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  • Sarah C Awad

Sarah's Comic Con Chronicles, Entry 3: Build On!

Long time, no CCC post, but I am finally back!

I wanted to change up my entry format for this round, and go through how my armor was constructed, step by step. Since the armbands were done using the same process, I will only show the breastplate, mostly because it is a bit more impactful in photos. Sprinkled throughout this piece will also be tutorial-esque asides on how to do some of what I did in zBrush!

Also, my apologies for not using more images of my armor in-progress; I had finished the modeling (and deleted all my unnecessary iterations) before we decided to begin the blog, so I worked with what I had! I also attempted to recreate some of my processes, so while they may not be entirely accurate to the final, they are accurate enough to properly portray my steps.

Build I: Shape

My first step was cutting down the 3D scan of my body to more closely match my desired shape. Since I knew that I would be layering garments underneath it, I made sure to add allowance accordingly without entirely distorting the shape. This was done primarily in the frontal chest area, arm inserts, and the shoulders.

My asymmetrical symmetry.

(On top toolbar) Transform--->Activate Symmetry---> Select one or more Axes (X,Y,Z,M,R)---> when you move your cursor over the model, you should see two or more dots in opposition to your cursor’s location; this identifies the symmetrical areas that will be manipulated.

With Activate Symmetry on, I began to mask off my final shape; however, my symmetry was imperfect because my scan did not import into ZBrush at the center of the modeling space (think origin point on a line graph.) “Unifying” the scan (on side bar, Deformation---> Unify), a command that centers the model on that point, would have been the solution if it did not also affect the scale dimensions, and that was necessary data to maintain; resizing something that already fit me perfectly to begin with would have been redundant.

(Images L-R) Holding down the COMMAND (MAC) button will activate Mask Brush; anything masked will be un-manipulatable

On side bar, Polygroups---> Group Mask---> Hide a group with cntrl click---> Geometry---> Modify Topology---> Delete Hidden

Geometry---> Modify Topology---> Mirror and Weld (X,Y,Z, select one or more axis)

I resolved all this by masking off half of the breastplate, deleting the other half, then Mirroring and Welding to create a full, now symmetrical breastplate, adjusting it around a copy the original body scan as I went.

Now, to add thickness to this shape; keep in mind that the scan only generates planes,so in order to make the model printable and give it bulk, it needs to be a closed piece of geometry (you can print a cube but not a square).

Geometry---> Edge Loop---> adjust Thickness, Polish, Elevation, and Bevel accordingly

Top Image, a Plane with no thickness; see how it disappears when turned to the side?

Bottom image, an Edge Looped plane, now visible from the side

In ZBrush, creating an Edge Loop does just that by taking a plane, and building other connecting planes that close off the shape, making it truly three dimensional and printable (taking that square and making it a cube). I did just that with my breastplate, making the loop extrude outwards (Elevation), so as to maintain the integrity of the inside wall that would fit my chest.

I now have a base!

Build II: Micromesh Detail

Let’s add some drama to this arma... Get it...

In ZBrush, MicroMesh is a process that “uses a selected 3d model to replace all the polygons of another 3d model at render time using the BPR [Best Possible Render] render.” These can be printed on their own, or overlaid atop an existing model to give it more texture and detail, which is how I used it.

To Insert a .dxf/.dwg into Solidworks:On top toolbar, Insert--->.dxf/.dwg--->Select file from the dialogue box---> Follow Wizard commands **NOTE: If your file comes up on the BLANK page showing more than one layer checked off, uncheck all but the one(s) with the actual vectors on them. Sometimes during exporting, excess layers on the .dwg or .dxf can be created.

*Since SolidWorks is able to successfully generate rigid and printable shapes with ease, this can also be a faster method to create base models that can later be sculpted into.

The first step is to create the 3d model that will be multiplied to create the Micromesh.

To construct my teardrop, I created the shape out of vector lines in (Adobe) Illustrator, and exported them as a .dwg (.dxf files work as well). This file was then imported into Solidworks, where I Extruded the shape to give it thickness, and used a Fillet on the edges for finishing.

Once your Polymesh is inserted into ZBrush: Insert---> Plane3D--->Adjust Polymesh accordingly inside the plane---> (to isolate newly adjust piece) Make Polymesh3D

For this Micromesh to form a solid, printable shape that will not crumble when printed, the teardrop model must touch all four side of a square plane in zBrush, guaranteeing that when arrayed into the final shape, the drops will fuse together at different points.

