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Chapter 5: Multiresolution Sculpting: Tutorial

By Tom Musgrove

Multiresolution sculpting is an approach to mesh modeling that allows you to intuitively shape and add detail
to a mesh by pushing and pulling polygons, similar to how you might model with clay. Multiresolution
sculpting can create the rough forms of a model from a simple mesh primitive, or add greater detail to and
improve the form of existing models.

Sculpting a Monster Head

For this tutorial you will be sculpting a monster's head. A monster's head is ideal for a first attempt at
sculpting because:

1) It allows exaggerated detail, which frees you to play around with the tools without worrying about
unrealistic results;

2) It can have horns and other protrusions that make perfect sculpting examples;

3) You can play with a wider variety of interesting textures for your monster's skin; and

4) When you show your work to your critics (i.e. friends and family) they'll be much more likely to call your
first sculpting attempts "genius" than if you had tried a realistic human head.

A Primitive Base

Before you begin sculpting, you need a base. For this tutorial, you'll start with the default cube. If you're not
already working with a new Blender session, start one now (Ctrl-X).

If you like, you can turn off the view's grid and axis lines, which will de-clutter the view, by choosing View
Properties from the "View" header menu and adjusting the panel to match the illustration. Also, you can turn
off the transform manipulator (Ctrl-Spacebar, then choose Disable) as it can get in the way of sculpting.

Figure 02: Choosing View Properties from the View menu.

Figure 04: The View Properties panel.


Normally, when working with a mesh, the addition of detail is more or less unreversibleirreversible. If you
want to make a large-scale change after adding detail, say, drastically increasing the size of the upper
portion of a model, you must select and transform all of the small faces and hope for a smooth transition.
With multiresolution modeling, this restriction is removed. Even if you add the equivalent of four rounds of
subdivision to a mesh, you can still return to the very basic, undivided shape and change it, with those
changes propagating through to the other levels of detail.

Let's make the cube "multiresolution." RMB to select the cube and press "Add Multires" in the Multires Panel
of the Editing buttons (F7).

Figure 06: The Multires panel of the Editing buttons.

You should see a new button, "Add Level," appear in the Multires Panel. Press the Add Level button four
times. You will see additional buttons and some sliders appear in the panel. The slider immediately below
the Add Level button should read "Level: 5." If you look in the upper right hand corner of your Blender
application header you should see "Fa: 1536," meaning that your object now has 1,536 faces.

Figure 07: Clicking on Add Level.

Figure 07.1: The Multires panel after adding five multires levels.

Figure 07.2: The face count on the main header.

Sculpting panel

Now you will enable sculpt mode. From the mode menu (which currently reads "Object Mode"), select
"Sculpt Mode." On the Multires panel, two additional tabs appear: "Sculpt" and "Brush."

Figure 08: Choose Sculpt Mode from the header dropdown menu.

Note: Pressing the N-key in the 3D view brings up a floating panel that contains many of the same options
as the Sculpt and Brush panels. If you like the convenience of a floating panel, feel free to use it. Be aware,
though, that instructions pointing you to the panels on the Edit buttons should be redirected to the floating

Figure 09: The Sculpt panel in the Edit buttons.

Figure 09.1: The Sculpt floating panel.

At the bottom of the Sculpt panel are three Symmetry buttons. Enable the "X" Symmetry button. Much like
the mirror modifier in standard mesh editing, symmetry will allow you to sculpt on one side of the model and
have your work duplicated on the other side automatically.

Figure 11: X Symmetry enabled.

Zoom in so that the head fills the 3D view. Before using the scroll wheel for a standard zoom, try this: press
Shift-B and LMB drag a box tightly around the default cube. When you release the mouse button, the view
will zoom to the space you just outlined.

Draw Brush

Finally, you're ready to sculpt.

Take the brush - represented by the circle in the 3D view - and place it at about two thirds of the way up the
model. Do a LMB drag along the surface of the model forming the brow ridge of your monster. While the
LMB is held down, you can scrub back and forth over an area to transform it even further. If you don't like
how your stroke went, Ctrl-Z to undo and try again.

