Libraries and tips to arrange characters in Blender

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Libraries and tips to arrange characters in Blender

Postby punkduck » Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:47 pm

In this tutorial I will explain my techniques to arrange my models in a scenery. Other tutorials will follow, but this should be the starting point. In the beginning I did not think that this topic is important. But when you have a character and you will export it again and again, always make the same modifications then you will see, that you need some kind of standard for yourself. My goal is to have a flexible system for different ideas I want to arrange. It is mostly based on different kind of libraries. This method only works for Makehuman and Blender.

I know we have rookies and experienced Blender users in this forum. I guess the experienced users have their own methods to reach the same goal. Maybe you could add a few ideas to the topic.

I added two pictures for this tutorial and I hope these pictures will clarify the content.

The first picture describes my directory structure.


  • Starting from a virtual 'root' I created directories for locations (rooms, all kind of stages, a beach, studio). These files contain mainly all objects, which can not be re-arranged (walls, windows, bathtub, shower cabin). Cycles render is pre-selected and all necessary lights are added. In most cases the camera is set to a equivalent of at least 85mm, this avoids e.g. that frontal pictures of the models look like fish-eye pictures (google for crop factor). I use metric scale 0.1 (units in scene), because I export the models without changing the scale. When you do this, this lens is 8.5mm ...

  • Additional furniture is kept in its own directory. The furniture scale is identical to the room. When you create seating furniture, always look for popliteal height (42 - 48cm) and buttock popliteal length (chair: 38 - 43 cm). It looks weird, when the feet can't reach the ground. Shape-keys to simulate the deforming by weight are supplied for mattresses, cushions and other furniture.

  • The accessory directory contains all objects, you might need to make a scene more realistic. Plants, dishes, toys, food, there are 1000's examples ... Also jewelry is placed in this directory, e.g. a necklace using cloth simulation ...

  • The most important directory contains the exported nude characters and clothes. But as you might have noticed, sometimes you need more than one character of the same model because of the high-heeled shoes, which change the base-mesh. I connect the exported shoes directly with the human to avoid visible seams.

    To create these files, the characters are imported from Makehuman as mhx2 without smoothing, typically using the default-no-toes rig. Then materials are changed (displacement added, glossy shader for the lips etc.). Shapekeys are added for the size of the pupils. I create additional strand hair. Typical the character is saved using 3 groups: a simple group with polygon hair, one with strand hair and one character with all extras like tear-fluid etc. This allows me to load e.g. a character with less detailed features, when the character should be placed in the background. The subdivision-surface modifiers are added and they will be set to 0 in the view and to 2 in render mode. They will not be applied.

  • Each character needs its own clothes file. After changing the clothes (materials and/or some modifications in the mesh itself) I delete the character and rig, so that only the clothes are left. I group the clothes, e.g. winter-coat + jeans + boots + shirt. These groups will be appended to the character. It is no problem to update this file by importing new mhx2 clothes as long as your character is not changed inbetween. After importing throw all non-clothes away ... If you add shape-keys you can also control special features like shirt ends inside or outside the jeans. Subdivision surface modifiers are added like in the character files.

  • Inside the characters folder I put the poses folder. I create poses only with one of my characters (Evi). When I use the poses for the other models I've to adjust the characters a little bit, because of the bone-length. The pose-files are saved only with the skeleton. When I add new poses I append the simple 'Evi' group (see above) before. When I create new poses I throw away the character in the end (you can also keep the character in the pose-file, but with this method you can also try the pose with another model).

  • All folders contain their own textures folders for the UV-maps. Especially after exporting the Makehuman models you should move or copy the files to a "own" folder. This avoids a lot of trouble and you know where to look, when you share your data. Btw.: Exporting different clothes with the same texture-filename will produce weird results :? ... since there is only one texture directory in MH export directory.

This is my way to create a scene:


  1. The first step is simply to load a location.
  2. The second and third steps are optional. You might append furniture and accessories and place these objects or groups in the scene.
  3. Then I append a character. In this case I select a group called Evi_Max from the evi_heels file. This group contains all elements except for polygon hair and it also contains all modifiers.
  4. If the model should not catch a cold she should get some clothes. :lol: So I append the appropriate clothes file and select a group (e.g. Evi_Coat). Now you have to change all parent objects of the new clothes to Evi and also insert the object Evi in each armature modifier.
  5. Now I append a pose-library and attach the library to the armature. Typically you select all bones (pose-mode, key a) and press the button with the magnifier. In most cases you have to do some minor adjustments manually (e.g. when you use high-heels instead of barefoot). I also use a special library for face poses. I put all face bones in a bone group, so it is simple to select only these bones and modify them.
  6. The next step is to adjust hair by combing it and switch hair-rendering to curve segments (this is something I always forget and see the results after 1 hour of rendering ... :evil: ).
  7. Now the light is tested. Is it sufficient for the scene? Especially in rooms this is very complicated. The face of the model sometimes must be illuminated by an extra (small) area lamp, so that she does not look like a zombie. And beware of the fireflies, since I'm using a tear fluid for the eyes these guys appear in the near of the eyes ...
  8. When everything is done, GIMP is used to add more contrast. This is mainly done to prevent the aRGB community from my extra dark sRGB pictures ... ( or Adobe and Microsoft vs. Linux and MacOS). ;)

The last picture should demonstrate the method. It should show a typical scene, a girl staying in front of the mirror and doing her makeup ..

  1. open locations/bathroom.blend
  2. append accessories/perfumes.blend and place the objects (the lipstick will be used later ...)
  3. append group evi_max from evi_heels.blend
  4. append group evi:babydoll from evi_clothes.blend, enter Evi as parent for the clothes and as object for the armature
  5. append actions standingposlibrary from poses/standingposes.blend, select a pose and push Evi in front of the mirror. Change right arm, hand and fingers (I do not have a 'hold-a-lipstick-pose' ;) ) and put the lipstick between her fingers ...
  6. Now the camera is tested (in this case only with a 55mm lens, because of the small room).
  7. The picture is rendered with 200 cycles. Because of the hair this takes a lot of time.

And this is, what I get:

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Re: Libraries and tips to arrange characters in Blender

Postby wolgade » Sun Nov 06, 2016 12:13 pm

Great tutorial. I should have organized my stuff like you do. My blender directory is a mess. :lol:
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Postby DredNicolson » Sun Nov 06, 2016 1:25 pm

I'll add this about Group Instancing.

If objects are in Groups in the library file, you can bring them in to your working scene as a Group Instance. To do this, link (don't append) an Object Group to the scene. A new option will appear in the Shift-A menu for Group Instance (and one will be created automatically when you confirm the link, unless you checked off that option).

The objects in the Group will appear in the scene, in the same location and orientation as they are in the library. An Empty is created at the same time; the instance is parented to it. You can't edit the linked objects directly (unless you create a proxy), but you can move, rotate, and scale the instance via its Empty. You can add as many instances of the same Group as you need. It's very useful for scene elements you need a lot of, like streetlights, temple pillars, pews in a church, and such. If you have pre-made lighting setups, you can bring them in as Group Instances also.

Note: The parent Empty for an instance is always created at the center point of the scene. (Position 0,0,0) Arrange the grouped objects in the library file with this in mind.
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