Model a sperm whale in Blender

Beginning with a simple cube and gradually refining its form, you will learn how to add detail to the model while maintaining a low poly count as you progress through the tutorial.

The modern 3D industry, particularly games and film work, requires digital models that are ready to use for animation.

The efficiency of animation depends upon the construction of the model. If the model is heavy on polygons, it tends to slow down the machine and interferes with the process of smooth animation. On the other hand, if the model has a very low poly count, it can lose detail, and therefore visual appeal.

The task of the artist is to strike an appropriate balance between the two.

Before we begin, let’s run through some of the keyboard shortcuts used in this tutorial. You can find a longer list online: for example, at the Blender 2.5 Cheat Sheet.

[Space] Show Toolbox (to add modifiers, objects and so on)
[Tab] Toggle Edit mode
[Ctrl]+[Tab] Select vertex/edge/face
[A] Select/deselect all
[B] Box selection
[E] Extrude
[G] Move
[S] Scale
[W] Subdivide Mesh
[X] Delete
[Z] Transparency mode
[NumPad 1] Front view
[NumPad 3] Right view
[NumPad 7] Top view

Let’s begin. It’s always best to begin organic modelling with a box. Fire up Blender 2.5. Your screen should look something like this:

[Fig 1]

Before you begin modelling, it is advisable to have an image to use for reference. Here, we’re using a sketch from

Once you have downloaded an image showing a sperm whale in profile, navigate to the Background Images button and load it into an appropriate view: in our case, the Right view, as shown below.

[Fig 2]

Now, press the [Tab] key on the keyboard to take the default cube into Edit mode. Then press [Ctrl]+[Tab] and select Face from the three options that pop up. You are now in Face Selection mode.

[Fig 3]

Press [Z] to switch to Transparency mode, making it easy to select the side face with the right mouse button.

[Fig 4]

Start extruding the cube to form the front part of the body. Hit [E], drag to start extruding, then left-click to release. Repeat until the result looks as it does below.

[Fig 5]