Ever wonder how to model a 3D anime char? Even better lets make an anime movie created by 3D software but looks 2D. You think thats not possible? Think again.

This page will show you a lot of techniques in various software (paid and free) to learn you how to model or animate. Because I use Blender (but did use 3DS Max) you will find a lot of tutorials on that software. But this page is about inpsiration and techniques and not which software is better.
Feel free to comment, ask or share more at the G+ 3D Anime forum.


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Modeling Anime figurines
There are several ways for modeling anime figurines. Either box model them or sculpt them. Afcourse you can have various goals like 3D Printing, game models or 3D modeling in general. This website is more geared towards box modeling but I do not neglect other techniques and usages.

The basic of modeling an anime character is by starting to model the face and then work towards its body. The two video series from Daniel Kreuter will illustrate this technique. This technique is not much different from car modeling. You put a picture on a plane and copy that in 3D space. If you need pictures or refference models check out the charactersheets page. The charactersheet page gives plenty of front and side views as well as complete figures to model from.

(Blender EN) Daniele Kreuter made his second 40 part video serie. Although it is modeled in Blender it is easy to follow and to apply into other packages.
(Blender EN) Daniele Kreuter made his first 24 part serie. Same as above you can easily follow this serie for other 3D software as well.
Modeling an anime face
The most important feature of any Anime model is the face. Even when boxmodeling you can apply several techniques as well. But it all comes down to maintaining a good topology flow. This means that there is enough 'roundness' in the face and that 'poles' do not show (aka meshfaces are not quads or have more then four vertices). This will take practice.

There are several video's, blogs and reference materials. This is realy a study and practice subject. A big problem by using charactersheets is that the front and side picture never actually match in 3D space. You have to work around this yourself and can not be helped easily.

(Blender EN) Daniele Kreuter his 24 part serie starting with the face.
(Metasequoia JA) This series is done on Metasequoia but is pretty good to follow. Very low poly but that does not matter much.
(Metasequoia JA) A video about creating a low poly anime face.
(Blender EN) I love the simplicity of the way it starts and it is based on using pictures as well. Problem regarding to creating an anime face is that you run into problems on the lower half of the face if you follow this video. Am contenplating on creating my own tutorial on the basis of this one but have to translate this concept better to something simple to use.
(HexaGreat EN) A small free 3D programm with an intersting workflow. Thats why I contained this video. In the end the workflow comes down on the above mentioned examples. But it is possible to create anime figurines from references which are not upfront.
(Blender) No sound but good to follow tutorial from Nhi Quang.
This is more geared towards realisitc modelling but it teaches you about the flow/topology of the face:
http://www.thundercloud-studio.com/index.php?page=tutorial/ModelingTutorial/headModeling
Strangely enough I find this one of the harder subjects to master. To create good anime hair needs practice and there are several techniques to aquire the desired result.
I concentrate on creating polyhair and not real hair. Real hair can be used to create realistic anime figurines but tutorials are all software dependend.

The reason I go for polyhair is the fact that it resembles close to hair depicted in anime. Afcourse if you want to animate it you will have to use bones or softbodys.
There are a few techniques to create polyhair and a few ways to study how to do so.
a) The first way polyhair is created is by using 'slabs' or individual meshes. The problem with this technique is that it will be a bit harder to use textures on the whole created mesh. Afcourse you can use a generic texture for every mesh, something that is used in games for creating real like hair.
b) The second technique is by making one mesh as a whole. In this way it will be easier to texture. Afcourse there are variations on this whereby you use several meshes - for instance on the back of the head. The characters used in the 'Knights of Sidonia' anime have hair that is created from several bigger meshes. It can be easier to model that way but I believe this will be personal preference. c) Sculpting might be a good option as well, but that goes for anything. Hair is pretty organic and sculpting should be a good tool for that. You still need to retopo afterwards.

