Sketch based modelling is a method of creating 3D models by drawing 2D strokes. The idea is appealing to me since I come from a 2D art background and I love drawing. There are many research papers on the subject and tantalising examples of digital analytic drawing which look like sorcery. Spoiler alert, digital analytic drawing is not available publicly (or it is so top secret I can’t find anything that does it).
However there are some sketch based modelling applications available.
Sketch Based Modelling
When I started learning about 3D software I created my first 3D models with a web based software called Smoothie 3D.
Smoothie 3D lets you trace over an image and then makes the image into a 3D mesh using the image as a texture. This is a fast and easy way to make very basic 3D models using 2D artwork or photos as a guide. It is easy to make something relatively quickly for 3D printing or visualisation with this method compared to traditional 3D modelling techniques.
I’ve also used a similar software called Archipelis Designer.
This is a very like Smoothie 3D but it had a few more features I found handy, especially exporting boolean combined meshes into Blender for quick base meshes for sculpting. I found this method a very fast way to sketch out basic 3D shapes for use in other 3D applications. I used Archipelis in this way when I was creating this quick (ish) squirrel character.
I created the torso, arms and tail in Archipelis and then exported the mesh parts as obj files. The parts were imported into Blender where I sculpted a bit more detail and painted them before rigging the model and posing it.
There were some useful features from Smoothie 3D I wish had been included in Archipelis but it is useful if you combine it with Blender. Archipelis is limited to creating simple symmetrical models, whereas I was able to lock images to parts of meshes in Smoothie 3D and move those mesh parts around to create non-symmetrical models. This limitation was overcome by exporting mesh parts and using them in Blender though.
I did some research and also came across some other sketch based modelling software. A software developer called Ryan Schmidt worked on a project called ShapeShop. If you are interested in the science of the technique behind the software there is lots of information here: http://www.rms80.com/shapeshop.
Unfortunately the actual software is pretty outdated and very experimental.
Recently I’ve also come across an experimental project called Galumph. The developer Andrea Interguglielmi used to work at Dreamworks. It is a software that creates 3D objects from 2D strokes. Still very experimental but it looks interesting.
Galumph by Andrea Interguglielmi
A tool to draw 3d models, in 2d. Available for Windows
The other day I also came across a Japanese software called MagicalSketch 3D which is available here:
Shade 3D | MagicalSketch 3D overview
With Shade 3D, Challenge your imagination and your creativity: Modeling, Rendering, Animation, 3D Printing, Games…
It is aimed toward children for 3D printing use. It looks like it works similarly to Smoothie 3D and Archipelis, except that the objects created don’t have to be symmetrical and you can paint directly onto the models you create in the program rather than having the image reference mapped as the texture.
A similar software is called Teddy, but this is available as a Unity plugin rather than a stand-alone program.
Possibly the most mainstream or well known type of this software for artists is Aartform Curvy3D 3.0.
Curvy 3D uses sketch based modelling techniques and has digital sculpting capability. It is a much more complicated software than the ones I’ve listed above and has a higher price tag to reflect that. It hasn’t had a recent update but the developer is working on a new version, so it might be one to keep an eye on. Personally I am happy using Blender and Archipelis for my basic needs.
Some addons for Blenders sculpting mode utilise the Grease pencil to help carve out parts of existing 3D models.
The 2.80 update will probably bring more innovation in this area. There are new addons for Grease Pencil being developed as we speak such as this one called Bumarin for drawing 3D meshes with grease pencil:
Voxels: 3D Pixel Art
This is a fun way to create 3D models which can also be exported and used in other 3D software.
There is also an add-on for Blender called Sprytile that lets you create 3D meshes using pixel tilesets.
Sprytile by Jeiel Aranal
A Blender add-on for building tile based low-poly scenes with paint/map editor like tools. Available for Windows…
Drawing in 3D Software
Nowadays artists are also exploring ways of bringing their drawings into a 3D space. This is useful for interactive presentations and animation work visual development. 2 ways I currently know of are a software called Mental Canvas and with the Grease Pencil feature in Blender.
Mental Canvas is aimed toward animation visual development artists (such as Sam Nassour) and studios.
Blender Grease Pencil is also being used for visual development and animation. The advatage with Grease Pencil is that it is free and available now, whereas Mental Canvas is not.
Blenders Grease Pencil strokes can also be converted into 3D mesh objects, so it is being used as a conceptual 3D tool visualisation tool combined with the new physically based renderer known as Eevee.
Another interesting use of 2D images and drawings in 3D software is to help create poses for 3D models. Software such as Clip Studio Paint uses AI features to analyse drawings and photographs of poses and apply them to 3D rigged models.
I hope you found that interesting and thanks for reading. I’ve included some more links below to relevant articles I’ve found during my research for this article.