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Quality of 3D Models - Important to Collect Many References

Quality of 3D Models - Important to Collect Many References

Once upon a time, a teacher who taught 3DCG at a technical school said.

The more reference materials we collect, the better the quality of what we create.

I don't know, but the doctor says so, so I'm going to do as he says.

Then, I had a lot of effort into collecting references when creating 3D models, and after more than a decade of this habit, I have learned something.

If you don't collect a lot of reference material, the quality of the 3D model you create will never improve.

In this article, I would like to write about the importance of "gathering references" in my opinion.


Gathering References is Important! It is OK to collect too much


For example, when you create a 3D model of a character, you have a design drawing of the character at hand.

Whether you are creating a character for a job commission or your own original character, it is rare to start without a design drawing. Perhaps you may even have a document such as a three-dimensional drawing of the character.

With these references, I feel I can begin to create a 3D model.


But wait a minute~!


If this is all the reference, it is actually too little.

You can start modeling a character with just a design drawing, but there are quite a few things you don't know.

  • What are the materials and textures of the clothes character wear? Glossy, fluffy, stiff?
  • What is the texture of the metal parts? Shiny, matte, or antique?
  • What is the shape of the fine ornaments? What are they made of?
  • What is the character's personality? What are their height and age? What kind of facial expressions does he/she have?

For example, these things are often not readily apparent from design drawings or blueprints.

A friendly design drawing may include supplemental descriptions of the character's details and the texture of what he or she is wearing. But a supplemental description is not enough.


It is absolutely necessary to look at a lot of reference materials to understand what you want to create.

Human memory is hazy, so even when we try to recall something that we should be familiar with, we often find ourselves unable to recall it at all. Even when we do recall something, it is often different from the actual thing.

You cannot create a 3D model unless you collect reference materials for shapes and textures and look at them carefully.

Here is what to look for when gathering references.

- Point of Gathering References -
  1. It's OK to collect as much material as you think is too much.
  2. I'll save any material that I think might be of some help.
  3. Review the collected materials frequently. (sometimes new discoveries are made)


The 3D models, created by looking at many reference materials, are very convincing.

3D models are all fake, so to speak, and not real. That is why they need to be convincing.

Even in the case of creating 3D models of fictional creatures, which are often quite fantastical, some of the motifs are based on real things.

It is more persuasive to create such a part by looking at a lot of actual reference materials.


*When viewing the collected materials, it is convenient to use special software called an image viewer for easy viewing.


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"Before you start making 3D models" Gather References


Gathering reference materials can be done while creating the 3D model.

Why can't I just look it up on the Internet when I want the material? You might think.


No, no,, there are benefits to be gained by gathering materials "before" you start making the 3D model.

It is to be able to visualize the entire finished model before making it.

It is important to have an image in your mind of what you want to create.

This is because one cannot create what one cannot imagine in one's mind.


Although we have a design drawing, which is a document that shows the completed image, it is only a drawing and is different from the actual finished 3D model.

What kind of modeling should be done where? How do we set the texture?
It is important to be able to visualize the entire finished model, including such things.

As you gather the necessary references to make a 3D model, the image of the completed model will gradually become clearer, you will also understand what you need to do to complete the model.

While gathering references, imagine the finished model and think about the work needed to get there.

Doing this process "before starting to create the 3D model" will make it easier to understand the path to the completion of the 3D model.

This prevents blurring of goals and also helps to consider the amount of work needed to create the model.


...Well, things often don't work out the way we first thought they would.

But there is a big difference between having a defined goal and not.

Finding and gathering the necessary references first will help guide the 3D model to completion.


All kinds of references! Real objects, illustrations, videos, figures


Although we have said "collecting reference materials," there are many different types of materials.

Since there is a wide range of things that can be created with 3DCG, it is necessary to have the right references for each of them.

- Various References for creating 3DCG -
  1. If you want to create character models
    ...references such as clothing, shoes, skin, hair, ornaments, weapons
  2. If you want to create a background model
    ...materials such as ground, grass & trees if outdoors, or furniture and furnishings if indoors.
  3. If you want to create motion materials to help you with your movements, actually moving, etc.

When creating character models and motions, it is also important to express the "character" of the character, so it is important to collect data on the character, such as age and personality.


There are many reference references, but the most useful reference material is the actual product itself.

If you are going to make a 3D model of a smartphone, it is more reliable to hold the actual smartphone in your hand and look at it than to look at a picture of it.

But it is rare to have the real thing at hand.

In such cases, photos and videos showing actual objects from various angles, as well as miniatures, figures, and plastic models of actual objects, are also good resources.


So what to do with fictitious things that don't exist?

Even for fictitious entities, if there is a partial resemblance to a real one, that part can be referred to as real material.