Figure 16: The brow ridge.

Notice how the sculpting is duplicated on the other side of the model as you work with the brush. MMB
rotate the view to ensure that the stroke looks okay from different angles. You can also split the 3D view into
separate parts and set them to different viewing angles.

Note: You will probably want to have only a single 3D view when working with very high resolution models,
as multiple views during sculpting can slow things down considerably.

Sidebar: Brush Size and Strength

Although you can use the sliders on the control panels to change the size and strength of the sculpting
brushes, there is a faster, more intuitive way to do so. With the mouse in the 3D view, pressing the F-key
lets you resize the brush by moving the mouse. Similarly, Shift-F will adjust the brush strength. As with other
transformations in Blender, clicking with the LMB accepts the change, while RMB clicking or pressing the
Esc-key will cancel it.
End Sidebar

After you've created the brow ridge, rough in a ridge for the nose as well. Right now you are just trying to lay
things out and give a general form to the head. A very rough shape is fine.

Figure 17: The nose roughed in.

You'll now use the Subtract mode of the Draw brush to hollow out the eyes a bit. This can be done in one of
two ways - either by clicking the "Sub" button on the sculpt panel, which will switch the brush to subtract
mode; or by holding down the Shift key while sculpting. Holding the Shift key reverses the brush mode
temporarily. If you will be continually sculpting in Subtract mode, it's best to use the Sub button, but since
you are only doing a brief subtract, simply use the Shift key method.

Back in regular Add mode (let go of the Shift key), you can add a line to represent the lips.

You now have a goofy looking blob person.

Figure 20: The eye areas hollowed out by drawing in Subtract mode, and a very rough lip form added.

Grab Brush

Let's give your head some more realistic and interesting proportions.

Switch to the Grab brush: either with G-key in the 3D view, or by pressing the Grab button in the Sculpt
panel. Notice that it doesn't have any add, subtract, or airbrush buttons. Nor does it have a strength slider.

Note: The Size slider value is not the same as it was for the Draw brush. Each brush has its own control set,
and keeps its own settings for size and strength. However, Symmetry settings are shared by all brushes.

Set the size of the Grab brush to 200, its maximum setting. Now "grab" the mesh by clicking and holding the
LMB. Drag the mesh to where you want it and release the LMB.

If you are zoomed out you can grab more of the mesh in a single click. Grab and pull some of the mesh to
form the jaw. Also, you can grab and pull the side of the head to make it wider or narrower. You will find that
in some view angles it is easier to grab and position the mesh to your liking than in others. Be sure to rotate
the 3D view to ensure that your shaping of the model looks okay from different angles. You won't be able to
achieve something like the illustration with a single grab and pull.

Try to think of using these brushes like actual paint brushes - several small, light strokes in an area will give
more control and better results than hammering away with a house-painting brush.

Figure 22: What you are trying to achieve with the Grab brush.

Let's add two more levels of resolution. Press the Add Level button in the Multires panel twice. You should
now be at level 7 multires and the main header should show 24,576 faces.

Layer Brush

It's time to add the basic shape of the ears. First, change to the Layer brush, either with the panel controls or
the L-key. Set the Strength of the Layer brush to its maximum. The Layer brush raises the mesh a preset
amount, and never more. So, if you need to build up a volume greater than the preset, you will need to
repeat the stroke a number of times. Rotate to a view that shows the side of the head and draw an ear
shape. You should repeat the stroke until you have a decent amount of ear built up.

Figure 27: One pass of the Layer brush.

Figure 28: The ear after five or six Layer brush passes.
Inflate Brush

The Inflate brush can be used around the edge of the ear to give it a bit more thickness. Press the I-key (or
the Inflate button on the panel) and draw with the Inflate brush along the edge of the ear. Once again,
several small overlapping strokes at a lower strength will give a more organic effect than a single, high-
strength attack.

Figure 31, 32: Before and after using the Inflate brush.

Use the Layer brush (L-key) in subtract mode to push the interior of the ear in a bit.

