When 3D character modeling was relatively new, it was expensive and designers needed lots of training. Nowadays, it’s completely possible to build a 3D character with a little practice and free software found on the Internet. Blender is one of the most popular free 3D modeling and animation software available. You can use Blender to build your very own 3D character.
1. Plan and sketch your character. Figure out what you want your character to look like and begin to sketch out different ideas on paper. Once you nail down the look of your character, draw a full-sheet, full-body profile and front view. It’s a good idea to draw a full-sheet close-up of the character’s face as well, also in both front and profile view.
2. Prepare your work area. Using a scanner, import your drawings into the computer you’re using to build your 3D character. Once you have your images scanned, use the graphics software that came installed on your computer to prepare the images. The profile and front views need to be even, top to bottom, and contrasted enough to see clearly. Import them into Blender in the front and left or right view as a background image.
3. Form the basic shape of your character. Using Blender, begin to outline the basic shape of your character. There are several different ways to do this. A good way for beginners is using a primitive shape like a cube and extracting and moving the faces of the cube to fit the background image.
4. Refine your character’s shape. Using Blender’s modeling tools, bring the shape to perfection. Once the primitive shape has been fitted to the background image, subdivide the shape so you can begin editing the mesh. Push, pull and resize vertices, edges and faces of the mesh until the character looks exactly how you want it to.
5. Detail your character. Select faces you want to color, and export the UV maps. You can then use any graphics software you like to paint or import photos using these UV maps; then import it back into Blender and map it onto your character using the materials window. You can also use displacement maps to give your character’s skin and clothes texture.
6. Prepare the character for other uses. In order to begin using your character in different applications, such as posing it for images or animating it for movies or video games, you need to attach what’s called a skeleton. Much like an actual skeleton, individual parts are called bones and attach to different parts of the mesh to make the character poseable. You will also need to fix details as you move the character’s limbs; sometimes the mesh can fold over itself, creating an undesirable effect.