Blender Class: Modeling A Cell Phone Part 1

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Blender Class: Modeling A Cell Phone Part 1

Postby Edge Damodred » Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:31 pm


In this class we go over some basic modeling workflow setups such as setting up reference photos for orthographic views, blocking out and refining our shape as well as using our main body mesh as starting points for other pieces of the model. Note that the video is intended for people who have very little modeling experience and it is quite lengthy(just under 2 hours) as I go over concepts as such as how certain modifiers work and how to use them in ways to speed up your workflow. Additionally I had a few issues with vertices getting out of alignment and spent a significant portion of time correcting them using Vertex Snapping.

If you feel basically comfortable with modeling and you have a decent understanding of how Edge Loops and Modifiers work you can skip down to the image/written version of this class as it is a bit more of a highlight version of the video. If you are new I encourage you to watch and browse through both versions.

In this first part we cover creating the main body of the phone as well as the inset bridge area between the front and back of the phone. Then we finish off on how to do the main numeric buttons(though the center buttons are not covered in this class).

You can find the reference images for this project here. You can leave most of the images at the default scale of 5.0, however the right and left images need to be scaled to 1.385. Thankfully there's no need to shift things into place with any of these references. If you want to use the original reference image you can find it here.

Step 1. Add Reference Photos

Here I created a reference photo for each Orthographic View(Top, Bottom, Front, Back, Right and Left). Open up the Properties Panel in the 3D View by hitting N on the keyboard. Look for and expand the Background Images section and click on the blank check mark box and hit Add Image. Hit open and navigate to the first view file and either double-click or hit Open Image in the upper right corner. Then look for the Axis line at the top of the newly added image and to the drop down menu next to it that says All Views and change it to the appropriate view. When you switch to that view either via the number pad keys or the Views menu in the 3D View window. Again hit Add Image in the Properties Panel and repeat the process for each of the other views.


Step 2. Filling Out The Basic Area

Add a new plane to the scene by either using the shortcut Shift+A in the 3D View or going to the Add Menu and navigate to Mesh->Plane. Hit Numpad 3 to go into a side view and enter Edit Mode by hitting Tab or changing it from Object Mode in the drop down menu in the 3D View. Then hit R to go into Rotation and rotate 90 degrees along the axis shown. You can actually type in 90 after you hit R or hold Ctrl to snap rotate in increments until the plane is facing straight up.


Now switch to front view by hitting Numpad 1. Move each of the side edges into place to cover basic area of the cellphone.

Go back into a Side View(Numpad 3) and move the whole plane(hit A to select/deselect all) along the Y axis out from the center line towards the front of the phone.

Step 3. Setting up for and adding the Mirror Modifier

Subdivide the plane to create break it up into quadrants. You can either select the whole plane and use Subdivide from the toolbar or create Edge Loops running down and across the center. Then delete the vertices along the right and bottom sides.


Then add a Mirror Modifier and have the X, Y and Z axes checked for now. Right now were are just trying to get the basic shape of the phone, with having all three active we just have to worry about editing one quadrant. Once we get that done we will turn off two axes and apply the third to the mesh so we can start adding region specific details.

Step 4. Taking care of our basic structural Edge Loops

Starting with the upper right quadrant add horizontal Edge Loops and move them towards the top. Take each loop's outer vertex and place into position to match the curve of the phone. You just need to get the rough shape, the Subdivision Surface modifier will take care of the smoother details.


With that basic curve now along the top and bottom, uncheck the X and Y axes from the Mirror Modifier, go into Object Mode and Apply the Mirror Modifier.


Afterwards go ahead and re-add the Mirror Modifier and have only the X and Y axes checked as we want to now edit things in the Z axis region.

Step 5. Cordoning off the major areas of the phone

Next we want to section off the camera area at the top, the main screen area as well as numeric button area. Start with the horizontal Edge Loops and then add the vertical ones.


(Tip: If you don't quite have an edge where you want it you can select the entire loop using Alt and clicking on the edge. If you press G a second time after entering Grab/Translate mode you'll be in Edge Slide mode which is what you are in after you create an Edge Loop using Ctrl+R.)

Once basic horizontal and vertical cuts are in place you can start to manipulate individual vertices to follow the shapes more closely, adding extra Edge Loops as needed.


Step 6. Insetting our main screen areas
Select all our faces that occupy the main screen area and its border, go into a side view and hit E to extrude and press Y to lock to that axis and bring the area in slightly towards the center.


Optionally you can do the same thing for the faces that make up just the screen and extrude them in just a little bit for definition.

Step 7. Refine and inset the main button areas

Just like the upper region, create edge loops around the general regions where the buttons will go and extrude them inward. Don't worry about the individual buttons right now, just the cavern in which they will be housed.


Step 8. Bridging the front and back panels.

We could just take the outer edge of the main body and extrude it back towards the center and that would form the sides that bring the front and back together. But because we're going to be modeling the centerpiece between the front and back separately we need to create an inset for it to fit in. Start by selecting the outer edge of the mesh and hit E to Extrude and the immediately hit Enter to confirm the extrusion without actually moving the created faces into position.


By default Extrude puts us in Grab mode and we need to be in Scale Mode for this next part. With this new loop still selected press S to go into Scale mode and the press Shift +Y to lock out the Y axis as we need a flat surface that is aligned to the Y axis. Bring the faces inwards towards the center a bit. Ideally you want the faces to be evenly scaled inward as much as possible You may have to scale on the X and Z axes individually to accomplish this as the top and bottom vertices are further from the center than the sides so when you scale in they get more purchase on the amount moved when you bring them in. You basically want to achieve something like below. Don't worry about being exact as most of this will be hidden by the inset piece we'll be making. We just need the gap for lighting purposes.


