Long twisted shapes are necessary for a lot of scenes. Vines in a jungle, computer wires on your desk, pipes in a spacestation complex – all will add a lot to your scene. Unfortunately, these things are difficult to model using poly-by-poly or box modeling methods. In this tutorial, I will show you how to easily create these things, and how to wrap them around objects realistically.
Part of the inspiration for this tutorial comes from Meats Meier’s Animation Mother.
(This tutorial is intended for intermediate Blender users. I assume that you know the basics of Blender, such as how to create objects and navigate through the interface, and know roughly how object orientation works.)
So, to start off, we need a cylinder to be the base for the wire. Create a 5-sided cylinder without capped-ends and rotate it in edit mode so it is aligned along the X-Axis.
NOTE: All objects in this tutorial should have a cleared rotation (0 degrees in all axis). If they do not, strange things will happen later on! It’s a good idea to clear the rotation (alt+r) every time you create an object while doing this tutorial.
Now we need a curve. Create one in the center of the object, and scale it up (in edit mode) so it’s fairly large.
Select the cylinder and add an array modifier with the settings shown above. If the curve is long enough, the cylinder should duplicate itself to match the length of the curve. It’s a bit large for a tiny wire or vine though, isn’t it?
In edit mode, scale the cylinder down to a tenth of it’s normal size. It should now be duplicated many times to match the length of the curve.
Add a new curve modifier to the cylinder (I know the curve is what’s selected in the image above – sorry). Set the object deforming the cylinder as the curve, and it should look something like the image above. Now comes the fun part. :)
From this point on, you can create all sorts of cool curvey shapes. You’ll notice that since the array modifier is controlled by the curve’s length, we don’t need to adjust the cylinder to create longer wires. :)
Now, this is enough to create a whole bunch of things like computer mice and ropes, but what if we need vines to creep up the side of an ancient statue? Or a villian to be tied up in rope? Continue reading!
Lets create a Suzanne head with a subsurf modifier to work with. It might be helpful to move your curve so that it doesn’t intersect with the head.
Turn Retopo on in the edit pane for the curve. This will snap anything we move to the surface of another object – the Suzanne head, in this case. Also, select all the points in the curve and hit shift+h to make them automatically align themselves. It’d be too much trouble to do this manually. You can now extrude the curve over the object.
Here’s a quick test:
If you want, you can now delete the base object and you’ll have something very similar to the Animation Mother.
You’ll also notice that there’s some wierd distortion going on in places. You can fix this by selecting the offending points in the curve and hitting “T”.