Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

Low Polygon 3D models or Low Poly in short are a popular trend lately when it comes to 3D printing as they do seem to be easier on the building process for the physical model and the end result is really nice most of the time. So Looking for Low Poly model on websites such as Thingiverse for example can produce hundreds of results with nice looking low polygon count 3D models ready for free download and printing. What if you want to make a Low Poly version of a detailed mesh of a 3D model you already have, but you may not be very good or at all with 3D modeling software to produce it? Well, I figured that I can tell you how to easily do it without the need of extensive knowledge or having to deal with too complex software…

Choosing a Detailed 3D Model with a Lot of Polygons
Do note that not all 3D models will look nice if you reduce their number of polygons in order to make them into a Low Poly version of the original model, some will just not be Ok, others might end up surprisingly good, so do try and experiment. I have chosen a 3D model of a Lion Head to work with in this guide to illustrate the process. It might not be the best one for Low Poly version, though it does work pretty well for the purposes I need it… again try and experiment with different models to see what works better and what not.

What you need to look for is a 3D model that is already pretty detailed and comes with a lot of polygons, so that you can reduce them significantly. 3D models with not that many polygons building them up that already may look a bit blocky are usually not a good source of material. I have already covered an easy tutorial on how to make lower polygon count 3D models using Blender look smoother, so you might want to take a look at that earlier post.

How to Easily Make a Low Poly Version
The software that I will be using for this is called Autodesk Meshmixer, it is a free application that actually has some pretty nice features available for working with 3D models that will be later on 3D printed. So it is a nice tool to have in your arsenal if you are an owner of a 3D Printer and are using it to print various 3D models, already made by somebody else or designed by you. So even if not for the easy Low Polygon 3D model making you might want to check the other useful features available in that software…

You need to start by Importing the 3D model of the object that you want to create a Low Poly version of, just use the Import button and select the file you are going to be working with. The software supports OBJ, PLY, STL, AMF and MIX file formats and the most likely one you are going to be using here is the STL as it is the most common one when talking about 3D printers. You can of course also start with an OBJ file for a 3D model of something that was not originally made for 3D printing, but for some other use or any of the other supported file formats.

The Lion Head 3D model I’m using for this example is in STL file format as it was originally designed for 3D printing already. The 3D model of the head uses 183898 triangles (polygons), so it is not a very simple model and you can see that by zooming in and checking the many details that it originally has… details that would most likely be lost when 3D printed due to the lower resolution that 3D printers normally use. Fortunately the goal here is to significantly reduce the large number of polygons and get a Low Poly version of the model ready for 3D printing.

The next step is to select the complete 3D model, to do that just press the CTRL + A key combination and you will see that the gray rendering of the model becomes a kind of orange. This means that anything you do as an operation from now on is going to be applied on the whole surface of the model, this is exactly what is needed when reducing the number of polygons. You can of course also make partial selection and work with it instead of the complete surface of the model, but for the current goal that is not needed.

From the Select menu you need to go to Edit and then choose Reduce, alternatively you can just press the Shift + R key combination to get to the same menu. This is where the fun part starts as you need to do some experimenting in order to figure out what is the best looking result…

In the Reduce panel change from Percentage to Triangle Budget as this just makes it easier to work with and get the desired Low Poly result as you may go to below 1% on some higher polygon count 3D models. Then just click on the value on the right of Tri Count and type a new value as a number of Polygons and hit Enter to see the preview. To apply the desired value after previewing it you need to click on the Accept button, prior to that you can experiment with different values.

Normally getting a good Low Poly version of a 3D model means that you need to go for something in between 1000 and 3000 triangles in the Reduce menu, though it also depends on the 3D model as well. You might need to go lower or higher than 1000-3000, but this range should generally be where you would need to try first. In the example Lion Head 3D model 1000 polygons are simply not enough to provide a good looking Low Poly result, so I need to go higher. At 2000 polygons things are looking better, but going a bit higher than that at about 2500 makes it even better… you can also go to 3000, but going much higher than that is not going to provide the nice low polygon look that I’m looking for.

When you are ready with the Low Poly version you will need to save the new 3D model, make sure you don’t overwrite the original high polygon count version. Just go to File and Export and type a new filename, make sure you save as STL file format, so that you would be able to easily open it up in your 3D printing software. Then just open it up and 3D print it from your slicer…

The image above shows a side by side comparison of the original high polygon count model (on the left) and the Low Poly version that I made using the Meshmixer software (on the right). The low polygon count model is with just 3000 triangles as opposed to the original that uses more than 180 thousand polygons.

