Skinning a Character in 3ds Max - Part 1 - First Pass

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6 min

Skinning a Character in 3ds Max - Part 1 - First Pass

In this tutorial, you apply the Skin Modifier to the mesh for first-pass analysis. Inevitably, quite a bit of fine-tuning will be needed but first steps are always in order. Once you have applied the Skin modifier and chosen the bones needed for skinning, you will also adjust some basic settings to make skinning work for you.

  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2013
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2013 or higher.
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With the skeleton animated, your next task is to choose the bones that will be used for skinning.

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Remember that some bones, such as end bones or nubs, as well as bones used to blend FK and IK are not required for the skinning process.

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Start by selecting all the bones in the viewport.

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Holding the Alt key down, click all the nub bones to deselect them.

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This include the two nubs for the feet, the 10 finger nubs, the two hand nubs, as well as the head nub and the pelvis nub.

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Next press H to open the Select from Scene dialog.

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In the Select menu, make sure the Select Children option is disabled.

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Locate the FK and IK chains. The ones for the right side of the skeleton are easy to find, at the very bottom of the dialog.

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Hold Ctrl down and deselect the FK and IK chains.

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Locate the left-side FK/IK chains. They should be halfway down the list.

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Deselect them as well and click OK to exit the dialog.

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Now you have the bones you need to affect the skinning modifier.

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To make that selection easier, create a Selection Set of the selected bones.

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Name it SKIN_BONES and press Enter.

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Click anywhere in the viewport to deselect the bones. Selecting them again is easier now that you have a selection set for that purpose.

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Using the Layer toolbar, unfreeze the Mesh layer.

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Select the Zombie mesh and press Alt+X to disable XRay mode.

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You're ready to start skinning.

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With the mesh selected, apply a Skin modifier.

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Click the Add (Bones) button and in the Select Bones dialog that appears, select the SKIN_BONES selection set you created a moment ago.

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This is much easier that picking individual bones from a hierarchical list.

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Click Select to exit the dialog.

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You can test the animation.

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It is fine for a first pass but it obviously still requires a lot of work before it becomes even acceptable.

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Skinning is an important part of rigging, and skinning in particular is an art form.

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Different riggers work in different ways when it comes to skinning a model.

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Some use envelopes, where they adjust capsule-like gizmos to control how a bone affects its surroundings.

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Others use Paint Weights to control how the mesh deforms, although Paint Weights is more commonly used with meshes of high counts.

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With low-poly models, riggers often work at a vertex level. It's a technique that gives you the most flexibility and the best control.

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It is the method you will be using here.

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To that effect, enable the Vertices option. This would make it possible to select vertices and weight them individually.

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Also, and because you won't be using envelopes, expand the Display rollout and enable Show no Envelopes.

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In the Advanced Parameters rollout, notice the Bone Affect Limit option.

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This is where you define how many bones ultimately affect a given vertex.

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The default is set to 20 but you seldom need a value higher than 3 or 4.

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In fact, some game engines would not allow for more than four bones to affect a given vertex.

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Set the Bone Affect Limit value to 4.

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As for the rest of the options in the Skin modifier, you'll explore the ones you need as you go along.

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You will start from the bottom up, starting with the left toe and moving up the left foot, and ultimately the rest of the leg.

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Zoom in on the left foot. If you are in Edit Envelopes mode, you can disable it now.

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To keep things simple as you are just starting, you will isolate the left foot to make it easier to work on.

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Go down the stack to Editable Poly > Element level, and select the left foot.

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If Soft-Selection mode is enabled, disable it now.

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In the Edit Geometry rollout, click Hide Unselected.

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Exit Element mode and go back up the stack to the Skin modifier.

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Zoom in and adjust the view to get a better look at the foot.

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In the next movie, you adjust the skinning of the foot.
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  • 3ds Max
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  • 2013
  • Character Animation
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