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Subdivision Modeling Intermediate Techniques in Blender 2.79

  • 04 March 2014

Introduction

In this part we'll continue modeling sink and some other scene elements. You will learn a bit more about proper subdivision modeling and I will also show you how to create more complex furniture pieces basing on the photography and correct camera placement. Let's move on!

Sink strainer

Creating a dust strainer for our sink will be a good chance of reviewing everything I've showed you in previous tutorial parts. We start with a basic circle mesh and all we do is just extruding and scaling. It is good to have some reference pictures as usually the result based on the existing element looks more realistic, but you can also try doing it spontaneously.

The strainer consists of two elements - the outer part covering the pipe exit and the middle metal part. Center the cursor by selecting proper edge loop and pressing Shift + S. Choose - Cursor to Selected, add basic circle and follow the steps below:

Modeling Step I

Modeling Step II

Important Note

Here's another thing you should know about Subdivision Modeling. I've already described the differences in flat and smooth shading, using Bevel etc. What I didn't cover were 2 types of edge loops you use for defining your geometry. With Subdivision Surface Modifier, a single edge loop defines your model's geometry. However, the way Smooth Shading works with models like this is not always correct which can be seen on the left cube below. What we need to do is adding another edge loop between model's actual edge, and the loop we've added for defining the shape. This second edge loop is responsible for correct shading only.

It is also important to know that during geometry optimization, all merging operations should be applied outside the range of two edge loops described above. Again, the reasons are shading issues appearing when triangle faces aren't separated from the edge loop defining the shape of the model. Separating them with additional "shading" edge loop always fixes the problem.

Tap modeling

So with all the knowledge we already have, there shouldn't be any problems with creating objects like simple tap. The only thing you may wonder about is how to create a curved pipe element. We will use Spin tool for that and you can access it by pressing T button in 3D viewport.

Basic tap model is ready so let's now try creating something more advanced. The other tap on my reference picture has a spring element which is a good example for learning another modeling technique. Follow the steps below to learn how you can model spring elements in Blender.

Again we start with creating simple circle mesh with 6 vertices. What we will use now is the Screw Modifier. Add it to the circle and change the "Screw" value to 10. You'll notice how the model extrudes upwards. Enter Edit Mode and move the circle equally along X and Y axes. You'll notice how the element starts looking bit better. What we need to do now is rotating the circle either in X or Y axes. Additionaly, rotate the circle 45 degree in Z axis so it's positioned symmetrically towards 3D Cursor. Adjust the Screw value a bit more so the spring segment looks decent and change the Steps value to 8. This will prevent our model having too many faces.

Now with the basic shape ready, let's add Array Modifier. What it does is duplicating any geometry the way we define it in the modifier settings. Let's duplicate our spring several times.

So far so good but we still need to bent the spring around the tap. Actually, it doesn't have its pipe element ready either. To create it, we'll use Curve Object. Press Shift + A and add Nurbs Curve. Enter Edit Mode and by pressing E button Extrude its ending so we can adjust the curvature more precisely. Try forming the curve by editing its points so it looks similar to the background camera reference picture. It is also important to enable Endpoint U option under Active Spline tab, so our shape would be generated starting and ending vertices.

The pipe and spring are ready, but what's missing is actually the rest of the tap model. Create it quickly either basing on reference pictures or your imagination, using all techniques from this and previous tutorial parts. Below, you can see modeling steps with short descriptions.

Barstool modeling

Creating the white barstool standing on the left in our reference picture will be the final test of all the techniques you should have learned so far.

Sometimes you may come across nice looking furniture piece and would love to have it in your 3D models database. However, finding the author and blueprints may be very difficult and that's why it's important to know the techniques of modeling using photo references only. Final model may not be perfectly precise but it's not a problem as long as it looks good in general.

In our example, camera is already matched so let's start with adding simple plane object. Press G, exclude the Z axis (Shift + Z) from the operation and move the plane till it matches the barstool position on the reference picture. Scale the plane in X and Y axes so it fits the bottom metal elements of the stool. Now extrude the plane upwards and scale it again so the newly created shape follows the metal parts of the chair. Duplicate the upper plane and extrude one of its edges, matching the seat element on the reference.

