This is the first in a short series of posts I will do about creating Verachantesse. She is one who loves honesty and music above all else in the world. She’s a young lady1, but old enough and wise enough to startle you with some insight.
She’s a Blender 2.80 built-and-rigged character. I may do nothing more with her than produce nude stills, but not sure yet. Depends on how much time I have to devote to the project in the coming months.
Pre-Dawn - Let’s have Someone Else Do It…
I wanted to start with someone else’s base mesh that had a good topology and rig, but I was unable to convince myself anything I could buy would have the features I needed. What do I need? I need good joint deformations on the fingers, toes, elbows, hips, and shoulders. A lot of them look okay, but none really showed off how they could do at extreme deformations at many angles.
Menglow, for example, has some pretty great and simple topologies, but looking at the demo videos etc, it doesn’t really look like the rigs and topologies are doing more than I will be able to do myself, and I’d rather start with a known base than try to learn someone else’s setup.
I looked at other projects. For example, I shelled out $4 for Ethan Snell’s Iris project. I hoped that would be a good base for Verachantesse2.
She is pretty advanced, but she’s just a real ugly girl, and her base mesh was not suited to task. Her breasts looked like shaped cubes instead of shaped cones. Here’s what she looks like naked.
Iris had a lot of great features. I spent a couple of days trying to reshape her, but in the end just abandoned her for the next course of action, as it felt like my modifications were so drastic I’d have to re-rig her. Also, Ethan is pretty good, but I didn’t like the way her eyes were rigged, for example. The eyeballs were being deformed out of shape, and the eye rig was at some wonky angle.
Pay Some Artists
So I asked the great artists on BlenderArtists if they could help!
They could! But the cheapest artists wanted to work dozens to hundreds of hours to achieve the look I wanted, and their portfolios didn’t convince me they could achieve better results than I could. Although some were pretty cheap, this is a personal project, and they wanted $500-$1500 to give me a good base mesh and rig. For a personal project felt a bit rich. I’m sure if I was producing a full film, $1500 would be a sneeze in a hurricane, but alas… I’m trying to do my own fanart.
Buying something, alas, seemed out of reach. So finally… I just started doing it myself.
The Beginning - Let’s do it myself
First, I pulled up some of my old base meshes from 2004-2005. OMG, no. No no no. No.
So I began in earnest building a brand new mesh, cube modeling, from scratch.
I tried to rig her with Blenrig. There aren’t any screenshots of that era, so sorry.
I spent a few days on Blenrig, and then it didn’t work. Like… none of the controls moved her body around. Unsure why. Couldn’t figure it out. So I tried Rigify, and that seemed to work.
To the left, a screenshot of the Rigify setup. For a preview of what will come next, look at the controls in her feet.
Only a Few Hours after Rigifying
Here she is without hair, and doing some poses.
Already in the first few hours after using Rigify, I had her doing some pretty cute things. I like the simple but effective face controls. I will have to do some shape keys and weight painting, but a really good first approximation.
But what do you notice in all these renders? Her toes. Her toes are really boring. Because Rigify gives you precisely ONE BONE to control all 10-12 joints (how many?) on her toes. Yeah, I don’t know how many joints are in the toes of a human foot. Sue me.
There’s more than one toe joint, though, this much I can assure you.
So I spent another several hours trying to figure out how to add toes to the rig. I finally figured out you gotta press this “super copy tentacle” button or some shit, and it makes a giant armature you gotta scale, rotate, copy, rename, place on the foot, parent to the right bone, etc.
Now her toes look awesome. They will get awesomer in the future. Keep an eye on this space.
That said, her foot roll control no longer works right. I don’t know how to fix that. I’m sure the extensive documentation and all the tutorials on YouTube talking about how to rig toes will clear that up. dripping sarcasm goes here3
One day, if I figure this out, I’ll make a tutorial about adding toes to the rig properly.
Cycles sucks. It’s so amazingly slow. I am using a really new 2017-era iMac, but it has an AMD Radeon. It appears on MacOS we don’t get 3D hardware support.
