3d modeling workflow questions

Hey guys I'm a huge forum lurker here, and I just want to try to grasp my head around how modeling actually works.

As far as I know, the workflow consists of creating a lowpoly model with 3ds max or maya, taking the low poly and bringing it into a sculpting program such as zbrush or mudbox, creating a high poly based off the low poly, creating a normal map based off of the high poly, and creating diffuse and spec maps for the model.

Now onto my questions:

1. Am I missing a step/am I even close to correct about the process or modeling?

2. How does the transition from low poly to high poly to normal map work since when sculpting there may be some drastic changes in features of a face for example?

3. What steps must be taken to make it easy to rig and animate models with several objects in them such as a gun with a slide and a magazine?

4. When are you supposed to re-topologize the high poly? I feel like I am missing a huge step, which is causing most of my confusion!


  • unstoppablex
    1. there are different ways people do it. But you are missing unwrapping. this can be done before you import into zbrush in max or maya and you can unwrap it in zbrush(it isn't as good), again there are other ways of doing the modelling workflow, depends on what your making and how you want to make it.

    2. you can make the finished high poly and import it back to max, create a low poly over it and use max or maya to bake the normal details onto the lowpoly. OR you can bake it in zbrush, which it bakes the highest subdivded level to the lowest.

    3.I haven't really animated so i can't really help on that one.

    4. you re-topologize when you are completely done the high poly and you're happy with how it looks like.

    I think you should watch some workflow videos, just to get the understanding of it. It'll be pretty hard for anyone to completely understand this just by reading text.
  • cryrid
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    cryrid polycounter lvl 8
    4. When are you supposed to re-topologize the high poly? I feel like I am missing a huge step, which is causing most of my confusion!

    I think it might help to think of the whole process with a different set of names. As it is 'low poly' could refer to a base mesh (something with topology not fit for animation, but more suitable for sculpting or subdividing), or it could refer to the game mesh (something with topology that would deform well when animating, but wouldn't produce ideal results if you were trying to sculpt on it). Occasionally the two can be the same mesh, but if your plan is to retopologize then they wont be.

    Start with a base-mesh, do whatever you need to do to create the highpoly model with surface detail that you want to capture in a normal map, and then retopologize that to create the final game-mesh.
  • FractaL
    Thanks both of you, I really have a good understanding of how this works now. You've eliminated the majority of my confusion.
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