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  • Course Introduction
  • 3D Modeling Pipeline
  • Pixologic ZBrush
  • Mesh Generation: Dynamesh
  • Basic Sculpting
  • Assignment 01 (base sculpt)

Course Introduction


Me: Jonathan Cone
I am one of the full-time faculty in Cecil’s Visual Communication Program. I am mostly responsible for the game design and web design programs specifically. I am also a freelance animator typically working on visualizations.
Office Hours
Mon by appointment
Tues 1:00pm – 2:00pm, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Wed 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Thurs 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Fri by appointment
Contact Information
410-287-6060 X 1470

Demo Reel

  1. Name:
    What’s your name? What do you go by?
  2. Why you are here:
    Is this required for your major? Are you taking this course as an elective? Personal Enrichment?
  3. Experience:
    Do you have any history with graphic arts or arts in general? Any experience with Adobe, Maya, Unity, or other graphics software?

Course Description:

3D Modeling for Real-Time Environments covers polygon modeling techniques relevant to producing high quality textured meshes viewable in live-video situations. Emphasis is placed on converting high-poly geometric details into low-poly geometry utilizing a variety of alternative modeling methods.

You may download the course syllabus:
VCP 219 3D Modeling for Real-Time Environments Syllabus


You are expected to use blackboard. Blackboard will be used for:

  • Assignment descriptions/rubrics
  • Assignment submissions
  • Grades
  • Email
  • Announcements
  • Etc.
Here is the link:


You will have 4 Projects. These are weighted equally and in total will be due by the end of the semester.


  1. Cartoon Model
    1. An exaggerated caricature model that would be suitable for an animated movie will be produced.
    2. Technical aspects of 3D modeling (ZBrush & Maya) will be covered in class. Student will complete and make adjustments to the model outside of class.
  2. Human Model
    1. A realistic humanoid character is produced that would be suitable for visual effects.
    2. Lectures on anatomy will be given outside of class. Some technical aspects of 3D modeling will be covered in class. The remaining class time will be utilized for working on projects.
  3. Creative Model
    1. Students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and create something truly unique. A “blue sky” assignment.
    2. Lectures on character design will be given outside of class. Class time will be utilized for working on projects.
  4. Animated Character
    1. Using one of the models from a previous project students will rig, motion-capture, and animate a small sequence.
    2. Rigging, motion-capture, and animation will be covered in class. The assignment will be completed in class and outside of class.

3D Modeling Pipeline

3D Modeling Pipeline Overview:

To produce high-end assets the following is the most typical workflow

  • Character/Set/Prop Design (research, exploratory, & turnaround)
  • Base Mesh Generation (low poly)
  • Low/Medium Resolution Sculpt (silhouette)
  • Retopology
  • High Resolution Sculpt (anatomy, accessories, details, surface)
  • Poly Painting
  • UV Layout
  • Bake Comparative Maps
  • Combine Models, Texture, Lighting to Render

Character/Set/Prop Design:

Before you start anything you need to do your homework and produce designs that are not influenced by the computer.

  • First Research
  • Produce Exploratory Sketches
  • Tie Down Final Turnaround

Base Mesh Generation:

The first step in actually producing a high-end model is to produce a base shape you can sculpt onto. It is important to make sure all elements are present in at least a silhouette level.

  • Production and Object Specific
  • Can be almost entirely completed this way or just roughed in
  • Box-Modeling
  • Primitive Modeling
  • Edge Loop Method
  • 3D Scan
  • Dynamic Mesh
  • Software Specific Mesh Generation
  • Future??


This is very similar to traditional sculpting. It is important to work broad to specific. Develop the whole form overall and slowly tighten the model and work in more and more details across the entire figure

  • Low Resolution Sculpt (silhouette)
  • Medium Resolution Sculpt (anatomy, accessories)
  • High Resolution Sculpt (details)
  • HD Resolution Sculpt (surface)


Once you have the “skin” of the model you need to “paint” it. This involves prepping the model by rebuilding it if necessary, filleting the figure into UV islands that are flat and paintable, painting color, shininess, bumpiness, etc. onto the surface of the model.

  • Retopology
    The process of producing a new mesh with better geometry over top of geometry that is poor
    Can be done before sculpting, after sculpt, sometimes even after texturing, or not at all if the base mesh is accurate enough
  • UV Layout
    Basically taking your 3D model and flattening it into a 2D version
    You typically complete this before texturing but it is possible to complete it after in Zbrush
  • Texturing
    Painting color, specular, bump, transparency, etc. information on the model
  • Bake Comparative Maps
    Automated process of producing texture maps on typically low poly models from their high poly version.

