SCULPT A STYLISED HORSE
Cinema 4D is much more that a motion graphics powerhouse, with an impressive array of modelling tools and a fully featured sculpting toolset to be explored
Use 4D’s sculpting tools to create a quadruped model
F or many years if you wanted to learn to sculpt digitally you would be limited to using programs like Zbrush and Mudbox. Now it seems like all major 3D programs have a sculpting solution built in. Cinema 4D by Maxon is no exception and it has a very powerful set of tools and features to rival the more dedicated sculpting programs. Digital sculpting differs from 3D modelling in the sense that you are interacting with polygons at high resolutions (more polygons, higher file sizes), and they are acting as if they were digital clay. You can effectively add and remove clay, smooth it out, rake the surface, pull out new shapes, flatten areas, add details with greyscale alpha maps and so on.
Developers created tools that became known as brushes and acted on the surface of the models as if they were traditional analog tools. As Cinema 4D already has a powerful set of core modelling tools it is easy to create a model with good topology and then sculpt the detail that you need on top. In this tutorial we will use the basic modelling tools to create a low-polygon horse shape. Once we have the shape made we can focus on learning the sculpting process to make the creation come to life.
01 use references
As with a lot of design and concept work, it is always a good idea to start by collecting references. For this project I collected lots of ideas for stylised horses on Pinterest and then sketched out my design in a side profile. If you are making a human character you would often start with a T-posed or neutral stance, with arms outstretched, legs straight and so on. As this is a horse (a quadruped) we need to model it with its legs as neutral as possible and not bent oddly in any way.
02 ADD a modelling reference
Doing silhouette sketching is a great way to find the shapes you want quickly. Once you have a reference that works for you from the side, you can put it into the side view in Cinema. Choose a panel with the right side view and click Options>configure. Next navigate to your image to place it in the scene. Scale it to suit, and now you have a guide to help you block out your design.
03 Box model a Basic horse shape
We will start with a cube and build up from there. First add the cube in Create>object>cube. In the settings make two Segments. Now hit C to make it editable and select faces on the left side of X, then delete them all. Add a Symmetry modifier from the top menu. Set the Symmetry to Weld Points and Clamp Points on Axis. That way we can model half and keep the centre snapped. Drop the cube into the Symmetry modifier and rename it HORSE. To see through the model while you work, you can use Options>x-ray.
04 extrude and polypen
Make sure you can change between points, edges and faces from the left-hand tool menu. To begin with we are going to extrude out faces to make the correct volume. Go to Face Mode. Select a face at the back and hold Ctrl and Drag. This extrudes out a face in the direction you pull. Remember that with symmetry on, it does both sides automatically.
Now look around the model and start to move points to get the desired shape. To do this right-click on the model and use the Polypen tool. With this tool you can drag points, edges and faces at will. It is one of the best tools in Cinema 4D in my opinion.
05 polypen to tweak (m-e)
Using Extrude and Polypen (M-E), extrude up the neck and back down onto the haunches. With every extrude use the Polypen to refine the overall shape. Remember to look at the horse from all angles, not just the side. Make him fatter in the chest area and thinner up towards his head. Continue extruding and tweaking until you have a basic body and head complete. It is important to get the shape right at this lower polygon level.
06 loop path cut to ADD loops
At this stage the model is very square and blocky. We need to add more loops to enable us to refine the shape to a more rounded form. Another tool we will use a lot is Loop/path Cut (in older versions use the Knife tool set to Loop). This tool allows you to add concentric loops around the mesh. You can then use the Polypen tool to tweak them into position. Add more loops around the neck and more horizontally along the body as shown.
07 extrude legs
Now that we have the core of the body done we can work on adding legs. Select some faces at the front and slightly underneath. Use Ctrl and drag to extrude these out and then tweak them into a more horizontal position. Keep extruding down and tweaking the shapes to match the horse's front leg. Remember you can grab faces and rotate them as well. Try to focus on getting the volume in the correct place rather than any detailing.
08 Back legs
The back legs are done in the same way as the front. Select polygons on the side and extrude down. It is more tricky on the back legs as you need to keep rotating the group of polygons as you extrude them down. This means that the polygon loops are following the line of the legs, not just a horizontal line which would make a few problems. Use the Brush tool set to Smooth to improve the tightness of the mesh. If you smooth an area too much and it loses volume, use the Magnet tool to pull it back into place.
09 ears, tail and smooth
By now the overall shape should be looking like a horse, although it will be blocky. Add the tail and the ears in the same way by extruding, moving points with the Polypen tool and smoothing with the Brush tool. Slightly inset the ears so you have an inside area and make sure there are lots of loops as you go up the ear structure. Go back and forth between the Magnet tool and the Smooth brush. Later on we will refine it with the sculpt tools, but the closer we are at this stage the better.
10 ADD loops
Although we will be able to just sculpt on the mesh at any point and disregard the underlying topology, it is good practice to add loops where we think they will be needed later. I always add eye loops and loops for areas like the nose. Select a group of faces then scale them down and hold Ctrl. This will extrude the whole group inwards and leave a loop. You can then tweak that area or simply smooth it down. Use the Magnet tool to pull areas like the cheek into the correct shape. Then hit C to freeze the symmetry and you have a complete horse mesh.
11 change to sculpting menus
Now that we have a full horse shape we can move onto the main sculpting process. First change the Cinema 4D interface to the Sculpting environment. This can be found in Window>customisation> Layouts>sculpt (or in the top right
of the interface). You will see that it looks fairly similar, but now has a set of sculpting tools down the right-hand side and also the sculpting layers panel. At the top of the new sculpt tools you will find Subdivide. Hit that once and notice that there is a slider on the right at the top. This shows the level of polygon subdivision and you can go up and down as needed.
