August 10, 2007 Justin Chin

SketchUp Character Building

I’ve been getting a fair amount of questions regarding how I build my character models in SketchUp (SU). I’ve written some things to those individuals in the past, but I thought a blog post is due regarding this subject.

This isn’t a tutorial but a description of the process. If you keep an eye on the techniques I believe you’ll be able to follow along.

This write up is for the main body and limbs for a character. Heads are a different beast (at least how I build them) and require a different set of instructions.

So here’s how to make a character body:

  1. I usually draw sketches on paper to figure out the major details regarding the character. For me this is an important step, because this work forms the building blocks of who the character is and what they represent. [see image below]
  2. sam_sk.jpg
  3. After I’m happy with the design, I work up some front and side view drawings of the character, then scan those drawings and import them into SU.
  4. In SU I’ll scale the drawings so the body sizes match, and arrange them so that I see the front image in the front view in SU and the side view in the side view. [ see image below]
  5. su_character_art.jpg
  6. Now I’m ready to start building. There are 3 elements you will concentrate on, the legs, arms and torso. These elements are built much in the same way.
  7. First make a circle that is matches the circumference of the element you’re going to build, i.e. the leg. Using the push pull tool in SU create a cylinder. To create the multiple sections I use click on the CTRL button to add sections instead of just continuing on the extrusion. Now the important part of this step is to create sections where you are going to add detail later. This includes the ankle, calf, knee, thigh and hip. Any place you know you’re going build out and detail later. In the video below, you will see that I added sections so I can make the thigh pockets as seen in the sketch. [see video below]
  8. After the section tube is finished, using the rotate tool, rotate the tube, to match the angle of the leg (you can also just rotate the image to match the angle of he tube which would make it easier to select the sections – but I like to see the leg at its most natural pose). Line up the tube to match the front and side view drawings.
  9. From here work your way up each section on the tube using the scale tool to size each section to match the width of of the sketch, effectively tracing the image. Do this for each section scaling them to match the font view and the view.
  10. Repeat steps 7-10 for each element (legs, arms, and torso).
  11. After you finished each element you should have something like this. [see image below]
  12. sam_01.jpg
  13. From here, using the move tool, manipulate vertexes and poly lines shaping out the major details (muscle groups, clothing details, etc). Because the tube was originally created with the circle tool, you must right click on the curve and select “explode curve”. [see video below]
  14. This is what that looks like. [see images below]
  15. sam_02.jpgsam_03.jpg
  16. From here you’re just tweaking the verts until you get what you want.
  17. sam_08.jpg