Cool collectable vinyl characters are popular with adults and children alike. The well-known Dunny - a small, customisable bunny by Kidrobot - is an example of what designers call a platform toy. A platform toy is sold blank, ready to be decorated by an imaginative artist.
Many figures are sculpted using wax, or oil-based clay, or polymers that can be baked in a kitchen oven. Great detail can be achieved by hand sculpting, and artists appreciate its flexibility and immediacy. Physical sculptures are not easily scaled, and it's challenging to produce highly polished, smooth surfaces.
Modelling programs, such as 3ds Max or Maya, are also used by designers for sculpting characters. The finished models can then be 'printed' using rapid-prototyping equipment, and that's what we're going to be using here.
There are wonderful aspects to digital modelling. Surfaces can be extremely smooth. Key elements such as limbs can be mirrored, guaranteeing symmetry. Parts of the figure can be scaled at any time, allowing the designer to continually play with proportions. The modeller can zoom in on small details, and repeating elements can be cloned and repositioned.
The process of printing out a character using rapid-prototyping permits the artist to create an inexpensive, small, scaled sample to test balance and design before printing the larger final model. The model can be sanded to a fine finish, and then sprayed with primer. This 'one-off' figure can be enjoyed as is, or used to produce a silicone mould, which, in turn, can be used to create an army of copies.
This tutorial explains the process of designing a small figure and modelling it in 3ds Max. Some of the steps shown are specific to the software, but the concepts can easily be applied to other packages, such as Modo, Silo, or Maya.
The resulting character model is a collection of solid, intersecting body parts compatible with rapid-prototyping technology.