Real Time Character Modeling Tutorial

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Nov 30, 2006

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Maya Versions:

1.x, 2.x, 3.x, 4.x, 5.x, 6.x, 7.x


linux, mac, windows




Before we add these we need to join the arm and leg to the torso. Start by raising the arm if need be, then move the vertices at the joining ends so that they lie where the joints would crease. Try to get vertices to line up with each other.

You should start to notice areas where you may need to add an extra vertex, or you could remove some faces to get the limbs to join properly. This is the next stage. Using the Split Polygon Tool to add the vertices, and deleting any unwanted faces make sure the vertices all line up perfectly, then combine the three pieces and weld the vertices.

You should now have a basic body although it may need tweaking slightly to get it back to a desired shape. Also at this stage add any extra bits, like breasts, and attach these to the basic model.


To be honest at this early stage I sometimes don't bother roughing in the hands. If I do need to, to get a better idea of proportions, a few cubes will suffice.


To create rough feet I simply extrude the edges at the base of the leg cylinder. Then I extrude the front of the newly created faces forward, usually having two divisions. It's just a case of editing the vertices then until you get a basic foot you are happy with.

Head and Neck

At this point the neck can simply be a low polygon cylinder, subdivision axis to 8 and the subdivision height to 3, adjusted, like the torso, to fit the neck in the image plane.

The head should begin as a cube with a few subdivisions, again adjusting the vertices to fit the general shape of the reference head. We don't add any detail to the head at this stage. Once done, weld the head to the neck and then the neck to the body, as we did previously with the torso and limbs.

Adding Details

By now you have your basic model filled out, it has all the limbs needed as well as a rough head, feet and maybe even hands.

You can now do one of two things, optimise this model for in game use, removing strips of polygons and adjusting it to look like a low resolution version of your character, or you can go in and refine the model, add more detail and fill out the shape until it looks exactly like the reference material.

Below are suggestions on the best way to achieve such details.

Note: You can achieve alot of detail with the texture on your character, don't rely solely on polygons.

Muscle Structure

Keep an eye on where the muscles lie on your character, placing edges along the muscle lines will result in a much more natural deformation as well as making your model look better.

Muscle Structure

Note: It may be worth spending some time mapping the lines onto your model, (as pictured below). Simply go around it and use hard edges as I have done, in some cases you will need to use the Split Polygon Tool but don't be afraid to add a few polygons at this stage.


An area most people struggle with is the shoulder. As you can see in the image below, when the arms are raised the shoulder muscle (deltoid) is more pronounced, bulging higher than the collar muscles (trapezius). Also notice that the big back muscle, (latissimus dorsi) acts like a fan, opening up when the arm is raised and closing again when the arm is relaxed.


Remember that the armpit recesses into the body slightly.

Bicep Twist

This is a trouble area if modelled incorrectly. When a twist is applied it can collapse and deform horribly but this can be avoided if you keep the polygons around this area in strips.

Bending Areas

An important part of any character is the areas where it needs to bend, i.e. elbows, knees etc. So go around your model and make sure to put in extra polygons in these areas.

As with the elbow pin point the pivot area and create the polygons behind that point.



Sep 23, 2009
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mast mast............

Really very usefull.....

I like it.... to much

View Namo Kun's profile
Oct 13, 2009
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this tutorial is usefull for likes of me for lessons
thanx a bunch

Oct 26, 2009
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good work

View Chumba Wumba's profile
Oct 27, 2009
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There are a few passages not very clear to me...

1: what tool is to be used to combine the arm,torso and the leg? with combine i get a single mesh but the edges and the parts are still different objects, and if i use boolean -> unions the meshes disappear.

2: in the part where i should map the lines with hard edges i can't get what should i do.. i'm quite a newbie and i don't know how to map without using a split polygons for every hard edge.

Can someone explain a little more deeply these passages?
Tnx in advance :)

View Dave G's profile
Oct 30, 2009
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This is great, tyvm!

View Sea D's profile
Nov 22, 2009
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Great tutorial thanks!

just one thing- I only vaguelly remember how to set hard edges in maya, could you advise me on how to do this step in a bit more detail? :)


Jan 07, 2010
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great tutorial, to answer Chumba, to combine the two polygons you should shift click them both select mesh>combine. they will become one polygon where you can then merge the verts because merging verts can only happen with the same polygon

Apr 24, 2010
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Awesome Tut!

