Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Kind of Creature Are You?

Several days ago, I took a 9-question test at Quiztron called "What Magical Creature Are You?". It's a multiple-choice personality test of sorts, but I'm certain that it has no scientific basis whatsoever. The Quiztron site lets anybody create their own test, so I think it's safe to say that nearly all of them did not originate from someone with a Ph.D. in Psychology. This particular test was apparently created by a girl who was between 13 to 17 years old when it was posted a little over a year ago. Nevertheless, the test was fun and took me less than a minute to complete. Reading the comments page, I found that possible results included dragon, elven warrior, and werewolf. Here's what I got:


Demon

You are dark and don't take s*** from anyone. You are a powerful creature and skilled in battle. Most fear you, but a few are on your side.



Skilled in battle? I couldn't help but laugh. Nevertheless, I liked the test enough to try another one. This time, I took a test called "What Dog Are You?", getting the following result:

Pitbull

A tough dog that stands it's grownd (scarry too)


I sense a pattern here. LOL.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Creature Modeling, Part 7: The Road to Completion

This is the conclusion of my series on building creature models for NWN2. Those who haven’t read the start of the series may want to refer to my previous blog posts.

We’re almost done with our creature model, but not quite. There are still some issues to tackle, which we shall discuss in this write-up.

Level of Detail

You may recall that in Part 3 of this series, I mentioned that the MDB file we’ve been editing contains not one but three ghoul heads. We’ve been working on the main mesh, but there are two other meshes with fewer polygons. When the creature is shown in the game, the mesh that is used depends on the distance of the creature to the screen. Up close, the mesh with the most polygons is displayed, but as the creature’s distance to the screen increases, the mesh is substituted for one with fewer polygons.

In NWN2, 3D models have at most three levels of detail (or LOD for short). The mesh with the most polygons has the same name as the MDB file. The one with fewer polygons has “_L01” appended to the model name, and the mesh with the fewest polygons, “_L02.” The last two meshes need not be in the MDB file, but having them will help the engine run more smoothly by decreasing the polygons to be rendered when the model is zoomed out.

Below are the steps to follow in creating the lower LOD meshes.

  1. Load your model in 3DS Max and click the “Display” tab at the right side of the screen. (It’s the one with the tiny icon of a computer monitor on it.) Under the “Hide” rollout, click the “Unhide by Name…” button. This will bring up the “Unhide Objects” screen. Click the two lower LOD meshes while holding down the [Ctrl] key to select them both then click the “Unhide” button. We’re going to replace these meshes, so select each in turn and press the [Delete] key. The only remaining mesh should be the one with the highest polygon count.

    Step 1


  2. Click the remaining mesh to select it. Go to the File menu and click the “Export Selected…” option. (Don’t click “Export…” since you’ll want to export only the selected mesh.) Export the mesh as an MDB file. Next, click the File menu again and select “Import…” This will bring up the “Select File to Import” window. From there, select the file name of the mesh you had just exported then click the “Open” button. When the “Import Name Conflict” dialog box appears, edit the text in the “New Name” textbox so that it will be the same as the name of the original mesh but with the characters “_L01” appended to it.

    Step 2


  3. Step 3The newly imported mesh has its UVW mapping already embedded in it. The “Unwrap UVW” modifier, as well as most other modifiers that are on the original mesh, are gone, their effects having already been incorporated into the new mesh. In fact, the mesh comes with just a Skin modifier on top of it, which we will now delete.

    Select the newly imported mesh and click the “Modifier” tab to display the Modifier panel. Right-click the “Skin” modifier and click the “Delete” option from the context-sensitive menu so that only the “Editable Mesh” modifier remains.


  4. Step 4Click the button with the downward-pointing arrowhead above the modifier stack and click “MultiRes” from the dropdown list. This will add the MultiRes modifier to the stack.


  5. Step 5In the “MultiRes Parameters” rollout, click the “Generate” button. Next, enter a lower figure in either the “Vert Percent” box or the “Vert Count” box. If there is no checkmark in the box beside “Vertex Merging,” click the box to put a checkmark in it. Click the “Generate” button again. This will decrease the number of vertices in the mesh to your approximate target value.