This is the preview of the two models as the way they will look when 3D printed using 0.01mm layer height (high level of detail), as you can see and as I have mentioned already there is some loss of detail in the high poly count model due to the lower resolution that the 3D printer uses (even when printing in high quality)…

In a recent guide on how to 3D Print Your Favorite Pokemon or Just About Any Pokemon I have pointed you to a website offering you to download 3D models of pretty much all of the Pokemons out there. Then you can use these 3D models along with a 3D printer in order to get a 3D print of your favorite pocket monster, but the quality of the resulting prints will not be too high due to the low polygon count of these models…

The good news is that there is a really easy way to increase the number of triangles/polygons of the 3D models of Pokemon without you having to be good with any kind of 3D modeling software or to actually buy any such program. Using the free application Blender and literally by pressing two keys you can get a smoother 3D model with higher number of polygons that you can export in STL and then get into your 3D printing software. This trick will work with other lower polygon count 3D models though the results may vary, so it is not applicable to the current case where we want to get a better looking and smoother 3D models of Pokemons for 3D printing them.

What is Blender and How to Get It

Blender is a free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation.

It may sound complicated and also for a user that wants to start with 3D modeling software such as Blender the interface of the program may seem quite complex, but for the purpose of this guide you don’t have to know the software or how to work with it. You just need to follow a few simple step and take advantage of one of the functions that it supports in order to get the desired results. So what you need first is to download the free Blender software, it is available for multiple operating systems – Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Download the free Blender software from the official website of the project…

Start by Opening Up the 3D Model of a Pokemon
First you need to download the 3D model of the Pokemon you want to work with or download all of the 3D models, you can do that from the Root of Evil Studios’ website. The archive does contain 3D models of the Pokemon in multiple formats, as I have explained in the previous post you can directly use the OBJ file to import in your 3D printer software (should work with most slicers). For the purposes of this guide however we are going to be working directly with the Blender files that are also available, though the software can also Import OBJ and a few other 3D model formats.

So in order to load up a 3D model of a Pokemon just double click on the blender file in the archive you have downloaded. Alternatively you can open up the Blender software and go to the File menu and choose Open, then select the Blender file you want to open. In order to Import another 3D model format such as an OBJ file you need to open the File menu, go the Import option and select what type of 3D file you are going to be opening, then just choose the file and you are ready. It is really easy to do that as opening the 3D model is 1/3 of the work you need to do and the whole thing is really easy and simple.

How to Increase the Number of Polygons
As soon as you open up the 3D model you will see the same lower polygon version of the Pokemon that you would see in the preview of the 3D printer software when opening up the OBJ file for 3D printing. In this example I’m using the 3D model of the Evee Pokemon that by default has just 4934 polygons and the result is a bit blocky or what is usually referred to a low poly 3D model. What you need to do now is to automatically increase the number of triangles/polygons that the 3D model uses and thus smooth its surface – more polygons means smaller building blocks for each part of the model and finer detail.

Increasing the number of polygons with Blender is as easy as just pressing a two key combination, told you it is really easy to do it. So just select the 3D model with a right click and press CTRL + 1 and watch what happens. You will instantly see a much smoother and more detailed in terms of polygons used 3D model, for the Evee character I’m using as an example we get from 4934 polygons up to 29604 or with other words 6 times more triangles. You will see that things look much better now, though there is a little more than can be done to get an even better result – increase the number of polygons used. If you want to get back to the starting point and the 3D model with just 4934 polygons you can press CTRL + 0, you can also use this to check what the before/after will look like.

Going for some more polygons with CTRL + 2 will bring even better result with an increase of the total number of triangles building the 3D model to 118416 – this is 24 times the original polygon count. You will see that the 3D model looks even better now – smoother and more detailed than the original or the first step of increase of the number of polygons, though some places could still benefit a bit more from a little extra polygons.

More polygons are available at your disposal, just press CTRL + 3 to get them. This will make your total number of triangles/polygons used for the 3D model all the way up to 473664 or almost half a million. This is 96 times the original count of the polygons used, so it is normal that the 3D model will be much smoother and detailed than the original low polygon count version. At this point there is no need to add extra polygons as they will hardly make any easily visible improvement anymore, but will still make the 3D model more complex and harder to be processed by the 3D printing software. You can still try by increasing the number you press along with CTRL to get even more polygons used, but again there is really no point in making the 3D model too complex as you might have trouble printing it up.