Now hit Extrude again and bring them inwards along the Y plane to join the back and front.


Step 9. Smooth Shading, Subdivision Surface modifier and hardening the edges.

Structurally our main body is complete as far as modeling the main details. Now we can refine and smooth out our mesh to give it a more natural feel. Exit Edit Mode and go back into Object by hitting Tab or selecting it from the Mode drop-down menu. Change the Shading from Flat to Smooth from the Toolbar under the Tools tab. This will cause lighting to be interpolated across the surface of a face instead of the entire face all sharing the same shade of light. As the name suggest, it gives the model a smoother look.


Unfortunately as you can see the lighting looks pretty bad, you could even argue that Flat shading looks better. This is because our light shading is based on the distribution and amount of vertices in the mesh. Because we have relatively large quads defining areas of our mesh the interpolation is getting stretched pretty thin across the surface. What we need is a denser mesh.

We could go back into Edit mode, select everything with A and hit Subdivide on the Toolbar several times to create the needed geometry and that would fix our shading issue. However if we did that we would have a considerably more complicated mesh to work with if we needed changes. Thankfully there's a modifier that allows us to add such geometry without directly adding to our base mesh, the Subdivision Surface modifier(commonly referred to as Subsurf for short). When you add the Subsurf and change its View value to 2 or 3 you should get something like this.

(You can hit Ctrl + a number to add a subsurf with that many levels already applied. You can adjust the levels of the subsurf in the Modifiers panel. View corresponds to the 3D Viewport in all viewing modes including Rendered and will not affect your actual render, set the Render value for that.)

As you can see we have good news and bad news. The good news is our model looks significantly smoother both in shading and actual geometry as there are now smooth curves along the edges of our mesh. The bad news is that our edges have lost considerable definition, as if the mesh turned into a some kind of funky air mattress. This is because the Subsurf modifier naturally curve bevels edges and the curve is dependent upon the neighboring edges.

To explain this better let us look at a simpler mesh that has had a Subsurf added to it.

As with the shading, the distribution of vertices has a significant impact on how much beveling the modifier applies. There are a few means we can use to temper this effect.

One is to increase an edge's Crease value which you can find the Transform section of the 3D View Properties panel. This value goes from 0-1 and is basically a measure of how much influence the edge has on the bevel created by Subsurf. Bringing this all the way to 1 will nullify Subsurf's effect on the edge completely, returning it to the original sharp edge which we don't usually want for a number of reasons. The main reason being that nothing in nature has a perfect edge to it, even the sharpest blades still have some beveling going on and perfectly sharp edges will look unnatural. Another reason is that managing/adjusting the edges in this capacity is irritating and unintuitive, especially more complex the model gets. It does have its uses and can correct certain errors caused by other modifiers.

To get our edges correct we need to bring the neighboring edges closer. But we cannot do that because our neighbors are defining the base shape of the mesh, so therefore we need to add more edge loops and bring them close.


By adding in those edge loops near the corner edges we redefined the shape of the model but now it has the smooth beveled edges from the subsurf plus the correct shading. Now that you know the basics of how this works you can go back into Edit mode on the phone and add the appropriate edge loops. Remember that you can press G a second time after entering Grab mode to put an edge or vertex in Slide mode to reposition it without having to lock a particular axis. Ideally now would be a good time to backup your mesh either by creating another .blend file or duplicating the mesh in Object mode(Shift+D) and move it to another unused layer using M and selecting one.

Step 10. Creating the center inset piece.

At this point the final modeling for the main piece is done. Now we can move onto other pieces. The nice thing is a lot of the other pieces can be started simply by reusing already existing mesh structures in the main piece. First let's go back into Edit mode on the main piece and select the outer edge and duplicate it(Shift+D). Then with it still selected hit P to open the Separation menu and choose By Selection. Now exit Edit Mode select our newly duplicated edge in Object mode. (It may help to hide the main piece by hitting H, selecting the duplicated edge and then hitting Alt+H to reveal anything hidden.) Notice that the separated object also got to keep the modifiers added to the original mesh.


With the new edge selected go into Edit mode and bring it in along the Y axis a bit, just enough so there is a small gap between it and the main mesh.


Now hit E to extrude and bring it fully in along the Y axis to meet with its mirrored self. You may have to have the shading recalculated and set to Smooth. Go to the Shading\UV's tab on the Toolbar panel and look for Recalculate. Before you hit it make sure everything is selected (hit A once to deselect anything you have selected then hit A a second time to select everything). Additionally while you are here you can set all the Faces to Smooth at the top of the panel. This has the same effect as setting them to Smooth in Object mode except here you can do it on a primitive by primitive basis instead of the entire mesh as a whole.


Once again select the outer edge and hit Extrude again, except do what we did with the main piece mesh's outer edge and scale the vertices inward along the X and Z axes (after you hit E, press Enter and then hit S for scaling as Extrude defaults to Edge Slide mode). That pretty much takes care of the main body of this piece.


This brings us to the end of the written version of Part 1. I left out the creation of the first set of main buttons as I want to group that with Part 2's written article since it will cover the center row of buttons as well. You can however find out how I accomplished this by watching the video towards the end.
When in doubt, hit it with a bigger hammer.
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