    Note that while automated vertex merging reduces the tedium of creating lower LOD meshes, the results are not always satisfactory. It’s possible to manually merge vertices at some point, but it’s up to you to determine when to stop merging vertices automatically and when to do it manually. It’s also up to you to decide which vertices to merge together.

    When you’re satisfied with the results, you may add a Smooth modifier on the stack so that the mesh won’t look too blocky.


  6. Step 6Add the bones that the mesh will need. For head models such as this one, the lower LOD mesh may need only three bones, so it’s a simple matter of adding them one by one. Body and armor LOD meshes typically have the same number of bones as the original mesh, however.

    In case the lower LOD mesh needs the same bones as the original mesh, there’s an easy way to copy all the bones at once. This method was described by one of the artists at Obsidian Entertainment and posted by Rob McGinnis at this thread in the NWN2 forums:

    Select the original mesh and right-click its Skin modifier in the modifier stack. Click the “Copy” option in the context-sensitive menu that appears. Select the lower LOD mesh then right-click the modifier stack and click the “Paste” command from the context-sensitive menu. This will add a new Skin modifier on the stack, complete with the same set of bones found in the original mesh.


  7. Set the bone weights at each vertex for each bone. If there are only a few bones in the mesh, this can be done using the techniques I described in an earlier blog post. Nevertheless, if there are many bones attached to the mesh, you’ll want a faster way to rig the whole thing. In the same thread cited above, Rob McGinnis showed a technique that will allow us to copy bone weights from the original mesh to the lower LOD mesh. This technique is described below.

    Select the original mesh then click the “Utilities” tab in the right side of the screen to bring up the Utilities panel. (It’s the tab with the tiny hammer icon.) Under the “Utilities” rollout, click the “More…” button. This will bring up the “Utilities” dialog box. Scroll down the list box on the left of this window and click “SkinUtilities.” Click the “OK” button to close this window. Notice that a new rollout called “Parameters” appears in the Utilities panel.

    Step 7.a

    Step 7.bWith the original mesh still selected, click the “Extract Skin Data To Mesh” button under the “Parameters” rollout. This will create a new mesh that has the same name as the original but with the prefix “SkinData_” preceding it. Let’s call this the “skin data” mesh. Select both the skin data mesh and the lower LOD mesh together then click the “Import Skin Data From Mesh” button under the “Parameters” rollout. A new dialog box called “Paste Skin Data” will appear.


    Click the “Match by Name” button in the new dialog box then click the “OK” button. Finally, select the skin data mesh and delete it.

    Step 7.c

    This process is a quick way to get weight vertices on the first pass, but it isn’t guaranteed to be perfect. You may have to tweak some of the bone weights manually, but the tedium of weighting all vertices from scratch is done away with.


  8. Repeat steps 2 to 6 above for the “_L02” mesh, which should have fewer polygons than the “_L01” mesh.


Body Building in Brief

A New BodyI won’t go into detail on how I created this creature’s body. Suffice it to say that I built it out of spare parts; namely, the red wizard robe, the elven boots, and the ghoul’s hands, all of which are available in the toolset with the MotB expansion. Since both the ghoul’s body and the red wizard robe have their own set of collision spheres, I had to delete the ones that come with the red wizard robe. I sliced the hands off the ghoul using a couple of Slice modifiers, one for each hand. I then joined the individual parts together by dropping an “Edit Mesh” modifier on the stack of one of the meshes and clicking the modifier’s “Attach List” button

I also applied a process that is similar to much of what I have written in this series of blog posts. With this information on hand, it probably wouldn’t be difficult for a novice modeler to figure out how I constructed the creature’s body.

New Creature Entry

We hijacked the ghoul’s slot in the toolset as a quick way to test our model. Unless we give the new creature its own slot, however, we won’t be able to have both the ghoul and the new creature in the same module. Hence, we’ll have to rename the creature’s MDB files. This can be done in 3DS Max, but the process is much faster and less prone to error when using RunnerDuck’s MDB Cloner. We’ll follow the convention of naming monster heads C_name_Headnn, where name is the name (whether abbreviated or not) of the creature, and nn is a number from 01 to 99. For the monster’s body, the convention is C_name_CL_Bodynn. (“CL” in this case stands for “cloth,” which means that the creature is not armored.)

