Ambitious scene 2 The Eagle


Placing these on top to show current progress faster.

(Older Post Below)
It has been some time since my last post the big ambitious elk scene if anybody remembers, I am finally back somewhat after life and work have slowed me down.
Anyway I have a new ambitious scene that I have been working on that involves this eagle. Right now I am just posting the eagle though I do have more scene made that will show soon. The reason I am just posting this for now is well bird anatomy is confusing and modeling one with feathers and somewhat pose-able/animate-able is a big challenge for me. So take a look tell me what you think.

I could use some ideas on feathers. should I model them in or just the key ones I have now? Should I use alphas? I am still debating on how this works out with birds.

This was all modeled in Maya 2010.


Not a bad start.

Have you seen this?

The guy who made it is on CGTalk. Maybe you can try to PM him, and see if he could offer you a bit of feedback.

Did you model your feathers with 2 sides?



The major feathers the primaries in purple and secondaries in light blue are double sided. the others are not.
But that is not set in stone. This is just a “Is this how its supposed to look?” and are their better/easier/more efficient ways of doing this.

Khalid’s Eagle I can’t really tell if the major feathers are part of the main body or are separate models attached. Also I have no idea what is going on with that wings anatomy. It looks right and the bone structure makes sense. But the flesh and the feathers I don’t know what the anatomy is doing. I will have to ask him I guess.


Hey there, I can probably help. I have built a couple of bird models and have studied bird anatomy quite a lot. When I get the chance I can give you a paint over, but for now a few tips-

The back of the head is too large, the back of the skull should be farther forward

The shape of the eye is pretty good, but he needs a supra-orbital ridge, or eyebrow ridge, right above and in front of the eye

Do you intend to keep the mouth closed? I can see you have modeled the mouth all in one piece. If so, the line between upper and lower jaw should be more defined, and there should be a raised area, or lips, around the part of the mouth that extends onto the head behind the beak

There should be more of a bend at the ankle so the leg doesn’t look so straight. By the way, the ankle is the part that a lot of people think is a “backwards knee” in birds. The real knee is actually higher up, hidden up near the chest of the bird.

From the above view, the flight feathers should be swept back a bit more, closer to being in line with the body. Basically, the tertials and secondaries closest to the body should be parallel to the body and they slowly fan out from there to where the outer primaries are about 45 degrees from the angle of the body

As for your question about alphas, I would say definitely use them. I have had good luck with it. As far as double sided, I had better luck with single sided as long as the pattern on the feathers is the same above and below. It is a tiny bit tricky to get both sides to line up.

Body feathers can be tough. I don’t have too good a solution. You might want to check out “dodo master”, a free plugin I used with some good results. It just has a tendency to slow things down a whole lot in the viewport and in rendering. Also can only be used on nurbs surfaces, so you must model nurbs under your model to attach the feathers to and then constrain them to the polygonal model with bind constraints if you are planning to pose or animate the model.

Anway, good start. I look forward to seeing how this progresses.


Thanks PerlinFalcon I have attempted to make all the changes you have suggested.

Also wireframes


Awesome! Looking much better! I’ll try and post a paint over or drawing as far as what I was talking about for the flight feathers when I get home. It’s a little tough to explain in words.


Ok, so here are a few paintovers. Let me know if you need clarification on any of them.

The yellow lines indicate the more correct angle of the flight feathers:

Some small corrections on the face:

The shoulder should be a little higher up on the body. Shoulder width is good, though.

Here is a quick render of the flight feathers off my latest wing model with some simple notes:

and a wireframe:

Another thing to keep in mind is that the feathers don’t droop as much as you have them. The tailfeathers especially should be almost straight.

Alright, let me know if it helps. Hope I’m not being too much of a know-it-all. I just really get excited about bird anatomy!


It does and I thank you for it.

I think I will take my feathers off and build new ones that I don’t have to fight to get in the right spot or straighten them out.


Nice work on that wing Catherine! I’d love to see some of your work. Any chance we could get a link? :stuck_out_tongue:

It might also be a good idea to cut holes on the feet or toes where the talons fit in, and add some edge loops around them. I believe the feet are bald if I’m not mistaken, so you will want to add plenty of detail.

Can’t wait to see your next update!



I have completely redone all the feathers. They are no longer double sided and decided to make the wings a tad shorter.

Also small tweaks to the face.


Hey, looking really great! Much improved. Do you have plans for the body feathers? By the way, is this going to be a bald eagle or a golden eagle? Or even some other species of eagle?