Now, go back to the Inflate brush (I-key). This time, put it in subtract mode and bring the size down to about
15. Use it to hollow out an area behind the top of the ear, giving it some separation from the rest of the head.

Figure 33: Hollowing out the area behind the ear.

Switch to the Grab brush (G-key) and adjust the shape of the ear a bit more. In the illustration, we've
stretched the tips up to give the ears a more wolfish look and rotated them out from the head a little more.

Figure 37: The adjusted ears.

Change to the Smooth brush using the S-key and get rid of any lumpy, spiky or flat areas on the ears or
skull that were created when making the ears. Start with the Smooth brush's size at about 100, and adjust it
as you see the need.

Using the Inflate brush in add mode, draw on the tip of the nose to make it more bulbous. Switch to subtract
mode with the Inflate brush (Shift-key) to hollow out the nostrils. Once again, use the Smooth brush (S-key)
to smooth out any geometry that has become sharp or too strange looking.

Figure 42: The tip of the nose has been inflated, and the nostrils deflated.

At this point, you can fool around with the tools to create some horns, spines and bumps on the top of the
head. Try making several protrusions, each using a different tool (Draw, Grab, Inflate, Layer) to see how the
results differ. In the sample model we'll forgo horns and a spine, opting for some nice teeth instead.

You'll be adding some finer details now, so add another level of resolution with the Add Level button.

Figure 43: [no text]

Sidebar: Improving Performance

Depending on the power of your computer, you may have begun to experience a bit of slowdown in the
responsiveness of the tools. Here are a couple of ways to speed things up.

Partial Redraw

When you entered Sculpt mode in the 3D view, a new menu appeared on the header. In the new Sculpt
menu is a "Partial Redraw" option. Enabling this can give a substantial boost in sculpting speed, but may
also introduce some display artifacts. When in Partial Redraw mode, you will no longer see the individual
faces - the model will be smooth. It may look a bit different, but can be worth it when working with high
Multires levels.

Figure 44: Partial Redraw disabled.

Figure 45: Partial Redraw enabled.
Another useful speed trick is to hide a part of your mesh. There are three ways to do this, each with a
slightly different effect.

Mesh Hiding

Press Alt-B then LMB drag across a portion of the model. At first, it seems as if the view has simply been
cropped to only show a part of the mesh. Not so. Use the MMB to rotate the view, and you will see that the
view itself is still intact. The model only displays the faces that were within the dragged rectangle, as though
it had been used to core the mesh like an apple. When working with the Alt-B hiding method, be aware that
sculpting strokes that travel into invisible areas will still sculpt, so be careful! Press Alt-B again to view the
entire mesh.

Ctrl-Shift-LMB is another method of mesh cropping. This version actually removes the hidden parts of the
mesh from the sculpting tools' influence, meaning that sculpting into hidden parts of the mesh will have no
effect on it. This includes any parts of the mesh that would normally be affected because of the Symmetry
buttons - sculpt strokes made on a mesh will not be reflected onto the other side if that portion is hidden.
While using this method of hiding, be aware that adding or changing a multires level will cancel it, showing
the entire mesh. To view the whole mesh, either Ctrl-Shift-LMB drag in an empty area of the 3D view or
press Alt-H. This method gives the best performance boost of any of the hiding techniques.

Shift-B and LMB drag. This is the "zoom to border" trick you learned at the beginning of the chapter. While
it's not exactly a method of hiding geometry that would otherwise be on screen, zooming tightly into an area
for detail work results in large portions of the mesh being off screen, and can increase performance.

End Sidebar

Wrinkles Using Inflate and Pinch

Monsters are usually worried or concerned about something, so let's add forehead and brow wrinkles with
the Inflate and Pinch brushes.

Ctrl-Shift-LMB drag a rectangle across the forehead region to hide the rest of the model. With the Inflate
brush's strength set fairly low, make two parallel strokes on the forehead, about a brush-width apart.

Figure 46: Drawing a rectangle with Ctrl-Shift-LMB to show only the forehead.
Figure 59: The wrinkles inflated.