MDB Cloner

The last step is to copy the file appearance.2DA to your NWN2 override folder. You should then edit it to add a new entry for the creature you’ve just created. As I mentioned before, I prefer using Excel to edit 2DA files, although there are a number of free 2DA editors that you may download from the Vault.

New 2DA Entry

If you need more information on the 2DA file format, you may refer to this document. If you want information specific to appearance.2da, you may want to read my blog post on it.

Last Remarks

This ends my tutorial on building creature models. Although there is still much to learn on this topic, I believe I've covered enough information to show how to construct models from scratch. Considering that the Vault isn’t exactly teeming with creatures for NWN2, perhaps the information herein will help would-be modelers increase the Vault's offerings.

Finished

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creature Modeling, Part 6: Painting Diffuse and Glow Maps

This is a continuation of my series on building creature models for NWN2. Those who haven’t read the start of the series may want to refer to my previous blog posts.

So far, we’ve created a skin mesh, rigged it to a skeleton, mapped its UVW coordinates, and given it a normal map. The color of the creature we’re modeling has been gray this whole time, however. As we shall see, adding a diffuse map to the model can make it much better looking. Subtle use of a glow map can boost its creepiness as well. Here, we discuss how to create and apply a diffuse map and a glow map to the model.

Rendering the UVW Template

When painting the diffuse map, you may need to start with your model’s UVW template, which shows which parts of the texture maps are rendered on which polygons. Here’s how to render the UVW template.

  1. Step 1In 3DS Max, load your model and click its Unwrap UVW modifier. Click the “Edit” button, which is under the “Parameters” rollout of the modifier. This will cause the “Edit UVWs” window to appear. Click the “Tools” menu and select “Render UVW Template.” The “Render UVs” dialog box will then appear.

  2. Step 2Input the width and height in pixels of the image to be generated. These must correspond to the dimensions of your texture maps. The width and height must always be equal, and this number must be generated from powers of two; e.g., 256, 512, or 1024. Click the “Render UV Template” button to bring up the “Render Map” window.

  3. Step 3.aIn the “Render Map” window, click the icon that looks like a floppy disk. (It’s the leftmost icon at the top of the window.)

    The “Browse Images for Output” dialog box should then appear. Save the template in a format that can be read by your image editing software.

    Step 3.b

Painting the Diffuse Map

  1. Load either the UVW template or the normal map in your image editing software. You’ll need one of them as a reference for the placement of features such as eyes, nostrils, wounds, tattoos, piercings, etc. If you need both of them, put them in separate layers in the same file.

    Step 4

  2. Step 5Paint over the image to establish the placement of the main features of the model. Don’t try to paint any details yet. At this point, you just want to get the main features blocked in.

  3. Output the image as a DDS (DXT5) file with nine mipmaps and put the file in your NWN2 override folder. You may either save it under the same name as the diffuse map that your model already uses, or you may edit your model to use the new diffuse map. If you choose the latter, you’ll have to store the revised MDB file in the override folder as well.

  4. Step 7Run the NWN2 toolset and view the model in it. Make sure that the colors of the main features are not displaced. If they are, correct your image file and try again.

  5. Step 8Paint more details over the diffuse map. If you’re striving for realism, you may want to manipulate photos over the image to make them fit over the main features.

    Creating textures is an art in itself. Not all 3D artists are good at painting textures, and not all texture artists can construct 3D models. If you need to bone up on this skill, you may want to search the Web or read books for more information.

  6. Step 9Check out your model in the toolset again. Make corrections as needed. At the end of this process, you should have a diffuse map that you’re happy with.

Creating a Glow Map


  1. Step 10If you need a glow map, you can base it on your diffuse map. My glow map is basically the diffuse map with the addition of an alpha channel that indicates which parts of the texture are supposed to glow. If your image doesn’t have an alpha channel, add one. In Photoshop, you can do this by clicking the “Channels” tab at the right side of the screen and clicking the “Create New Channel” icon at the bottom.

