Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Putting It All Together: A Dragon!

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Putting it all Together: A Dragon![edit]

I downloaded Blender without knowing much about how to use it, probably like you. I hunted around for a good tutorial and found this one. It is teaching me wonderful things! I have diligently followed every lesson from the beginning, as I hope you have. Every lesson seems to contain some valuable technique. So now it is time to put it all together into a single project.

Hopefully, you now know

  • How to add objects, move and rotate them, scale them in various dimensions, and change their shape.
  • How to use proportional editing to change them even more.
  • How to parent, join and separate objects.
  • How to use materials and textures.
  • How to use images in materials.
  • How to use basic lights.
  • How to use modifiers including subsurf and array.
  • Basic use of curves
  • It will help if you know how to use a photo editor such as GIMP to produce seamless textures

This project will build on all that background. Since all those things have been covered before, this will not be a key-by-key tutorial but rather a description of the general steps to take to make the finished scene.

Modeling from the Image[edit]

Komodo Dragon
Using cubes to model the dragon
The basic body smoothed.

It happens that the Komodo Dragon is one of my favorite creatures. Let us start with that and let our imagination run wild. In the lesson on Modeling a Fox from Guide Images we learned how to make a beautiful 3 dimensional wolf from an image. (Yes, I know. The fox turned into a wolf. If you did that lesson you understand.) Here is a nice picture of a Komodo Dragon by wallygrom from Creative Commons with a proper license. We can then set that picture as a background image and apply the technique of starting with a cube and scaling it, extruding it, scaling again and so on. We only have one view, so our imagination and application of other pictures has to help with the top and end views, and we have to add a nice long tail. As you build your cubes keep in mind that you will have to create faces and extrude the legs so place a well sized face at the proper spot.

We will use the techniques we learned to split faces and add the legs. Be sure to provide a nice mouth to put teeth in later, and pay particular attention to modeling the claws. I modeled one entire foot and then duplicated it three times to have them all, and joined each one to the body at the appropriate spot.

Once you have outlined the dragon with the cubes, remember what we learned in Smoothing Your Simple Person and apply subsurf modifier and smooth the entire thing. You can then push and pull on vertices to help make it look as good as possible. I wanted to try to maintain the look of an ordinary creature and stay close to my Komodo Dragon, rather than a huge fierce beast to take on St. George.



Setting the Body Materials and Textures[edit]

Use what we learned in Image Textures to give the dragon his scales. The most used technique in this tutorial is:

  • Search Flicker Creative Commons for a properly licensed picture that has a good material in it. If you use Google or some other search, be sure that the picture you get is properly licensed if you plan to share the image.
  • If your image is NOT a single seamless texture, use photo editing software (such as GIMP) to produce a usable seamless file.
    • Load the image into GIMP. Crop it to a reasonable size showing a relatively uniform texture.
    • Choose Filters > Map > Make Seamless. Other photo editors will usually have a similar operation.
    • Save the image with a suitable file name.
  • Add a material and a texture using the image. Adjust the settings as needed to look good.
  • If you are following my steps, I have put all the textures in this article for you to copy if you wish. Click on the thumbnail image and go to the Wiki page from which you can download.
Fantasy Dragon Skin seamless texture

You can just select a rectangular swatch of skin from the picture and use GIMP to make it seamless. But Komodo Dragons are a depressing color. For a fantasy creature we need a brighter skin! So you can play with GIMP Colorizer until you have a suitably colored swatch. I used red and gold, but use your imagination! This becomes the first material and texture for the dragon's body. It will probably be necessary to repeat the image several times in both the X and Y directions. I used X:6 and Y:2 in this particular case.




Adding the Eyes[edit]

The first rendering.

The dragon needs suitably scary eyes. Hopefully you have already modeled eyes for the Procedural Eyeball tutorial. I chose the cat's eye. In Some Assembly Required we learned how to append a file. Append the Cat's Eye, and then work on the color textures until you have a suitably scary dragon eye. Then duplicate it and put one eye on each side of the dragon's head. I joined the eyes to the body, but you can also just parent them if you are careful. You will notice in later renderings that I kept playing with the eye color and position.




A Dragon Needs Teeth and Claws[edit]

Assigning texture to the claws
Four rows of Teeth

Using the technique from Multiple Materials per Object , isolate the claws and give them a nice shiny black material. Too much Specularity will make the claws look like plastic, too little will make them dull and uninteresting. I added just a little bit of Mirror also. It will be something to experiment with until you get the look you like. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the setting I settled on. Remember that you have to select the area of the mesh and ASSIGN it to the material or you will wind up with a dragon that is black all over! (That is the voice of sad experience speaking).