Eevee is way faster, but it slows my interface down to a crawl, one frame every 3-5 seconds, which makes zooming, panning, posing, etc super-painful. And it does some really dumb things.
For example, I followed Ethan’s hair tutorial, and somehow all the hair is see-through in Eevee. Take a look at the following image. No. The hair isn’t modeled badly, the hair is just rendering see-through.
Cycles doesn’t have the same problem, but it has a whole new lot of its own problems, not the least of which is that super-ugly grainy for any render that I spend less than 30 hours generating.
Let’s look at Cycles’ idea of “Ambient Occlusion.”
She’s glowing in the dark. That is not reflections or SSS. It’s “ambient occlusion” according to Cycles.
So first I did the hair so it looked good in the viewport and on Cycles, but it looked horrible on Eevee. But Cycles makes ugly renders in general. I really want the Eevee look. So I’ve tuned my workflow to Eevee for the moment.
I have had to redo the hair at least 3 times. I think I’ve lost count actually. Now I have something that looks okay in Eevee, doesn’t slow my computer to a one-frame-per-minute rate, and I can work with. Although the hair is still pretty ugly. I’m not sure what to do next there, actually.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the various iterations.
First Try! Ethan’s Method
This one isn’t bad in Cycles, but looks horrible in Eevee. And in Cycles, there’s no strands. I need strands.
Second Try! Let’s Do Lots of Polys for Cycles
Tried to do strands with modeling instead of textures. This one looks like a bunch of playdough rolls stuck to her head in Cycles and slowed down Eevee so much I wanted to kill myself. So all disadvantages and no advantages. What’s the point?
Third Try! Just Something Low-Poly and Silly-Textured
Moving on! This one looks just generally silly, but at least it gives the idea, and looks fine in Eevee and doesn’t slow it to a crawl, since it’s only maybe 500 or so polys.
I think I’ll just leave the hair like this for a week or two while I work on other things, then when the time comes, I’ll just do proper actual hair using real hair strands. I can’t figure out a quick/simple way to produce reasonable-looking hair that’s performance-minded.
Rig Pose Woes
Every time I realise the “rig topology” is wrong, and I have to create new bones, or otherwise change the metarig, then I have to delete and re-create the rigify rig, and I lose all my Pose Library poses. This makes me sad, since I’ve now re-created every pose she’s in about 8 times, which is time-consuming and laborious. I can’t wait until I settle on a metarig that for sure works, so I can start keeping my Pose Library for more than a day.
Which Brings us to Today
Now what? Well. A lot left to do. Fix the joints. Fix the hair. I think the rig and mesh are both done4, and ready to move to the next stage. So with that, I’ll leave you with a few random “renders” (just screenshots of my workspace in render mode) to look at.
Left, she’s considering something.
Right, she is trying to imagine herself a fierce fighter, but let’s be honest, she’s not hurting anyone.
In both renders, I forgot to turn on Subdiv Surface modifier before taking the screenshot. As a hint to the future posts, subdivision surfaces in Blender 2.80 are incredibly slow. Apparently they’re supposed to be faster than before.
Not for me, no.
Here someone just told her something that is inconvenient to her world-view.
Hopefully the next post has her joints and hair looking better, and I’ll have something interesting to say. Thanks, Blender community! And all the tutorial-making people on the internets. Thanks Rigify people! This stuff is pretty legit.
If you want to contact me, I am Philo Vivero, and I have a gmail email account. Just try emailing the obvious @gmail.com and I will get it.
- There’s always one out there who’s salivating for it. Sorry to disappoint you. Her mesh/topology is 100% based on girls who are 18+, averaging 21. So Verachantesse is 21 years old. [return]
- I don’t know why I rated it two stars. I just now went and fixed my rating to 4 stars. For $4, Iris is a pretty good value. [return]
- If you know of any documentation or tutorials about rigging toes with Rigify… or even Blenrig, I wanna know about it. [return]
- Actually I’m re-doing the rig to fix mesh deform in her fingers, elbows, scapula. So I’ve already lost the rig and all these poses… again. [return]