  2. Step 11In the alpha channel of any glow map, the regions that should be glowing are painted in white. Everything else is black. For my model, I wanted the eyes of the model to glow, so I painted a couple of white circles where the irises should be. If you’re using Photoshop, you may want to make the RGB channel visible so you’ll know where the eyes are.

  3. Save the image as another DDS file (same parameters as before) and put it in your NWN2 override folder.

  4. Edit your model in 3DS Max and press the [M] key to bring up the Material Editor. Add the glow map to your model under “Self-Illumination.” Export the model as an MDB file and put it in your NWN2 override folder.

  5. View your model in the toolset to make sure that the glow effect is done to your liking. If you find that the glow is too bright, you may need to darken the color of the glowing region. (In terms of defining a color as a combination of hue, saturation, and brightness, you’ll have to lower the brightness of the color.) Correct the glow map if necessary until you’re satisfied with the results.

Like makeup on a person’s face, diffuse maps (and optionally, glow maps) can do much to alter a creature’s appearance. It takes skill and patience to paint a good diffuse map, however. Just as makeup can make a woman look elegant or cheap depending on how it is applied, diffuse maps can make models look great or amateurish. It’s well worth the effort to spend time on perfecting this art.

We’ve covered a lot of ground, but we’re not done yet. There are still a few issues to tackle, such as levels of detail and 2DA entries. We’ll discuss these issues in my concluding write-up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creature Modeling, Part 5: Normal Mapping

This is a continuation of my series on building creature models for NWN2. Those who haven’t read the start of the series may want to refer to my previous blog posts.

Having created a UVW map for our model, we can now texture it. The NWN2 engine uses four kinds of texture maps for its models:

  • Diffuse – Diffuse maps, along with tint maps, set the colors of an object. In the absence of a tint map, the diffuse map will completely determine what colors an object has.

  • Normal – Normal maps are used for making low-poly objects look more high-poly. Normal maps seem to raise or lower the surface of an object like carvings on a bas relief. This is done without straining the graphics engine the way a high-poly model would.

  • Glow – Glow maps identify what parts of an object glow and how intensely they glow.

  • Tint – Tint maps identify which parts of an object may be tinted. Tint maps will not be discussed in this tutorial because the creature I’m making doesn’t need one. Those who want to know more about this topic may read what Heed has to say.

Of these four types, only the Diffuse and Normal maps are required for all models. This blog post will show how a normal map may be created. In broad terms, the steps to be done are the following:

  1. Create a detailed, high-poly version of the model.

  2. Map the high-poly model to the low-poly model.

  3. Check the low-poly model in the toolset for any problems the normal map may have.

A. Creating a High-Poly Model

You can use any modeling software to create a high-poly version of your low-poly mesh. Here, I’ll explain how to do it with ZBrush.

  1. Run 3DS Max and load the MAX file that you worked on during your last session. Click the head mesh to select it then go to the “File” menu and click “Export Selected…” Export the mesh as a Wavefront Object.

  2. Run ZBrush and import the OBJ file that you had saved.

  3. Step 3We’re about to subdivide the mesh, but before we do, we need to “crease” it. In the “Tool” menu, click “Geometry” then click the “Crease” button. This will prevent ZBrush from creating wavy edges around parts of the mesh that have holes in them.

  4. Subdivide the mesh by pressing [Ctrl]+D three or four times. This will add more polygons to the mesh.

    Step 4

  5. Embellish the high-poly model with as many details as you like.

    Step 5

  6. Export the mesh as a Wavefront Object.

B. Mapping the High-Poly to the Low-Poly Model

  1. If you aren’t running 3DS Max anymore, run it and load the MAX file you’ve been working on.

  2. Import your high-poly model. Make sure that the low and high-poly models overlap as closely as possible. Note that loading the high-poly model may take a while. The one shown here took 17 minutes to load on my computer.

    Step 8

  3. Step 9Select the low-poly model then press the [0] key. This will cause the “Render to Texture” dialog box to appear with the low-poly model already selected.

  4. Step 10Click the box under “Projection Mapping” beside “Enabled” to put a checkmark in it. Under “Mapping Coordinates,” click the button beside “Use Existing Channel” for both “Object” and “Sub-Objects.”

