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So, I have a confession to make. My beast of a computer decided not to wake up from it’s distant slumber two weeks ago.
It was a Mac and yes before you anti-Apple people say, “PC’s for 3D!” it was a decently kitted out MacBook Pro, and I use it for other programs like Photoshop and Illustrator too. Also Blender has been steadily getting a bit more support for Metal machines now Apple has jumped in on the Blender bandwagon.
I took it to the Apple Store to see if the disciples of the Almighty Fruit God could stir my relatively new laptop from it’s hibernation… Unfortunately not. It had crapped itself in the night 🙄
So, admittedly I had backed up some stuff. Not all. My little fluffy Gabby might be a few steps back from what she was, but not completely gone. So please be patient, when my computer is resurrected with a new brain there will be more of her I promise!
In the meantime I am sitting in view of a huge lake in the middle of no-where getting to know my new toy, an iPad Pro!
I wasn’t convinced immediately by the hype around the iPad as a drawing tablet initially, but upon a few tentative visits to various Apple Stores, and playing on Procreate and Photoshop, I was blown away by how fluid and accurate the Apple Pencil was.
How cool is Procreate?! It also has an Animate feature which I will be utilising for future storyboardsof Gabby and friends!
I know for a fact that Procreate is hugely popular with Illustrators and Concept Artists and alike, because the iPad is SO portable. With a digital sketchbook, the possibilities are endless now for artists creating inspiring digital art! Without having to bother with bringing huge cases full of acrylic paints or oils, jars of water and easels around with them.
The real question was then for us that delve into the world of 3D – can you use an iPad to sculpt??
Everyone knows that it is easier and more accurate to sculpt with a tablet and pen vs a mouse. Most sculpting tutorials out there encourage it. Wacom Tablets can cost up to an arm and a leg and that’s on top of having a decent computer alongside to use it with and run 3D software.
I chose the cheapest iPad Pro, M1 Chip, 128GB Storage with 8GB RAM. They actually spec them like computers now, rather than in my prime Apple days they would work more like a smartphone. I could have shot myself in the foot as I get better at sculpting, but at around AUD$1,300 that’s the best I could afford. I was curious to see if it could run as my computer and tablet in one whilst my mac was in hospital for a few weeks.
So i did some research there are two Apps that sprung at me with good reviews – Maxon’s newly acquired Forger App and the Blender-style Nomad App. I decided to start with Forger.
Forger has a fair few similarities to pro programs. On first glance the file system looks easy to see which projects are which, like the Photoshop app.
You can start with primitives or a template of a simple body or head, or you can import OBJ, ABC or C4D files. The sculpting language is quite similar to ZBrush with the remeshing sliders, the alt to reverse brush and shift to smooth shortcuts, masking and the sculpting tools they have. Bare in mind it is a optimised program for the iPad, so it wont have all the bells and whistles that ZBrush has.
It took me a while to get around the app at first, but coming from ZBrush, Blender and watching a couple of the beginner tutorials they have within the app, it became quite therapeutic to block out this cute Corgi illustration by Lynn Chen.
I liked being able to sculpt with the Apple Pencil with one hand and press the hot keys on the left side with the other to change the brush size, strength, undo/redo, masking, smooth, +/- brush, and move the camera.
The options at the top reminded me of ZBrush’s sub tools, remeshing and mirroring functions. Layers suggests to me that you can paint colours on to this model too…
You can add big references in the app behind your sculpt, and have a few stored in your scene for when you want to change view/reference. Easy as just dragging and dropping into the scene to switch.
The other menus let you set up the way your model looks, like seeing it in wireframe or smooth shaded vs a faceted view. There is also a handy help menu in case you need assistance with the app.
I am not an expert in ZBrush but I felt as if this app would get me to at least do some nice block outs of characters to export them later to finesse, retopo, rig and texture them in other programs. You can export your models straight to Cinema4D, or fellow Blender users – to OBJ! Also to STL, USD and C4D.
It looks like from here you can render your sculpt straight in Forger for that quick pic to throw on your instagram. Huzzah!
Here’s the catch…
Unfortunately, unlike Blender, a free open-source program, all the features of Forger are not free.
Maxon decided to put it under their umbrella of subscription services and well, hopefully that means that we will see many more improvements to the app in years to come.
If you want to try this app out, you can use it for free for up to 3 scenes at a time. Which is pretty cool.
If you’re like me and like free stuff, then maybe you can make sculpts and export them to Blender, Cinema4D or even ZBrush to finish the modelling/UVs/texturing, and then delete them off of Forger once you’ve exported them or saved them off the app for 3 new empty slots.