Apr 28, 2010
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thank u sir

May 06, 2010
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Awesome thanks!!
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<param name="code" value="Java">
<param name="archive" value="">
<param name="codebase" value=""><param name="width" value="176">
<param name="height" value="184">

May 23, 2010
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too many tris on the model.

Jun 18, 2010
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How do I weld the vertices together?

Sep 12, 2010
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Really great very simple but triangles is a fail, but this tut is so fast metod to model body thanks

Sep 28, 2010
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Is there any high-res reference?

View divya tanwar's profile
Sep 29, 2010
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Sir ,
I liked this character modeling , bcoz it makes our modeling more easier .
I'm having problem in modeling Taj Mahal in 3d Maya . So can u send me the tutorial of modeling Taj Mahal , as sone as posibble

Oct 15, 2010
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Great tutorial. Not worried about the tris, that's something easily fixable after the model is completed.

Thanks for putting this up!

Nov 21, 2010
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i am a beginner of maya, i would like to know how you place the picture into the maya programme. Can i do it the same for a dog, as i am trying to model a dog using maya.

Dec 05, 2010
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Thanks a lot sir.Great Tut!Very helpful.

Dec 16, 2010
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very great thanks for this tutorial it's very useful for me.

thanks again

May 31, 2011
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toooo .....................much

i like it ........................

Jan 05, 2011
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anyone know how to actually join the vertices together???? u forgot to mention that bit!!

Feb 08, 2011
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I missed my classes in animation institue.. thanx for the tutorial buddy :)

I am starting to model it rite now... :D

Feb 26, 2011
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Anyone mind telling me how the hell he duplicated the whole right side of the body onto the left! I've tried to duplicate it too but when I try rotating it, it rotates and the back part faces forward. How can I just flip it?

Feb 28, 2011
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where have the pictures gone? They were still here yesterday ... :-\ this is worth nothing without pictures .-\

Feb 28, 2011
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@EdgElite: after you duplicated it, change the x-scale from 1.000 to -1.000

Mar 20, 2011
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Kevin, Try changing https:// to http:// then the images are there.

View sidkeepmenheart's profile
Apr 10, 2011
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really its very usefull

View Ronald Reed-Diaz's profile
Feb 06, 2012
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saying that I'm impressed, just doesn't express the gratitude or the appreciation that I am feeling at this moment. Very helpful, I will mention your help when I put my first models up.

Apr 23, 2012
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Yes, this was helpful enough. Thanks a lot this is the first time I've logged in into this website and am looking forward to know some more people who could guide me in this field as I'm very new to this field.... Thanks much appreciated....

May 27, 2012
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To answer some questions I saw in the comments:
To merge vertices you have to be in polygon modelling tab and go to (Edit Polygons-Merge)
A way to get rid of small triangles that don't impact the meshes surface too much is to select all three vertices and(Edit mesh- Merge to centre) only on smaller tri's though otherwise it could lead to more tri's if done on bigger faces.

To setup a new image plane you can do the following:
1. Go to (View - Image Plane - Import Image)
And edit its position and size in its attributes

2. Go to (Create - Polygon Primitives - Plane) scale the plane up a bit and hold down the right click button then go to (Assign New Material - Lambert) then in material attributes go to color and click on the white and black square next to color and click on "File" and the select an image to import . Then scale your plane to match the original images proportions.


Jul 15, 2012
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Hi there, I'm working through this tutorial now but all the image links seem to be broken, is there any way to see the images you've posted to go along side this tutorial?

Many Thanks


Oct 08, 2012
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Hi! I seem to be having the same issues with broken images as Cristina.
I would love to be able to reference this again!

Jun 17, 2013
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Really useful... other character modeling tutorials I have seen on the web is not like this... useful for me, a Maya beginner

Jan 14, 2014
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I accidentally gave it 3 stars when it deserves 5. Anyone know how to change the unintentional vote?

Great tutorial/reference!

View Winter_maiden's profile
Sep 22, 2014
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how did you make the hair??

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