Polygonal modelling – Fish

Here we are again to show you step by step how I designed with Maya my first 3D model, concretely a fish model. Before start creating anything I practised with some tutorials about polygonal modelling to learn how to use primitives with Maya, tools to modify the polygons and tips to play with vertex, faces and edges.

First of all I need to put the fish image into a NURB plane with the same proportions as the image we have selected, after plane created and situated at centre of the grid we select the texture for it, you can see how it shows in the next picture. I have selected for that exercise a Synchiropus splendidus also known as mandarin fish; it is not a typical fish shape but too interesting for modelling as well.

Next, I decided to start modelling the body of the fish because I think is easier than any other part, I started by selecting the right view, I used a polygon primitive, to create the body just click on polygon cube to cover the majority of the body by looking to your picture as we can see in the picture below, to draw the cube just drag and drop over the grid.

Following, I decided to move the vertices trying to match up the shape with our picture at back; I increase the subdivision height and depth in order to create more faces on the polygon’s faces.

An important key before moving any vertex is to make sure we move in reflection mode because a cube is a 3D shape and I wanted to move one vertex and its opposite. For that purpose I clicked on Tools Settings button, I checked Reflection into Reflection Settings and click, in my case, X as my Reflection axis, as we can notice in the image when I select one vertex its opposite will be selected too.

Once reflection had been selected, I started to select vertices from the shape and moving it to match up to the image of the mandarin fish.

After that I noticed a problem, I had one row of remainder faces. I started deleting all faces to fix the problem but when I finished there was a hole between each plane as we can see in the picture. I fixed the problem by selecting each pair of opposite edges, going to Edit Mesh and clicking Bridge.

Now, I have the body finished, so I started to model first dorsal fin, just select one face, and click in Edit Mesh and Extrude tool with Move Tool selected, then drag and drop increasing the face. At this point I have a dorsal fin with one face so we subdivide as I did with the body, I created five faces, and next I can move each vertex and model the dorsal fin as we see in picture.

I continued modelling second dorsal fin, I used the same tool, Extrude all the faces required and to create a sharpened shape I changed the Offset value showed in picture. At the moment I have six fins separated; I combined the beginning and end of each fin by using Merge Vertex Tool in Edit Mesh, I clicked one vertex and drag to the opposite to combine the faces and obtain a real fin.

Secondly, I created the caudal and anal fin, I used the same steps used for the first dorsal fin, I used Extrude, subdivision, sharp the fin and fit to the picture.

The next step is to create the mouth; it’s a high detailed part of the fish so I need to create more polygons in this part, I used Extrude to extend the faces and a new tool called Poked Face into Edit Mesh which divides the faces in triangles, that process permits me to move more vertices than before, nonetheless I need more vertices to fit the shape to the picture, I divided faces using the Interactive Split Tool into Edit Mesh menu. After all these divisions I move the correct vertices to model the correct mouth.

Then, to see the real appearance without polygons I pushed the 3 key on keyboard in order to smooth the shape, I noticed at this point that I had holes in the fins. To fix the problem I just used Bridge Tool with the faces selected, after that the fins looks more realistic.

At this point I decided to create the pectoral fins, the fish has two pectoral fins so I modelled one of them and duplicate the other one. In order to model one fin I created a cube polygon and using the same steps and tools like the body I finished the left pectoral fin. Then I placed it in the correct position using Move and Rotate Tool. To duplicate the fin I used Duplicate Special Options in Edit menu, as I show in the picture I duplicate the object selected, the fin in this case, and rotate it 90º to the left.

Once the shape of the fish is completely modelled I started to increase wideness of the fish. For that purpose I check the Soft Selection into Tool Settings, it is useful tools for that aim because I could increase the belly, head and other parts of the fish. This process has been the most difficult, it took me a lot of time and it could be because I had not the frontal picture of the fish, it is a good tool but difficult to dominate.

At this point, I did some modifications trying to remove the peaks of the fins because when I see the polygonal view the fish looks nice but in smooth mode it is a little bit weird, so I fit to the real picture and obtain a bent fin.

The last step is to create the eyes, I used two polygons primitives for that task, I started creating a Torus and introducing into it a sphere, this combination of both primitives simulates the eyes of the mandarin fish, I placed it in the correct position and then I duplicated it. Spheres are the most polygonal primitives so I reduced the number of polygons of them in order to obtain the least possible polygons.

That’s the final result, a 3D model of a Mandarin Fish.

Here you can download the Maya project: MandarinFish

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