  5. Step 11Click the button labeled “Pick…,” which is under “Projection Mapping.” This will cause the “Add Targets” dialog box to appear. From the list on the left side of the window, click the name of the high-poly mesh you had imported then click the “Add” button. The “Add Targets” window will then close. Note that a “Projection” modifier is automatically added to your low-poly model. We’ll deal with this modifier later.

  6. Click the button labeled “Options…” This will bring up the “Projection Options” dialog box. Under “Filtering Options,” click the “Setup…” button to bring up a new dialog box.

    Step 12

  7. Step 13In the new dialog box, look under “Global SuperSampling” and click the box beside “Enable Global Supersampler” to put a checkmark in it. Close the dialog box then close the “Projection Options” window.

  8. Scroll down the window until you see the “Add” button under “Output.” Click the button. In the dialog box that appears, click “NormalsMap” then click the “Add Elements” button. This will cause the dialog box to close.

    Step 15

  9. Step 14Scroll further down the “Render to Texture” window until you see six buttons under “Use Automatic Map Size.” Click the button that corresponds to the size in pixels of the normal map to be generated. For my model, I chose 512, which is good enough for run-of-the-mill monsters. While you’re at it, set the list box labeled “Target Map Slot” to “Bump.”

  10. Step 16Go to the Modifier panel. (You don’t have to close the “Render to Texture” window just yet.) Click the “+” sign beside the “Projection” modifier to expand it then click “Cage.”

  11. Step 17.aScroll all the way down the Modifier panel then click the “+” sign beside the “Cage” rollout to expand it. Now click the “Reset” button. Under “Push,” click the button with the upward-pointing arrowhead beside “Amount” until the blue “cage” completely surrounds the model as seen in the viewports.

    Step 17.b

  12. Click the “Render” button at the bottom of the “Render to Texture” window. (If you closed it earlier, press the [0] key to bring it back.) This will cause a normal map in TGA format to be output to the Image folder in your Autodesk\3dsMax installation.

    Step 18

  13. Because the way NWN2 interprets normal maps is slightly different from that of 3DS Max, we need to invert the red channel of the normal map. Edit your normal map in your preferred image editor. If you are using Photoshop, click the Channels tab on the right of the screen then click the channel labeled "Red" and press [Ctrl]+I to invert it. Click the channel marked "RGB" to return to RGB mode and save your normal map.

  14. You may convert your normal map to a DDS file (DXT5) with 9 mipmaps using an image converter program. (The first part of my tutorial series mentions a couple of free ones that you may download.) 3DS Max also has an option to output the normal map directly as a DDS file, but to the best of my knowledge, you won’t have any control over the number of mipmaps generated.

    When you’re done, move the DDS file to the NWN2 override folder. You may now close the “Render to Texture” window.

C. Testing the Normal Map

  1. Select your low-poly mesh and press the [M] key to bring up the Material Editor. Assign your new normal map to the Bump material of the model. Close the Material Editor when you’re done.

  2. Export the model as an MDB file. Make sure that the file name matches the name of the model. Copy the file to your NWN2 override folder.

  3. Step 21Run the toolset and create a small exterior area. Put a ghoul in the area and zoom in on it. Because we’re modifying the ghoul model as a quick way to test the creature we’re making, we should see the creature’s head on the ghoul body. Make sure that the new normal map displays properly on the creature’s head.

  4. If you notice any problems with the normal map, you may have to correct it in 3DS Max. Once the normal map meets your approval, delete the high poly mesh from your model and save it as a MAX file.

Is it worth the effort to make highly detailed normal maps for your models? Let your eyes be the judge.

BeforeAfter
BeforeAfter

Normal maps can make low-poly models look far more complex than they really are. Nevertheless, without properly applied color, even highly-detailed models will look drab at best. In my next blog post, I’ll show how to create diffuse and glow maps for the creature we’re building.

Edit, 3 May 2012. I edited this blog post to include a step on inverting the red channel of the normal map (step 19).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Creature Modeling, Part 4: UVW Mapping

This is a continuation of my series on building creature models for NWN2. Those who haven’t read the start of the series may want to refer to my previous blog posts.