To be honest though…
$22.99/year is not bad for an on-the-go 3D sculpting app that has the potential to be a 3D artist’s portable bit of digital clay they can take LITERALLY ANYWHERE and reuse forever.
Like Procreate’s purpose as a eternally refreshable sketchbook.
So there you have it. A beginner’s run down of 3D sculpting in Forger on the iPad.
I hope this helps any of you out there that need to find your own piece of digital clay whilst you are travelling.
I think the main pro that I can take away from having an iPad as a 3D artist is the fact that even though it’s not as perfect and powerful as the industry-standard programs, the portability gives me access to practicing my digital art more often. Which overall is a key asset to being a successful artist.
After all, spending my hard earned savings on tech and not groceries is not something I can take lightly! But as of now at least I have a little sculpting machine until my poor mac gets it’s new logic board.
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So you’ve sculpted a kick-ass character for your movie, but you are having second thoughts about your colour palette…
You clearly haven’t spent enough R&D time concept-arting your characters so now you’re stuck with a million questions… But! You do have something to test your colours on… so it ain’t all bad… right?
This is definitely me right now. But its okay because I have the time to NOW think more deeply into it.
So… who ARE my characters?
She is Emily’s beloved puppy, the family’s first Papillon dog and is pampered thoroughly. Gabby is very much a house pet and is surrounded by fluffy toys. However she believes that she is meant for something bigger. She is also overly ambitious, and learns the lesson that you may have to fight for the opportunity to do something you love, especially when you are a little different from the industry’s “status quo”.
So what colours do you think of when you see a young, naive, tiny dog? What colour collar would she wear? Or would you go full blown and put her in sparkly doggy clothing?
I’ve been through a few paint jobs on Gabby now and I certainly prefer the silvery greys and bright whites in her coat. I UV-unwrapped my retopologised sculpt and painted her coat colours using Blender’s Texture Painting feature.
It’s not your standard Papillon coat colour either, which would suggest she is an underdog, and maybe seen as a bit special towards her owners. Not quite a fully white Papillon, as they are automatically disqualified from Kennel Club competitions as white dogs can hold certain health complications. I originally liked the half brown half white patch coat, but it strayed quite far from a traditional Papillon’s symmetrical markings on the ears, and I didn’t want to make Gabby completely detached from the breed. I used a real references too for inspiration on rare Papillon coats.
Coat colour isn’t the only consideration either – toys, clothing, bedding, food can all portray her character. I am still brainstorming ideas currently but in the next few months you’ll see her character develop through her belongings so stay tuned!
All works of Gabby shown here were designed, and sculpted in ZBrush, and textures, retopology, grooming were made in Blender by Sarah Brawn. The design and sculpt of Gabby was inspired by real life images of Papillons.
Images of work owned and copyrighted by Brawni3D and you must request permission prior to use.
You can now contribute to the production of Little Dog by donating a biscuit to Gabby!
How about a giving her a treat and see what she does?
After Gabby 2.0 had been rigged and tested with fur and basically I had learned how to retopologise, rig and animate a quadruped, I realised that there were some major elements missing from Gabby’s sculpt that she will need if she is to express her emotions to her audience.
The first was a working mouth! I was so so tempted to buy a wolf mouth from various internet vendors… but I resisted and made my own specific to her face, which I am much happier with.
There was a lot of back and forth discussion over whether to sculpt a human mouth to aid with talking and human expressions, or to go full realism and sculpt a very realistic dog mouth, as she is a dog. Did you know that all the Secret Life of Pets characters have a set of human teeth?
I decided to go halfway and sculpt a more stylised dog mouth, a bit like Buster the dachshund from Pixar’s Toy Story. Buster also has eyebrow bumps and near-human like eyes for the extra character.
Alongside sculpting her inner mouth and tongue, I re-did her muzzle to make it look more dog-like, and re-sculpted those huge butterfly-like ears.
She is an expressive character and I still wanted some human-like features so that she has a full range of expressions. After storyboarding her first scene, we realised that there would be a lot of close up shots of her feet, and the previous sculpt I believe didn’t have adequate animatable paws, so I did a complete re-sculpt of her toe beans.
I then, of course, had a bit of a play around to see if her teeth closed together, and her lips would move nicely over her teeth.
Now for the fun taking her back into Blender to colour her up and rig her for animation!!
Thanks for reading!
All works of Gabby shown here were designed, and sculpted in ZBrush by Sarah Brawn. The design and sculpt of Gabby was inspired by real life images of Papillons.
Images of work owned and copyrighted by Brawni3D and you must request permission prior to use.
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