If it is completely non-existent in the real world, I would first try to picture in my mind the image of what I want to create.

Then, how about looking for something in the real world that has an expression similar to the image?

Special phenomena like the Northern Lights or supernova explosions, or strange creatures that we don't normally see may be a reference. Or, existing movies, games, books, and illustrations can also be helpful.

The world is already full of various expressions, so there are quite a few that can be used as references if you look for them. It is convenient to be able to search on the Internet~!


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If not just the right reference, make your own

feeling sad

I've been looking for reference material, but can't find anything that looks just right...

This is how it happens.

Sometimes we don't know what keywords to search for, and sometimes the reference doesn't exist in the first place.

If you can't find the right reference material, you can make your reference, you can do it yourself.


For example, if you were looking for a certain existing character material, but the back design of that character did not exist anywhere. In this case, you have to try to imagine it yourself.

Since it is difficult to create a 3D model while thinking about the design, it is better to draw the imagined rear design first.

It is easier to organize and give shape to ideas by actually drawing them rather than just thinking about them in your head.


When creating an object whose shape or structure you are not familiar with & for which there are no good reference materials to look up, you should first try to make a simple 3D model as a test.

If the test 3D model looks good, the test model can be used as a reference for the production model.

If you can't find the material you are looking for, you have no choice but to create your reference material.


Just Reference only! Don't use as is in the design


To make a good 3D model, you need a lot of reference material.

Nowadays, you can find almost any material by searching on the Internet. The Internet is very convenient.

But you have to be careful.

The thing is that most of the materials on the Internet (especially images) are copyrighted.

There is nothing wrong with using various references as "references".
It is impossible to make something without looking at any references at all.

However, it should be remembered that most of what is already out there is copyrighted.

The materials collected are for reference only, and care should be taken not to trace or completely copy the materials as they are. This is especially important for 3D models created for work.


It's hard to know where the line is drawn as to how much resemblance to the reference material would make it out of copyright.

This law firm wrote this.

Referencing an existing illustration or image of another person is not in itself an infringement of copyright.

When referring to an existing illustration or image, copyright infringement occurs if the essential features of the illustration or image are similar.

Points to keep in mind when referring to illustrations and images of others Sakuya Konohana Law Office

When considering whether or not the reference material is similar, it may be one of the factors to consider in making a decision.


Copyright is a difficult thing to understand, and I'm not sure that I understand it perfectly either.
But I usually try to be conscious and careful.

I am also running this blog while studying copyright in books.


we recognize that the purpose of copyright is to protect creators & their creations, not to regulate or restrict new creations.

I assume that people who read this blog are interested in creating 3D models.

In other words.

Everyone is a creator.
Everything everyone has made is protected by copyright.

You are protected by copyright, but you infringe on the copyrights of other creators. This is not good, so as creators, we need to be conscious of protecting each other's copyrights.

Ideally, we should be careful not to infringe on copyrights, while at the same time collecting lots of reference materials and using them to create new products.


The following site's explanation of the basics of copyright was easy to understand~.


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Summary: More Reference Collect, More Convincing the 3D Model You Create Will Be


3DCG can create things that do not exist in the real world. That is the main attraction of 3DCG.

However, to make something that does not exist appear "as if it existed," it is necessary to be persuasive.

Persuasiveness can be a comfortable form, a physically correct movement, or lighting that is not out of order.

There are many resources in the real world to which these can refer.

Gather lots of reference materials and make sure to look at the materials carefully.
The more we do this, the better and more convincing the quality of the 3D models we create.

On the other hand, if you don't do it, the quality will not improve and you will not be persuasive.

This is a great deal more than a lot of reference material.

Fortunately, we have the Internet, which is a great resource for finding materials. If you cannot find satisfactory materials on the Internet, you can visit a library or museum.

If you are thinking about making a 3D model in the future, start by looking for reference materials, then start looking for materials.


Once you have gathered a lot of materials and are ready, let's actually make a 3D model!
If so, please refer to the articles in this section.



Extra: References collected to create the Toha model

The Toha that you often see in your blog is also a 3D model, but of course, I collected materials when I made it.

As an added bonus, here are some reference materials that we prepared to make the Toha model.

(1) First rough image
...The one I drew on my phone with my finger while commuting to work. This is what pigeons look like when I draw them in my imagination.

Rough image

(2) Pencil design drawing on paper
...the one I drew while looking at a picture of a pigeon. Direction almost decided.

TOHA_Design drawing

(3) Photographs of various pigeons
...for reference of patterns and colors. Various patterns of pigeons


I also observed pigeons walking on the station platform.

And here is the 3D model that was completed after all that.

