Welcome to the making of my Darth Vader lamp statue, as a quick intro i started working on this project a couple of years ago while i was studying how to sculpt cloth and remembered i had a Darth Vader i started and decided to use him since he has a lot of clothing elements.Eventually i remodeled everything and it was a great experience going to the entire process of modelling, sculpting, uv mapping, texturing, rendering and finally compositing the final shot.
There were many challenges one of which was finding good reference and even better , blueprints for the helmet and because it's black it's hard to determine where all the edges and shapes are from most photos so luckily i found a good blueprint of the entire helmet and decided to use that for the front and side.
Due to my job i had to work on this project mostly in the weekends and in my vacation time and took about 2 years to make, i posted my progress on CGTalk and got some great critiques so i will be posting a quick overview of the modelling process i went through.
I got a Craftbot Plus FDM printer a couple of months ago and decided to print this character and make him like a lamp and for the blade i got some electroluminescent wire.
Step 1: Gathering Reference
This is the most important part, whenever i try to make something i go online and try to find as many reference images as possible and also as much information about the project as possible.
For this particular case in order to make this character as close to the movie Darth Vader as possible i had to find some info about David Prowse , the actor that was wearing the Vader costume, google becomes you're best friend for this kind of stuff.
Here are some links to get you started.
All this research will be used for our simple character model inside the costume, next i searched for the helmet and the costume, you can never have too many reference images so get as many as you can find especially from the movie but be cautious some things you will find online created by people not associated with the movie won't be 100% accurate.
Best would be to use the movies as the main reference and for things not seen very well there to use other images found online, also if there is any sort of functionality with pieces, costumes, etc be sure to analyse how the mechanics work before modelling the piece.
Here are some the photos i used primarily for the costume, had tons of photos so i obviously cant post all of them but the movies really come in handy to check all the pieces of the costume.
Step 2: Setting Up the Imageplanes
Because i have been using Autodesk Maya for more than 12 years now i know it very well so that is my main program of choice and i will also be using Zbrush for the sculpting and detailing, when i originally made the character i was using other workflows but now with new versions of the programs i will be showing you as faster and more fun way of making the character. Rather than making the low base mesh character in Maya like i originally did on my character as years went through i moved more towards Zbrush for organic stuff and with the release of Zbrush 4R6 tools like dynamesh allow you to sculpt without worrying about stretching the polygons too much.
So we will set up the imageplanes in Zbrush for the full character just to keep things looking natural and realistic, here is where you will see what you're strengths and weaknesses are so if you've never sculpted before or don't know anatomy very well you will need some general knowledge about the subject.
Nowadays there are so many tutorials and reference images it's impossible not to be able to learn anatomy or anything in general, the good thing on this particular character is because he is completely covered you won't need to worry too much on it just get the general shapes looking correct so they will be seen with the costume on.
To set up the imageplane in Zbrush go to Texture and then into Imageplane and load the image of the human proportion to get the shapes correct, again don't bother going into too much detail as his entire body is covered with the costume.
Step 3: Sculpting in Zbrush
Now comes the fun part sculpting the character underneath the costume, for settings i pretty much use all the defaults i only like to change the Angle of View to 30 in the Draw menu just to get a more realistic sense of the camera and be sure to have perspective on.
For the brushes i use pretty basic brushes like Standard, Smooth, Flatten, Claytubes , HPolish and also made some simple custom brushes with some small modifications like different alphas or brush modifier settings, there are lots of tutorials for Zbrush and this is just a simple overview of what i like to use so if you want to get to know Zbrush better search for more in depth tutorials online.
To start because we will use dynamesh you can use pretty much whatever type of object you want but i will use a simple cube and for the dynamesh settings try to keep the resolution as low as possible till you will need more.The best approach to use dynamesh is to get the basic shape then use the sculpting divisions otherwise thing will work slower and slower as you increase the resolution for the dynamesh and since Zbrush likes to switch to a lower subdivision when rotating the model to keep things fast.
