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Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 1

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This post is part of a series called Create and Rig a Non-Deformable Wooden Character.
Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 4
Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 2
What You'll Be Creating

Today we’re launching a brand new tutorial series covering the modeling and rigging of a non-deformable character in Maya. Based on 'the Nutcracker', this character features a number of challenges due to it's inorganic nature and unique structure. Throughout the course of this series, author Soni Kumari will show you how to tackle each element and construct the model from start to finish using Maya's default toolset. Later lessons will include how to construct an intuitive, animation friendly rig for a hard surface character using Maya's proprietary rigging tools.


Also available in this series:

  1. Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 1
  2. Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 2
  3. Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 3
  4. Creating and Rigging a Non-Deformable Wooden Character in Maya: Part 4




Modeling the Foot

Step 1

Let’s start Maya and load the Reference images into both the Front and Left views.




Step 2

Now, we'll start modeling the foot of the character. So, go to the Create menu and click on Cube inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Then draw a Cube shape in the viewport and place it around the foot area, as shown in the image.




Step 3

Now, jump into the Perspective view and focus on the cube. If you can’t see the cube in shaded mode, then either press 5 on the keyboard, or go to the Shading menu (in the view panel), and check on the Smooth Shade All option, to see the object in Shaded mode.




Step 4

We need to add more subdivision to the created polygon cube. So, with the cube selected, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool.



Insert Six edge loops on the polygon cube, as shown in the image below.




Step 5

Now with the cube selected, Right-click and select the Vertex option to jump into Vertex selection mode. Alternatively you can press the F9 key.



Now select the vertices and reshape the cube as shown in the image below.



Also, jump into the Front and Side views and reshape the cube according to the reference images.




Step 6

While in the Perspective view, press the F11 key to change to Face selection mode and select the front faces of the cube. Then go to the Edit Mesh menu, and select the Extrude command to extrude the selected faces.



Again jump into the Front and Side views, and Extrude the selected faces four times, as shown in the image below.




Step 7

Now jump back into the Perspective view, and select the loop of faces in the middle, by double clicking on them.



Then press the Delete key, to delete the selected faces.




Step 8

Now press F10 to jump into Edge selection mode, and select the border around both sides, as shown in the image. Then go to the Mesh menu and select the Fill Hole command, to fill the empty area surrounded by the border edges.



After applying the Fill Hole command, it should look like this.




Step 9

Now, we need to insert some edges to maintain the edge loops. So, go to Edit Mesh menu and select the Interactive Split Tool.



With the Interactive Split Tool selected, insert edge loops as shown in the image below.






Step 10

In the Side view, press F9 to change to Vertex selection mode, and then arrange the vertices according to the background reference image.




Step 11

Back in the Perspective view, select the Verticies around the foot's tip and Scale them down them on the X-axis, as shown in the image.




Step 12

To make sharp and crisp corners, we need to add extra edge loops to the corner areas. So, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool.



Insert several edge loops around the corner edges, as shown in the images below.






Step 13

Now, it’s time to separate the toe and heel parts. So, with the foot mesh selected, go to the Mesh menu and click on the Separate command.



Now you'll see the toe and heel poly objects are now separated from each other.




Step 14

Now, we'll make the ball joint which will control the rotation of that body part. So go to Create menu and select Sphere, from inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Create the Sphere polygon object in the Top view, as shown in the image.




Step 15

Jump into the Front and Side views, and position the sphere around the heel area according to the reference images.




Modeling the Leg

Step 1

Let’s move ahead and model the leg and knee parts. So, go to Create menu and select Cylinder, from inside Polygon Primitives submenu.



Create the Cylinder in the Top view as shown in the image.




Step 2

Now again, jump into the Front and Side views and position the cylinder as shown in the image.




Step 3

Press F9 to change to Vertex selection mode, and then adjust the top vertices according to the reference images.




Step 4

Now, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool. Insert several edge loops to the cylindrical leg as shown in the image.




Step 5

Next, go to the Create menu and select Cube, from inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Create the cube in the Perspective view, as shown in the image.




Step 6

Rotate the cube and position it so it intersects the leg from the corner, as shown in the image.



Press Ctrl+D to make a Duplicate of the selected poly cube object, and then place it on the opposite side.




Step 7

Now, first select the cylinder and then the left cube and go to the Mesh menu. And select the Difference command from inside the Booleans submenu.



You can see the result. Following the same process, again select the leg object and then select the second cube. Go to the Mesh menu and select Difference, from inside the Booleans submenu.




Step 8

For better edge flow, we need to insert several edge loops. So, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Interactive Split Tool.




Step 9

After adjusting the edges, we need to inserted several more edges as per the mesh flow.




