Topology is the foundation of 3D modeling and digital animation. It refers to the geometric surface characteristics of a mesh (the shape of the 3D object). These include vertices, edges, and arcs that makeup faces on the model.
Getting the proportions right is essential to a 3D model’s look and feel, but it’s also a skill that takes time to master. As a result, it’s important to know the basics of topology before you start designing a new object.
1. Use quads instead of subdivisions when possible
Quads are the most common polygon type used by 3D artists to construct their models, and they’re ideal for producing realistic-looking objects with high resolution. They’re also a good choice for models that will be used in complex pipelines because they require fewer vertices than other shapes, which helps reduce memory usage on your computer.
2. Retopology is key to getting a good 3D model made
One of the best ways to create a better-looking, more believable 3D model is to retopologize it after you’ve finished the design. Retopology is a process that lets you take high-resolution assets and lay out a clean, low-resolution topology over them, saving the polygon count required for the original design without compromising the quality or detail of the final product.
3. Keeping a copy of the art you’re using as a reference is essential to creating a good-looking model
To understand proportions, it’s important to have some form of art close at hand that you can draw over. This will help you understand how an object should look on the screen and in your model.
4. Avoid N-Gons and other non-manifold faces when possible
N-Gons are vertices that consist of three intersecting edges, which are very common in 3D modeling but can produce unwanted topology on flat surfaces when extruding faces. They often appear around poles or inset parts of a model and can cause strange rendering or smoothing artifacts.
5. Avoid pinched corners when possible
Pinched corners are common in modeling, but it’s important to learn how to avoid them. Pinched corners are a result of trying to model a corner with too many edges, which creates a pinch point in the topology. They can be difficult to remove, so keeping them in the background and focusing on a different element of your model’s design is best.
6. Be careful with e-poles and other edge loops that meet or turn
Edge loops are one of the most common occurrences in 3D modeling, and they’re also a major culprit for creating a pinch point in the topology. This happens when a face is extruded with too many edges or when an edge loop turns or meets another.
7. Don’t put too many N-Gons in your model
N-Gons are a common mistake for many beginning modelers. They subdivide poorly and can produce unwanted topology on flat surfaces. This makes them a bad practice to get into and can lead to problems when importing the model into popular sculpting applications like ZBrush or Mudbox.