Interested in making your own low-poly 3D models? Learn how to do it using two of the most popular 3D software: Blender and Sketchup.
With the technology available today in the video game industry, we are used to seeing life-like images in each game that comes out.
That’s because the graphics resources, like processors and graphics cards, evolved so quickly over the years, allowing the game developers to make more complex models to achieve better results.
But back in the mid-’90s, when the first 3D video games began to hit the market, it was common to see characters and scenarios formed out by straight and hard edges on our computers or game consoles. To us now, they look awkward and unrealistic. What we didn’t know then was that those simple shapes we were seeing on our screens would later become what we now call “low poly” models.
A polygon is a 2D shape made out of straight angles and lines that, when placed together, are able to create 3D shapes. Polygons are an essential part of every 3D model and as you can see, the higher the polygon count is, the more detailed and smoother the object will be and vice versa.
What began as a technological constraint later became a form of artistic expression.
Many designers and digital artists around the world began to use low-poly art due to its capacity to synthesize the geometry of any organic object. They did this by reducing the mesh to get a really attractive finish and highlighting a minimalist style.
Nowadays we can see these low poly images in a lot of advertising campaigns, illustrations and also video games. If you want to see an example of some incredible 3D low-poly images, feel free to visit the web page of the 3D illustrator Thimothy J. Reynolds.
Believe it or not, you can apply this cool effect to any 3D model you want just by using different CAD software tools. In this case, we’re going to show you how to do it by using Sketchup Pro plugins and Blender modifiers. We’ll use a simple Pokemon model created by Diego Vicentin to show you the process, so let’s get started!
One of the biggest differences between Blender and Sketchup is the number of polygons they can handle. Blender is able to work with a larger amount of polygons in an easier way, so if the 3D model you’re working with is a complex one, like a detailed character, we recommend you skip to the Blender section below.
For Blender users, the process is very similar, but the tools have different names. In fact, you’ll probably find it easier to apply the low-poly effect using modifiers.
Blender has an object mode and an edit mode and both have different uses. In this case, we’re mostly working on the object mode.
Now you have your model ready it’s time to prepare it for the 3D printer. In Sketchup, select your entire model and convert it into a group by right-clicking and selecting the option ‘Make group’. With the solid inspector plugin, check your model to make it printable and avoid problems during the printing process. This plugin repairs some issues of the model automatically. Others do not and you have to repair them manually, but it tells you where the failure is with a red line. When the Solid inspector tells you that the model is fine you’ll be ready to export it to an STL file.
In Blender, hit tab on your keyboard with the object selected to go to the edit mode. Press the W key to select the option ‘Remove doubles’. This option will check and clean the model in case you’re having double vertex. Then export it as an STL file.
Finally, open the file in the slicer software of your choice and send it to your 3D printer.
Low-poly models are very popular and that’s because they look awesome, they allow you to visualize an object with a very basic geometry but without losing its essence. In terms of appearance, there is a visual honesty that engages the viewers and lets them recognize the object or to catch the idea very quickly.
Now you know a little more of where the “low poly” term comes from and why it’s considered an art expression by many. Most importantly, however, you’re able to make and 3D print your own low-poly models without any issue, so now is your turn to do it, express yourself and have fun printing!
For a cool starting point, try printing these low-poly Pokémon.
License: The text of "Low-Poly 3D Models – All You Need to Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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