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I often use subdivision modifiers to give my models a cleaner appearance, but this comes at the cost of too many faces and obviously difficulty in modelling (well, it's partly a hardware issue).

Is there a way (say, a modifier) that can achieve a similar "smoothness" without having to subdivide so much?

Example:

With subdivision on: Subdivision ON

With Subdivision offf: Subdivision OFF

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  • $\begingroup$ What about one level of subsurf with smooth shading? $\endgroup$ – wchargin Oct 24 '13 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ Is it for a computer game? (I'm guessing because your other recent question is about the obj format) $\endgroup$ – Gunslinger Oct 24 '13 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Gunslinger well these models are going to be ported to Flightgear and eventually may be used in a game, but they are mainly being used currently for creating stills for a story series. $\endgroup$ – A Wild RolandiXor Oct 24 '13 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ @WChargin that doesn't give the results I'm looking for. I'm wondering if there is maybe a modifier than can give the smoothness without affecting the underlying model too much. As I haven't dedicated too much time to modifiers (and to a lot of things :P) in the past I don't know if I've missed something. $\endgroup$ – A Wild RolandiXor Oct 24 '13 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RolandiXor you can add a subdiv modifier with one or two levels of "simple" subdivision and then add a regular subdiv modifier on top. This will be worse for performance but this is just a tip for "without affecting the overall shape so much" $\endgroup$ – PeterT Oct 25 '13 at 14:18
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Try settings as follows:

  1. One level of subsurf or as many as you can comfortably handle.
  2. A Laplacian Smooth modifier with a couple of repeats (be careful!); adjust λfactor as desired.
  3. Smooth shading enabled.

The Laplacian Smooth modifier is a really nice way to smooth out your model without adding a ton of verts. From the wiki:

The Laplacian Smooth and Shape Enhanced modifier allows you to reduce noise on a mesh's surface with minimal changes to its shape, and exaggerates a shape using a Laplacian smoothing modifier in the reverse direction using a single parameter, factor.

If this doesn't work out well you could try just a normal Smooth modifier instead.

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  • $\begingroup$ I will give this a shot (possibly tomorrow) before I mark this as accepted. Thanks for your answer! $\endgroup$ – A Wild RolandiXor Oct 24 '13 at 5:37
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You might try using the subsurface modifier, and then the decimate modifier.

Then experiment between the various types decimating until you find the one with least face count while still keeping the shape smooth.

Using the subsurf modifier and then the decimate modifier may sound counterproductive, but it does an effective job of keeping the subdivided look without adding as many faces.

Example:

example

Edit:
The last two monkeys ALL the monkeys have their shading set to smooth.

Comparing the monkeys you see that the last one is smoother than the first, but it has more than 1000 faces less than using the subsurf modifier with one subdivision.

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  • $\begingroup$ So far this looks to be the best solution. $\endgroup$ – A Wild RolandiXor Oct 24 '13 at 22:42
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There is always the possibility to make a really high-poly version, then retopologize it to low-poly then bake the normals from the high-poly to the low-poly. This is potentially a lot of work. You need a good UV-unwrap (maybe you need that anyway).

In your case, you could try this:

  • use your existing model as low-poly
  • duplicate and subsurf 2 times to get high-poly
  • smart uv-unwrap to get something quick.
  • bake normals from highpoly to lowpoly.

If you have a lot of self intersecting geometry, it can be troublesome. You may have to do it one section at a time and fiddle with bias and offset.

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  • $\begingroup$ That would be tricky for my models because I basically made them for subsurf ;P I could try it with a future model however. $\endgroup$ – A Wild RolandiXor Oct 24 '13 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ If you want, you can apply one level of subsurf for your lowpoly version and 3 or more levels for the highpoly. $\endgroup$ – Gunslinger Oct 24 '13 at 18:03
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How I do it: Duplicate my mesh. Add as many subsurf levels to it as I like. Add a shrinkwrap modifier to my original mesh and set its target to the duplicated one and make the modifier visible in edit mode. Go into the original ones edit mode and add loopcuts in places where I want the mesh to become smoother. Then I smooth the original mesh when neccessary in some places and apply the shrinkwrap modifier.

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