be 0
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 11

    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 12

  5. Select the polygons to be mirrored, and then choose Geometry > Duplicate > Mirror (Shift+V)
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 13

  6. Make sure the X-Axis is selecting for mirroring
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 14

  7. Choose Action Center > Axis as Origin, and then Set Symmetry as X
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 15

    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 16
  • Now any change on either left or right will be mirrored symmetrically.
Step 7

Add a new Mesh named Hair Datum

After modeling the face, build a rough shape of the hair similarly

Tips: You may duplicate the Head and scale approximately to be Hair Datum

  1. Build a dome-shaped mesh covering the head
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 17

  2. Press Z key to extending the lowest edges at the rear and repeat several times until it gains enough length for sculpting the form of hair
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 18

    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 19

  3. Roughly sculpt the hairstyle
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 20

  4. Use Mesh > Reducing tool to diminish the mesh size and save memory if necessary
    3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 21
Step 8

Rebuild Hair with Polygon tool

The mesh of Hair Datum, which created in the last step, looks ugly and consists of too many triangles. Using the snap function, build a new mesh manually with polygon tools to clean up the morphology of the hairstyle.

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 22

Use Polygon > Pen tool to build the topology of hair details

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 23

Enable Snap > Constrain to > Background, such that the polygons can lay on the topology of ‘Head Datum

Refine the length and the segments of the hair tips using Extrude tool (X key)

3D Modeling Cartoon Character - Part 1: Build from Scratch 26
Check point

The first note of this tutorial series is up to here. You should get the idea across the 3D primitives, 3D sculpting, polygon editing, and mirroring tools. Meanwhile, you learned how to make a preliminary design for a 3D cartoon character, by using the tools to create an oval-shaped skinhead with a hair-like shell above it. The next post will further describe the details in modeling the hair object.

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