Step 10

Now, with the heel ball joint selected, press Ctrl+D to Duplicate the selected sphere object.



And then place the duplicate sphere at the knee area, as shown in the image below.




Step 11

Also jump into the Front and Side views to Scale and adjust the sphere ball, according to the reference images shown in background.




Step 12

Next, create one more polygon Cylinder object for the thigh.




Step 13

With the thigh object selected, press F9 for Vertex selection mode and then arrange the vertices according to the basic thigh shape.



For more detail, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool.



Insert a few new edge loops as shown in the image.




Step 14

Just like before, create two new polygon Cubes and place them intersecting with the corners of the thigh object.




Step 15

Now, first select the Cylinder and then the left cube, and go to the Mesh menu and select Difference, from inside the Booleans submenu.



Following the same procedure, do this for the opposite side as well.




Step 16

We also need to create proper edge loops with the help of the Interactive Split Tool, as shown in the image below.



So, now we have completed the knee and thigh shapes.




Step 17

Make a Copy of the joint rotation ball and place it at the hip.




Step 18

While in the Front and Side views, Scale and arrange the ball joint according to the background reference images.




Step 19

Now select all the created polygon objects for the left leg, and press Ctrl+G to place them in a group.




Step 20

Here you can see the gizmo appears at the 0,0,0 position of the grid.




Step 21

Now, with the leg group selected, go to Edit menu and click on the Duplicate Special option box.



In the Duplicate Special Options window, check on the Copy radio button and set the X-axis Scale to a value of -1.000, then click on the Duplicate Special button.



This will create a Duplicate leg on the opposite side.




Step 22

In this way, we have completed both legs of the character. But we still need to create a ball joint for the toe.




Step 23

So, go to Create menu and select Sphere, from inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Draw a sphere ball in the Front view as shown in the image.




Step 24

Then move and place the sphere ball between the toe and the foot.



With the same sphere ball selected, press Ctrl+D to make a Duplicate, then place it to the opposite side.




Modeling the Torso

Step 1

Now, we will start making the torso of the character. Go to the Create menu and select Cylinder, from inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Draw the cylinder in the Perspective view, and place it around the ab section of the torso, as shown in the image below.




Step 2

With the newly created cylinder selected, press F9 to jump into Vertex selection mode and adjust the vertices according to the reference images.




Step 3

For more detail, we need to insert several edges. For that, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool.



Then insert five edge loops to the cylindrical mesh.




Step 4

Now, press F9 to jump into Vertex selection mode and then adjust the vertices according to the background reference images.




Step 5

Now create a new polygon Cube for the Boolean cut, as we have done previously.




Step 6

Make a Copy of the Cube and then Rotate and place both cubes according to the cut angle, shown in the image below.




Step 7

Now, first select the cylinder and then the front cube, and then go to the Mesh menu and select the Difference command, from inside the Booleans submenu. Repeat the same step with the second cube.



In this way, we have the desired booleans we need.




Step 8

For maintaining the edge loops, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Interactive Split Tool.



With the Interactive Split Tool selected, create the edge loops as shown in the image below.



Also do same on the back side of the cylinder.




Step 9

Now, press F11 to jump into Face selection mode. Then select the top and bottom faces and press the Delete key, to delete the selected faces as shown in the images below.






Step 10

After deleting the top and bottom faces, press F10 for Edge selection mode. Then double click on the top border edges to select the entire edge loop. Next go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Extrude command.



After applying the extrude command on the border edges, click on the scale box and Scale the border down as shown in the image.




Step 11

With the last extruded edges selected, go to the Mesh menu and select the Fill Hole command, to fill the selected edges with a face.




Step 12

To add detail to the edge loops, go to the Edit Mesh menu again, and select the Interactive Split Tool.



Split the face with edges as per the required loop structure.




Step 13

For creating sharp and crisp corners, again we need to add edge loops to the corner areas. So, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Insert Edge Loop Tool.



And insert several edge loops around the corners, as shown in the images below.




Step 14

Now, press F9 to jump into Vertex selection mode and then arrange the vertices into a cup like shape.




Step 15

With the Abs section selected, open the Show menu (in panel menu bar), and then check on the View Selected check box.




Step 16

Now press F10 to jump into Edge selection mode, and then double click on a bottom border edge to get a loop selection. Then go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Extrude command.




Step 17

Extrude the border three or four times, and then Scale down it as shown in the image below.




Step 18

With the Abs selected, again go to the Show menu and uncheck the View Selected option, to unhide all the hidden objects.




Step 19

Now, we have to provide more detailed, hard edged corner. So go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Offset Edge Loop Tool command.



