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Submitted on
May 9, 2009
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15 (who?)
Paper modelling secret by ninjatoespapercraft Paper modelling secret by ninjatoespapercraft
People always ask me how I make "such wonderful models!" Or more specifically how I "lower the polycount so I can unfold the model in Pepakura?"

I often get the feeling that they think there is a magic button I push, or that I use some kind of secret tool to rebuild the models.

That is not the case, of course (sorry to disappoint you... ;o)

But the tools aren't the "secret" anyway, I think. It's much more important to understand what you're actually trying to do: there's a *big* difference between making a 3D model to make a 3D model, and making a 3D model to make a papercraft model.

Once you realize that everything will be unfolded flat, printed, cut out, and glued together again in paper form, you can try to make the most of that process and work *with* the paper instead of against it.

Examples work best when kept simple, but I think you get the idea. ;o)

Making a good tutorial on my "papercraft making methods" would be very difficult (and more importantly: very time consuming). Some day I might try, though. ;o)

But maybe when you think about this some more, you won't even need a full tutorial anymore!
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What most of us want to know is *how* you go about doing it. Obviously there isn't some magic button, but do you build a new mesh from scratch, based on the original, then reapply the existing texture? Do you have some method in Metasequoia for combining polygons one at a time to lower the overall count? Those of us who've ever asked have absolutely no idea where to go about starting. A few words of actual advice would do worlds of good.
Whenever somebody asks me a question, I always try to do my best to reply with a few words of actual advice, and I will continue to do so.

It might not seem like actual advice in terms of how to use the tools, but that is the easy part; I was trying to offer some advice on the harder part: approaching the "problem" differently.

This is not the last of my advice (I'm not fed up with or mad at anyone for asking me "how I make my models?", don't worry ;o) but rather the first. Like I said, I don't have the time to make a full tutorial in one go, so step 2 might not come until weeks or even months from now, but it will come. ;o)

To prove I'm still a nice guy, I'll try to answer your questions ;o)

To start with, I open the model in Metasequoia, so I can try to visualize how its shapes can be made into much simpler paperformable shapes (I think that's the most important step of them all, that's why I made it step 1 ;o)

That way, I can plan how to rebuild the original model with those simpler shapes. *How* I then make those shapes, really is nothing more than "how do I use software X to make a 3D model?"

I don't really make a new mesh from scratch, but I rebuild the new model "on top" of the original one. I start with a copy of the original model, and delete the polygons that I want to simplify, usually one bodypart at a time (because it's a lot of work...)

With Metasequoia's "Create" tool, I create new polygons according to the plan I made: new shoulders, simpler arms... It's about trying to find a balance between looks and simplicity. You can make an arm out of one part, but it will look very "stiff". You can make it out of 10 parts, with a few "wrinkles", but you will get more and smaller parts to build.

I try to remain close to the original model, but in the end, basically every part gets rebuilt that way. I use the original textures as much as I can, and because I start with a copy of the original model, much of the textures and mapping *can* stay the same.

But not all: a texture and its map is made for a specific 3D shape, and unless the new shape is close to the original shape, you will have to change the texture or its map, often both.

Sometimes I have to combine textures that now need to be one texture now because of the way I rebuilt certain parts. Or the texture has a curved edge, but the new part is straightened out and the texture gets warped. Circles turn to ovals because I changed the proportions of a certain part.

Textures are basically just image files, and Photoshop is my image editing software of choice. It also allows me to change the contrast, brightness, colors and so on to my liking. Metasequoia's mapping tool helps me adjust the UV map on the fixed textures.

Lowering the polygon count however should not be a goal.

It usually "happens" because you try to rebuild the model with simpler shapes of course. I used that as an example because it's the number 1 question people ask me, while for me, it's actual the other way around. I couldn't care less about how many polygons I need, as long as the shape I make with them is easy to unfold. ;o)

That's why I say: think differently. A computer cares about how many polygons a 3D model has, because it costs computing power. But on a papercraft model, especially on a "smooth look model", you don't even see the polygons (especially not if you use a few *extra* ;o)

Where to start? Start backwards. Not with how you can connect polygons together in Metasequoia, and not with how to unfold parts in Pepakura Designer, but with how you glue them together in paper. ;o)

Once you can visualize the parts you need for that, you can make them by using the tools. ;o)

Oh, and the most important thing: have fun! ;o)
I do believe I'm going to have to give this a try. Thank you very much sir.
Sure, no prob; don't hesitate to ask! ;o)
Skele-kitty May 9, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Very eloquently put, sir!
Thank you, although it seems not everybody agrees I think... ;o)
Skele-kitty May 9, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Well, we know better.

And the ones that disagree, end up with ridiculous models like that WW Link [link] with a million-poly wart-like nose! :lol:

I never wish anyone a wart-like nose; it comes back threefold you know? And I don't want three noses... ;o)


You meant their paper models, right...? ;o)
Skele-kitty May 10, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Hahahhahahahaha! *wipes eyes*

You're funny! :D
Opinions on that seem to vary as well... ;o)
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