Introduction to Rigging the Female Nude with Blender

Why the Nude is Different

50p right There are a lot of things you see on a nude that you don’t see on a clothed model. From the scapula to the shoulder, the hips to the toes, there are a lot of concerns that traditional character rigging tutorial series skip.

We will skip none of these.

When viewing a nude character, all of her joints, bends, and creases must be addressed. If we fail that, the nude will look low-quality and strange.

Improper treatment of these items lead to drinking-straw collapsed elbows, awful disjointed hips, and necks that look like they belong on a monster. Not only will we improve on these joints, but sometimes we will go above and beyond to add subtle deforms that give a subtle punch to the render that everyone will notice and appreciate, but unlikely even the pros will be able to explain the difference that puts your renders above-and-beyond.

In short, this series of tutorial videos will teach you the required techniques and skills to make your nude character attractive and human-looking.

We will concentrate mostly on Monette Taida, the surfer girl character pictured on this page. She is thin, but not overly so, with enough fatty portions to make her rig more typical than, eg, Lilithe Classica, whose rig sometimes must take into account how skinny she is.

Monette Taida also is a large-breasted character, which will make the breast rigging portion of the course more obviously beneficial.

Supporting Me

If you would like to support the free work I do, the extensive videos and documentation, and the community Discord server (click here to get in!) please head over to my Flipped Normals store and either buy a character, or a tutorial. Just spend whatever amount of money you feel equals the value I bring to the world. I also have a Gumroad page.

A Note on the Techniques We Use

33p left Automatic Weights - We will build our rig so that it will get reasonable results when parenting the mesh to it with automatic weights. Depending on your level of obsession over detail, you may never need to do any weight painting on the armature deform. I do not do any further weight painting on the armature-created vertex groups after I do an automatic-weight parenting. Although said technique is not really the point of this series, the technique will surely be exposed in great detail as we rig many different parts of the body.

If you are intrigued by “no weight painting the armature vertex groups,” then you will not be disappointed!

33p right No Shape Keys - Further, we will not solve any of these complicated problems with shape keys. We will use only armature deforms with bones using various constraints and drivers. Although this might be a bit more complex, it does offer a lot more flexibility when adding clothing or other items to the character after she has been rigged.

Displacement Maps - When she breathes in deeply, her ribs will begin to show clearly, and when you scale a certain bone on her rig, she will either become fat or skinny. These are achieved using displacement modifiers with painted vertex weights. We also will use displacement to get believable scapula deforms.

Put simply, nearly every effect we want to achieve in this series will be achieved using the armature bones with their constraints and drivers, and we will only augment these deforms subtly using other techniques.

Here is a brief overview of the topics we will cover in this rigging series:

Introduction and Overview

50p right A quick overview of the workspace and some of the techniques we’ll use in the course.

Synopsis: How I’ll do the course, the two-video-per-section structure. Workspace layouts: the core views that are very useful. Subdivision levels in the viewport, default pose on frame 0, other poses on other frames. Armature view options. If you’re using a workstation without a numeric keypad, such as a Mac, we’ll go over some useful keybindings.

The Workspace Setup Overview is Available Here.

Shoulders/Chest

50p right The most complex part of the series by far, this will include interactions with the back, neck, upper-arms, chest, and breasts.

Synopsis: we will take care of the trapezius as it goes into the neck, set up a deltoid bone at the top of the upper arm, place several stretch target bones as a child of this one for the trapezius, latissimus, and pectoral muscles, we will create a complex stretch/track rooted rig for the breast under the pectorals, and we will create latissimus and breast correctives for extreme poses.

The Shoulders/Chest Rigging Post is Available Here.

Hips/Pelvis

50p right This is the second-most-complex joint that we will rig after the shoulders.

Synopsis: This portion includes adductors, hip muscles and tendons, the gluteus, and making them all work together nicely so as to make rigging the genitals easier in that segment.

The hip rig includes an advanced rotational slider setup, that causes the hip to rotate from quite low when rotating backward, and from quite high when rotating forward, to emulate the tendons and muscles that pull the leg forward and up.

Additionally, the gluteus gets a full treatment. It has a very complex constraint/driver setup that makes it look good across several distinct extreme poses, like splits, cross-legged sitting, running, kicking, etc.

The Hips/Pelvis Rigging Post is Available Here.

Neck

50p right Another very neglected part of nude characters. It seems very common to just cover the neck up with a piece of jewelry or clothing, or, most sneakily, some nice, long hair. We will not do this.

Synopsis: A good treatment of the top of the trapezius and the sternocleidomastoids will give us most of the deforms of the neck. The throat treatment helps deforms there, and to cause the sternocleidomastoids to gain definition when her head is rotated forward.

