View Full Version : What's your general approach to organic modeling (and your latest WIP)

06 June 2006, 01:11 PM
I figured since this portion of the forum could use some love I'd make a thread to get some insight on other people's methods of organic modeling.

Well I'll start it off with my technique; I've found works best for me is poly by poly modeling--but more specifically, modeling the initial flow and details and making everything work around it. For example: I'll model the jaw line and make the face fit to it, instead of modeling the face and trying to model the jaw line off of the face. I put what I want, and make the unimportant/undetailed parts work around it.

Also, for me--looking in the mirror at pictures (if I can find ones at decent angles) and visualizing the topology on my own body (or the pictures) helps me get a sort of idea of what I need to aim for; the depth of field helps me as opposed to pictures which are so flat it's hard for me to visualize.

06 June 2006, 04:36 PM
hey julian!

great thread. sadly no one replied... -exept me:)
it sounds like were using a very similare approch. i've posted a small tutorial/explenation of my workflow, in the silo tutorials thread. but you can also see it here ( he is also one of my last wip's.


06 June 2006, 05:04 PM
Hmmm quite interesting topic, but only one reply? strange :shrug:

I also use similar technique... Erm, to be honest it's not pure edge-extrude - first I extrude large polys and subdivide them later. It is suitable for me as I add polys where needed and don't really need precise planning :D

It has distadvantages of course.. Result is lots of n'gons and have to refine topology from time to time :argh:

This is my "current" WIP (no time to work on it, exams :wip: :wip: )


06 June 2006, 06:46 PM
At beginning I model poly by poly, but now I model from box or sphere etc... I found I have better control when modeling like that, but still use poly by poly for some things, but really rarely for head or body... or better to say never :)

I think it's not so matter some people found it easer to model poly by poly while somebody else found it easer to model from box etc. subd

btw. sorry for my english :)

example (I start by some picture from subdivisionmodeling forum, but right now it's an orc I added nose etc... it's not here on this picture)

06 June 2006, 03:04 AM
I started to learn the 'extrude edge' approach but decided to do my own thing. I use cinema4d for right now because it is much easier for me to model with that Maya. I use Maya for animation but I find it to be too 'professional' to model with for some reason.

I take the add points tool and make points where I think they should be, then use the bridge tool to connect them. Also, when I do that I have it inside a hypernurbs object so I can see exactly what I am getting.

What I want to know is if there are any MAJOR drawbacks to this other than taking more time. It isn't giving me any problems just yet though :D

06 June 2006, 05:15 PM
nice to see this thread, up and running. very intresting to hear about your approaches.
very nice character, julian.


06 June 2006, 06:41 AM
interesting thread. i hope this gets more replies... i use box modeling method.. i block out the basic shape first and some primary loops and just keep on adding edges where i need them and redirect them for better edgeflow later on.. edgeflow comes last.. :)

and my latest WIP.. i'm not working on it at the moment though.

06 June 2006, 07:47 AM
:eek: omg!! how do u all do that??!!! that's awsome!!

i'm juz a beginner in 3D.. currently learning modelling with maya for a mth now...
my maya sucks!! T.T

how do u guys manage to get it shaped so real??
i just move the vertex... very hard to shape it.
n inserting spheres to make the eye for my character...
looks totally sucks... =(

pardon me, what is poly by poly btw? :shrug:

06 June 2006, 09:02 AM
Work, work and work :). Practice and you will learn, take a look at some good tutorial etc...

Here's one example, @juzMe this is poly by poly

06 June 2006, 09:13 AM
hi guys, good to see this thread potentially start going somewhere.

I like to plan out the topology of my character model first in photoshop on the front and side references before I begin modelling. It does take a bit of time but once you learn a good method it can become quicker. I find this method helpful because it allows you to study your character more and learn more about their bone and muscle structure.

Besides, once you get to modelling your character its just a case of joining the dots, however with the model shown below, i used the box method and created lines using the connect tool mostly. Its also very easy and simple to adjust the topology if its not looking quite right because the topology loops are already set up.

09 September 2006, 03:24 AM
I am still new to the 3D realm of things.. I've played around in Bryce and Poser in the past. But since I moved over to Linux I use Blender. Been working in Blender for less than a month and learning the edge extrude method. this is a current W.I.P

09 September 2006, 08:48 PM
I've always found extruding edges to be a huge mistake. You get too many polygons, it's more difficult to get a nice 3D shape than if you started from a box, which has the three planes already defined for you. Human faces that have been modelled this way always look sooooo flat. I wouldn't start a life drawing with the details, right?You would work general to specific. Boxing out a figure into it's general shape first then refining is the same theory. helps so much with proportions.