Pixologic ZBrush

Pixologic ZBrush

ZBrush is the industry standard three-dimensional sculpting software. It is capable of generating geometry using a variety of methods. The brush engine is the best the best on the market. Although its strength is in producing organic geometry such as character models it is also used to create and manipulate hard-surface models. The interface of ZBrush is very “unique” but the results of the software is hard to ignore.

Mesh Generation: Dynamesh


Dynamesh is the process by which the computer will auto-generate geometry or dynamically tesselate the model to support the form the user has sculpt.

notice how after dynamesh the geometry supports the form


A WebGL sculpting App may be viewed here

I will use this program to show you a quick example:

Pixologic Sculptris

This is a free sculpting software that allows you to produce a model in a completely traditional not technological way. It uses a process called dynamesh to dynamically generate geometry onto the surface as you manipulate the model.
You can download the software here:

This model only took about an hour. Done traditionally, a model like this may take up to eight hours.

Basic Sculpting


The core of ZBrush is sculpting. More than anything else, this is what separates it from other programs.

Ninety percent of what you sculpt with be done with just these two brushes, especially to start.


Standard Brush
The most basic brush. Simply does addition or subtraction from the surface
Move Brush
Allows the user to pull and push the surface of the object

Standard brush on sphere (With no modifier, adds to the surface. With the alt modifier, subtracts from the surface)


Like most 3D programs it is required that you learn certain keys to quickly select tools or modify an operation.

Modifiers (in workspace [not on model])
Click & Drag
Rotate camera(view)
Alt + Click & Drag
Pan camera(view)
Alt + Click & Drag then Release
Zoom/dolly-in camera(view)
Ctrl + Click
Invert mask
Ctrl + Click & Drag
Clear mask
Shift + Click & Drag
Snap to view (left, right, front, back, top, botom)
Alt + Ctrl + Click & Drag
Unmask an area of a surface to make it manipulable
Ctrl + Shift + Click & Drag
Make only the area marque-ed visible
Modifiers (on model)
Alt + Click & Draw
Invert whatever tool is currently being used (ex. if used with the standard brush it will push in as opposed to pull out)
Ctrl + Click & Draw
Mask an area of surface to make it invulnerable to manipulation
Shift + Click & Draw
Smooths the surface of the model
Alt + Ctrl + Click & Draw
Unmask an area of a surface to make it manipulable
Ctrl + Shift + Click
Make all visible
Ctrl + Shift + Click & Drag
Over empty area of workspace makes all invisible
Ctrl + Shift + Click & Drag
Over an area of the model to make only that area visible
Alt + Ctrl + Shift + Click & Drag
Make the area marque-ed invisible
Ctrl + Z
Undo last action
Ctrl + S
Ctrl + C
Ctrl + V
Popup brush settings menu
Draw/Pointer tool
Move tool
Scale tool
Rotate tool
B + Other Letters
Press B to bring up the brush menu, then press other letters to specify the brush desired (ex. B>S>T for standard brush)
Toggle edit Object (drop tool to canvas)
Ctrl + N
Clear canvas (on model not in edit mode)

Assignment 01

Cartoon Model

Your first project will be completed partially in class and out of class. You will design and model a cartoon style model. This may be anything you’d like that would be suitable for a feature length animation or nintendo style game. You are looking for strong exaggerate clean forms. The model itself should be low-poly, fully textured (color, specular, and normal map), and ready for implementation into an animation pipeline.

For Next Class: Complete the basic form of the model

You will be graded on the following:
  • Geometry
    • No errors in the geometry such as non-manifold geometry, un-merged vertices, or lamina faces.
    • Appropriate poly-count. Few tri’s and no n-gon’s. Few poles/stars.
  • Topology
    • Strong consistent gridflow that supports the form well.
    • Edge loops wrap around the areas of deformation correctly.
  • Texturing
    • UV maps are projected, manipulated, and laid out appropriately.
    • A varied and detailed color map is produced. Specular (shininess) map is produced.
    • Funtional normal map is baked from high resolution sculpt and applied correctly.
  • Creativity & Craftsmanship
    • Well structured, clean model.
    • Novel, unique design.
  • You can find the rubric under the Assignments content folder in Blackboard.

Assignment 01 Tutorial Video

ZBrush Videos

Sculptris Videos