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Book Review: Introducing Mudbox by Ara Kermanikian

Autodesk’s Mudbox is a computer based 3D sculpting and painting tool. It was first used to produce the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. It is primarily used as a high-resolution digital sculpting, texture painting, and design tool. Introducing Mudbox is a guide to help you get up to speed on all of Mudbox’s features and functions while showing you how to sculpt and paint as well as master an effective workflow.

Introducing Mudbox uses Mudbox 2011 as its base interface and will show you how to use Mudbox through step-by-step lessons to teach you the basics of digital sculpting, 3D painting, texturing, and workflow. Introducing Mudbox is 416 pages and is divided into nine chapters.

Chapter One, “Getting Your Feet in the Mud: The Basics of the Mudbox Production Line,” begins with the fundamentals of what this book is about. Here the basic concepts are laid out and everything else from here builds on these concepts. This is the most important chapter in the book, and so you need to have a good grasp of all of the concepts that are laid out in this chapter.

Chapter Two, “The Mudbox User Interface,” focuses on the Mudbox 2011 user interface and will identify the different sections that you will work within Mudbox. You will begin with the welcome screen then move to the main viewport, the east frame window, the south frame tray, and see how to do map extraction. It is here that you learn all about working with in the Mudbox interface.

Chapter Three, “Detail-Sculpting an Imported Model,” takes you through a more complex model with multiple parts. Here you will work with a high-resolution version of Bertie the robot – this was briefly introduced in chapter one, to do some surface detail sculpting. This mesh was modeled in Maya, and here in Mudbox you will cover topics such as laying out UVs, naming conventions, setting up the model, sculpting surface details, and look at introducing weathering and wear and tear on the model.

Chapter Four, “Painting and Texturing an Imported Model,” continues from the last chapter, but moves on with prepping it for final output. In this chapter you will learn about texture-painting in 2D and 3D, creating texture maps, how to use materials and textures, working with layers, gathering reference images, and work on painting Bertie.

Chapter Five, “Digital Sculpting, Part I,” examines one of the most significant applications of Mudbox – that of sculpting. In this and the next chapter you will look at the sculpting tools and the workflow to create a digital sculpture. This chapter focuses on the early stages of development where you determine the look for the character.

Chapter Six, “Digital Sculpting, Part II,” continues from the last chapter. You begin by modeling a simple base mesh in Maya and making the modifications to it to make it female. Next you will create UV’s for the model by using Headus UVLayout. From this you will have a human form that you can easily pose by using the posing toolset in Mudbox.

Chapter Seven, “Working with 3D Scan Data,” looks at another way that models can be brought into Mudbox through the use of scanning from a 3D scanner – a device that generates a polygon mesh from a physical 3D object. This chapter looks at the benefits and limitations of 3D scan data. Here you will see how the sculpting tools in Mudbox will help you overcome some of the limitations of scan data and help you clean up your scans.

Chapter Eight, “3D Painting,” is done through the use of the Mudbox painting tools along with image-editing tools like Photoshop which give you limitless possibilities to paint your digital sculptures. Here you will see how to paint your sculpture, paint directly on UV’s, paint on layers use blending modes, as well as how to create a Photoshop workflow to go back and forth in Mudbox.

Chapter Nine, “Lighting and Rendering,” is what gets you to your final image. With most computer generated systems each frame has to be rendered and this is a time and resource intensive operation. The more complex your scene, the longer it will take to render. In Mudbox, you have instant rendering so this is not an issue. Here you will see how to refine your rendering output.

Appendix, “About the Companion DVD” looks at what is included with the DVD. Here you will find movies that correspond to the individual chapters, project files, models, as well as images to complete all of the projects in the book.

Introducing Mudbox is intended to get you up to speed on Mudbox fast, and to me it accomplishes that feat through both the use of the book and the videos that are included as well as the sample files. It gives you all the important aspects of the program, but also gives you information on integrating with other programs such as Maya.

Introducing Mudbox is very well written, logically laid out, and a great starter book for anyone who is wants to delve into Mudbox. If you want to work with Mudbox or have been working in Maya and want to take your 3D to another level through the use of Mudbox, then I highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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