AJ, thanks for the compliments on the wing. I am in the middle of working on my portfolio and don’t really have any renders I’m happy with yet. But I hope to put something in my cg portfolio before too long.


It will be whatever species that is at the beginning of this is As one day I would like to do a 3d version of the tapestry/song or something. I believe it is a golden Eagle.

As for the rest of the body feathers I might do as a did with my elk manes is just use alphas or alphas and normal maps. Experiment I guess.

As for now it is being put into a large scene that is going to have a little bit of everything. Hard surface/ organic the works and I will be posting what I have modeled on that so far here shortly now that I have the Eagle going in the general right direction.


Update time and I have been spending the last month rigging this and a mouse character of mine. Rigging isn’t my forte and the eagle is the third rig I have ever done. But It will make posing it less of a chore in the future or so is the plan. I don’t know how to post videos here or I would make a playback of the wings unfolding so here is some shots of the wings in various states of folding.

Mind you they are not perfect and I see some tweaking later on.

Also one question I have is my eagle is only around 13,000 poly’s with the feathers it has currently and I have a mouse model that is also rigged at around 10,000 poly’s. yet the eagle file is 8.5 mg in size while the mouse is only about 1.5 mg. I have deleted non deformer history. but the most annoying part is the eagle chunks/lags hardcore when moving or animating it if its in smooth preview mode


I have returned to work on this after a long hiatus period. This is the first version and I plan on doing one of a different species. Probably a Golden Eagle for a different scene.
This is just a work in progress report as you can see I have no background yet. No Lights, this is just a basic render with the default lights in Maya. Mostly posting to get feed back on the general look of it.
Yes every single feather is it’s own alpha poly plane, with approximately 35,000 poly’s worth of feathers. All the textures are hand painted as I kinda want a somewhat painted look to it.

One question I have is should I do SSS and if so where and how. In truth I have never done SSS and not really sure what the textured process is for that.


I am going to try 2 different images and see how they each turn out. Here with the second image I have re-textured the Eagle to the appearance of a Golden Eagle. I will have them both have different poses as soon as I rig the feathers. (Something I should have done before but this has been a learning process). I don’t know what I am going to do for the backgrounds quite yet. I am working on a serpent for one of the images however.


Hey man,

Glad to see that you’ve kept working on this over the past year! Its really coming along.

Could you post a few wireframe renders of your base mesh and with the feathers? Have you tired making any raytraced renders yet?

The inside of the mouth could use a little detail, and you might want to look at using a sculpting program to make a displacement map for the feet.



Ok here are the wire frames they really have not changed. as for the feathers, each feather is a alpha poly plane so they don’t really have wire frames. I have not raytraced or done any real rendering work with it yet, as I still am working on poses, scenery, lighting and all that fun stuff. These are all just basic mental ray renders. The Feet actually do have a normal map on them produced by Zbrush.

As for the inside of the mouth, their is a tongue in there but the angle prevents from seeing it. and I don’t know how much of the of the inside will be seen in the end.


Normal on feet.


Are you trying to produce a full, photo realistic, animated scene with your eagle? At high definition?

It might help to do a few raytrace test with the transparency on the feathers to make sure everything is covered ok. The feathers seem to lock together pretty closely on the real birds.

It would be neat to have the feet all detailed up, but I’m not sure how close they will be shown in your final piece.


It’s not going to be photo-realistic for a couple reasons. First everything is hand painted (No feather textures were used at all) and I kinda like that painted look feel to it (in fact I am really been inspired recently by the painted textures of the game dishonored). Second I am more of a model guy, which means I do textures enough to make something look nice a polished. but I am diffidently feel that I am not at the level to push something to full extreme photo realism at this time.

Also I have it rigged well enough to pose and do what I need to. but I am still an amateur rigger, and I have already discovered I don’t really like animating things. So no not an animation.

Because the feathers are poly plane alphas they do have gaps and if you do look close enough and at the right angle you would see them. It is the same method they put hair/fur/feathers on video game characters. Its not the best method but its also the one I am most familiar with. Their really is not a whole lot I can do except maybe try another method or add more feathers, but thier is already 30,000 poly’s worth of feathers as is, with every feather except the main wing feathers being a single poly.

I think I will work on the feat a little more. Intereting right now I am working on a snake (bush viper to be exact) that I am thinking of putting in one of the talons of the eagles and hoping to have that posted up shortly.