Press the P-key to select the Pinch brush. Pinch pulls any parts of the mesh within its area of influence
toward the center of the brush. Drag the Pinch brush along the crease. The gap between the two inflated
ridges will begin to close. Make several passes with the Pinch brush until the valley begins to look more like
a crease.

Figure 61: The wrinkles pinched.

With the Smooth brush, blend the transition from forehead to wrinkle. You can use the Grab brush to pull
parts of the wrinkled area back into the forehead if they seem too lumpy.

Repeat the procedure to add vertical wrinkles between the eyebrows.

Figure 65: Wrinkles between the eyebrows, before smoothing.

Once you're happy with the wrinkles, you can reveal the whole mesh by pressing Alt-H.

Saving Your Work

Multires meshes, especially when used at higher levels, can make for fairly large files. Hard drive space is
cheap these days, but there's no reason to be wasteful. So, before saving, enable the "Compress File"
option on the File menu. If you haven't saved your sculpt model up until this point, you should do so now.


There are two ways to create eyes for a model. The first, and the one necessary if you are planning to
animate later, is to carve out eye sockets, create entirely separate sphere objects, and place them "inside"
the head. Then, it is a matter of shaping the eye openings to properly fit the eye objects, and sculpting
details such as eyelids and creases. However, if you are creating a static image and want to have a
"complete" sculpture, you can simply sculpt the eyes as part of the model.

In this example, you will be adding the eyes directly to the sculpture. In a front view, use Ctrl-Shift-LMB drag
to hide everything but the area around the eyes.

Using the Draw brush (try Size: 27; Strength: 25), start to build up the eyes. You are just drawing strokes for
volume, and it won't look very eye-like for now. After you have the basic volume created for the eyes,
change over to the Smooth brush. Drop down a multires level or two by clicking on the left side of the Level
spinner to make smoothing go faster.

Figure 70: Roughing out the eyes.

Once the eyes look fairly smooth, use the Level spinner to return to multires Level 8. Then, add a level of
multires, taking you to Level 9. Inflate and draw the general form of your eyelids. Remember to draw them
closed a little, and not to put the eyelid lines at the seam between the eyeball you've created and the rest of
the head.

Continue alternating between smooth and inflate until you're happy with the shape of your eyelid and eye.

Figure 72: The eyes with protuberant eyelids.

Working in Lower Multires Levels

We'd like you to step back from details for a moment and change some of the larger structure of the head. In
particular, you need to actually create a mouth and redefine the lower half of the face. While this could be
done at the current high level of detail, there is an easier, faster way.

Using the "Level:" spinner on the Multires panel, turn the level down to 5. The model is now significantly less
detailed, showing more general forms. One of the great things about multires modeling is that any changes
you make to the mesh on a lower level carry through to the higher levels, and vice versa. Even though you
didn't shape the level 5 mesh like this, it has been pushed and pulled into this state by the actions you've
taken at other levels.

If Partial Redraw is enabled, disable it now, so that the individual faces show.

Figure 75: The rougher forms of level 5.

With the Grab brush set to a fairly large size (75 or so), drag upward on the lower, outer rim of the jaw to
form the basis of a more pronounced jaw and two upward-facing tusks.

Figure 76: The lower jaw pulled out and up.

Note: At this point, your monster head may look significantly different than the one in these examples, and
that's fine. Sculpting is a very organic process, and the odds are that even if we recreated all of the
illustrations for this chapter, following the exact same process, they would be different each time. Depending
on the exact topology of your monster head, the next set of instructions may work more or less well. If you
just can't seem to get your tusks and mouth to follow the example exactly, don't worry. The example is just
that: a sample to learn from, not something that needs to be duplicated.

With the rough form created for the base of the tusks, move up to multires level 7 to continue adding more

Using the Draw brush, create a fat line around the base of the tusks that will form the lower lip. It'll look fairly
ugly at this multires level, but you'll smooth it in a bit.

Figure 78: The lower lip drawn in.

