BonesPro Step by Step character skinning tutorial
Skinning is the process of assigning the vertices of a mesh to an animated skeleton structure. The mesh should deform and follow the movements of the skeleton accurately, creating realistic looking movements of organic shapes.
Introduction Assigning Bones Fine-Tuning
The skinning process is an important part of character creation and requires artists to interrupt the more creative parts of their work and spend often significant amounts of time on rather technical and repetitive deformation set- ups. Especially for less technically inclined artists the skinning task can quickly turn into a long and tedious journey through of bone influence area tuning and deformation readjustments.
BonesPro is the solution for all artists that don’t want to spend a lot of time on character skinning and prefer to get quality skinning results with a minimized amount of work.
BonesPro delivers fast results through a quick assignment set-up and convenient adjustment options.
Meshes deform like elastic skin, avoid face clipping and don’t tear vertices too far apart from each other.
Hypodermic solid deformers can handle the most problematic areas in an animated mesh.
API access allows integration into existing pipelines and Teams can collaborate on scenes without having to supply everyone with licenses.
BonesPro can not only be used for traditional skinning but also for many other animation effects.
Please follow these steps and learn how to utilize this great tool in order to achieve the best results in minimum time during your everyday productions.
We wish you happy skinning!
Igor Posavec and the team at 3d-io.com
Assigning bones with BonesPro
Open a scene that contains a character mesh and a matching skeleton rig.
With the help of BonesPro we will deform the character mesh so that it follows the movements of the bones and can be animated.
1: Select the character mesh.
2: Add the BonesPro modifier to the mesh object's modifier stack.
The first step is assigning the bones to the BonesPro modifier.
1: Click the 'Assign' button to open the bone assignement window.
2: Select all objects that you want to use as bones for the character.
3: Confirm your selection with the OK button.
1: Immediately after assigning the bones your character is already skinned with default settings.
2: You can use the 'Vizualize' option do display a color overlay that shows you how the bones influence the mesh.
3: The default skinning is already quite good, but of course it can‘t cope with all details of your mesh and your setup without further adjustments. You will usually need to fine-tune the default skinning to enhance the result. Click the 'Bone' button to do so.
1: After entering the bone edit mode the 'pick bone' option is enabled by default. Click on a bone in the viewport to select it.
2: While you are in the bone edit mode you only work with the bones, not directly with your mesh‘s vertices. For the basic adjustments in this chapter this is all we need.
1: Long extremeties like arms and legs tend to drag the skin from a too large surrounding area to themselves. You can easily adjust the total influence any bone has on the mesh.
2: Use the spinners in the Bones rollout to adjust the influence of the bones. 'Falloff' determines the influence radius and 'Strength' how intensely the mesh within that radius gets pulled towards the bone.
You should also reduce the influence of bones from which multiple body parts extrude to prevent the area from appearing too rigid during movements.
If the head influences areas like the upper arms or even parts of the torso reduce it's influence so that in only reaches the neck.
Just tuning the bone influences will not result in a perfectly skinned mesh but within minutes you can achieve results that are good enough to minimize the required subsequent detail work.
Fine-tuning: Excluding & Including Vertices
Some bones can influence areas of the mesh because that are close, but they don't belong to them and should therefore exert no influence at all. Here the bones of the left leg slightly influence the right leg and distort its surface during movement.
Let's fix this!
1: Now we need to select vertices. Click the vertex mode button and you can select vertices in the viewport instead of bones.
2: You can have both, vertices and bones, selected at once. Adjusting vertex based settings happens always relative to the selected bones, not to all bones at once. Use the bone select button to toggle between the options to select bones or vertices in the viewport.
3: You can use familiar 3ds Max tools like grow, shrink , ring, loop to select vertices.
1: Select all vertices of the left leg. Then switch back to the bone selection mode by pressing the bone select button or using the keyboard shortcut (SPACE by default).
2: Select a bone of the right leg. The vertices stay selected while you are selecting bones. You can clearly see the bright blue influence area which the selected bone casts over the wrong leg.
1: Select all bones belogning to the leg.
2: The 'Bones' rollout has selection tools to make your work easier. You can select all child bones of the current selection with a single click.
1: Click the 'Exclude' button. This will make sure that all currently selected bones do not have any influence over the selected vertices, no matter how high the bone's falloff and strength are or how close the vertices are.
You could now do the same to prevent the left bones from influencing the right leg. But in the next chapter we will use the mirror tool to transfer our work from one side of the mesh to the other. So we‘ll leave the other leg alone for now.
Instead we'll take a look at the arms. The upper arms are hanging too low which doesn't look too good. When you select a bone of the torse you can see that it influences the arm and pulls it down. This is the same problem as with the leg. Bones influence areas that are close but should be ignored regardless.
1: Disable the bone select button if it's active and select the arm just like the leg before.
1: Back in bone select mode select the bones from the chest downwards.When multiple bones are selected and the visualization is enabled the mesh reflects the colors of the bones that have the highest influence over the area.
1: When the arm's vertices and the torso bones are selected, click the 'Exclude' button like before. The arm is no longer pulled down by the torso boes and looks as it should.
How to mirror one side of the skinned character to the other
Earlier we modified the bones in the right leg so that they don‘t distort the left leg any more. We now use the mirror tool to transfer this modification to the bones in the left leg.
1: Select the bones you adjusted earlier and want to copy over to the other side.
2: In the mirror rollout you can activate a preview that helps you setting up the mirror. A plane outline displays the current mirror axis, target bones on the other side of your selection receive a bounding box.
1: Adjust the position of the axis and the tolerance threshold until your intended mirror targets are marked. Then press the mirror button to copy the settings over. All bone settings are transferred to the other side.
Keep in mind that mirroring expects symmetical bone and vertex setups. If your mesh or the bone rig is not symmetrical the results of the mirror operation might not be completely what you expected.
Enhancing the mesh shape with subdermal implants (Metabones)
In some areas the mesh spans too smoothly over the bones and doesn't extrude enough. In areas like elbows you want sharp bends where the bone presses against the skin. Another problem area are the buttocks of human meshes which tend to collapse when bending the legs. BonesPro offers Metabones to solve these problems. Metabones are spherical objects that are considered as physical obstacles by the mesh - just like an elbow bone does in real life.
We will now make sure that the buttocks keep their shape when the character bends the legs.
1: You can find the Metabones in the '3d-io' category of your object panel.
2: create a Metabone in the buttocks area of the character. You can adjust the radius of each axis of the metaball separately to generate various ellipsoid shapes.
1: Create a copy for the other buttock.
2: Metabones must be linked to a bone of the rig to have any effect. The mesh gets deformed no matter to which bone you link, bone influence areas don't matter for Metabones.
3: Let's link both Metabones to the pelvis bone. Since the Metabones move together with the bone they're linked to you should usually select a bone close to the mesh area you want to influence.
1: Activate the checkbox in the main rollout to make BonesPro consider the linked Metabones. While this option is active the mesh will not only be deformed by bone influences but also by your Metabones. The buttons next to the checkbox allow you to quickly hide all Metabones so that they don't distract you while you don't work with them.
You can use the 'Blend' option in the Metabone object properties to adjust the influence strength of the
Metabone. Modify the position and size of the Metabones until you achieve the desired mesh shape.
With the workflow shown in this tutorial you can successfully skin characters in record time. BonesPro has more to offer and depending on the quality you want to achieve you might need more of BonesPro's advanced fine-tuning options. When you're comfortable with the basics go ahead and experiment or check out http://www.bonespro.com for more information.
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