Continuation of:

10. Check deforming areas

Make sure that you have enough geometry in areas that will deform. For example, not having the correct topology around an elbow will cause it to look jagged and harsh. It could even result in the elbow pinching as it bends.

You can get away with adding just a few extra polygons to avoid this, but keep the direction that a joint will bend in mind. In the example of an elbow, add more around the outer elbow itself, as this will be the area that will stretch. The inner elbow will also need attention, but will not require as much extra geometry. If you’re not sure, add a few joints and test it to see how it looks.

11. Image planes

Working from reference on your desk or on a second monitor is a good way to start, but why not bring these images into the application, so you can work on top of them and be more accurate? All 3D applications have the ability to import image files so you can view them in the scene.

12. Work smarter, not harder

As a character modeller, you will work your way through many humans and creatures in your career, so why not make things easier for yourself? If you create a good hand model with correct topology, for example, put it to one side so you can use it again on another character. If the character design you’re working on is symmetrical, just model half and mirror it.

13. Keep your scene clean

When you work in games, your work is never your own. Once your character is modelled, it will go through the hands of many other people before it gets into the game – so aim to keep your scene as tidy as possible. Correctly name each model, delete unused nodes and shaders, and bake any construction history on your models. Leave the scene as you would like to be given it.

14. Unify your normals

Most geometry in your scene is set by default to be displayed as double-sided. This can cause confusion when things start to look strange, or that hard edge just won’t go away. Chances are the normals are flipped on part of your model, so turn it to single-sided to highlight any potential problems.

15. Let the normal map help

Normal maps are great, so take full advantage of them. They add fantastic surface detail to any model, so if you can accomplish the same effect with a normal map, remove the polygons. This is great for objects close to the surface, like a sock, jewellery or skin detail like tendons and veins.

16. Prioritise

Think about what will be seen most in your model, and prioritise the polygon budget accordingly.

If the character has a big hat, for example, spend more polygons rounding it off so it looks smooth.

If the character’s face will feature greatly, spend time making it look great.

17. Keep regular, sequential back-ups

Your software and hardware have their bad days. Some days you sail through your modelling; the next you are fighting against crash after crash, with hours of work being lost. It sounds obvious, but save regularly and use your application’s auto-save function if it has one. You can also set many apps to save sequentially, so if you make a mistake, you can roll back to a previous version.

18. Check the silhouette

Sometimes it’s difficult to step back and see a character with fresh eyes, especially if you’ve been working on it for a week. A quick test to help weed out those jagged, polygonal areas is to disable the lights in your scene. This will leave you with a silhouette you can move around, making more obvious any areas in need of smoothing out.

That's it! 18 tips to model your game character models flawlessly. You're welcome!