Up in multires level 8, put a separation line between the base of the tusks and lips.

Switch to the Smooth brush, and give it medium values (50-60) for both size and strength. Smooth the lower
portion of the lip into the rest of the face until it blends nicely and seems to be a continuous piece with the
rest of the model.

Figure 79: The lip blended into the lower jaw.

You will notice many details in the above illustration. They were created using the same method as you used
earlier when making creases in the brow: parallel inflation strokes, then pinch in the middle and smooth. The
model itself is done at this point. You can continue to add details, extra tusks, horns, etc., as you like.

Using Textures as Brushes

A monster should have strange skin to go with its horns, long ears and tusks. The sculpting tools allow you
to sculpt with a textured brush.

In the buttons window, go to the Texture buttons (F6), and click on the Brush button of the Preview tab. To
add a new brush texture, LMB click on the top texture channel to activate it and click the Add New button.

Figure 84: The brush texture panels.

Any of Blender's textures, including Image textures, can be used as brushes. From the Texture Type menu
that appears, choose "Musgrave." Many of the texturing options are described in greater detail in Chapter 9.

Figure 91: The Musgrave options panel.

From the Musgrave panel that appears, change the "Multifractal" setting to "Rigid Multifractal." All you've
done here is chosen a texture that will look sufficiently nasty when applied to a skin. Finding a good noise
texture for your projects is mostly a matter of trial and error, although the Materials and Texturing chapter of
this book can give you a good starting point.

With the Musgrave noise texture set, move back to the Edit buttons (F9). In order to use the new texture
brush, either go to the Brush tab in the Edit buttons or focus on the "Texture" section of the Sculpt Properties
floating panel.

If it's not already active, click on the texture channel labeled "Tex," then click on the little automobile icon to
have Blender assign the name "Musgrave" to the texture. Make the rest of the panel match this illustration:

Figure RH01: The Brush and Sculpt Properties panels.

Enabling the 3D button will apply the texture to the model throughout 3D space, as opposed to "painting" it
onto its surface. When 3D is enabled, a Size control will appear. Like the SizeX/Y/Z controls in the Map
Input panel of the Material buttons, this size spinner works the opposite of the way you would expect.
Raising the value decreases the size that the texture is applied at. Set the Size control to around 400.
Now, use the Draw brush on the cheeks of your monster and watch the ugly ridges form within its surface.

Figure 95: A nasty texture for a nasty creature.

For some variety, create a different texture brush for the rest of the head. Return to the Texture buttons, and
select the next empty texture channel. Add a new texture with the Add New button, and select "Voronoi"
from the Texture Type menu. You'll just use the default Voronoi settings, so go back to the Edit buttons and
the Brush panel.

This time, set the brush to "Drag" style instead of "3D." Rotate to the back of the monster head and begin to
use the new texture brush in Draw mode. Immediately, you can see the difference between "Drag" and "3D."
When working with the 3D option, it was almost like the brush was causing a texture that was already within
the model to grow and become clear. With the Drag option, you are using a single instance of the texture,
stamping and smearing it as you work the brush.

Figure 97: The back of the head, brushed with a different texture.

When working in Drag mode, you can change both the size and rotation of the stamped texture interactively.
When changing the brush size with the F-key, you actually see a representation, right within the brush, of
the texture that will be used. Likewise, you can use Ctrl-F to rotate the texture for even greater variation, and
see it rotate right on your display.

Figure 99: The finished monster head.

All Done

At this point, you can call the model finished. If you were going to go a few steps more, you could disable
Symmetry and put in details that differed from side to side like scars and warts. You could also drop down to
detail level 5 and pull some of the general shapes out of symmetry as well. Whether you decide to do that or
not, you will have learned a great new way to create organic models: Blender's sculpting tools.

One last tip:

The sculpting tools are "experiential," meaning that the more you experience them, the better you will
become. We encourage you to start this same tutorial from scratch, and, knowing what you know now, see if
you don't come out with a significantly better result the second time.

Figure 100: A second time through the tutorial will give even better results.