Types of modelling
Box/Subdivision Modelling: Box modelling is a polygonal modeling technique in which we start with a geometric primitive (cube, sphere, cylinder, etc.) and then refines its shape until the desired appearance is achieved. Box modelling is often done in stages, starting with a low-resolution mesh, refining the shape, and then sub-dividing the mesh to smooth out hard edges and add detail. The process of subdividing and refining is repeated until the mesh contains enough polygonal detail to properly convey the intended concept. Box modeling is probably the most common form of polygonal modelling and is often used in conjunction with edge modeling techniques
Edge/Contour Modeling: In edge modelling, the model is essentially built piece by piece by placing loops of polygonal faces along prominent contours, and then filling any gaps between them. This may sound needlessly complicated, but certain meshes are difficult to complete through box modeling alone, the human face being a good example. To properly model a face requires very strict management of edge flow and topology, and the precision afforded by contour modeling can be invaluable. Rather than trying shape a well-defined eye socket from a solid polygonal cube (which is confusing and counter-intuitive), it's much easier to build an outline of the eye and then model the rest from there. Once the major landmarks (eyes, lips, browline, nose, jawline) are modeled, the rest tends to fall into place almost automatically.
NURBS/Spline Modeling: NURBS is a modeling technique used most heavily in automotive and industrial modelling. In contrast to polygonal geometry, a NURBS mesh has no faces, edges, or vertices. Instead, NURBS models are comprised of smoothly interpreted surfaces, created by "lofting" a mesh between two or more Bezier curves (also known as splines).
Before we start building our character, it's a good idea to know what that character is going to look like. It's our job to come up with the concepts for what will eventually be the final characters. The idea is that you want to be able to look at that artwork and reproduce what you see in 3D. These drawings are called a model sheet, character sheet or turn around, you need to create different views of your characters from different angles. And ideally, they're going to be orthographic views. What does orthographic mean? that the perspective has been taken out. What views do we need? We are going to need a front view of our character which gives us a lot of information. We can see the placement of the eyes, and where the facial features should be placed and the general profile of the character. We will need a side view in this view we will normally remove the arm, otherwise the arm would be sticking out, and it would be obscuring the view of the side profile of the body. Front and side are the most necessary views but we can have a back view, top view, bottom view and even angled views.
Ideally, these are all supposed to match up. So you've got the eyes all lined up, everything matches up from side to side, going across. We can see all the details of the body, and it's in a default pose. So the different poses you might see are the T pose, where the arms would be sticking straight out and an M pose, where it's a little bit more relaxed. (put each view in a separate file for importing into maya, this will make life easier)
Importing images planes
Open Maya and the first think we will do is set the view port to the orthographic four panel view, do this by pressing the icon on the left hand side in the tool box that looks like four squares.
Time to import the images, we can do this by selecting the fourth icon in the view port that looks like a blue square on a white square. (next to the bookmark icon)
or you can open the view menu - image plane - import image... select the image that corresponds with the view port, so the front view port should have the front image, the side view port the side image etc..
Once you have all the image imported select them all and resize them to our preferred size, so if the character is 4 foot tall make it that size, the default grid size in Maya is in centimetres. We will also raise the character so their feet are resting on the x axis plane. Lastly select each image individually and push them back in the axis they are facing in, for example the front image is likely to be facing in the z axis so select the move tool and push it back in z space.
Create a cube, and position it so that it is resting where your characters centre would be, for this character it is roughly where its belly button would be. In the orthographic views change the display type to wire frame so we can see what we're doing more clearly.
We are going to be adding edge loops and extruding the box so lets familiarise ourselves with those tools. The insert edge loop tool can be found in the mesh tools menu, the extrude tool can be found in the edit mesh menu or on the modelling shelf the. We can also insert edge loops by selecting an edge, holding down the 'cmd' key and holding down the right mousse button and hovering over edge ring utilities this will open a new menu and select to edge ring and split.
Start extruding the cube up to where there are changes in the characters silhouette such as the pectorals, under the arm, start or neck etc. You can also use the insert edge loop tool to match up edges.
Once you have the edges all lined up go to vertex mode by holding the right mouse button down on the mesh and choosing vertex. Ot is now time to line up the vertex points with the silhouette of the character we can to this by selecting a row of verts and scaling them on the x axis or by selecting verts and moving them into position. ( ensure you are only moving them in the x axis at this stage don't move them up and down in the y axis, also ensure you are selecting the verts behind by marque selecting and not just clicking on the verts)
Change to the side view and start to do the same thing, remembering not to move off the z axis in this view.
We should now have the basic shape of the torso blocked out.
We will start to model the leg, select the face which is going to be the start of the leg (to select faces hold down right mouse button and select face). Extrude the face down, when we first hit the extrude button a manipulator will appear that is facing in the direction of the face if you want to extrude straight down in the y axis just hit the move tool and the manipulator will change and drag the face down. To straighten out the face select the scale tool and use the y axis to straighten the face out, and position it to the start of the thigh.
Before we carry on lets set up this face to make the modelling of the leg easier for use, we will need to square off this face. Select the vert on the front outside and move it in on the z axis, select two verts such as the two front verts and scale them in on the z axis so they are perfectly straight, do the same all around and then make sure its positioned right in the side view.
Lets finish of the basic blocking of the leg, with the face selected extrude it down to where the centre of the knee, scale it in and move it to match the image. Create another extrude and brig it down to where the ankle ends, scale and move into place and finally extrude down to the base of where to foot should be. Now move over to the side view and line up verts with that image (the images might not be perfectly aligned so you need to make best guess for the position).