In my last blog post, I showed an overly simple way to texture a 3D model. This method is good only for quickly testing the model in the NWN2 engine. We’ll need to do better than that for in-game use, however.

Before we can apply textures, though, we need to provide our model with a UVW map. This map tells graphics engines which pixels to paint over which parts of the mesh. For some humanoid heads, the mapping technique I showed in my last blog post may suffice. Nevertheless, this method is inadequate for the creature head that has been the subject of this series.

The screenshot to the right illustrates the perils of improper UVW mapping. The mouth’s texture has bled into the neck of this creature. I originally applied a cylindrical UVW map, which I had explained how to do in my previous blog post. The results were disastrous. This model requires a more complicated approach to UVW mapping. We’ll use a technique called Pelt Mapping for this. The following steps explain how to do it.

  1. Run 3DS Max and load the MAX file that you worked on during your last session. (You did save it, didn’t you?) Click on the model to select it then click the tab on the Modifier panel. We’re going to remove the UVW map that we created last time, so right-click the “UVW Mapping” modifier and click “Delete” on the context-sensitive menu.

    Don’t make the mistake of clicking the “UVW Mapping” modifier and hitting the [Delete] key. That will delete your model entirely. In case you did, press [Ctrl]+Z to undo the mistake.

  2. Click the downward-pointing arrowhead in the “Modifier List” box and select “Unwrap UVW.” You’ll have to scroll all the way down the list to find it.

  3. In the list of modifiers, click the “+” sign beside “Unwrap UVW” to expand it then click “Edge.”

  4. Scroll all the way down the Modifier panel and click the “Edit Seams” button.

  5. Click the model if it isn’t already selected then right-click it. From the context-sensitive menu, click “Properties.” This will bring up the “Object Properties” dialog box. In the “Display Properties” section, make sure that the box beside “Vertex Ticks” is checked. If it isn’t, click the box to put a check on it. Click the “OK” button to close the window. You should now see tiny blue square-shaped dots around the mesh. These dots mark the position of the vertices in the mesh.

    Step 5

  6. Select the Back viewport and zoom in to focus on the creature’s mouth. (Remember that the Back view actually shows the model’s face.) You’re about the trace a seam around the edges of the mouth, so be sure to get a nice close-up. If the mesh is displayed in wireframe mode, press the [F3] key to switch to smooth + highlights mode.

    Step 6

  7. Click each edge at the periphery of the creature’s mouth. An edge is a line segment that is between two vertices, so click the space between a pair of vertices to select the edge. Each time you do this, a cyan-colored line will appear, marking the edge that you clicked. This edge is a seam that we will use for pelt mapping later. Keep doing clicking edges until the entire periphery of the mouth is marked with cyan. If you make a mistake in selecting an edge, press [Ctrl]+Z to undo the action.

    Step 7

  8. Let’s return our attention to the Modifier panel. In the list of modifiers under “Unwrap UVW,” click “Face.” When this option is activated, clicking a polygon will select it.

  9. Set up your viewports so that you can see the Bottom and Back views of the model. Both views should be in smooth + highlights mode. Now hold down the [Ctrl] key and click each polygon inside the mouth to select it. Make sure that only the polygons that are within the seams that you had created earlier are selected. You’ll need to click the interior of the mouth as seen in the Bottom view to select the palate.

    Step 9

  10. Scroll down the Modifier panel and click the “Pelt” button, which is in the “Map Parameters” rollout. Click the “Best Align” button as well.

  11. Click the “Edit Pelt Map” button, which is at the bottom of the “Map Parameters” rollout. This will cause two windows to appear, one called “Edit UVWs” and another called “Pelt Map Parameters.”

    Step 11

  12. In the “Edit UVWs” window, there is a box with the words “CheckerPattern (Checker).” Click the downward-pointing arrowhead in the box then click “CheckerPattern (Checker)” in the drop-down list. This will cause the mesh to be textured with a checker pattern, which is very useful for testing UVW maps. You’ll want to keep the distribution of checker patterns even within the map to avoid texture distortion. In the picture shown below, the UVW map is in bad need of improvement. For now, we’ll concentrate on the inside of the mouth and ignore everything else.