The wolf's head was edge extruded, and the rest of the body was box modelled. Same with the Stegosaurus.

10 October 2006, 08:41 PM
My way of workking ise going from eyes, to nose to forhead to mouth, to jaw, fill in + neck

than body, chest, belly shoulders, back, spine, shoulder muscles, connect front to back, making armpit, butt, than legs, from knee to lower to upper leg, than feet, from tow

allmost all poly modeld, accept for fingers and tows, and sometimes part of leg or arm.

my latest wip is the link below in sig

and a wire from that model: (

10 October 2006, 10:05 AM
I started with boxmodelling because it was easier to work on proportions and getting a vision of what it will look like already in early stages, later i switched to poly by poly, because it's easier to create clean topology with it, then i brought both techniques together and started working with what i'd call silhouette modelling, i still do human faces poly by poly when i have to create new heads, but besicly i stopped doing it all over again on any model and developed one topology thats flexible enough to create many different heads with it without having them to look all the same.
Then i'm building the Body top down, head, torso, legs, arms, hands, feet, if i don't have a proportionssketch in the back i model a rough silhouette and use it as my guide.

and this is my latest wip shot

10 October 2006, 02:32 AM
Do any of ya'll know of any good character model tutorials out there? I've been searching but mainly just head, ear and hand tutorials pop up.

10 October 2006, 09:37 AM
well if you can model a hand or an ear you can model the rest of the body too, especially the hand is one of the hardest parts to do...
but there are a few pretty popular tutorials, you could try it with the joan of arc tutorial over at 3dtotal or Wiros charactermodelling tutorial on his homepage

10 October 2006, 04:50 PM
Thanks for the tip Neox, I'll check that site out tonight.

12 December 2006, 09:38 PM
Hi, I'm studing some organic modelling, but I think my job is very dirt yet, I always have some questions, could one of you ask, please?

- What is the importance of good reference images?
- In the box modelling how add many details (like some wrinkles or corner of eyes and mouth) without create many triangles faces?

PS: You, guys, have excellent works here! Congratulations! :thumbsup:


12 December 2006, 08:21 AM
I do almost all box modeling. I like to see the basic forms early. I make a very rough version and look at the smoothed preview and then smooth it and add detail. I do adjust the topology too at eash stage zapping triangles and N-gons been gettign better at keeping it quads I do slip up once in a while but I stach the N-gons and trianges in areas that do not deform.

12 December 2006, 06:45 AM
I started with a cube that was cut down the middle for symmetry. Then cut slices in it and stretched and pulled on them while smoothing. Then cut some more slices and stretched and pulled. See for more info.

12 December 2006, 10:34 AM
hi every liked the half dog and human it looks like it's from the movie "immortal" I'm a student
just started to get into the wolrd of cgi and cga I'm wanting to model an anime character
and I want to make it look really good
the quality like advent children I'm looking for advise on how to go about it I'm using maya
I'm told that maya isn't great for modeling i know but it's the software that I'm using.
can i get some pleaassse?

01 January 2007, 02:23 PM
Some what? lol. Go for 3ds max, it's quite good for modeling =]. Oh and get the MJPolytools script.

02 February 2007, 09:50 PM
You basically have two choices for modeling the face: box modeling or planar poly by poly approach. For the box modeling approach I highly suggest Modeling the Human Head from Gnomon (it's fantabulous). For poly to poly, nothing beats the Joan of Arc tutorial still. I will say don't buy the Character Modeling for Production DVD from Gnomon and think you will get alot of modeling information. It's a great DVD for overall character production but skimps almost everything on how the face and body are created. I also completely agree with Neox in saying that all you really need is a good template. After that it's off to Zbrush anyways. I've seen people take young female head model templates and zbrush an old guy.

03 March 2007, 09:09 AM
I start by first studying the form of what I will model, mapping out how my topology must flow. Then I use box modeling to block out the basic forms, then I go in, delete faces, and shit, and do poly by poly, but I combine it with my existing box modeled mesh. so instead of adding all my detail by means of extruding, cutting loops, and spinning quads, I do it poly by poly, which comes easily and quickly for me, since it was how I learned to model. Whenever I do 100% box modeling, I'm always unsatisfied with the topology.

03 March 2007, 12:46 PM
Well .. here a new model ive started, this time not a highpoly model , but just a base for putting it in mudbox or zbrush later.

I'm trying hard not to put to much detail in it.. just basic forming, so no muscle details, no abs etc.

im using poly-modelling, for me the best way to go, its constructive and precise, and you can work on one piece at a time, without influencing surrounding areas,
I try to not put much of muscles or detail from them for that matter in the body, because i dont want to limited when sculpting.


