WARNING: Since this page is about modeling the human figure, it contains
nudity and may not be suitable for those under 18.
This article gives a basic overview of how I created my 3D anime character.
It is loosely based off of a spline modeling tutorial from Hash Animation
Master. While I utilize 3D Studio MAX r2.5 as the example here, the basic
principles should be useful even if modeling with other packages, such
as Lightwave's Metanurbs, or even splines in AM. Some sections of this
article only give an overview, and show the basic low poly mesh. Is it
assumed that the reader has or will have the basic 3D skills to create
and model their own characters, using what is here as a guide.
NOTE: For the images in each step of this tutorial, you can click
on the image to bring up a larger, more detailed version with wireframe
references and more information! Even the top main banner pic now has
The basic technique is taking 4 sided faces (essentially 2 polygons with
the shared edge set to "invisible") and then extruding new faces, welding
points and turning and hiding edges such that you have a low poly, 4 sided
looking model. In some cases, 3 sided polygons are inevitable, but for
meshsmooth it's important to try to keep "quads".
If you are using 3D Studio MAX, the tools used are Edit Mesh with sub-object
vertex: "weld targeted" and sub-object edge: "turn edge" and "visible
edge", as well as sub-object face: "extrude face". Also used is Meshsmooth
with "quad output", "apply to whole mesh", "smooth result" and an iteration
of 2. In addition the "slice modifier" is used. Note when I refer
to slice here I always mean the stand-alone modifier version, not the
version within the editable mesh mod. I highly recommend you go through
the Bug Modeling tutorial or other poly modeling tutorials in the MAX
manuals first! They explain these tools in detail and show you how to
use them. Once you know that, you can use the images here as a guide to
figure out how to put together your model.
A MAX Meshsmooth Warning
A word of warning if you are using MAX and plan on creating Hi-res
morph targets from the low poly model: MAX 2.5 and earlier likes to change
point count and order when edges move a certain way. MAX 3.0 and higher
now have a "keep faces convex" option to fix this.
One, don't make morph targets for the high poly version. Instead use
bones and simply setup the LOWRES character via a skeleton. The second,
export the mesh to another package which works, make the Hi-Res morph
targets there, and then reimport to MAX for animation. This is actually
what I did. I created the model in MAX, exported a DXF which I loaded
into Lightwave. Using a Lightwave script to convert tri's to quads (which
worked stupendiously well) I metanurb'd the model, saved out the hires
targets, and imported back into MAX where I texture mapped, and setup
facial/body morphing with MorphMagic. Amazingly, this all worked fine.
Finally, my opinion of the best method in any version, is to keep the
mesh low poly. Create targets that are low poly, and setup the skeletal
system, all low poly. Then at the very very top of the stack add meshsmooth
before rendering. This allows you to animate very quickly since the mesh
is low detail, including facial animation, and then up the res on previews/renders.
The first thing to do is to create the basic torso object. Create
a hard corner spline shape in top view with 8 points. Then extrude
this flat polygon up 5 times using the "Extrude Modifier". This
should give you a basic cylinder type object created out of polygons.
Next, adjust the points so they are more torso-like shaped as shown
by applying and using and Edit Mesh modifier.
Remember that you can click the images on the right for a more
Next, for female characters, create a 7 pointed spline in top view,
with the shape of half a breast. Then lathe this object with 8 segments
to create the polygon form shown here and in more detail below.
Pick the "Create" panel first, then the second icon for Shapes,
and choose Line.
Click in top view 7 times for the 7 points. Go to the modify
panel, add a Lathe modifier, and choose "min" and you should be
Click to enlarge
Pull up some of the points and rotate the mass downward to create
a more natural shape.
At this point, we want to add the breast objects onto the torso
mesh. However they have 8 points, and the torso doesn't have enough
detail to really add them. Therefore, in order to add enough detail,
select the set of faces on the left and right as shown and using
the slice modifier, create extra edges. Because the slice modifier
may create extra points on hidden edges in MAX, you will probably
have to go back and weld targeted vertices at a few places on the
model after slicing. Another alternative is to manually "divide
edges" and "turn edges" to create the new 4 sided faces.
In addition you should also create some new inner edges as well
in the front view. In the end you should have at least the detail
Now duplicate the breast object, and use Edit Meshes "attach button"
to attach both to the torso. At this point, things are one object,
but they aren't actually welded to share points yet.