We start with modeling the seating part. Move the whole object a bit left so it matches the reference better. Separate the seat from the bottom part of the stool and add Subdivision Modifier. Set Subdivision Level to 2, enter Edit Mode and add two vertical edge loops. Scale them in X Axis to quickly define basic seat shape. Next, add few horizontal edge loops and model the seat element by scaling and moving, basing on the background reference. You can change the camera view to Perspective / Orthogonal or Side View to make sure if the seat has correct, good looking shape. Remember to preform all the transformations in Global X, Y and Z axes. This will help you avoiding any unsimilarities in the model.

Apply the Subdivision Modifier with Level 1 and enter Edit Mode to check newly generated loops. Delete one half of the mesh so we can duplicate and mirror it later. Let's focus on one of the corners and improve its topology. Follow the steps below and notice how you can use the Knife tool for editing your geometry. Repeat these steps yourself on the opposite corner of the seat.

Now, with the corners nicely done we'll learn how to quickly mirror objects in Edit Mode. Mirroring can be also applied in Object Mode using Mirror Modifier but I personally don't like doing it this way. The modifier is easy to use and you can try it yourself in other situation.

The shape is slowly getting there and what's still missing is the thickness. Similar to mirroring, we can either solve this in Edit or Object Mode. There's Solidify Modifier available, but I'll apply my changes in Edit Mode. Just follow the steps below:

What I've purposefully omitted was some profile adjustments our seat definitely needs. Right now it looks straight and plane - this would be very uncomfortable to seat on. Editing geometry with many vertices can be troublesome but Blender gives us another amazing tool which is Proportional Editing. By pressing O in Edit Mode you can now preform all your transformations not only on the selected Vertex / Edge / Face, but also make the surrounding geometry follow the transformation. The result is similar to editing geometry with Subdivision Modifier added, however with Proportional Editing you're working on actual geometry which is not generated but already available in Edit Mode.

Proportional Editing

Proportional editing is an option available in Edit Mode, (just press "O") allowing you to modify the mesh in more "organic" way. What happens is that while editing selected elements ie. vertices, the others placed nearby will follow the transformation. You can quickly change the "falloff" radius by scrolling your mouse, as well as the transformation types (smooth, sharp, linear etc.)

Let's continue and create metal legs. Select base shape we started with and center 3D Cursor on its bottom plane. Add a circle with only 6 vertices, rotate and scale down to the proper size. Start extruding and using the same techniques as with sink model, spin the ending of the element to achieve the desired curvature. Extrude upwards and repeat the process on the other side.

Now we need to bend the metal element in other axis. Align it to the base shape and center 3D Cursor on top of one of the pipes. Spin the vertices using Screw tool again. Adjust the shape and use scaling to flatten the newly created vertices in X axis. Extrude and select the straight mesh segment. Change the view to the side and activate Proportional Editing. All you need to do now is aligning the geometry to the seat. Repeat the whole process on the other side.

Conclusion

Let's sum up all the information before finishing the modeling part of the entire tutorial. Modeling and subdivision modeling ale very large topics and of course I wasn't able to cover all methods, techniques and problems. You may want to check Part 10 of this tutorial for few more useful tricks on modeling. Simple modeling techniques described in Part 2 were good for basic, technical objects like walls, ceilings, simple stairways etc. Subdivision modeling is different to that and should be mostly used for:


  • creating precise shapes with many curvatures

  • detailed and well exposed objects that need proper geometry

  • furniture elements like chairs, stools etc.

  • models you may need to export and use in other software



As I mentioned earlier many times, the key to your success in 3D graphics is constant practice and looking for new opportunities to developing your skills. It is very likely that your first attempts in creating subdivision ready 3D models may not be as successful as you've imagined, but never get discouraged only because of that. No one was ever born a 3D artist or modeler and I'm sure if others can develop the skills and techniques, you can also do it!

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