Dark Lantern of the Sith - Modeling Organics the CAD Way!




Introduction: Dark Lantern of the Sith - Modeling Organics the CAD Way!

      For many 3D artist, especially CAD oriented ones like myself, the task of modeling an organic object be quite daunting. You want to make thatreally awesome animal/character/futuristic car that you've had drawn up in you mind, but can't draw anything that isn't straight lines. I've drawn up lots of machines, robots, and complex mechanisms, but I've always be either frightened to try organics, or when I did, I was so frustrated with the results (or therefore lack of) that I would just give up.  If this is you, then fear not!  This tutorial will not only guide you to making beautiful 3D Jack-o-Lanterns, but also help many of you past your fears of organics or at the least help redefine your way of looking at them. 

    We'll be modeling the Jack-o-Lantern below, as it combines spherical geometries with smooth planes (I'll go into detail later).  I started this project when I saw the Jack-o-Lantern contest on the website.  I had never done any organic shapes to this extent, but through either blind intuition or a whisper from the Lord, I found an approach that was malleable enough for organics, but geometric in nature.  This process allows you have the freedom of organics, but with the straight-forwardness of geometric modeling.  

   I'll be using be using Blender 2.68a for this tutorial, but since it is mostly a concept tutorial, this should work for most 3D modeling/CAD softwares. Let's Begin!

Step 1: Know Your Subject

     One thing that you will find the more art you do, the more familiar you are with a subject, the easier it is to replicate and manipulate.  For this project, our subjects are a pumpkin and a helmet of your choice (whether it be Vader, a stormtrooper, Iron Man, RoboCop, or  Masterchief).  Google it, and look at the images.  What makes it special?  What is the most recognizable part of it?  

     Two Key examples of this for this project:

          Pumpkins: Not complicated.  Spherical-ish, ridges at random point, going from top to bottom, and stem.

          Vader's Helmet: Just about everyone knows it, but actually makes it so iconic?
               - Built-in Googles
               - Air Filter-like Mask
               - Samurai-like Tapered Helmet
               - Ridge over Helmet
               - 2 definite pieces

     If you can get these down into it, people will easily recognize it.  There are other details, such as the triangular shape of the mask, the sharp cheek bones, and the two silver studs on the front of the mask, but these are secondary. Don't get caught up with small details if you haven't got the main features down.  Starting with main features simplifies your model while still allowing you to add details later on.  

Step 2: Making Your Helmet Base (Face Mask)

     Ambition would say to go ahead and start building your actual model now.  However when combining two separate models, especially if you've never draw those model specifically before, its best to make models of each one before hand, so that you know what methods to use.  This will make more sense as we progress through the tutorial.

     We're going to model the helmet (face mask since this is a two piece) first as the Jack-O-Lantern's shape look best when its modeled after the helmet.  

      Start by looking at those "key points" of the helmet and figure out what faces make them.  Are they two triangles, a retangle?  Keep it simple.  Observe below:

     -The cheek bones are just two rectangles.  Just drag it away from the middle to make sharp angles.
     -For eyes, just make the outline, extrude and scale it down a bit (for those of you outside of CAD, extruding just like copying, except the points stay connected to the originals).  Then, extrude and merge at the center.
     - For the face mask vent, make rectangles for the side faces, then bring together at the angle you want for the mask.  For the nose, make the shape of the nose from the front without worrying about the side view yet.  Once you have the shape you want, then you can stretch it out to make the profile of it.

Step 3: Making Your Helmet Base (Helm)

     Now we are going to make the helm of the helmet (the part that actually covers you head).  This will determine the shape of your pumpkin as well.  If it's a one piece mask, just keep extending from the face all the way to the back of the helmet.  For most helmets, this is the easy part, as long as you do it right.  Look at the helmet's shape, and once again see what makes it look unique.  Vader's helmet looks somewhat like a samurai's.  Because its a simple shape, just get a front view and a top view, and you should be able to make an accurate replica.  Start at the front brim, make the shape you want in just a few connected rectangles and triangles, and then comes the cycle.  It's easy.  

     -Extrude, go to top view, move to about 1/6 of the way between the face, and what will be the back of the head.  Go to the sides and move till you like it, always checking your reference pictures, and then repeat, moving 1/6 or so of the way at a time, till you are at the very back.

     -Once you get the back, make sure that each side comes to its matching point.  Merge each point to its counterpart, and check one more time.  If you're happy, with it, let's get to the actual pumpkin!  If not, that's okay.  This is why we try to keep the parts simple, so its easy to go back and change what you don't like.

Step 4: Pumpkin Time!

Now here's where it gets easy.

Add in a sphere, and size it to roughly match the size of you helmet. 

Next, deform it, a couple of rings a time till it has a similar shape as the helmet.  The best view is from the front while you're doing this.  Make sure to line up the sphere right behind the helmet so you can easily see when its close to it contour.  Just move the lines out (don't move them up and down unless necessary, like wanting a sharp angle or higher detail.

-Note: More points/edges/faces = higher detail but that also means longer render times, so don't add line where you don't need them.

Now select a couple of the longitudinal rings and scale them (relative to the center) one at a time just enough to make it look "pumpkin-y". Do this about 6-14 around the entire sphere.  It will now be begin to look like a pumpkin.  Take the very top and bottom of the pumpkin and scale them in towards the center for an even better appearance.

Also, add a cylinder for a stem, and deform it like the way you did the pumpkin by selecting vertical portions of it and scaling them in.  If you want a bit more, grab a couple of rings (horizontal loop edges) and rotate them around to give it a twisted look, increasing "realism".

*In image, the black is the pre-made helmet, the white is sphere, and the orange is the parts of the sphere that are selected.

Step 5: Carving

Take the front portion that the face mask occupies and cut it out.  Place the mask in the hole, and edit the parts of the mask around some what so that the features appear to be carved out of the pumpkin, not pasted on

Now  just add a curved back drop to fill in any resulting gap between the newly made pumpkin and the mask.

If you are using Blender, then here is a simple shortcut that will turn you model from blocky and ugly to sleek and professional.
-Select one of your objects and go to modifiers.  Select from the drop down box Subdivision Surface.  Run the "render" value up to 3-6 depending on the capabilites of your computer.  When you render it, it should look wonderfully smooth!

Example of Subdivision Surfaces:  The mask below is the exact same as seen in step 2, only with the subdivision surfaces modifier added.

Step 6: And That It!

Now just add some artist flare (colors/textures/lights).  These are all up to your discretion, plus your knowledge and ability, but this can give it that extra boost when presenting it.

Step 7: Enjoy!

And Voila!  You know have a high quality, spooky/awesome jack-o-lantern, all in wonderful 3D. 

I'll be uploading future instructables further breaking down this process into more of the actual modeling process for other things, like cartoon animals and characters, so if you like this, or have a question, I'd love to hear from you, praise or criticism (constructive please though :D)

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    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction


    Not yet. It still has a few loose vertexes, but once I clean it up, I'll post a link.