Since one teardrop alone could not fill the square, I set two aside one another (making sure that they touched, and that that bond was not too fragile) and isolated that merged shape from the plane.

Left Image, a model with 39,000 polys; Right Image, the same model after zRemesher, with 9,000 evenly distributed polys

On side toolbar, Geometry--->Zremesher---> toggle options (half, same, double, and/or adapt will change how many polys will be redistributed over the shape/plane)

With that all in place, I selected the frontal plane of my breastplate, and then Z-Remeshed it, a process that can reduce and equalize the polygons across a plane/shape in order to create an evenly laid mesh. The size of the plane’s polygons will determine the size of the teardrops, so I adjusted that accordingly until I was satisfied.

Only after this, was I able to finally Micromesh.

To Micromesh:

Render---> Render Properties---> Draw Micromesh

Geometry---> Modify Topology---> Micromesh---> select Polymesh to micromesh

Select BPR on the narrow, vertical side menu

One important tip to remember when Micromeshing: make sure to know the difference between meshing a closed shape versus a plane. If you create a mesh from a plane, since it is only one (sideless) side, you will not render a closed mesh with multiple walls. This is only an issue in cases like mine, for when I Micromeshed the entire closed breastplate shape, overlaying it became difficult.

From here it is tedious pushing and pulling of the armor’s top layer and the Micromesh so both fit tightly and evenly; after Z-remeshing, the fit between the mesh and the breastplate lessens due to the reduction and/or redistribution of the polygons, so I had to work the fit back in.

Build III: Joints and Other Details

Almost to the homestretch!

I wanted to clean up the bulbous edges of the breastplate- as well as match my source material- by adding decorative rings around its neck, arm inserts, and bottom. For the most accurate fit, I treated them in the same way as the teardrop by tracing the openings off of screen shots in Illustrator, and revolving the lines in SolidWorks. The rivets were made by reducing a sphere’s polygon number, then cutting it in half.

After Polygrouping everything into one piece, the next step was to cut it up again with intention: slicing the full breastplate in half (so it would fit together properly), and carving in the corset holes (we will get to that soon enough!)

On upper left, Brush---> Select Rectangle---> Hold down Command and Shift, then Left Click and Drag to reveal rectangle---> Adjust accordingly

I used the Slice Rectangle tool to split the breastplate into two separate polygroups, creating a clean edge. From there I closed the holes along the cut line.

Left, an example of the Select Rectangle tool selection; Right, an example of the Slice Tool selection

Select tools in zBrush solely isolate everything in the area you drag it over, making it great for masking large areas or general selections. Slice tools, on the other hand, polygroup your selected area, and add in edges to create a clean section, perfect for when you need to make an exact cut.

To secure both pieces, I decided to use a peg and hole mechanism to match the sides into place, and for added security and hold, Dhemerae had the genius idea to have a corset style element down the sides as well. This was a sucessful aesthetic decision, and such a “me” detail!

To perform a Subtraction: Dynamesh both the shape you want to subtract and the shape you want to subtract from---> Position both in the Subtool menu with the Subtractee on top of the Subtractor---> Change the setting on the Subtractor, or bottom shape, to the overlapping circle symbol second from the left--->Merge Down--->Geometry---> Dynamesh--->Sub

From here I positioned my pegs and DynaMeshed them to my breastplate to fuse them together. I then performed numerous Subtractions to create both the pegs’ mates and the corset holes.

With that, my build was complete!


Keep in mind, this is merely a boiled down version of my process; especially in retrospect, this was all easier said than done.

First try... Not really what I was going for...

For instance, I rebuilt the breastplate twice because I only realized at completion that my walls were way too thick and my mesh way too large. I also rebuilt the Micromesh multiple times because it either slipped my mind to isolate the frontal plane, sized the mesh incorrectly, or crashed the computer with too many polys. Add to that all the time I took just moving and scaling things-possibly the most tedious and time consuming task in 3D modeling- and you get a total of about three months worth of work for all three armor pieces, even before printing.

Failure, though, always makes you stronger in the end! My second breastplate looked light years better (Even though it still turned out a bit thick) and I model faster now due to all the tools I have learned from making it.

There is always something new to discover in 3D software, and always something you can learn, develop, or test, and this was my main takeaway from this project; I would not only make something awesome, but what I wanted to make also challenged me to become better at what I love to do. So to end sweepingly, a little to halfway into this project, I was feeling some refreshing, newfound brainpower, and newfound excitement for part two of this ambitious project!

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