03 March 2007, 01:30 PM
Great thread :)

I'm using poly by poly for the head and any complex pieces like the ears etc. But i usually use box extrusion apart from that, i use that on the body, hands feet etc. But i do find that poly by poly gives me far too many polygons for the head, which is a pain.

On the plus side i find i can control the edge loops and overall quality of the mesh, to a much higher level, straight off the bat, with barely any tri's. Important when it needs to be used in a game atleast.

My current WIP thread is here (

Current update here (Note: The pelvis is wrong, i've still to get it looking right)

Aiming for a game model, but i do want it to appear as realistic as possible.

04 April 2007, 03:41 PM

07 July 2007, 03:15 PM
great thread.....up until about a year ago, box modeling was working best for me b/c I was able to get the basic forms/proportions without needing to worry about detail.....about 6months later, planar ( poly2poly ) modeling worked best b/c I can get the model's topology to flow exactly how I wanted....then somewhere between then and now I use both techiques....( boxModeling for the body mostly and planar for the face/head/ears )....but recently I started boxModeling again, :) ...mainly b/c my knowledge of human anatomy has grown, and that combined with being able to spin edges, it's now easier to get the mesh to flow how I want it to via boxModeling.....which means I can create the sameModel with less geometry....this is my lastest W.I.P it's "All" boxModeling....started from a cube.....

here ( ( and here ( << are a few of the steps.....modeled in Modo btw....


07 July 2007, 07:53 PM
I nevr used the box modeling process, always Extrude modeling or in max edge growing (its like poly to poly but you drag out new topology).
Recently I have been lofting and then box/extrusion modeling. Im currently trying to figure out a new technique..

07 July 2007, 06:39 PM
although i prefer box modelling, i find myself using and instance most of the time. making a low poly sphere, and making an instance of it with a turbosmooth modifier. that way when i transform and cut the low poly sphere, i see it updating in real time. here is an example of what i have done with that.

this way i think is a bit more effective because there is less shaping to do.

07 July 2007, 09:44 PM
There's nothing wrong or right regarding the use of either method, rather it is really cool to see the results of patience, knowledge and effort applied...

It is bliss when you view nice design concepts and or mesh strategies employed, and by so many artists these days...

Quite the fantastic talent pool a building :)

08 August 2007, 12:58 PM
depends on the references for me :) If I'm happy enough to have perfect side/front views [which is almost never the case!] then I'll go poly by poly and match it all nicely to the ref... otherwise it's a combination of poly by poly and box modeling...

Lately I developed another method which works great for organic modeling, at the beginning of the process - I get a basic shape [box modelled] and do not worry about bumps and such and then I put it into zbrush - subd it - sculpt the shape some more, obviously zbrush will smooth stuff out nicely for me :scream: - and then I go back to the lowest level of subd and back to xsi... then I add all the defined edges and so on... It's a very fast method I found and gives good results quite often. [a matter of personal preference, too, I guess!]

09 September 2007, 04:49 PM
I. Intro:"When people see the beautiful marble in Trump Tower they usually have no idea what I went through personally to achieve the end result. No one cares about the blood, sweat and tears the art or beauty require. It’s the end result that matters." Donald Trump

Thesis: Developing a technique that best suits the various parts of one’s model can be achieved though the various styles of modeling, such as box, poly to poly, and spline modeling.

II. Box Modeling is the most common industry standard where the model is created from a basic primitive shape.

A. Used for everything

B. Pros

1. Quick block out

2. Excellent method for sculptors (Block Out and then details)

C. Cons

1. Difficult to form correct edge looping

2. Robotic model

III. Poly to poly modeling is constructing polygons one by one

A. Used mostly for modeling heads

B. Pros

1. Correct edge loops from the very start

2. No edge loop cutting

C. Cons

1. There is no beginning block out

2. Not recommended for modelers who lacks knowledge of the mesh’s overall shape

IV. Spline Modeling is when an artist creates a two dimensional outline of one’s reference image and then lofts between the curves.

A. Used mostly for modeling heads

B. Pros

1. Guaranteed correct edge flow if curves follow muscle structure

2. Modeler doesn’t have to keep adding details, the detail is already there from the beginning

C. Cons

1. Creating curves can seem tedious

2. Adjusting the vertices after lofting

V. Conclusion

11 November 2007, 06:22 PM
Im always modeling from the box.

In the beginnings when i started out with Blender, I used to only model pbp.

But when I changed to Maya I started modeling from the box, first I tried to model pbp, too.

But I wont recommend Maya for that task.

here is my latest WIP


Peter Johansson
11 November 2007, 10:36 PM
I use a similar approach as Intervain. But I create the topology and basic shapes and then import it to zbrush and flesh it out. Then back to maya and continue the modeling. This way I can see if there are any flaws in my models topology.

