Creating a belt using Blender
This tutorial will explain how to create a belt in Blender using curves. The idea behind this is that we will draw a curve and the belt will follow it automatically, using the Array and Curve modifiers. This technique can also be used to create any other mesh whose shape follows a curve, either open or closed, like necklaces, bracelets, straps, etc.
This tutorial assumes that you have a basic knowledge of Blender. If that is not the case I recommend you to read and practice with these tutorials Blender 3D: Noob to Pro
Creating a belt
The main steps for creating a belt are:
- Add a cube
- Add a curve
- Add the Array and Curve modifiers
- Work with the curve
- Finishing touches
Add a cube
First import into Blender the body or clothes you want to add the belt to. Once this is done, in a new Blender layer add a cube. The belt is going to be build by repeating this cube all along the waist of the character:
- In Object mode select the menu option Add -> Mesh -> Cube.
- In Edit mode flatten the cube and select the side faces. Press the Delete key and select Faces from the pop up menu to delete the side faces. You'll end up with a cube like the one shown in picture Adding a cube.
Add a curve
In Object mode add a curve using the menu option Add -> Curve -> Bezier Curve.
- Note: If you are making an object that has a closed shape, like a bracelet, you can add a circle instead of a curve (Add -> Curve -> Bezier Circle). The process for working with circles is the same than the one described here for working with open curves.
This is an optional step but I find it easier to begin working on a straight line. To straigthen the curve:
- In Object mode select the curve
- Go to Edit mode and select all its control points by pressing A once or twice (the control points are like the vertices of the curve. See picture Control points of a curve)
- Press the S key (scale), then press the Y key (to indicate that you are scaling along the Y axis), and then press 0 (number 0). You'll see that the curve turns into a straight line. Press Enter to fix the shape.
Add the Array and Curve modifiers
First we are going to add the Curve modifier:
- In Object mode select the Cube and press the Add modifier button. Select Curve from the drop down list.
- In the Ob: box enter the name of the curve as shown in picture Adding the Curve modifier. You'll see that the cube positions itself at the beginning of the curve, like in the picture. If the cube moves to another position instead, it is probably because the cube and curve centres are not the same. To align their centres:
- In Object Mode select the cube and then select the menu option Object -> Snap -> "Cursor -> Selection". Doing this you have moved the cursor to the centre of the cube.
- Select the Curve and then select the menu option Object -> Snap -> "Selection -> Cursor". Now the centre of the curve is in the same place the centre of the cube is.
- Note: Clicking on the X, Y, Z, -X, -Y and -Z buttons of the Curve modifier, you are changing the orientation of the cube when following the curve. You can try these options and choose the one works best for the shape you want to get.
Next we are going to add the Array modifier:
- In Object mode select the cube and press the Add modifier button. Select Array from the drop down list. You'll see that there are now 2 cubes following the curve as shown in picture Adding the Array modifier.
- If you increase the number in the box Count from 2 to another number you'll see that more cubes will appear all of them following the shape defined by the curve.
- The Relative Offset values for X, Y and Z axis, are set by default to 1 in the direction of the curve and 0 in the other directions. That means that each cube is positioned just next to the previous one. If, in our example, you decrease the X value you'll see the cubes overlapping. Or if you increase the X value to be higher than 1, you'll see that there is a space between each cube. You can play with these values to see how they affect the positions of the cubes.
- Press the Merge button: this way the vertices of each cube will merge with the vertices of the next cube, creating a continuous shape (that is what we want for our belt).
- Note: If you are creating an object that follows a closed curve, press the First Last button. This will make that the vertices of the last cube will merge with the vertices of the first cube, closing the shape.
- Move the Array modifier up so that it is on top of the Curve modifier (click on the ^ symbol beside the Array modifier). This way the line of cubes will follow the curve.
Work with the curve
Now we are going to give the curve the shape we want for the belt. Use the body or the clothes you imported previously as a guide.
- In Object mode select the curve
- Go to Edit mode and move the curve so its starting position is where you want it to be as shown in picture Working with the curve 1. You can see that the cubes move together with the curve when you move it in Edit mode.