    Step 12

    Go back to the “Pelt Map Parameters” window and click the “Simulate Pelt Pulling” button a few times. This will stretch the UVW map like an animal pelt being stretched over a frame. Don’t click the button too often however because you risk distorting the UVW map. See how the checker pattern is distributed in the mesh to gauge whether you’ve clicked the button too many times. Remember that you can always undo your action by pressing [Ctrl]+Z. Close the “Pelt Map Parameters” window when you’re done.

  13. At the bottom of the “Edit UVWs” window is a squared-off section labeled “Selection Modes.” Click the “Face Sub-object Mode” button (the third one from the left) and make sure that the box labeled “Select Element” is checked. If the UVW map of the mouth is not highlighted in red, click it to select it.

    Step 13

  14. Click the “Relax Dialog” option from the “Tools” menu of the “Edit UVWs” window. This will cause the “Relax Tool” window to appear.

    Step 14.a

    The purpose of this tool is to minimize distortion in your texture maps. You can experiment with setting different parameters in this window and clicking the “Apply” button. Check the viewports to see how the checker pattern is distributed inside the model’s mouth. You may have to click the “Apply” button several times before you’re satisfied with the results. If the options you’re using aren’t working out, you may undo your actions by pressing [Ctrl]+Z as often as necessary. You may then select another set of options to experiment with.

    Step 14.b

    When you’re done, close the “Relax Tool” window and the “Edit UVWs” window. Don’t be surprised to find that the checker pattern disappears when you close the latter window. That’s to be expected.

  15. We’ve created a UVW map for the mouth interior. Next, we’ll create another map for the underside of the chin and front of the neck. Repeat steps 3 and 4 above. Next, click the edges along the underside of the chin and front of the neck to cut the seam. Much of this work will be done in the Bottom viewport, although we may work in the Left and Right viewports as well.

    Step 15

  16. In the Modifier panel, click “Face,” which you’ll find under “Unwrap UVW.” If you don’t remember where to find this option, you may want to refer to the illustration in step 8.

  17. Hold down the [Ctrl] key and click each polygon within the newly-created seam. The Bottom viewport is probably best for this purpose, but you’ll probably want to click polygons in the Left and Right viewports as well. Otherwise, you might miss a few of them. Either way, you may have to zoom in to make sure you don’t miss out any small polygons.

    Step 17

  18. Repeat steps 10 to 14, focusing this time on the underside of the chin and front of the neck.

  19. We’re now going to map the rest of the head. Under “Unwrap UVW” in the Modifier panel, click “Edge” again. Click the “Edit Seams” button then click the edges in the mesh where you want to cut a seam. In my case, I decided to cut along the side of the head, thereby dividing it between the front and back. I changed the Bottom viewport to display a top view so I could see the edges I was selecting at the top.

    Step 19

  20. Under “Unwrap UVW” in the Modifier panel, click “Face.” Now select all polygons at the back of the head.

    Step 20

  21. In the Modifier panel under “Map Parameters,” click the “Pelt” button, then click the “Best Align” button. Finally, click the “Edit Pelt Map” button and stretch the UVW map to get an even distribution of checkered patterns across rear of the model’s head.

  22. Select the remaining polygons that haven’t been mapped yet and repeat the process of creating a pelt map for them. You know the drill.

  23. In the Modifier panel, click the “Edit…” button, which is under the “Parameters” rollout. This will bring up the familiar “Edit UVWs” window.

  24. At this point, there are several UVW maps that need to be arranged within the square boundary of your textures. You can select each map and right-click it to bring up a context-sensitive menu. You may then choose to move the map, scale it, or rotate it. You may have to do all these operations for each map until you get a neat arrangement. Make sure that the maps do not overlap with each other unless they are supposed to share the same texture mapping.

    Step 24

  25. One last thing before we end today’s session: Save your work as a MAX file. We'll return to it later.

Using the “Unwrap UVW” modifier, we were able to apply a powerful technique called pelt mapping. This technique is much more complicated than simply using the “UVW Mapping” modifier, but it also gives you greater control over the outcome.

Now that the model has a UVW map, we’ll create some textures for it. I’ll discuss texturing in my next post in this series.