When you are ready with the right increase of the number of polygons for the 3D model to make it smoother and more detailed you need to export it in STL file format that you can directly load up in pretty much any 3D printing software (slicer). To do that just open the File menu, go to Export and select STL, then choose a name and where to save the file and click on the Export STL button. This is it, you can close Blender after that and open the 3D printing software you use. You have just increased the number of polygons and made the 3D model of the Pokemon you want to 3D print more detailed and with much smoother surface without having to deal with complex stuff or having to learn how to use a 3D modeling software such as Blender, though if you are interested you can still learn a bit more about it and how to use additional functionality.

Again, don’t go increasing the number of polygons too much as it will just make everything more complex and hard for the slicer to process it, especially if you are not going to benefit from any additional quality form the extra polygons!

Let us see how you can 3D print your favorite Pokemon or just about any Pokemon without too much effort if you already have a 3D printer available at home/office or at least have access to one. In order to be able to 3D print a Pokemon you will first have to obtain a 3D model of the pocket monster or you can of course design one yourself, but that one is only for the advanced users, so getting the 3D model is actually the easier thing. Then you need to do some processing of the 3D model and send it to your 3D printer for printing, some waiting time for the model to be ready and you should end up having a decently looking 3D printed Pokemon…

Downloading the 3D Model Files
First you need to obtain the 3D model files of the Pokemon you are going to be 3D printing, fortunately this is actually a pretty easy step as you can find all of them (over 700 Pokemons) available from Root of Evil Studios. Just download the archive with the 3D model files for the Pokemon you choose and go to the next step, there is also a download containing all of the files in one package, though it is a pretty big download.

To download the 3D model files for any of the Pokemons…

In this example I’m using the Pokemon Evee that I will be 3D printing, there are a number of files that you will find in the archive for each Pokemon – 3D models in different format as well as textures. What we are going to be needing is the 3D model in OBJ format as that is the more commonly supported format from most 3D printing software and you should be able to directly open the OBJ 3D model. You need to open and inspect the 3D model with the preview functionality of the 3D printer software to make sure that it is rendered properly, otherwise you may need to do some fixing first before you go to printing.

Automatically Fixing Problematic 3D Models
If you have been following my series of Blog posts about 3D printing on Steemit you should already know how to easily and automatically try fixing issues with 3D models that may not be suitable for direct 3D printing. I’m talking about the free automated online service for repair of 3D models offered by Trinckle that works fast and provides very good results. Since the service does not support OBJ 3D models you will have to first export the OBF file you have opened with the 3D printer’s software in STL format that you can upload and repair with this service.

Do note that this may be an optional step, but the Evee 3D model was a non-manifold one and passing it through this automated repair service actually fixed the problem, so the Pokemon was ready to be 3D printed after that.

Getting Ready to 3D Print the Model
With most Pokemon 3D models you will have to use Support material in order to have the print successful, depending on the size of the print you will want to get you may need to reduce a bit the 3D printing speed as well in order to get good results. Using medium to higher level of detail would also be good if you are looking for a smaller in size 3D print in order to get better details on the model. The support structures will be used to make sure that the 3D printer will not try to print things in the air such as parts of the bod or the tail, after the successful print you will need to remove the support material by hand.

Do note that the 3D models of the Pokemons linked are not the most detailed ones you can probably find, they use less polygons, so some additional tweaking such as smoothing might help you get even better results though even without that they still do look pretty nice when 3D printed even in small scale. The only drawback that you should be aware of before 3D printing is that the 3D models do rely on textures for things such as eyes, mouth, nose etc. of the pocket monsters so these will not be available as details on your 3D prints. For the ones among you that are familiar with 3D modeling software it might not be that hard to add these details as a part of the 3D model based on the data from the textures, but for most you will have to do with what you get.

The Resulting 3D Pokemon Print
My first test for a quick print using small size model of Evee and 0.2mm layer height clearly shows that I should be using slower printing speed to avoid getting these very thin lines left from the printing head as it moves to a different position to resume 3D printing. Other than that in just about 40 minutes of time I did get a 3D printed model of Evee the Pokemon with a pretty good quality (after removing the support structures) and 5cm x 5cm in size, so not that small actually.

Here are some more photos of the 3D printed model of the Pokemon after cleaning up the support and other artifacts, again pretty good quality, though some tweaking can help even more. Some more postprocessing work on the model can bring a bit more detail and improve the quality, then maybe even painting it by hand and drawing things such as the face of the Pokemon can make things even better. Not sure if I will be doing that anytime soon, but the 3D print is ready and I can do extra work on it whenever I feel like it.

So happy 3D printing of Pokemons… I know that I will be printing some more for sure.

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