Tutorial 1: Basic Character
You will quickly learn that no character is truly basic. But some characters require more than others. For this demonstration, I offer a WIP mad scientist I’ve been using for my Unity projects. He may spontaneously get better as the tutorial goes on, that is the nature of using a character that isn’t quite done yet.
This guy is just about as basic as they come. He has no modeled eyes (sunglasses), and is less than 2k faces all together. His face was built with no expectation of emotion, so I won’t rig for it (this time). His hands are really just mittens. About the only complicating factor is his cloak, I’ll discuss why as the demonstration goes on. Part one: setup
The first thing we need to do is add an armature. To do that, center the 3D cursor somewhere near his middle, press spacebar, and type “ADD ARMA”. “Add armature” should be one of the few options that remain, so choose it by pressing enter.
You will now have an armature with a single bone in it. The armature really refers to the collection of bones, so we still need to add all the other bones to the armature. What this entails is editing the armature, so press tab while the armature is selected to enter edit mode. Whenever you edit the base armature, do it in edit mode. Changes in other modes may be lost.
We are going to use that first bone as a root bone, so move it behind him somewhere and just forget about it for now. Once it is out of the way, position the 3D cursor somewhere at the bottom of his spine, press spacebar, and type “ADD BON”. “add bone” will become the only option, once again press enter to add the bone.
It is worth mentioning that, while I am working in wireframe display, it is easier to work with solid shading. However, you can’t see your bones through the mesh anymore. In order to solve that problem, click on the armature tab, and select X-Ray under the display drop-down.
It is worth mentioning that the bone has three parts: two endpoints, and a body. Each one can be manipulated in similar fashions as one would an edge. They can be scaled, rotated, moved, or just one end can, or the whole thing, etc. In our case, we want to extrude one of the ends into another bone. Click on the top point, and press ‘e’ to extrude the point into a new bone. You will want to do this in view perpendicular to his facing (the left or right view). Make it so it looks like mine:
This is probably more bones than realistically needed such a low poly character, but I do want the flexibility required for some of things he will be doing.
Since we are doing the spine, let us just continue on to the head. I do two neck joints and then a bone for the head.
This next part is pretty cool. Blender will do half of the work for us, if we let it. What we want to do is work on half his arms and legs, and blender will mirror those operations on the other side. We will need to bring up the toolbar, so press ‘t’ if it is not already up. Check the box that says “x-axis mirroring”.
Now, when you hold shift and go a direction, a mirror version will emanate from the equivalent bone in the opposite X direction. So we will do that with his shoulders, arms, hips, and legs. Click the joint that is located at the kink of the spine, hold shift and press e to extrude both of his shoulders at the same time.
Repeat the process for the arms, the palm, and the mitten finger. You only need to hold shift for the first extrusion. Once you are done extruding, add some bend to his arms by bringing the elbows back a little and shoulders forward. This will assist in some of the rules we apply later.
We quickly add the thumb by duplicating the end bone of the arm chain (shift +d). Try to align the bone with his thumb as well as possible. The changes will also be mirrored.
Now we do the same for the hips. Shift+e extrudes both of the hips at the same time, like before.
Go ahead and extrude out the legs and feet as well. The process is the exact same as the one used for the arms. You will want to make the feet as two bones: heel and toe. This will better represent how a foot works.
We are going to add some bones that make no sense at this point in the process. For a lack of a better term, these bones are “handles”. They help constraints conform in such a way that allows for better manipulations. One should go out the heel, and another should jut out the toe.
While we are at it, let us add the others to the hands, back and spine as well.
So far, our armature has been a rough approximation of his skeleton. This next part will give bones to the guy’s coat some bones. Why? Unity’s cloth simulator is expensive, and for such a low poly character, it would look bad anyway. If I don’t rig his coat, his legs will go through it and look funny. In lieu of designing a new character without the coat, I’m going to approximate the movement of his coat by hand. I will need bones to do that right.
I duplicate the hips and extrude them out to make some coat control bones, this is to take advantage of the mirroring already in place. Then I duplicate the hip handle bone and use that as a middle chain for the coat. When making the chain, overshoot by one.
Now for the desperately unfun part. We need to name every single one of these bones something recognizable. Blender will try to help by making the mirror bones something similar, but in my experience it tends to fail. Try to keep to a convention, here are my names:
The actual names are unimportant: I don’t care, and blender doesn’t care.
We have two choices on how to proceed and none of them are wrong, it is a matter of preference. I like to meld the skeleton to the armature before proceeding to constrain it, but constraining the skeleton helps evaluate its usage in animation. I’ll do the constraints first for this next part.