- * If now that you are comparing the cube with the body or clothes, you see that have to change its shape (making it smaller, thinner, ...) select the cube in Object mode and change its shape in Edit mode. Then go back to Object mode, select the curve and edit it in Edit mode
- * If you have to move the belt up or down, you can make the curve a 3D object by selecting the 3D button of the Curve and Surface area shown in picture Working with the curve. But I find that when working with a 3D curve it is very easy to unintentionally distort its shape so my advice is that you work in 2 dimensions as long as you can and only turn the curve into a 3D object at the end. Then, if you have to move the curve up or down, move it in Object mode and then align the cube centre as explained in the previous section.
- Select all control points of the curve and select the menu option Curve -> Segments -> Subdivide. This creates a new control point between the two we had at the beginning.
- Select the last control point and move it using the arrows. You'll see that each control point is a line that has 3 vertices:
- If you select the central vertex, you will move the 3 vertices of control point as shown in picture Moving a control point (in this example I've moved the central vertex along the -Y axis, the green arrow).
- If you select one of the vertices at the sides, you'll rotate the control point as shown in picture Rotating a control point (in this example I've moved the side vertex first along the -Y axis, the green arrow, and then along the -X axis, the red arrow, from its position after moving the central vertex along the -Y axis). If you want a smooth curve, the lenght of all control point branches should be the same. In the previous example we have finished having on branch of the control point larger that the other side. To fix this, move the side vertex along the +Y axis.
- Add new control points to the curve as needed either by:
- extruding the last control point: select the centre of the last control point and the menu option Curve -> Extrude. This will add a new control point after the last one.
- subdividing the curve between teo control points: select the centres of two consecutive control points and the menu option Curve -> Segments -> Subdivide.
- Move and rotate the control points to give the curve its right shape around the body or clothes you are using as a guide.
- If you need to work in 3 dimensions due to the shape of the belt, click on the 3D button that is at the Curve and Surface area shown in picture Working with the curve. Be careful because when working in 3D I find it that is very easy to unintentionally distort the shape of the curve.
Once you've given the curve its final shape, go to edit mode and select the cube. In the Array modifier increase the count number until there are cubes all along the curve as shown in picture Curve final shape.
It can happen that part of the belt gets inside the clothes, because the cubes that form it are vertical and the clothes have a rounded shape, as shown in the picture Belt partially inside clothes. To fix this you can use the Tilt option:
- In Object mode select the curve
- Go to Edit mode and select the centre of one of the control points that are in the area where the belt gets into the clothes (the hips, in the example).
- Select the menu option Curve -> Control Points -> Tilt as shown in picture Tilt option, and move the mouse: you'll see how the cubes that form the belt in that area lose their verticality. Apply the tilt and move the control points as required until you get the belt to follow the shape of the clothes as shown in picture Belt fixed applying tilt.
Once your belt has the right shape it is time to freeze its shape. Until now you could repeat the process almost from the beginning and see how each change in the curve affects the belt but once you freeze the shape you won't be able to modify the belt using the curve as a guide again so it is advisable that you save what you've done in a Blender file as a backup and work on a new copy.
To freeze the shape of the belt:
- Select the belt in Object mode
- Go to the modifiers area and click on the Apply button that is at the right side of the Array modifier as shown in picture Apply modifiers.
- Then click on the Apply button that is at the right side of the Curve modifier.
- Now you can delete the curve object: in Object mode select the curve and press the Delete key.
Using this technique it is possible that there are lots of duplicated vertices in the belt (if you haven't pressed the Merge button of the Array modifier, for example). To get rid of them:
- In Object mode select the belt
- Go into Edit mode and select all the vertices (press the A key once or twice).
- Select the menu option Mesh -> Vertices -> Remove Doubles
The last thing to do is to close and give shape to the end of the belt:
- In Edit mode, select the four vertices that are at the end of the belt as shown in picture Closing the end of the belt.
- Select the menu option Mesh -> Make Edge/Face. This will create a face that will close the open end of the belt.
You can also add other modifiers to the belt to smooth its edges, like Subsurf and Bevel to give it a look like the one shown in picture Finished belt.
From here you can work with the belt as you would do with any other object in Blender (reduce polygons, assign weights, add materials, etc) and then export it as a nif file to use it in your game.