Like I said you have to study but there are not so many tutorials around. So you have to look into how artists are doing it. Afcourse you need to understand the fundaments of blockmodeling and applying surface modifiers to know what you are doing.
A great way to study poly hair is by looking at plastic anime figurines. There are enough photo's on the internet to be found. Another way is to study 3D models made by other artists. Especially for MMD figurines seperate hair can be found on art fourms like Deviant.
(Metasequoia EN) Low poly example of creating a mesh.
(Blender EN) Explanation of the 'slab' methode.
(Maya EN) The same technique as above only they apply textures on it, to let it look like real hair.
(Blender JA) A blog I found which demonstrates how hair and a ponytail can be modeled as well. There was another entry about using slabs for male hair: http://bmania.blog70.fc2.com/blog-entry-367.html
(Maya JA) A blog with somebody who can create anime figures with a high 'wow' factor applied to it. The example is from evangelion and shows that you do not have to create 'one' mesh to make it work. Several meshes are ok as well. I added more hair examples from his various creations:
http://blacklongtail.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-33.html
http://blacklongtail.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-82.html
http://blacklongtail.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-162.html
http://blacklongtail.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-169.html
http://blacklongtail.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-211.html
(Blender JA) Another blog that unfortunately quited but with a fine example of how to model hair from a reference picture. For those of you who are not familiar with the fishlike structure, that are splines. Follow his series because he ends with a very nice curly curved twin pony tail.
(Blender) Nhi Quang's second tutorial on creating hair which is split into several parts.
(Blender EN) A very good tutorial by Yusuf Umar about sculpting hair. Follow his other tutorial as well about the bevel curve tool he used. This tool is created from splines and can be recreated in other software as well. It is the technique that counts. https://github.com/ucupumar/bevel-curve-tools
(Blender EN) A good tutorial by McLelun about creating the 'specular' on anime hair. In fact it is a compositor trick. But the upside is that you create the shape anyway you want, very flexible. http://mclelun.deviantart.com/art/Blender3D-Polygon-Anime-Hair-Specular-548974294
Modeling teeth
The modeling of the teeth is not the biggest challenge. But the animating is if you want to let it resemble close to handdrawn anime.
The modeling is either a spline on which you extrude the U shaped mesh on. Or a straight U shaped mesh which is bend by a modifier. The tongue is just a mesh.

So where is the catch?
Well let me explain to you what you have to keep in mind if you are going for a real anime show.

One
Teeth are always on the upside but not always on the bottom side of the mouth. That is not only a thing of perspective, it is the way how this is drawn when talking:
normal situation for handdrawn anime, the bottom row of teeth is not drawn.

normal situation to model in 3D but only used when the character is more excited or when there is perspective.

Afcourse you model the bottom and upper rows of teeth and put the bottom row at above the top and use it when it is needed. Or use an animatible mask modifier or something like that.

Two
When the character expresses force or anger the teeth are not straight anymore but might be jigsawed.

Afcourse this requires an extra pair of teeth to change the normal set.

Three
The mouth can be placed anatomically incorrect. That means that the mouth is not up in front but on the side of the face or if the head is seen from behind the mouth still can be seen on the side


This poses problems for a genuine 3D mesh. Well there are two options which I know of but have not tried myself (yet):
1) Deform the face using shapekeys/mesh modifiers to alter the face vertices temporarily.
2) If you use toonlike shader wich are shadeless (so only two straight colors) it could be possible to have a seperate mouthmesh (no shadows) in front of the head. This can actually work because the lips are always drawn anatomically correct.
(Blender EN) David Ward's creation of a cartoon like Tim Burton character. The modelling of the mouth and teath is selfexplanatory.
(Maya JA) A good example of jigsaw modeled teeth.
(3DS Max EN) Another way to model teeth.
(3DS Max JA) Perfect example of usage for deforming the mesh. This is from the 3D anime short: Hill Climb Girl.
(Maya EN) Nice tutorial about lip modeling.
Modeling ears
One of the hardest parts on the human body to model are the ears. In anime the ears are sometimes visible but mostly tucked under a heap of hair. Still they often resemble characteristics of the human ear (the inner Y shape is mostly visible). Pretty hard to say when you need them and when you do not.
Afcourse funny neko neko ears or elven ears are far from our goal but easier to create. Keep in mind for what purpose and what quality you are gonna create ears for.

Aside from creating believable ears be adviced how to attach them to the head. It can be eather done by attaching it to head mesh but will take some effort if the ear mesh is of a higher density then the head mesh (aka go from a lot of polygons to a few polygons).

Another method is to 'float' the earmesh into the headmesh without attaching it physically to the head mesh. This could provide difficulties when shading but does not have to be that big of a problem if the hair is covering the ears.

(Blender EN) A very easy to follow tutorial about the basic shapes our ears are composed of (9 and Y).
(Blender EN) Another Joshua Alger tutorial. But in the next tutorial he explains how to attach the ear to the head as well.
(Maya JA) A bit harder to follow but explains the simplicity of modelling the ear in quite an unique way.
I wanted to incorporate an example of manga ears as well. See this creator.