Select the face which the foot will be extruded from and extrude, bring it out as far as where the toes start and then extrude again out to the end of the toes. By selecting the verts follow the profile of the image ( remember we are keeping the edge loops low at this stage so it will not be a perfect match, also not in our example the front drawing the feet are not drawn orthographically so we will work off the side view for the foot reference). Move into the perspective view and select the toe verts and scale them out and shape to your liking for the foot shape.
We are now going to round of the leg a little, first create an edge loop running up the centre of the leg, try and make sure it is centred as possible if you need to come in and change individual verts do so. Once you are happy it is centred select the outer edges of the leg and move them in slightly to round off the shape of the leg, (remember to tumble around in the perspective view to ensure you are getting the right shape) For example select to two edges on the front outer side and move them in on the z axis and the move them on the x axis.
Lets make on to the arm, select the face we want to extrude and extrude out a little bit. Move into the front view and select the verts at the top of the extrude we just made and move them to the top of the shoulder area, now select the bottom verts and move them up to the top of the shoulder just to the right of the ones we just moved. Once happy with there position do another extrude and pull this out just past the shoulder and straighten out its verts by scale on the x axis. This is the basic should created now just like the leg shape the start of the arm to a square, select the vert front and bottom and move it inwards to square off the shape, Spend some time ensuring all the verts are aligned by using the same scaling technique.
In the front view, extrude the arm out to the centre of the elbow and do another extrude out to the wrist and finally one more extrude to where the thumb starts. Move back to perspective view and select the edge loop for the wrist and scale it on the z axis until it is squared off and do the same with the elbow edge loops.
We need to round off the arm, so insert an edge loop along the top and side of the arm. Just like on the leg select an edge along the arm and round them off. Once happy select all the faces of the arm and scale them into shape.
Because we added the extra edge loops on the arm, one of them has run down and into the leg we will need to ensure the leg is rounded off properly again. Select the new edge loops and pull them out slightly.
Move back up to the shoulder area and try to smooth out the shoulder joint, best way to do this is try and make the polygons as square as possible and try to put a gently curve on the edge loops. This is just a case of small adjustments and tumbling around the scene to make sure they are OK.
Lets round off the body will we're at it, create an edge loop running down the centre of the character and just like with the legs and arms select the edges of the body and push them in slightly rounding off the torso.
Time to move onto the hand, for this character I am going to give him a thumb and two fingers. First we will prepare the area we are going to extrude by shaping it for a cleaner extrude. Its likely to be pointed at its sides and we want to square it off a little. Select the two outer verts and scale in.
Next we will create the palm of the hand and get it ready to extrude the thumb out. Select the faces at the end of the arm and extrude past to where the thumb ends and do one more extrude to where the fingers first knuckles would start.
Time to extrude the thumb select the faces that line up with where the thumb should be positioned and extrude out a small bit from the hand, using your scale tool shape the extruded faces until they are squared off and position into a natural position. Extrude out to where the knuckle would be and once more to the end of the thumb. We would like to round of the thumb but to do this we will need to add an edge loop running along the centre of the thumb. Once we have the edge loop in place select the edges on the side of the thumb and round them off.
To finish of the thumb we need to give it a rounded end, select the end faces and extrude out slightly and scale in and position to the shape of a thumb. Next it is time to position the thumb in a more natural pose. Select al the thumb faces, we are going to rotate them but first we need to position the faces pivot point (hold down the 'd' key and move with move tool). First rotate at the joint closest to the hand then the knuckle joint and finally tilt down slightly.
Creating the finger is going to be a similar process select the two faces on the thumb side, and extrude out slightly and shape it to a more squared shape. Next will be creating an edge loop that runs along the top of the finger however if we just insert an edge loop it will run all the way along the body which we don't want. Instead using the multi-cut tool split the finger at 50% along the middle but close the cut of at the wrist be moving to the centre vert. With the edge loop created select the faces again and extrude out to the knuckles and again to the end of the finger, round off the finger by selecting outside edges and scaling in. Next create the finger tip just like we did with the thumb and finally position the finger into a more natural position. Repeat the process to create the second finger.
Time to add more geometry to areas on the mesh where deformations will happen during animation, we will also add some more detail to the mesh. First off add three edge loops to areas where deformations will happen such as the elbow, wrist, knee and ankle. Next move to the front view here we will add some more edge loops such as on the calf, thigh, bicep and wrist. With the edge loops in place its time to shape the mesh, so select the edge loop around the calf and scale it out to match the image plane. Do the same with the thigh, bicep etc.. next start shaping the areas of deformation such as the ankles and wrists, this is when the mesh will begin to take on a more refined look. Finally we will mirror the mesh, in the front view select all the faces on the side without arms and legs and delete them. Next make sure you are in object mode and select the the mesh, go to the mesh menu and select the options of mirror geometry in the mirror geometry window look at what axis you want to mirror the geometry and select it and hit mirror. At this stage have a look at your mesh and fix any areas that stand out most likely around the buttocks and chest.
Time to create the head, select the faces on the top of the neck and extrude them up to the top of the head. Select the faces on the side of the head and extrude these out to the side of the head, do the same with the front and back faces of the head. When finished you should be left with a block headed character.
Lets add some edge loops running along the height of the the cube. Next we need to do some basic shaping, using the front view select the verts on the head and shape into place like we have done with the body, try and keep the movement locked in the X and Y axis for now. Once happy with the front move to the side view and repeat.
We need to round off the head, select the edges that are lest squared and move them into place giving the head a rounded shape. At this stage you will need to start tumbling around the model checking for verts that are either sticking in or out of the rounded edges, select the verts and move into place best as possible