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So this will be a slightly beefy post since I've got several things I'd appreciate some help with and I want to be nice and clear. Essentially, I want to try and work on my topology skills, and in doing so shift to a workflow that's a bit more flexible and professional. I usually dive headlong into a project and end up with a servicable result but it's rarely very pretty under the hood and a bit of a nightmare to revisit later if I want to change things.

So I thought a good way to start would be to have a go at an aeroplane, since it's got a good combination of curved and straight features, I'll have plenty of reference images, and also...I just like planes.

I also figured I would have a go at following a subdivision modelling approach. While I don't necessarily anticipate working on models for games, I liked the idea of a scalable level of detail that could be used to generate different LOD meshes just by adjusting the subdiv values.

Here are the real life images I'm using as references:

enter image description here enter image description here

First thing that's got me scratching my head a little is the cockpit windows. Here's my current WIP (please forgive the terrible mesh topology, this is why I'm trying to work on it!):

enter image description here

It's got a bit of chubby-cheek-itis going on (best seen in the image below), which I imagine is from the 3-edged pole on the side. That came about from me trying to keep a sensible edge flow around the windows. Is there an elegant way to either change that topology or smooth it out to remove the effect?

enter image description here

But perhaps most annoying is the geometry around the window corners and edges. You can see on the first 3-view image that I've used creasing to give sharp corners and the nose ridge of the plane, and it actually works really well. But to get the other corners sharp, I run into problems. Here's two examples, one using creasing, the other using holding edges:

enter image description here

Both methods give a bump to the window edges, which is a little clearer when you look at them in profile (undoubtedly not helped by that 7-edged pole):

enter image description here

It feels like the holding edges are the better way to do this, they have a less pronounced bump and give more subdivided geometry around the corner for a smoother curve. But it's harder to achieve a clean holding edge on the outer corners of the windows. If you run a holding edge around the circumference, you end up with more bulgy geometry:

enter image description here

And if you run a holding edge down the length of the fuselage, you get a crease that runs the whole way:

enter image description here

Is there a better way to handle this? I feel like sometimes I'm too focused on making sure that everything is quads (I've got some triangles in the middle of the windows that would turn into quads when the mirror is applied), is this perhaps a time for some triangles?

Or am I asking too much of purely subdivision modelling? is this bulging around the window edges something that needs to be sorted out after the subdivision modifier is applied? And in that case, how would you maintain consistent geometry between different LOD models if the final touches are somwhat arbitrary?

Thank you very much for any help you can offer, and apologies for the length of this post!

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi. Please use a title that matches the content of the question. It should be descriptive but succinct, unique and identifying, summarizing the issue so that anyone searching for a similar problem is likely to find it. Remove anything superfluous, avoid using words like "this", "help with", "issue" or "question about", instead describe what "it" is. Remember, your title is the first thing potential visitors see, answers you get depend heavily on how insightful it is. See What is the problem of asking “How do I do this?" $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome. Please don't ask more than one question per post. Use the edit link below your post, to break this into multiple posts so that each focuses on a single issue. Make as many separate questions as necessary. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ Hello, I've made a timelapse tuto on modeling a plane, maybe you'll find some ideas: youtu.be/mgWxA8fmUCo $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Commented Mar 5 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ Merci beaucoup Moonboots, your modelling workflow is defintiely much smoother than mine! I noticed that you ended up with some similar (though definitely reduced) lumpy shading effects that I did, but perhaps it really is a case of either living with it (they likely become much less noticeable with the right materials and texturing, especially with the natural kind of ripple in aircraft panels, which becomes obvious when seen from a shallow angle), or putting in some sculpting/manual adjustments after applying the subsurf modifier. $\endgroup$
    – Welshie
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:53

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You can use the shrinkwrap modifier to project your mesh on a clean surface. By doing so, you wont have to bother about topology too much. You can even use triangles, ngons, edge and vertex creases anywhere and not get any shading issue (but don't do too crazy still)

As you can see here, the topology is horendous, but after being projected on a clean surface, all the shading issues disapear

enter image description here

This is what edit mode looks like. You can tell this far from being the best topology in the world

enter image description here

And this is what the clean surface mesh looks like. You need to keep it as simple as possible so the surface stays smooth. The clean surface needs to have more resolution than the projected mesh for optimal results

enter image description here

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks so much for your detailed answer! I thought about using the shrinkwrap modifier, but there's a mix of flat and curved surfaces around the window area (the inner windows are flat and the outer are curved), as well as smooth transitions between the flat and curved areas. And I figured that if I spend all that time getting the high-res target mesh to have the right curvature, flatness and transitions between the two, isn't it just worth doing that process with the original mesh? $\endgroup$
    – Welshie
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Welshie thecnically, you can use vertex groups on the shrinkwrap modifier so you can control which parts of the mesh are projected. Since the flat parts are easier to deal with, I'd recommend excluding them from the modifier $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 5 at 21:01

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