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Chapter 10. Organic Modeling > Building the Eyes

Building the Eyes

The first part of the face you’re going to tackle is the eyelid area. But before starting the actual skin mesh, you will build an eye object. It’s much easier to properly shape the eyelids if you have an eye in another layer to make sure the lids match up.

Exercise 10.2 Modeling the Eyeball and Cornea

Close the Box tool if you haven’t already, and then click Layer 2 and select the Ball tool.

Using Figure 10.6 and the background images as a guide, drag out a sphere over the character’s left eyeball in the Back view. It should have an approximate radius of 11mm on all three axes, which you can see in the numeric requester. Set the Axis to Z in the Numeric panel as well. Press the spacebar to turn off the Ball tool.

Figure 10.6. To place the eye, start by dragging a sphere over the left eyeball.


You can hold the Ctrl key while creating the ball to force Modeler to create a perfect sphere. Also if the background images seem too bright for you, remember that you can adjust the contrast and brightness in the Backdrop panel.

Creating the ball on the z-axis is important, because this will facilitate making the pupil and iris later on. Alternatively, you can rotate the ball after creation to face down the z-axis by placing the mouse pointer over the center of the object in the Right viewport and pressing the r key to instantly rotate it 90 degrees. Conversely, pressing the e key instantly rotates it –90 degrees.

Press q and name the sphere Surface Left Eyeball.

It’s generally convenient later in Layout to have a separate cornea surface (the shiny outer coating of the eye), so that’s what you’re going to make next.

Copy the eyeball by pressing the c key. Go to a new layer and press v to paste it.

This will leave you with two copies, one in each layer. Switch to Polygon Edit mode from the selections at the bottom of the Modeler screen.

Press q to change the surface name of the copied eyeball. Call it Left Cornea.

Select Smooth Scale from the Modify tab (listed as Sm Scale) and scale this surface up by .25mm, which will leave the cornea slightly larger than the eyeball. You can place the Eyeball layer in the background to see the size difference. A real cornea has a large bump where it covers the front of the eyeball over the iris, and it’s important to model this feature. The change in curvature over this bump is the reason the eye tends to catch specular highlights from light sources most of the time, and it works the same way in the virtual 3D world. A highlight in the eye helps give the illusion of life to a 3D character.

To create the bump, select just the first two bands of polygons that face into the negative z-axis for the cornea. It’s easier to select these bands of polygons in the Right viewport using the right mouse button and the Lasso Select function (Mac users, hold that Apple key!). From the Multiply tab, use Smooth Shift to multiply the selected polygons with an offset of zero. To smooth-shift with an offset of zero, right-click once, directly on the selected polygons. Do not move the mouse when you do this. If you do, you will create an offset greater than zero.

Press the spacebar to turn off the Smooth Shift command, and then move (t) these polygons about –3.0mm on the z-axis and size (Shift+h) them by a factor of 80 percent in the numeric panel, making sure your cursor is centered on the cornea on the z-axis. You want the cornea to sort of bubble-out in front of the eyeball.


You might want to set Grid Snap to None under the Units tab in the Display Options panel. This will help you precisely size and move polygons in small amounts. Don’t forget that you can add values numerically in the Numeric window for each tool.

Press the spacebar to turn off the Size tool.

Deselect any polygons, and use the Knife (Shift+k) tool from the Construct tab to slice vertically on the third row of polygons, as in Figure 10.7. To use this tool, select it, drag up, slicing the object, and then turn off the tool to keep your selection. You can click and drag on the Knife tool display line before turning off the tool to align it.

Figure 10.7. Vertically slice the cornea object at the third row of polygons.

This will add some definition to where the bump blends back into the sphere of the eye. It also will help the smoothing over the front of the cornea.

Select the back four rows of both the cornea and the eyeball (which are each on their own layer) and delete them. The camera will never see this side of the eyeball, so you can safely delete the geometry there for efficiency. You can hold the Shift key to select both layers, and perform the removal.

Use the Surface Editor to add some preliminary colors to the cornea and eyeball surfaces. Set some specularity as well, and make the cornea surface about 30 percent transparent. You’ll formally surface these objects later. Remember to turn on Smoothing. This will help you see how your eyeball model is coming along.

Use the Metaform tool (Shift+d) to subdivide both the eyeball and cornea once to check that everything is smoothing off nicely. This is found by pressing Shift+d. Set the Subdivision Method to Metaform and leave the other settings at their defaults. The eyeball and cornea should look like the ones in Figure 10.8a. Save your work.

Figure 10.8a. After metaforming the eyeball and cornea, and some basic surfacing, they should look like this. Note that you’re looking at two layers in this view.

Exercise 10.3 outlines the steps you need to follow to create the iris, lens, and inner cornea of the eye.



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