Hey! so, it has been a while, mainly due to working on the film project, but as i have been working quite a bit on modelling and sculpting i figure it is a good time to share one of my favorite addons that i recently discovered, the sculp ui tools.
what this does is present a handful of really useful tools for Dynamic topology sculpting, such as mesh carving using the grease pencil, extracting meshes from masks and a simplified access to boolean operations. sounds cool, huh? it is!
ok so your going to want the addon first right, so simply head over to this github link and download the .zip
once downloaded simply open the user preferences window in blender and choose install from file in the addons tab and you’re ready to rock!
once installed you will find a new tab on your tool bar
open it up and you have a nice shiny tool set ready to play with.
From the top we have a quick remesh function, that will help restructure your mesh after fiddling with the tools, boolean operations tend to leave the mesh a bit nasty! Freeze and unfreeze literally freeze the mesh so you can’t work on it, i’ll explain this later!
Then there are the boolean operations i mentioned previously, and some more stuff that we’ll get to in a moment, i’m sure you’re all itching to get started!
Open the arrow on the grease pencil settings and we will take a look at what this thing can do!
lets just stick with the default cube and draw a grease stroke with D and left mouse.
Now just press the grease cut button in the tool tab.
And you’ll be like”I just drew a line! wtf, blah blah, tears, rage quit.” Don’t panic this is normal, if mildly annoying. What has happened, is blender has calculated stuff behind the scenes and we simply need to press the button again to make the cut! yay a cut! But wait, as you can see the cut isn’t aligned with the grease pencil, it is off by quite a margin and we’re not happy about that! Again don’t worry, this is a result of being in perspective view, switch to orthographic view and you’ll see the cut lines up nicely with the grease pencil. Now we can simply select the cutout piece and delete it leaving the nicely trimmed cube.
This is quite cool and holding ctrl while drawing gives you nice straight lines, but what if you wanted a precise specific shape to cut? well the developers have figured that out too and you can also use simple geometry to create the cut. Try it out. Add a simple circle to your scene and go into edit mode and smoosh the vertices around a bit, then with the cube selected and active press the grease cut again.
So, thats all cool, though you may get the odd problem with the shape not cutting, often this is because of mis directed normals, so it is a good idea to recalculate the normals on the cutting shape before trying to make the cut.
Ok so we have a thing with some holes in, another function of the tools set is to X symmetrise the mesh, which is a simple and handy way of getting the mesh symmetrical, (obviously!) it can be set to work either -x to +x or vice-versa, +x to -x.
but, one that is easily fixed by jumping into edit mode and filling the missing faces. No, I don’t know why the faces go missing it just seems to be a bit of a bug. fortunately, not a show stopping bug.
As you can see, a quick fix and we are back on track as we dont need to worry about Ngons or quads here, for once we enter sculpt mode the topology is going to get wrecked anyway!
Now we have our mesh kind of built we can go into sculpt mode and start playing around. Before we do that though, we may want to preserve some of the sharp edges of the base model, to do this we simply use the remesh function, setting the depth to about 7 or 8 usually works fine, though it will ramp up your poly count to around 100,000 vertices. not that that is a big issue as sculpting will inevitably have your mesh in the many millions anyway!
Having started our amazing sculpt we may decide that we want some extra geometry, that is modelled on some separate geometry, this is pretty normal, for creating clothing or other accessories that fit neatly, we can do this by creating a mask to define the area and then using the tools to extract a new object from the mask.
And now this section can be sculpted independently of the main sculpt, neat!
Having talked about so many really useful things in one addon you’d think we were pretty much done, but no! There is still a heap more features to be explored! I mentioned earlier that there is a boolean operator panel too, so lets take a look at that as well.
Having created a cylinder and placed it into the mesh i can now shift-select the sculpted model and with the sculpt tools, simply choose the “difference” option and literally punch a hole into the sculpt.
Nicely done! Or I can choose the union option to merge the two meshes and the intersect will cut the sculpt away around the cylinder. not entirely sure what the use of that would be! using the clone tool duplicates the sculpt and creates a difference operation between the inserted object and the duplicated mesh, leaving the original untouched, while the seperate function cuts the mesh along the intersection, but doesn’t delete the cut part as it does with the difference function. though it does seem to flip the normals on the main object
Finally the Freeze feature is something a bit special, as we get super highly detailed in our sculpt we experience a ton of slowdown in the viewport. and when there are lots of sculpted objects that slowdown can become intolerable. when you Freeze a selected object it temporarily decimates the model. you cant do anything to the low poly object so you would use this once you have finished the sculpting and have moved onto the next piece. one finished with sculpting the pieces can be unfrozen again ready for you to retopo the sculpt.
concluding this little review, my thoughts are that this is a considerably well thought out sculpting tool with loads of features that should really be default sculpting tools. it does have a few issues, what with occasionally not cutting properly and generating meshes with mixed normals and the occasional hole, but these are not big issues really and as long as you are aware of them and are prepared to spend a couple of minutes making sure your mesh is tidy then this is a thoroughly enjoyable tool to use.