When you feel you have an ok base mesh for the character underneath we will move onto the costume since we are still here in Zbrush and because we already have the body blocked out we just need to duplicate it and inflate the costume , we will also need to give the sense of it being thicker a little bit so try to inflate using the inflate brush things where parts get bunched up like the armpits, the crotch area and so on.
We will also need to add folds and the line seams details but as a first stage it's good to block out each piece first and then worry about the details and the interaction between pieces.
Step 4: Modelling the Mask
Pixologic recently added poly tools for hard surface modelling in Zbrush but it will depend what software you like to use personally i will use Autodesk Maya and we will set up the image plane first and then start modelling.
I like to use geometry for image-planes as i have more control and i can modify the uv if there are problems with the front and side not matching up.
One trick you can use is to create CV or EP curvs to give you a better sense of where the edges will go then it's a matter of preference, you can start from simple object like cubes, spheres, cylinders or you can create each polygon individually by starting from a plane then using common tools like extrude, insert edge loops tool, multi cut tool and so on till you get a nice and clean model.
This just like the sculpting part can get really complicated and it can take years to truly master so luckily there are lots of tutorials online to help you with each tool and setting.
Because we are creating a highpoly model we will be using support edges to keep the shape when smoothing if we want sharp edges or corners and we will use quads to be able to smooth the model and get clean results, it's also best to keep the model divided evenly and as you can see i have more resolution on the mask then on the helmet piece because it requires more edges to keep the curvature, add small details and also for the support edges.
After the helmet is done we will move to the next pieces.
Step 5: Modelling the Rest of the Objects
Using a similar approach to the previous step i modeled the rest of the objects as seen in the images, for 3d printing smaller objects are harder to print so anything smaller than 1 mm will have a lower change of appearing on the final print.
Speaking of which there are specific rules for modelling for 3d printing, the model needs to be watertight so there shouldn't be any holes, no intersecting geometry, only manifold geometry.
If you make mistakes there are ways of checking to see if the model is correct or if the model has problems, more on this will be discussed later.
Step 6: Detailing the Costume
Now we will start by sculpting the folds in Zbrush, a good habit is to use layers as they give you a lot of freedom and allow you to tweak things in a nondestructive way having the ability to always come back and reduce the intensity, remove them completely or remove parts by combining this approach with morph targets.
For the lines there are multiple ways of doing things, you can use a tedious process of inserting 2 edge loop for each edge that runs vertical (similar to the vader costume) and move the edge loop in the middle towards the character. For this i chose a different method, i did a fast uv map on the costume and then in Maya i used a projection texture node to project a grid texture using a cylinder projection for each limb and for the torso, it's very fast but you will get a seam when the parts meet. Fortunately the costume will be covered up by the capes , the next part involved baking the projected texture to a 2d texture to be used as a masked later in Zbrush for inflating in a negative value.
I also used some alphas from photos of the costume to get more wrinkles on the costume and i tried to get as much detail as possible and so i added on top of what i already had wear and tear, scratched, dirt but most of this was in the texturing phase.
Because this model was not intended for 3d printing initially most of the surface detail was not done on the geometry but rather on the texturing side and as you can see in the textured images it give it more realism.
Step 7: Posing the Character
For posing just like everything there are multiple ways of doing it, you could do it in zbrush using the Transpose Master plugin or you could do it in Maya the old fashion way by creating joints, there are also faster ways of creating rigs like using premade HumanIK rig or the newly added Quick Rig tool all this in combination with Geodesic Voxel bindind as a skinning option will give you a pretty good result from the start.
If you chose the joint and skinning approach don't bother yourself with corrective blenshaped and painting skinning only if you plan to animate this character, the correction will be made afterwards to fix problems like intersecting meshes, stretching, loosing volumes and so on.
Step 8: Creating the Capes
At the time i was making this character there was i program i just started to learn called Marvelous Designer that allows you to simulate high resolution clothing very easily and this was my choice to get the natural looking folds out of my capes.