Here is a model that i just started.

11 November 2007, 01:05 AM
I still preffer the poly by poly method for the face, and usually I do the body wih a combination of pbp and box modeling. Here's my latest W.I.P. Working on a small diorama just to brush up on some skills and try out some new edgelooping techniques.

BTW, great thread, hopefully some more people will post as I'm sure there are a lot of people using a lot of different methods out there.

11 November 2007, 11:44 PM
I am modeling only poly by poly sometimes i am trying something new but pbp is my standard.

nmcelmury: Aren't there too many polys at the forehead area? I see bad Tris on the nose which you can easily transform into quads with one cut ;)

12 December 2007, 07:30 AM
When you guys say "poly by poly"

Do you first mean defining the face with curves adn then creating polygons snapping to the curves?


just going straight to polygons without a drawing, curves..any sort of reference?

12 December 2007, 07:54 AM
I don't trace when I draw out my polygons. I will have some photos lying around that I'll use as reference. But I don't load them into my modeling room. I did trace in the past, but the female models came out too mechanical (stiff) looking. Polygon modeling of women is enough of a mechanical process already. No need to make it more so by tracing photos.

Some people are in a hurry and will trace anyway. It's just a hobby for me. No rush.

01 January 2008, 07:23 PM
Im sorta new to modelling and im working on my first head model right now. Im using a tutorial ( as a guide to how i should do the topoligy. However, i can't really se how he did the corners of the mouth. This is my WIP model, please comment on the topology and how it's gonna effect the animation if i would rig it. Would the sharp corner of the mouth affect it in a negative way? Thanks!

02 February 2008, 01:55 PM
interesting thread ... well since early 2007 i gave up the poly by poly technique which I've been using since the day i new 3D, at least not for detailing ... i started to develop a better fast technique ( at least for me ) that makes me very comfortable in my work flow which i will share with you.

i start blocking the gesture of a character without worrying about any muscle or cutting any edges just to get the right proportions, i run my regular serious of commands in Maya after i am done ( Clean, Freeze Transformation, Center Pivot, Clear History ) and make sure the Normals direction is right then export it to ZBrush.

In ZBrush .. i start working on the contour and the gesture again at the lower divisions .. maybe hint for the muscles ... then refine and detail at higher divisions, after i am done i re-topologies the model, export the lowest subD and create a neat decent UVs ( as decent as i can ) using UVLayout and a sometimes Maya UV Editor as well, then export back the model to be imported in ZBrush replacing the first sub division ...

from there i am ready to do poly painting, normal maps, displacement if i need it.


03 March 2008, 08:52 PM
Hi guys , started poly modeling now box modeling, really enjoy what box modeling offers. Looking for a hand tutorial, funny as the head /bod seem so darn easy , but I tend to screw up when doing the hand from the wrist , no dowt it`ll just fall into place with time...gee just so many dam good artists about , great to see whats being done....glad I joined up....good thread

03 March 2008, 09:10 AM
Not sure about hands related info here per say, although a search could be in order... pretty sure that there are some good examples posted over @ spiraloid...

03 March 2008, 06:21 AM
Hello guys, nice thread :P I usually go by poly by poly method and keep it simple as possible. I did a video tutorial on poly by poly modelling of the head based of a referance. you can check it out here.

The heads I worked on:

Work in progress | Sam

Another head:

03 March 2008, 03:07 PM
Yunathan ( That's a good start but the problem I see is that you've got tris in your mesh and possibly ngons- try to keep them all quads (4sided shapes)-= this will help incase you ever want to expand and add a sculpting software or use a renderer that requires quads.

04 April 2008, 08:03 AM
Wow,This is good topic..ok I prefer mix between box modeling method and poly by poly method This will make my work more easily,I start using box modeling then to add the details and to adjust the edgeloop to match the muscles I use poly by poly method . this make my adjustment more fixable

04 April 2008, 04:17 PM
I like to start with a box mesh, mostly its none too pretty;), but that has even quads. Then toss it into a sculpt app. There I will retopologise it and displace it in my animation app.

Cheerio Chris

12 December 2008, 09:27 PM
Very nice topic
I use all possible methods while modeling my characters(which I generally do as a character artist).
1.I start with a boxy mesh and roughly model the proportion in Maya
2.Export the model to Zbrush and add features to it to bring the basic feel of the character
3.Draw loops on the character in Zbrush(with polypaint)
4.Export the loop paint as a texture,and apply it on maya.
5. Generate loops using NEX in maya and get the mid poly model.
6.Unwrap and re export to Zbrush
7.Finalize the model with details in Zbrush.

I will be posting my workflow as a tutorial very soon.

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