In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hey everyone! My name is Paul Mahoney (I also go by ‘Poribo’ on the internet). I am a 3D character artist from Melbourne, Australia. I specialise in modeling stylised characters for video games.
I started making this model for the purpose of experimenting with a ‘shading’ technique that I wanted to try. The main aim of this project was to have a convincing 3D anime model with a clean 2D effect that is viewable realtime.
Ever since I have shown off this model, people have been asking “Damn son, how’d ya do that?” …or something of the sort! I won’t fully go into the modeling process as I don’t do anything special there but I’ll try to explain some helpful tips on creating 2D-like/anime models and most importantly; what I did to achieve the clean shading effect.
For this project I chose to model Kumiko from the anime ‘Hibike! Euphonium’.
Before I start to model, one of the most important steps is to gather reference images, especially close-ups of the character’s head and face if you want to be as accurate to the source as possible.
When modeling, I always switch between ‘shaded’ and ‘flat’ lighting in the viewports to view the silhouette of the model. The silhouette is something to always take note of, it can make or break the 2D illusion. Also, as humans, our eyes are mostly drawn towards a person’s face so I always spend extra time on the character’s head making sure I pay attention to the curves of the character’s face in all angles.
Once the model is completed, unwrapped, textured and posed, I can start ‘shading’. Usually I would simply just paint the shading into the texture but with that you are confined to a rasterised image so if you start zooming in, the split between light and shaded starts to get pixelated/blurry.
If you want a clean transition you would think that you would have to use a ‘toon/cel/ramp’ shader, but we don’t have the luxury to use such a shader and it is also hard to have full control over it. This is where the “technique” comes into play.
First step is to have 2 versions of the same texture, one with your normal/light colours and the other with the dark/shaded colours.
Next I set up a those textures as separate materials making note of the material ID numbers.
Now I go and select the polygons I want to be shaded and change its material to the dark version. The shading is confined to the model’s topology so you can get creative and start cutting into your model giving you the ability to have full control where you want to shade.
This technique is a bit unorthodox and breaks some ‘rules’ so it’s only suitable for static models but I can see some potential to apply it to a certain extent so it can be used with animations and games.
Regarding the outlines there is already a good explanation on how to do that here. To put it simply, in 3DS Max you would just ‘Duplicate model > Add Push Modifier > Add Normal Modifier (Flip Normals) > Make sure Backface Culling is enabled’
Now that the shading is complete it is looking pretty good but it’s missing just a little extra something that I just can’t get out of 3DS Max’s viewport. That’s where Sketchfab comes in, the post-processing features is great to further the model’s presentation.
Once uploaded the first thing I do is change the camera’s ‘Field of View’ to something narrow like 25 degrees. Having a wide field of view means if you zoom in somewhere like the face, the perspective distorts the model and that in turn detracts the 2D illusion a bit.
Normally I would change the ‘Shading’ option from ‘Lit’ to ‘Shadeless’ and call it a day, but because Kumiko is holding a brass instrument it would look better to have realtime reflections, so the shading will have to stay ‘lit’.
I don’t want the character to be affected by the lighting so to achieve that; instead of putting the colour textures in the ‘Diffuse’ slot I instead plug them into the ‘Emissive’ slot with its default value of ‘10’ while also turning off the diffuse or changing the colour to pure black. Doing this gives the same results of having the shading set to shadeless.
I have been using Sketchfab early since its inception and it has been great to use throughout all these years. It is a very unique way of being able to let people view your model in realtime rather than showing a few images. New features are always being introduced, especially my favourite feature: animations, which I have been requesting every time there was a survey.
Big props to the team at Sketchfab and thank you for inviting me to share my process in creating this model.
Here is the final model uploaded to Sketchfab:
Hopefully this has been helpful to someone, if you have any other questions you can hit me up on Twitter or most other sites that I’m active on. To see more of my works you can check out my Sketchfab page, ArtStation page & DeviantArt page.
Thanks everyone for reading!