This tutorial describes how I go about making orthographic isometric sprites i.e. top-down sprites using 3D models and painting over them, rotoscoping. Why would I go through the trouble?
*It's fast - by using a single model and animating it in one direction, I can rotate the model to cover fill a whole sprite sheet. Let's say the animation is 6 frames long, your sprite can move in 8 directions, you'll have to 36 individual frames to paint (up,upright,right,downright,down), mirror in one direction to get the remaining 18 frames for a total 54 frames. Traditionally animating is done using onion skinning, imagine painting 36 frames for a single character for one action.
*It's accurate - I often have trouble imagining a complicated action, like sitting down, from other angles. Animate your model once, and you can rotate to get an accurate reference for your frames.
First you want to get your hands on Blender
. In this tutorial we are going to animate a spinning square pillar. I won't cover rigging/posing/animating models in this tutorial, but here's an example anyways (runcycle could be better).
Before we get started here are some shortcuts I will be referencing often:
'r' - rotate
'r then x' - Rotate along X axis
'r then y' - Rotate along Y axis
'r then z' - Rotate along Z axis
note: while rotating, you can specify exact angles using your number keys ex. enter 'r + x + 45' and it rotate your model 45 degrees along the x axis.
'g' - grab and move, you can also add x,y, or z to move along those axis.
's' - scale
'alt + a' - reset scale/rotate/location
't' - open/close toolbar - both 3D view and UV editor have toolbars.
'tab' - switch between edit mode and previous mode
'numpad 0' - switch to Camera view
'u' - unwrap in edit mode
Set up your window so you have one 3D view, UV editor, and Properties window open like this:
In our 3D view we want to setup our scene like this:
I added 3 objects a plane, a cube, and a camera.Plane: This will be our Canvas
*(r)otate 45 along X axis
*(s)cale larger than cube
*(alt+a) reset scale
*(tab) into edit mode and (u)nwrap using first unwrap optionUV Editor:
*hit '+ new' to add a texture to the plane, make the texture a power of 2, 1024x1024 default works.
*shrink our UV island to a power of 2, in my case 256x256.
In the (t)oolbox of the UV Editor you can specify the location of each individual vertex
move our UV island to the bottom left cornerCube: this will be our Model
*I scaled it along the Z axis but you don't have to, it's just for demonstration.Camera: Our viewport. The camera requires more of a
*(r)otate 45 along X axis
*(numpad 0) to Camera View
*(g)rab and move in center & front of Cube.
*(g)rab and move plane center & front of Cube.Properties > Object Data Tab (the camera symbol):
*Switch to Orthographic
*Change Orthographic Scale to fit Cube and Plane in Camera view
Now that we have everything setup we can start painting!3D View:
*select our Plane
*Change mode to Texture Paint Mode
*(t) to open toolbox
*Switch Brush mode to 'Erase Alpha' and erase the alpha of the plane revealing the cube underneath
*Switch back to 'Mix' mode and now paint over your model
Once that frame is painted, we can tab back into edit mode of our Plane, and move our UV island in the UV editor to a different part of the texture. preferably adjacent, you can use the snapping tool found in the bar of the UV Editor/3D View, set to increments of the grid:
Tab out of edit mode. select our cube and rotate it 22.5 or 45 degrees, depending on how smooth you want our rotating animation. Select the plane again, and repeat until we have enough frames.
this is the cube (4 frames long) animated after our tutorial:
Last saving the image:UV Editor > Image > Save as Image
For these examples I haven't added detail to them, that I would import to a dedicated GFX program like graphics gale/photoshop/gimp. I'm kind of a lazy writer, so if anything is unclear lemme know and I'll clarify and update this post. I should probably do videos but my setup is too slow for recording. Hope this was helpful nonetheless! goodnite!