Using Edit Mesh's "weld targeted" vertex allows you to click and
drag a vertex onto another one for easy welding. Everything should
line up nicely now since the correct number of points were created
in the previous step. Make sure that you delete any interior faces.
That is, actually BEFORE attaching, make sure that any polygons
or faces that would eventually appear "inside" are deleted. You
should have a "hole" where the breast will go, and the back of the
breast should be open, and not have a polygon on the part you won't
Now you can start to adjust the mesh and points as you work. The next
main section is to extrude the bottom torso polygons down several
times to create the pelvis area. Then move the vertices around to
create a more normal body shape.
Slice the bottom faces and/or turn edges such that you can extrude
separate polygons for the left and right legs.
Now tweak the mesh some more, moving points around for a more proprotionate
shape. You will probably note that there isn't enough control in some
areas for the right roundness, particularly in the back.
In order to get a more correct rounded shape, select the faces on
the back sides, and slice or divide edges. Then adjust the points
to look rounded.
Arms are created by turning edges on the sides of the torso to create
a general 5 sided shape, and then extruding those sets of faces.
Continue to extrude the arm polygons, then go and move the points
around in the proper proportion.
While adjusting the overal look of the model, slice the torso area
to create a navel indentation. Then, select the faces on the bottom
of the body and extude downwards to create the legs. You can start
to slice and modify the mesh at other locations to create more detail
As a side note, my navel/stomach area eventually got pretty messy.
You may want to slice things so they are laid out a little nicer,
or also use the Edit Mesh "Chamfter Vertex" tool to easily create
a nice ring where the belly button goes, so that you can extrude
those polygons in.
To create the feet, extrude the bottom ankle face down several times.
Next, take some of the front faces and extrude them forward a few
sections as well. Then, move points and divide as needed to get an
appropriate shape. The front face can be sliced or divided several
times so that individual toe faces can be extruded out of it. Note
that turning edges here can be very important if you are using MAX.
The hand is created in a similar fashion. Either starting with the
end of the wrist face on the arm, or with a box, extrude several segments,
the adjust and divide sections to give the proper shape. Once again
the front face can be sliced to allow separate finger faces to be
extruded. The hand used here is pretty basic, one could easily add
You should now have something pretty close to a basic humanoid mesh.
Continue to add details and move points around to fix proportion mistakes,
and to make things look more rounded.
Finally, you can apply meshsmooth as shown (if you haven't already).
You can select faces and give them different material id #'s for a
multi subobject material mapping. You can also UVW map selected faces
and texture them as needed.
In this case I took the spline head I created earlier in a different article,
then converted it to a low poly head using a surface setting of 0 in surface tools.
I then adjusted the low poly head and corrected the proportions and details on
it, using the meshsmooth techniques as above. Using the same attach and weld processes
also mentioned, I joined the low poly head mesh onto the low poly body to create
one seamless character.
In the end you should plan on spending a lot of time simply moving
points and adjusting edges to get the proportion and model looking
The hair on this character was created by making a simple spline
shape and then creating a MAX loft object of a flat ellipse type
spline down its length. Using MAX's auto UVW map coordinate generation
for loft objects allowed me to map the hair with a photoshop drawing
for color and opacity I hand painted. You do have to adjust the
V parameter of the loft mapping to be a little off from 1.0 (like
1.12), or you will end up with a hard edge on the bottom.
In addition by keeping the hair objects each in their loft form,
I was able to link x-form, or bone the spline path of the hair.
This allows me to animate the spline hair path, and raise or lower
the detail of the hair mesh itself afterwards. It's also easier
to setup a few spline control points than a detailed high poly hair
These are the basics of how I created the character shown here and on
my web pages. Hopefully this will yield a good starting point for creating
your own 3D characters. Since this was my first attempt at meshsmooth
modeling there are definitely areas where I could have saved time by dividing
faces earlier, or adjusting the mesh a little differently. In addition,
the mesh is pretty dense because of the detail needed to round out some
of the shapes for meshsmooth. While I like the tools for low poly modeling
more than splines (it's a lot easier to extrude faces and weld targeted
vertices instead of having to create spline lines and manually weld),
in many ways spline modeling still gives you more control. I'm definitely
a big Box Modeling fanatic though. I find it gives me tools and controls
that are easy and simple to use, but allows me to do pretty much anything
I can think of.