A few days ago, I wrote and shared some of my progress in a course I am taking on Udemy. I began “Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator Course” at the very start of this month and after three weeks in, I have just completed the next section in the course. While Sections 1 to 3 taught basic 3D modelling skills in Blender, Section 4 (34 lectures, 4hr+7min), Low-Poly Chess Board & Pieces, introduced more advanced modelling tools and techniques. Using the Staunton Chess Set image as a reference (pictured below), the goal was to model to-scale all of the pieces, create a chessboard, apply appropriate materials and textures to the models, set up a scene with proper/adequate lighting, and then render some images with some form of interesting camerawork (e.g.-angles, blurring effect, etc..).
After creating a simple chessboard (with the knowledge acquired from the first three lectures), one of the requirements in modelling the pieces themselves was to keep them “low-poly”, as this is often preferred or even essential, for instance, when exporting and using 3D models in a game engine. This means that each piece must be designed and created with a limited amount of geometry. The basic Pawn was the first chess piece constructed keeping this requirement in mind:
One way to achieve a higher detailed look is using the bevel tool. With the bevel tool, smoother ridges on the chess piece base and neck/body can be achieved. Conversely, deleting “redundant” and joining any remaining edge loops using the bridge edge loops tool can be used to construct a low-detailed, low-poly model.
The next chess piece to model was the Bishop. Here, a boolean modifier was introduced and used to create the notch in the bishop’s hat:
After modelling the bishop, a quick explanation was provided on the importance of using “quads” (polygons comprising of four vertices) to achieve good mesh topology; Ngons (polygons with more than four vertices) on the other hand may deform the mesh and create distortions when the model is rendered, rigged (for animation), or exported. In some cases, triangles are also acceptable such that numerous triangles can converge on a single vertex called a pole. After all, most graphic render algorithms and game engines actually convert meshes completely into triangles! Still, quads are universally preferred and so the Queen and subsequent pieces modelled after were created with this in mind:
The fourth piece to model was the Knight. To set the stage for modelling the Knight, Michael Bridges, the instructor, brought up the idea that symmetry could make modelling something much easier and quicker. And indeed, in the world around us, symmetry can be found in just about everything. As a result, the mirror modifier was used to create the Knight:
Alas, only two pieces remained: the Rook and King. Here, it was up to me to model them however I desire with all that I have learned up to this point. After modelling the Rook and King, proper materials (i.e.- white and black colours) were applied along with the introduction and usage of textures (e.g.- wood for the chessboard base) as well. The concept of diffusion and specularity were then taught. By using the diffuse and specular material shaders, the pieces and chessboard were made to appear more realistic such that light shining onto and reflecting from them were visually accurate. Finally, the chess pieces were appended to a scene containing the chessboard created earlier. A few lamps were then positioned and adjusted accordingly to fit the scene. Behold a few renders of the final chessboard and pieces I’ve modelled:
Looking at the instructor’s models and final rendered images of his scene compared to mine, I think I truly made it my own! I’m proud to see that my chess set looks quite different than many other students taking the course that have shared their work on the discussion forums. I especially like using the smooth shading tool in Blender and prefer the models that way over having them flat-shaded.
The next section, Section 5, is entitled “An Animated Lamp” and will be the longest section yet! It comprises of a set of 39 lectures in 5 hours worth of lecture time. So I will probably blog this next section in parts. Thanks for reading as always and I look forward to writing the next blog post and sharing more of what I learned in Blender with all of you!