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I am trying to model this axe and I don't know how to do it properly. I've highlighted the part I'm trying to make here:

screenshot 1

I tried two different main approaches so far:

  • Start off from a plane and extrude its edges so I could cover the entire body, then extrude/solidify the surface to add some thickness to the mesh. What I don't like about this method is the mesh shape. That part of the weapon has clear, smooth curves and it is something I can't seem to achieve by just modeling a plane. This is a quick example of what I'm trying to do here:

    screenshot of started modeling.

  • Bézier curves. I can recreate a cool shape with this method, but once the curve is converted to a mesh and then extruded or solidified, I don't have vertex but a huge face on the front part. This leads to a very weird mesh, also some curves still have a way too high vertex density which makes bevel and subsurf impossible.

What would be the correct approach here?

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  • $\begingroup$ You should have a deep meditation focusing on the shapes you want to model, no jokes. There is the part about experimenting the tools and strictly carving your objects but this comes later. $\endgroup$ – Yvain Aug 3 '16 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ To me, the modeling approach is better here even if a bit long to do. You can use bezier or nurbs but this will be complicated to join the several parts. In modeling, you'll probably need to start from the center sphere as the amount of vertices on it will lead the other parts. Don't give too much detail at the beginning (the few vertices as possible, and for the sphere also) and use a subsurf modifier. You can also try to sculpt or to make a displacement map from the picture and eventually retopo it once the result is ok. $\endgroup$ – lemon Aug 3 '16 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ I gave it a try... and I confirm modeling and using a subsurface modifier (with two subdiv) can do the job with few vertices to model $\endgroup$ – lemon Aug 3 '16 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, In my opinion this can't be explained in few words. Just google for "Blender 3D modeling ornaments tutorial". $\endgroup$ – Shubol3D Aug 3 '16 at 10:27
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If you're looking for a good starting point, break down the model to its basic shapes and start with the one that would be the easiest to create with Blender's primitives. In this case it would be the half-sphere in the center.

Create a sphere (12 segments, 9 rings), delete the lower part, flatten the upper half a little and scale-extrude (E+S) the edge. Add a loopcut to the new ring and start positioning the vertices to match the rest of the axe model's decor shapes.

half-sphere flattened

Proceed around the half-spere by extruding vertices. Start with the ridge of the leaf-like shapes (yellow arrows), then extrude to the sides (blue arrows first, orange arrows next).

extruding deco elements

Always try to stay with quads, because you can add loopcuts to them and they produce cleaner topology when you use subsurf or multires modifiers on them for further sculpting.

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The shape is very organic. Sculpting will let you explore the shape the fastest. You can quickly establish creases and surface curvatures and change them without much effort to your liking.

Once you are happy with the form, retopologize it into your final mesh. You have 3 options:

  • low poly mesh with baked normal/displacement map
  • low poly with subsurface modifier with creasing
  • low poly with subsurface modifier with control loops

If you would be experienced sub-d modeler, I believe you could model the shapes on the fly. But sculpting is easy and fast and it will help you, because the surface will be well defined and you will know better where the edge-loops go and how the topology needs to be.

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This answer may be a bit opinion based, as some may prefer another approach to do it, but I think modeling is the easiest way.

enter image description here

The model uses a subsurface modifier (shown with 2 subdivisions above) but needs about 250 vertices (including 50 for the central sphere). So this is relatively quick to do.

The main idea to make it round, is simply to model it as some kind of tunnel as you can see below.

enter image description here

Again, that maybe opinion based proposal... and depend on how you feel easy in this approach.

Note that you can complete it with a 'decimate' modifier if you feel the amount of vertices is two high with the subsurf. For instance here, the result looks still good (going from about 7k tris with the subsurf to 2900 with the decimate... but ok, if this is for a game that may be still too high).

enter image description here

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