A dragon needs teeth. A lot of teeth! Modeling all those teeth would be a big job. Fortunately we learned how to use array modifiers in Building a House. Add a cone, scale it down very small, and extrude some more parts so you can shape it into a nice curve. When you have a beautifully sharp tooth, add the Array modifier and make it into a whole row of sharp teeth. Then duplicate the whole thing three times, rotate it around as needed, and you will have four rows of teeth, enough for both jaws. This is why we left the mouth open when we made the original model.

Horns, a Crest, and Nostrils[edit]

Using the Curve Modifier
The color settings for the horns
Nostrils

Lets give the beast some horns. Here we can use what we learned in Deforming Meshes using the Curve Modifier to make some gracefully curved horns. Just as in that lesson, add a cone and extrude segments to give a lot of vertices. Then create your Bezier Curve and set it as a modifier to the horn mesh. Properly done your horn will mold itself to the shape of the curve. Duplicate it and rotate it to fit the other side of the head and put them in place.

Animal horns are some of the most beautiful structures in nature. We should make a particularly pretty material for them. We can use the blending colorband as in the tutorial Basic Carpet Texture, updating it a bit for 2.69, to give the horns a nice color appearance. Then add Subsurface Scattering as taught in that tutorial, with a lot of experimenting, until you get a really beautiful appearance. The settings I used are in the picture but it is fun to try different things.

An impressive crest should dominate the dragon's back. I found a picture of a basilisk lizard and used it as a background model for the crest. The Crest texture was produced in GIMP exactly the same way as the dragon skin texture.

Reptile nostrils are sort of nondescript, so lets make some nice nostrils like a snorting bull might have. You can use the technique from Spin a goblet to model one nostril, then duplicate it, rotate the pair until they look fierce, and give them a nice color like the dark red brown I picked. Then put them in place and parent them to the body.



Now you can render your dragon and see the basic body shape, but something is missing. What is it?

Teeth, Claws, Crest and Horns

Giving the Dragon Wings[edit]

An attempt at wings.

The wings were the hardest part, because we have not had many tutorials in this series that dealt with the problems involved. I started with a cylinder object and went from there, joining other cylinders to it, and then selecting edges and using F  to create faces. There may be other better ways to do it. I wanted the wing sail parts to be semi transparent and give an appearance of shimmering colors. Experimenting with the transparency and the materials as seen in the screenshot gave me some I liked pretty well. I am not completely satisfied with it but perhaps it is the best that can be done with the tools we have so far learned. Joining the wings to the body seemed to produce some distortions so I just parented both of them to the body object.

Now there is just one more thing that a perfect dragon needs.





FIRE![edit]

Settings for flames
Seamless flame material
Scaling the cylinders
Distorting the cylinders

Everybody knows that dragons breathe fire. It seems that there are many different ways to do flames in Blender. However, I am attempting to use methods covered so far in this tutorial series, so I wanted to experiment and see what could be done with just what we have learned. I came up with something reasonably close to flame breath using basic techniques. I started with a series of cylinder objects, scaled at one end until they are almost cones, and then stacking them inside each other. I used the proportional editing that we learned about in Mountains Out Of Molehills to pull and stretch into some more or less random shapes. I found the flame picture and turned it into a seamless material swatch. Then I wrapped it around my cones and began playing with the settings for transparency, and added an Emit setting just to see how it looked. (If you want to jump ahead refer to Making Fire in the next section of this series.)








Ground to Stand on[edit]

seamless lava texture
seamless grass texture

Now it is time to complete the scene by giving him something to stand on. Since his front feet are raised, put in a sort of lava flow for him. That seems appropriate for a dragon. Try Adding a series of cubes. Stack them up and pull them out of shape with proportional editing. Add a subsurf modifier, and then the set the lava rock as an image texture. Again I made a seamless material out of a photo.

Then create a plane and again use the proportional editor to make some nice hills. A seamless green grass texture repeated multiple times completed the ground.


Lighting[edit]

The No Shadow setting

So far the lighting has just been the default point light. I think it is a bit more dramatic to use the Sun style of lamp. As we learned in Light a Silver Goblet go to Add>Lamp>Sun and place a sun type lamp rather high in the sky. You will notice that now you get two overlapping shadows, one from the Sun and one from the default point lamp. You could just delete the point lamp, but, to advance beyond what has already been covered, it is useful as fill lighting. You can select the point lamp, go to the properties panel and click on the light iconBlender-2.5 lamp radio button.png. Scroll down to Shadow and click No Shadow and the point light becomes a fill light. Setting the horizon color in the world panel Blender268TextureIconWorld.png is the last step to produce this scene.









THE FINAL RESULT[edit]

The Final Result

I think it nicely combines pretty much all I have learned about Blender so far in the tutorial! If you want to try your hand at a project, it is not as hard as you might think. You and I have really learned a lot by going through the first two sections of Blender 3D:Noob to Pro. I thank all the authors who have worked hard to bring us to this point.

I challenge you to show off what you can do with your newly acquired knowledge and put your finished work up here. It will probably be a lot better than mine.

Add your project below this line[edit]