The program has a basic concept, you need to create the patterns then sew them together just like in real life and then simulate, the program gets updated constantly and the new version have way more tools than what i initially used so look online for videos explaining this program in depth and play around with it till you feel comfortable with the program.
After the capes were simulated on the model i tweaked them further in Zbrush, as powerfull as MD is it can't create every little detail you want so that job goes to Zbrush.
Step 9: Preparing the Model for 3d Printing
As mentioned in a previous post we will need to prepare the model for 3d printing, we will start by checking the thickness and for this particular model i increased the thickness for the capes to make sure they will print correctly.
I decided the overall scale of the model was going to be 30 cm and then how many pieces will the character have so the model will fit the print volume of my FDM printer and also to get the best results keeping into account print time, supports.
For the first part we will use Zbrush and dynamesh to boolean combine or remove intersecting objects and also close holes, dynamesh give quite a clean model most of the time but on more complex meshes it will produce errors.
To make sure the boolean combine works i increased the thickness of the objects that were going to be combined so that they have a thick intersection as seen in the photos, also the highpoly version of my Darth Vader was somewhere around 22 million polys so i had to decimate the model, best would be to keep each piece you plan to use in the slicing program at just under 1 million triangles for both detail and speed.
The best way to find out if the model is good for printing is to use Meshmixer with the Inspector tool , it will tell you if the model is correct or if the model has holes, manifold geometry and so on, it can fix simple problems but for more complex ones Meshmixer will crash so as an alternative i like to use Maya Cleanup with Nonmanifold option turned on.
If the model has problems Maya Cleanup will try and fix them and will also select the edges that are the problem allowing you to further fix them if the problem still hasn't been solved.
For the slicing program since i have a Craftbot Plus i use their slicer called Craftware which is one of the best free slicer out there and also the default settings are already set for my printer.
Just to give some settings i printed this in PLA that came with the printer at 100 microns, used 215 degrees Celsius for the Head and 60 degrees Celsius for the Bed, some models were printed using a brim to keep the print stuck better on the bed. Used 20% infill, for the Draw Speed 60 mm\s and for the Vertical Shell i used 3 Loops to give it more strength.
Step 10: Printing the Model and Finishing.
The first test i did on my Craftbot Plus was just the Darth Vader head at around 5 cm tall and i think the results were pretty good so i moved on to print the full character.
Usually a print at 100 microns would take even 22 hours but the result were pretty good as seen in the photos.
The next step after printing involves removing the supports and then sanding, since i'm new to 3d printing the biggest problem i faces was filling the seams where the pieces were glued together, tried some epoxy puddy but was too thick and couldn's make it thinner.
I just bought a finishing pen called Modify3d Pen and it's basically like a soldering iron but has 4 different metal heads that can heat up and melt the plastic, i found this pen to be pretty usefull as one thin piece ( the right shoulder piece) had broken and melted during the print, and with this pen it was pretty easy to melt the piece and connect back onto the model.
The result wasn't perfect even though i sanded afterwards, but as a happy accident the right shoulder piece had some small indentation in it almost like battle damage.
After the sanding was done i got some adhesion promoter and started to spray it on every piece so the paint would stick better on the model, if you are using a spray be sure to do it in a well ventilated area, outside would be best.
Step 11: Painting the Model
For the paint i got some acrylic black paint for the base and i applied it on the whole model, the paint it pretty thick so you will need to thin it with a little bit of water, best would be to one pass of base paint, let it dry and then do another pass.
This is the current status on this project, next i will get some more paints and start painting the rest of the model, i will also get and LED strip and use that under the base so the model gets more light.
I will be posting updates one i will finish the painting process so thanks for watching and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Step 12: Final Steps
In this last step i will be posting my updates on the painting.
Got some metallic Leadbelcher Citadel paint from someone and painted all the metal parts on my model, also ordered some simple grey paint for painting the armor piece so expect the next update to happen when i do that.
Added grey color to the armor piece.
Added more color to the chest and belt computers.