12 symmetry in sculpting
We used a Symmetry modifier for the initial modelling. Now that we have a full symmetrical model we need to activate Symmetry for sculpting. In the Attributes panel there is a tab for Symmetry. Select World and set the axis to X(YZ). This will give you a brush that works on both sides of the horse. Keep your eye on this during the sculpting process to make sure it remains active at all times.
13 Grab tool
There are always tools you will use more than others and the first one we will explore is the Grab tool. Make sure you are in the side view and select the Grab tool. To change the size of any brush simply hold down B and then drag with the middle mouse button. If you are using a tablet then make sure you have configured a middle mouse button option.
Using the Grab tool we can drag around large chunks of geometry and move them where we need them. Drag the horse around and make sure you have him back on point with the reference.
14 increase the subdivision level
Clicking the Subdivide button will times the polygon count by four and smooth the model out as you would expect. Hit it again so that you are working at level two or even three if needed. This is how subdivision works. It gives you enough polygons to be able to sculpt high levels of detail into your models. You can go up and down the resolution by sliding back and forth, seeing the level number going up or down accordingly. Also, the polycount is shown in the area above the slider.
15 pull tool
Once you have mastered the Grab tool you need to focus on using the Pull tool. This brush is the workhorse (no pun intended) of affecting the surface and it is how we add volume to the model as if we were adding clay to a traditional sculpt. There are options for changing the size of the brush and also pressure. The higher the pressure the more you will be affecting the surface as you sculpt, so keep this set low. Start to
improve the look of the feet, neck and overall body volume.
In the sculpting tools panel you will see a Smooth icon. Being able to smooth portions of your sculpt as you go along is essential. Most of the time you will be adding volume with the Pull brush and moving it with the Grab brush. Almost every few strokes you will want to smooth the mesh down. This can be a pain if you need to keep switching brushes, even if you use shortcuts, so to activate Smooth during an operation simply hold Shift. You will find this is one of the most-used tools.
As you sculpt you can sometimes be in a position where you need to add a lot of volume locally. On the horse you may find it on the knees, the head and the feet. Rather than simply adding clay to the surface with Pull, you can use some of the other tools like Inflate. This brush will grow the volume on the model in the areas that you brush across. Used in combination with the Smooth tool this can really help you keep a good silhouette.
18 ADD eyes
You can sculpt some eyes right onto the mesh if you like, but it can look better to have separate objects that can then be painted and animated separately from the main body later down the line. Create two spheres to use as eyes and move them into position using the reference. Once you have them located correctly use a combination of the Grab, Pull and Smooth brushes to add eyelids and features to bring the face to life.
19 knife Detail
Add some surface detail to the tail and mane with the Pull brush. To make the hair you can use a combination of the Pull brush set to a really small size and the Knife brush, again set small. The Knife brush is great for adding lines and creases into the mesh. You can get some nice volume with the Pull brush then carve in hairs with the Knife brush. Keep checking the horse from all angles. You can sometimes work on one area and forget the overall shape.
20 surface Detail
Now the overall shape is taking form you can start to add surface detail. The Knife is great for adding wrinkles and creases at key points on the mesh. Add lines and creases around the hooves and feet in general. Add wrinkles on the knees and wrist areas. Then move up and add move detail around the ears and eyes. Use smooth after using Knife to smooth out any areas where you may have gone too far.
21 refine the shape
Try changing the colour of your model and mess around with your materials to see how the form changes. As you have sculpted
with just one material in one lighting setup, you may be surprised what the model looks like under other conditions. By changing the material and colour it will read differently. Try dark colours and see how the silhouette reads.
22 rig to pose
Although it is outside the scope of this tutorial, it is a great idea to look into rigging with the supplied character rigging tools in Cinema 4D. There is an advanced quadruped rig that takes mere minutes to set up and skin. Once you have a basic rig on the horse you could use it to try different poses and see where the anatomy is working and where there are issues. This is where having a good underlying topology is crucial.
This horse is a very stylised one and probably works best as a sculptural piece. Use some of the C4D materials supplied with your version and put together a full scene to show off the sculpt. I used a basic marble material and applied it to the horse and also a basic base that I built from a cube. The idea is to show off the sculpt work rather than any texture or render.
24 final pass
Do some render tests and see what is working and what needs improvement. There are lots of additional features in Cinema 4D’s sculpting toolset and this tutorial just gets you into the basics. You can use gradient images as alphas and make your own amazing alphas to use on the surface. These would help when using marble and stone if you needed a more dynamiclooking base.
Once you have finished your sculpt you may wish to bake it down into maps. This is essentially taking all the information from the sculpt and turning it into texture maps that can help deform a lower-resolution mesh, giving the appearance of a higher resolution. It’s basically how most games can perform so well these days. The options are all at the bottom of the sculpt panel. One map that you will often need is the Normal map.
using a tablet and pen Sculpting is best done with a Wacom or similar type tablet and pen. To use a tablet pen make sure you go into Edit>preferences>input Devices and turn on Graphics Tablet and Hi-res Tablet. 02
07 Grab, pull, smooth 90 per cent of the sculpting work is done with Grab, Pull and Smooth. If you can master these three functions quite quickly, you will be a sculpting wizard in no time at all.
14 stay low longer Keep your model at a lower resolution for as long as you can. Sculpt on it at that level until you can’t go any further, and then go one subdivision level higher. Rinse and repeat. The more you get right at the lower levels the better.
16 use different materials If you only ever sculpt with a default material you may be surprised with the results you get later down the line. Try out sculpting with different colours, materials and lighting setups to see how they affect your model.