Let's Learn Blender - Ep 3 Bones

  8 mins read  

Today’s post will detail steps to finish the model from Episode 2 and rig it up with bones for animation.

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

Let’s talk about vertex count

So far I’ve been using a pretty high level of detail for this model. In the real world, at least for gaming, the higher the vertex/poly count the harder the GPU/CPU has to work to render it. To keep everything performant I wanted to scale down the level of detail as low as possible while still keeping the overall structure. Prior to this I never really had anything complex enough to do this so my first attempt at reducing the count was to adjust the path preview detail setting from 12 to ~3. That cut down the vertex count quite a bit from 24,000 to 10,000.

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Convert to mesh

After this was done I then needed to convert the entire set of paths I’ve been using up until this point to an actual mesh - in its current state it really isn’t usable for much besides rendering. To convert to a mesh I hit Ctrl-Click on the parent object then hit Alt-C and Convert to Mesh. This took all of my path objects and converted them to physical meshes. When I did this the bevel/taper objects still remained so I had to clean this up by removing them.

Further reduction in vertex count

Now that I had a mesh to work with I could further reduce my vertex count by adding a Decimate Modifier to the mesh. I originally tried to do this in Edit Mode but after googling why I wasn’t seeing the results I discovered I cannot see the results live when using the modifier. Instead I visually inspected my mesh as I adjusted the ratio from 1 to 0. I went as far as possible towards 0 while retaining my overall mesh structure and it turned out that 0.2 was a nice number. After adjusting the ratio I simply hit Apply and was able to see the reduced vertex count in edit mode.

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I would have been better served just doing this style of vertex reduction and left the quality high on the path - this way is much easier. Mental note!


At this point my model was in decent shape and I could begin making some minor adjustments. At the moment I wanted to adjust the leg tip a bit so it wasn’t a single point. Given that I had a mesh to work with now this was pretty easy and I could rely on the methods learned previously for Extruding and otherwise manipulating the vertices.

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All of the work thus far has been leading up to two big moments - the application of bones to the model and animating them. Luckily I discovered a great video tutorial on the application of the Bones which I recommend watching; I will only cover a subset of the items covered in that video. Basically the steps to add bones to your model are as follows:

  1. Picking a starting point (like the head) and adding a bone
  2. Extruding the bone to create another bone linked to the current one
  3. Covering all the joints and areas where your model can move with bone joints (joints are at either end of a bone)
  4. Assigning your mesh to your armature
  5. Adjust the vertex mapping
  6. Posing your model using bone manipulation

First section of bones

I picked the rear of the model to start adding a bone to. First I placed my 3d cursor where the last two sections met and hit Ctrl-A -> Bone to add my first bone. When I added the bone I got an armature object along with it.

You’ll want to swap back and forth between X-Ray mode as you are crafting your bones. Sometimes they get in the way. You can do this by selecting any bone and clicking the Armature Tab in the properties - inside that pain you will see options for X-Ray and Name.

I started off with both X-Ray and Name checked. After I added my first bone I continued extruding the bones up the model until I ended at the head.

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As I added bones I named them by clicking on the Bone tab in the properties pane and adding the name there. Since I toggled names to be displayed I could see them on the model as I added them.


Given that up until this point I’ve been working on a model with only one set of legs on the right we need to mirror these legs to create them for the left side. To do that I could do one of two things.

  1. Use a Mirror Modifier if I want to see how the mirror will look before applying it
  2. Selecting the object, cloning it then hitting Ctrl-M and a direction modifier like X to mirror it on the X axis.

If you go with the former and you find yourself with a connection mesh you can simply select any point on the mirrored-side mesh, hit Ctrl-L and it will select the rest of that connect mesh. From there you can hit Ctrl-P and By Selection to segment the mirrored mesh into a new object. It may be easier in general to just use the second method though.

Since I used the Mirror Modifier method I was left with one mesh that had both legs in it. To fix this I selected a vertex on the mirrored leg, hit Ctrl-L to select the remaining connected vertices then Ctrl-P -> By Selection to split the selection into a new object.

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Repeating this procedure for the remaining two legs yielded two sets of legs on both sides of the body. Now that I had both sets of legs I could begin adding the bones to one side and after that I could apply the same principal and mirror the bones by the 2nd method outlined above.

Naming is important

Since my ultimate goal is to import this in Unity it’s important we name our bones such that Unity can understand it. This means on the left side of the model we will use XXXX.L naming and on the right XXXX.R - doing so allows Unity to understand the each sets of bones correspond to a side of the body. You can see the final named bones below.

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One of many additions

Now that my base model was setup with bones I realized I forgot to include the pinchers on the head of the ant model. To add these I first created a new Path object with a Taper and Bevel like I did previously with the body.

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With the shape setup I was then able to modify the bevel shade to make the pincher thicker on the outside and flatten it a bit.

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After I finished the one pincher I converted it to a mesh then mirrored it to create one for the opposite side. With both pinchers in place I could now add two single bones.

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And there it was - version 1.0 of the model with an initial set of bones created.


  1. Crtl-M and/or Mirror Modifier is a powerful tool.
  2. Naming bones is important if you will be importing it into other programs.
  3. Every technique learned, even if abandoned, can be used in future endeavors.
  4. Bones are a lot easier to create than I would have guessed.
  5. Decimate modifier is much easier than other methods to reduce vertex count.

Stay tuned for the next episode where I’ll skin the bones to the mesh so I can pose it!

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