Today’s post will detail some methods used to modify a base object to mold it into a more accurate rendition. You can check out the precursor in Episode 1. I also uncovered a much better method which led to a rework of what was accomplished thus far.
Note: I will assume some basic understanding of the tool in these tutorials - if something is unclear let me know in the comments and I will address it
Not actually spheres
In Episode 1 I started from a series of circle slices and build a base model through
Extrusion. The biggest problem with the model thus far is that ants are not actually perfect spheres in their segments - they are flattened and pointed through various parts of their anatomy. My goal now is to pinch, pull, size and move vertices to try and match the anatomy of each part from the source images. Looking at the picture I think the easiest part to start with is the Gaster (the rear) since it’s generally the most spherical.
A thought that passed while I started this process was the annoyance of having to see entire body if I’m focusing on one section. I figured while designing each section it would be much easier to break part the model into multiple objects that I can work on independently. Down the road I should be able to easily join them back up if I want to. To break apart the model I first selected all the vertices in each major section then hit the
P key and selected
By selection which will break all the selected vertices out into a new object.
With that out the way I hid all the other body parts except the Gaster. Looking at the source image, the bottom section was not as round as the top so my first act was to flatten that section out a bit. Using the select tool
C in edit mode I first selected the bottom section of the model.
Once selected I then scaled
S the selection vertically
Z. When I liked the new curve I then then had to adjust the position of the selection using
G and restricting the movement vertically
Once position it already started looking better. The caveat in this approach is you are left with some sharp angles between the selected morphed vertices and the rest of the model so it takes some custom vertex manipulation to flatten that out a bit.
New method learned
When I was searching for how to taper a sphere I stumbled upon the
Path system and
Taper objects and after reading briefly about their purpose I discovered this great tutorial on how to setup a path using bevel object and a taper object. This looks exactly like what I needed! Needless to say I quickly set out to see if I could use this method instead of my manual vertex manipulation.
I must say that having not understood paths before I was severely limiting what I could accomplish. The premise from the above tutorial is that you create a
Path then create a
Bevel Object that moves along that path to create your mesh. An example is a simple circle bevel that when moved along a path creates a tube. With the addition of a
Taper Object you can also control the width of the bevel along various points of the curve. This is an amazing toolchain! The difference between the two versions is astounding in terms of simplicity to setup.
Continuing with this method I duplicated the Gaster to create other sections with modified shapes but still following the same idea. You can see in the screenshot below that each section has the large circle around it that is the
Main sections complete
Finally I was able to get back to where I was using the sphere extrusion method but this time it’s much easier to modify and alter the shapes without having to worry about symmetry or messing up individual vertices. I adjusted each of the bevel objects a bit so the body parts were flatter and less round vertically. This was as easy as editing the bevel object and moving the vertices until I was satisfied with their position and look. Very simple and convenient.
Legs and a realization
Now that the main sections were complete I could focus on creating the legs. After getting a rough idea about how long the legs were in total I was able to duplicate a body section once again and edit the
Path so it was as long as that initial measurement. Working my way from the body to the tip I subdivided both the path and the taper object path many times to create the varying widths of the legs. At this point I realized I had little idea how Blender was mapping path segments to taper segments; this is still an unknown to me but I figure as long as it wasn’t preventing me from completing the leg I could look it up later. Generally, however, it’s way better to know how something works otherwise you may spend more time fighting it. For now I will accept ignorance.
After duplicating and rotating the leg to create the other two I was left with the 3 legs on one side of the model.
My assumption is that after I convert these path objects to proper meshes I will be able to apply a mirror on the legs to create a symmetric set of legs on the opposite side.
It was very fortunate I stumbled upon the path method because without it I probably would have had a much tougher time getting the model to look the way I wanted it to. Sometimes it’s just as important to realize when a technique you are using is not the right one than it is to just plow ahead.
- Paths with bevel and taper objects are a powerful tool
- Despite abandoning earlier efforts the skills learned there will help after I convert this path-based model to a mesh
- It will be important to learn how Blender maps path vertices/segments to taper path - doing so will make designing your objects go much smoother
Stay tuned for future episodes as I detail other bad ideas, revelations and tricks learned.