How can I create a character, using Maya, to develop an organic 3D model using texture?
The inspirations for my project. Growing up, I was a horse fanatic and my love for the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron spurred me to draw fan art galore. Spirit was the movie that really made me start taking art a bit more seriously at a young age, and thus also got me interested in even being an artist at all. I also played a series of PC horse games called StarShine Legacy when I was younger, and they inspired me to think about doing 3D stuff like that. I still love these games and am still inspired by them every day.
I am still greatly influenced by these two, thanks to Spirit's son having his own show on Netflix called Spirit Riding Free, as well as a sequel to the StarShine Legacy games via a popular MMORPG called Star Stable Online. Having grown as an artist after all these years and having a deeper understanding of how 3D modeling works now, I look to these as not only inspirations, but also as a reference point for the project that I will be working on. I want to be able to combine the expressions and personality from Spirit with the quality I am constantly blown away by in Star Stable.
Star Stable Online
Spirit Riding Free
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
And a video separate from the slideshow because it wouldn't allow me to put a video in there. But this displays the newer graphics in Star Stable Online, and the level of quality I hope to eventually achieve, though I know I have limitations simply based on my current lack of experience. This game is honestly my main source of inspiration, simply due to the stunning level of detail in just the horses alone.
The reasons why I choose to do an equine character model are because for one, I am already pretty good at drawing equines and essentially have memorized how they move, which will be useful for next semester, when I hope to rig and animate it to create a small demo reel. I can currently only model basic geometric inanimate objects, and through this character, I want to be able to learn how to not only do more organic modeling, but also later learn how to rig and animate with it. And secondly, horses are everywhere in media. If you haven't noticed it, take a closer look. In games alone, horses are probably some of the animals your player will interact with the most. With their prevalence, I feel like it would be beneficial for me to work on one now because there is a decent chance I may have to work on one later.
His name: Black Star. While his design may appear to be pretty but rather plain, he was the chosen character for a few reasons. If you want to settle for the simple reason, it's because his design is plain and symmetrical, therefore easy to bring onto a 3D surface. If you want the more complex reason, it's because Black Star was my very first original character that I created when I was 9 years old. He was created as a fan character to the computer games I loved to play nonstop as a child. In fact, his design was mainly inspired by the blue and white horse in the slideshow above! He is very dear to me, and with his history, it's only fitting that he should be the first 3D character I model.
Maya is not a program that's very friendly to beginners, or even to professionals, despite it being such a powerful and wonderful program. In order to make life a bit easier on myself since I am still learning, I thought that it would be good to go with a rather simplistic style for my first character model.
The 3D Part
Oh boy. In all honesty, this is what intimidates me the most. For me, drawing isn't an issue. I've made art as long as I was able to hold a crayon, and having been doing digital art for about a decade now. Drawing comes naturally to me, and is something I am confident with. However 3D? It's far different from what I'm used to and requires a different way of thinking than what your traditional 2D art requires. 3D is difficult, no matter the medium. Be it a sculpture, clothing, a stuffed animal, or digital. But despite my hesitance, I want to do this since being able to do a 3D character model is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I know that even if the end result isn't quite up to my perfectionist standards, I will be proud because it's the first stepping stone to getting better at this 3D modeling and animation stuff. And taking that first step will be a wonderful feeling.
The first step in the 3D process has begun, and most of what I am doing here in the beginning is trying to remember what does what. It's been a few months since I last used Maya, so I am a little rusty but it's starting to come back quickly as I attempt to make the model conform with the reference images.
Refined the body here and added the neck and head. I was really intimidated by the head because the way it extruded out was weird and it took some time to put all the vertices where they needed to be and then the geometry overall looked pretty gross. Unfortunately I found an issue that I didn't know how to fix, and so this work had to be scrapped and I had to go back to an older iteration I saved.
So after I had to scrap the iteration with the head, I went back and made it so that even if the issue occurred again, it wouldn't affect my process. I split the model in two and then mirrored the sides (thanks YouTube, for showing me how!) and then went back to work redoing the head and adding in the legs.
And after I fixed the the issue I had before, I found out that I had another one while I began to work on the front view. And this time, I couldn't go back to an older iteration without almost starting over completely. I ended up having to fix it in a very awkward way. As for shaping the model... Let's just say that I remembered a bit too late that soft selection exists.
Hair and eyes finally added, with a snazzy texture! I decided not to smooth the hair because I simply didn't like the look when I tried it. The texture was definitely the easiest part of the model, and I honestly hated how the model look until it got some color. I guess gray isn't the most flattering color there is. I also messed around with the texture specularity to try and get somewhat close to how actually shiny they'd be in real life.
And here we see the finished project. Overall, I am honestly not entirely happy with how it turned out, the model is still too blocky for my liking but after fiddling with it for hours and hour, I realized that I just had to let it be, and that I'll do better next time around. I do really like the addition of the textures and I think they are what overall saved this model from me hating it completely. I did face issues trying to figure out how to export it so I could upload it to Sketchfab, and after the lengthy process it took for me to finally figure that out and mostly get it right... As you can see below, the export stripped my model of the specularity it had and also messed with Black Star's forelock. Perhaps one day I'll figure out how to fix these so the export won't mess with them again.
My overall goal for this project was a simple one: to learn. And I certainly did! I learned how to mirror objects as well as combine them, and I most certainly learned that this was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I also learned that there are still things I need to learn, or at least get better at. In the future I'll practice making more character models and hope that they'll just get better and better.