Image of TOHA

The extras may have made this article less compelling... :)

List of comments

  1. あぷりこ says:

    Hello, Toha. I am a very, very beginner who decided to start 3D modeling this month. I am learning how to think about it from this site, although I think that I have to start with hands-on experience by watching tutorial videos.
    I'd like to use it like an illustration between sentences, like the model of Toha-san on this site, when I can make an original 3D model someday, but how is this done (a model of Toha-san with various poses and a cute png image with text, light bulbs, etc.)? How is this done?
    If it is not too much trouble, I would be glad to know how to paint the model of Mr. Toha, like an illustration? I would be very happy if you could tell me how to do it.
    Thank you for your cooperation.

    • Toha トハ says:

      Thank you for your comment, Aprico~!
      Thank you for taking a look at my blog post on Toha! I hope it will be helpful for Aprico who wants to start 3DCG!

      Now I will answer your question.
      The images of the illustration-like toha models often seen on the blog are created using Blender and Photoshop.

      1) Set the model's texture and material in Blender
      2) Pose and render the model in Blender
      3) Take the rendered image to Photoshop and add text, etc. to complete the process!

      This is the process of making the product.
      Material settings in Blender, but Toha is here.dskjal's sitefor reference.
      If you search for other words such as "cellular look" or "toon-like material," you will find various explanations on how to create materials like the ones shown in the illustration.
      I don't want to be too forward, but please take a look at the video by Toha that explains material settings and rendering.

      If you check the "Transparency" checkbox in the rendering settings, areas other than the 3D model will be rendered transparent, making it easier to process with image editing software such as Photoshop.
      Poses are also added in Blender.
      Posing requires setting armatures and weights.
      This one is a bit more technical and will seem difficult at first. So I think it is a good idea to try rendering without poses first.
      There are many instructional videos on YouTube and other sites that explain how to attach weights, so I think it is a good idea to try expanding the scope of your work a little at a time.

      Toha will use Photoshop, which he is familiar with, to add text, but any software that can edit images is fine. By the way, we also use Photoshop to draw textures, but you can also use other drawing software such as Crysta.
      Add a background to the rendered image of the 3D model and make it look good, and you are done!

      Please try it sometime!
      We support your enjoyable 3DCG life! ^^^^^^^^.

      • あぷりこ says:

        Thanks for your reply, Toha...!
        I am very impressed with your very detailed explanation.

        I thought it was not a question I should be asking when I had not yet learned much about modeling itself, but thanks to your explanation of the steps you took to create your illustrations, I was able to set a course for myself and say, "I'm going to work hard until I can do that! I was able to set one course of action.

        It's weird that my (first) goal in learning 3D was to illustrate... but there was a part of me that was gripped by the very cute illustrations of Mr. Toha. The various poses of Toha-san were gorgeous, even the armature and weights were set up. I'm amazed that each of the illustrations, which are used in many places on the blog, went through the process of being posed, rendered, and Photoshop'd! That's amazing.

        First, of course, modeling, and then studying textures and materials so that I can render what I want.... I would like to be able to say "3D modeling is my hobby while having fun! I would like to be able to say "3D modeling is my hobby! Thank you so much for the sites you referred to and even the research you did for us. I will continue to refer to your articles and videos a great deal!

      • Toha トハ says:

        Thank you very much for your reply, Aprico~!
        I think it is great that you have a concrete goal for your future 3DCG studies.
        It's motivating to have something you want to do! It's nice to be able to say that my hobby is 3D modeling.

        And thank you for your kind words.
        I am honored that you think the TOHA model is cute.

        In fact, Toha is not a good illustrator.
        I can draw a nice, scratch-like picture with a pencil, but I really can't do a good job of applying clean colors or clean lines💦.
        For such a person like Toha, a 3D model is a lifesaver~.
        It usually takes longer to create one 3D character model than to draw one illustration.
        But once a 3D model is created, it can be used as many times as you want!
        At first glance, it may seem like a lot of work to change the pose, render it, create an illustrative image... but this method can also create cute images for toha~.
        Moreover, the 3D model does not collapse.
        Thanks to you, all the Toha in this blog can be their normal, rounded selves.

        As an aside, the fact that the drawing does not collapse is both an advantage and a disadvantage of 3D models.
        In the case of 2D illustrations, it is possible to create what is called "false perspective" or a hand-drawn, crumbly look with just the right amount of adjustment, but to do this with a 3D model requires a lot of preparation.
        Recently, the number of animated works using 3D models has been increasing, but everyone is struggling to achieve 2D animation-like expressions with 3D models.
        Therefore, it is not at all strange that the goal of studying 3DCG is to create illustration-like 3D models - there are many people who are studying this field.
        Another interesting aspect of 3DCG is that it can be used for a variety of expressions, from illustration-like to realistic expressions like live-action.
        I look forward to seeing the 3DCG that Aprico will create in the future - please come back to my blog anytime!


Please feel free to comment~!

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