With the Offset Edge Loop Tool selected, insert offset edges to the corner edge, as shown in the image below.




Step 20

If you look closely, we need to merge several vertices together. So press F9 for Vertex selection mode, and select the corresponding vertices. Then go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Merge command, to merge the selected vertices.




Step 21

In this way, we have merged and completed the back and front cuts of the ab object, as shown in the image.




Step 22

Now the Abs looks like this.




Step 23

Next, go to the Create menu and select Sphere, from inside the Polygon Primitives submenu.



Create a new sphere on the top of the Abs, as shown in the image.




Step 24

Also jump into the Front and Side views, and position the sphere according to the reference images.




Step 25

Now, we will create the chest part. So create another new Cylinder object and place it above the Abs ball joint.



Jump into the Front and Side views and place the cylinder object properly according to the reference images.




Step 26

Now using the Insert Edge Loop Tool, insert six edge loops into the cylinder object.




Step 27

Also, jump into Vertex selection mode by pressing F9, and then adjust the vertices according to the reference images.




Step 28

After adjusting the vertices, it should look like this.




Step 29

Now for the Boolean cuts. Create two new polygon Cubes and placed them intersecting with the chest, according to the reference images.




Step 30

Now, first select the cylinder and then the upper cube and go to the Mesh menu. Again select Difference, from inside the Booleans submenu.



In this way, we have completed the Boolean cuts for the chest, and now it should look like this.




Step 31

Next press F11 for Face selection mode and then select half of the Faces vertically, Delete them by pressing Delete.



After deleting half of the mesh, it should look like this.




Step 32

With the remaining half selected, go to the Edit menu and click on the Duplicate Special option box, to open its settings.



In the Duplicate Special options box, check on the Instance radio button and then enter a value of -1.000 for the X Scale. Then click on the Duplicate Special button, to apply and close the Duplicate Special Options.




Step 33

Now you will notice, if you make any changes to one side, the same changes will happen on the opposite side. So, now Delete some of the triangular edges from one side, and the opposite side’s edges will be deleted automatically.




Step 34

Now, to fill the empty area, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Append to Polygon Tool.



With the Append to Polygon Tool selected, click on the corresponding edges and then press Y to finish, select and append the next edges.



In this way, we have filled and completed the upper chest. You can follow the same process for the bottom of the chest also.



We also need to add edges to the corners using the Insert Edge Loop and Split Polygon Tools.




Step 35

In this way, we have completed the chest part.




Step 36

Now with the chest parts selected, go to the Mesh menu and select the Combine command, to attach the selected parts together.




Step 37

After combining both chest parts together, press F9 to jump into Vertex selection mode. Then with the center vertices selected, go to the Edit Mesh menu and select the Merge command again, to merge the selected vertices.



This is the final look so far.




Modeling the Arms

Step 1

Now, let’s move towards creating the arms of the character. But first Create a new Sphere polygon mesh, and place it as the arm ball joint.



Also we have to create a new polygon Cylinder, and position it for the arm as shown in the image.




Step 2

Next, jump into the Front view and press F9 for Vertex selection mode. Try to adjust the vertices according to the reference image.




Step 3

With the arm selected, press F11 for Face selection mode and then select the cap faces.



With the faces selected, use Extrude to extrude the faces twice. Then Scale them down as shown in the image below.




Step 4

Then with the help of the Insert Edge Loop Tool, insert several edge loops to add more deformation. Then adjust the loops according to the background reference image.




Step 5

Here we need to add another sphere ball joint for the elbow rotation. So create another new Sphere, and place it at the elbow.







Step 6

After making the elbow ball joint, again create one more Cylinder for the forearm.



Insert some edge loops into the forearm cylinder to add more detail to it.




Step 7

Here we need a Boolean cut for the forearm. So we create another new polygon Cube and adjusted it for the needed cut.



Now first select the cylinder and then the cube, and go to the Mesh menu and select Difference, from inside the Booleans submenu.




Step 8

In this way, we have completed the forearm of the character.



We need one more sphere object for the wrist ball joint. So, create another Sphere and place it at the wrist position.




Step 9

Now, select all the arm objects and press Ctrl+G to make a group of them.




Step 10

With the arm group selected, go to the Edit menu and click on the Duplicate Special option box.



Here check on the Copy radio button, and then click on the Duplicate Special button to apply and close the Duplicate Special options box.



Now, you can see the arm objects have been copied to the opposite side.




Final Review

We have created the Leg, Torso and Arms of the Nutcracker character. In the next part of the tutorial, we will create the Hands, Fingers and Head. Finally, Save the file as ‘Torso Nutcracker.mb’.




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