Designing for character models

When 3D modelling a character you can UV unwrap it and position each part separately to then import it into photoshop and design the characters skin using the targa file from the Maya UV map.
Here's my example of this below:

3 Point Perspective

Working with a 3 point perspective allows for a very interesting angle when drawing a room. 
To create this correct angle and keep everything within the room in perspective it's vital to find the 3 vanishing points of the rooms walls before starting to draw. You can see this within my sketches of a 3 point room below.

Animating in Unity

Key Frame Animation

Just like in Maya, Unity also uses key frame animation to animate any game object. I used this method to animate my camera around my scene as well as pulse the point light within the robot statue. It uses the same method as within Maya, enabling you to add a key frame whenever any value of the object changes and then animating between these key frames.

Particle Animation

You can also use particles within a game environment to make realistic looking elements such as fire or, in the case below, bubbles. Unity does have some default particles that can have its material changed to show a different colour however using sprites of elements can have a more realistic look. To do this you can add the sprite sheet to the particles material option and set the offset (depending on how many images are used within the sprite sheet) This will then animate the particles, switching in between each of the sprite images to change their look.

There are also many other options offered within the particle animation such as changing colour and opacity overtime, setting the range, height and scale and much more!

I decided not to use these particle animation in my scene however as I had already animated bubbled within Maya and was happy with the way that this looked.

Rigging and animating in Maya

There are many ways to animate in Maya, but to accurately move different sections of a model, such as a character, it must be properly rigged up first to give it the appropriate skeleton and joints to move.


There are rigging tools in Maya that allow you to create these skeletons. It's worth keeping this all in mind while modelling the shape of the character, making sure that there are enough divisions and that they would be in the correct position for the movements that the model would be expected to make once being rigged.

A simple way of rigging a model is by going into Skeleton and using the Join Tool to create your own skeleton structure. Each click creates a new joint, attached by a bone. The best way to create this is by using the front or side view and placing it over a model, then using a perspective view alongside this view to double check that the joint just made are indeed within the model. After this, by holding shift and selecting both the model and the skeleton joints you can use the Bind Skin tool to bind the joints to the model. Then by moving each joint it will also move the model depending on how the divisions have been placed.

I used this method to rig my octopus head, enabling me to easily change the position of the head.


You can animate an object without rigging it if you don't need to move different parts of the model individually. Rigging is brilliant for character animation! An example for a simpler animation that wouldn't need any rigging would be a ball bouncing up and down or a mice scurrying along a floor.

At the bottom of maya is an animation bar that shows how many frames in seconds there are for you to animate with, you can change these frames by second by adjusting the bar underneath these frames. To animate the object you simply select the model and the first frame on the animation bar and press 's' to set a key frame. by scrubbing through the animation frames you can change position, rotation and scale of the object and set the different values by again, pressing 's'. These values will be saved on the individual frames and the object will animate between each frame. When using Maya these automatically loop until you stop playing the animation.

As you can see above, the animation frame bar is at the bottom of Maya, the red lines show each key frame for the beating animation that I am using for the heart in the middle of my character. 
You can also open the Graph Editor window to have better control over the animation curves of each of the changing values in between the keyframes.

Importing animations to Unity

To import these animation to Unity you have to make sure to select the 'bake animations' option when importing the selected model into Unity. When it's been imported choose the animation options in the right side panel when selecting the imported animated object to create certain animation loops or single animations from the animation frames made within Maya. These can then be saved a single animation file and drag and dropped over any mesh to animate it.

3D Modelling a Character / Statue

To turn a character / statue concept into a 3D model in Maya it always helps to have some reference to model over. It helps to think not only about what the character will look like but also how it will be rigged and animated afterwards so you know where to place the divisions so that the joints will move correctly.

The best way to do this is to draw or put together reference photographs of different views of the desired character: usually at least front and side views. These images can then be imported as image planes and the modelling can be done in different perspective view points to match up to the reference images.
As you can see above I have places the reference images around where I was modelling and have various view points open at the same time to ensure that the model is staying within all of the reference points.

My Character

I want my character to match my battle arena by being another robot, but a more complex one with a circuit board heart in it's stomach area, animated seaweed covering its body, and an octopus living inside of it's head with animated tentacles swaying around the robots head.

Using this image for reference helped me a lot when modelling the character and I constantly used a front and perspective view to make sure that I stuck to the image reference.

Concept Design - Characters

Throughout this year I have learnt a lot about character design and how to turn my character ideas into a reality through drawing, both on paper and through photoshop. It's important to first understand what type of character you're going to create and what their personality is so you know what impression you want the drawing to have. From this I can then take inspiration from other artists who draw in a certain style to represent the character that I'm trying to portray.

I like to draw my initial ideas on paper:
Concept for an insectoid - maraca playing Treehopper

Concept for YouTube banner art

Concept for a scary book character

Concept for a scary book character
After sketching the designs in my sketch book it's actually very simple to get them into a digital form. Simply scan them in and, using Adobe Illustrator, you can use the live trace option to turn the drawings into vector art images which you can then put back into photoshop to carry on working with over the top.
My sketch turned into vector art

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