For this portion of the series, we will turn off her hair/hat entirely, or at least give her a hairstyle that is worn up off the neck so that we can see all deforms in great detail.

The Neck Rigging Post is Available Here.

Elbows and Knees

50p right Elbows and knees are quite simple to add basic deforms, and getting very good deforms is not too difficult. Failing to rig these properly is a very novice mistake.

Synopsis: We will ensure when the elbows or knees are fully straight, that they look correct, and also that when they are fully bent, they look great as well. We will achieve this with a simple double-joint and, in the elbow, a simple set of bones for the biceps and forearm. In the knees, there will be a more complex set of corrective bones to deal with thigh and calf squish when the leg is fully bent at the knee.

The Elbows/Knees Post is Available Here.

Fingers/Hands

50p right Nearly every photograph of a woman has her doing something with her hands. This is a critical part of the rig.

Synopsis: We will rig each finger individually with IK constraints and create a master controller that will help with posing all fingers simultaneously.

We will be able to quickly move the hand from the default modelling position to a natural resting position, make a fist, spread the fingers out, curl them forward or back, and have some reasonably natural metacarpal movement to match the fingers.

The Fingers/Hands Post is Available Here.

Breasts

50p right This is (very surprisingly) one of the least-attended areas of the nude female body. It is surprising how many people will model large breasts on their characters, but then fail to add any significant rig capabilities into them. Breasts are very mobile, fleshy, and squishy things. We will treat them as such.

Synopsis: Our model will feature large breasts so that the benefits of rigging the breasts will be clear. We will include the effects of gravity, so when our model is sideways, on her back, or upside-down, her breasts will fall naturally. We will also do basic collision with her upper-arms, since it is a very common situation for women posing nude to push and manipulate their breasts incidentally with their upper arms.

There is a bone in the rig far below it, that remains far below the rig at all times, which allows us to know where “gravity goes.” We will use this to cause her breast mass and nipples to react correctly to gravity.

We will also allow the nipple to be pulled, stretched, and moved, which will cause the breast to expand/move properly along with it.

Finally, we will briefly touch upon Lilithe Classica, a small-breasted woman, and Princess Verachantesse, rigged for jiggliness.

The Breasts Post is Available Here.

Genitals

50p right We should not shy away from the parts of the female body that we don’t often see. We’re not making porn, but we are making nude women. Getting the genitals right is a requirement.

Synopsis: We will allow for insertion/removal of objects and basic movement of labia majora, minora, and vaginal opening. We will also rig the labia so that they travel with the legs in their very flexible journey under the body. As the legs go far forward, back, spread far apart, or cross over each other in a cross-legged pose, the external genitalia of a woman will travel surprisingly far. We need to ensure the genitals look natural in most typical female poses.

Back

50p right A back is surpisingly simple to setup beyond the basic rig, but should not be neglected!

Synopsis: The scapula and latissimus will be represented, and will present a very good basic back anatomy. To some extent, we will be working on the neck into the back, especially at the top with the trapezius, though we will cover that mostly in the Neck episode.

The back also includes our spine setup, with control bones that allow us to pose her chest and mid-section at various angles.

The scapula will be modeled as a bone/muscle object, just a deformed cube, really, which is a child of a bone in her back that emulates the scapula. Then we will use proximity weight modifier and displacement modifier to allow the scapula to move under the skin. This will provide some beautiful deforms in the upper back area.

Eyes, Eyebrows, and Eyelids

50p right Eyes are one of the first things we notice about an image of a beautiful woman. We will give these the treatment they deserve.

Synopsis: We will model some basic eyelashes and eyebrows. The eyebrows we’ll attach to her mesh using a surface deform modifier. The eyelashes will be children directly of bones in her eyelids. The bones in her eyelids will move along with the eyes as she looks round, as on real women, the eyelids are surprisingly mobile with the eye.

The eyelids will also be controllable independently of the eye, to allow for many other expressions. Eyelids and eyebrows provide a huge amount of expressiveness in the human face, and we will put a great deal of effort into allowing that expressiveness to come through.

Mouth and Tongue

50p right The mouth also provides a huge amount of expressive power to a character’s attitude.

Synopsis: The mouth will have 8 controllers, though only four will be used most of the time. That said, the other four will still come into play at least a third of the time, as most women, when expressing themselves, will use the full range of mouth muscles to give you a sense of where their mind’s at.

The tongue doesn’t show up very often, but when you need it, you really need it. You can get a surprisingly large amount of control out of a single simple controller as you move, scale, and rotate it. A few other simple stretch-to constrained bones and we will be done with the tongue.

Calves and Heels

50p right This is an area I rarely see treated, and isn’t really terribly difficult.

Synopsis: We need to be sure that when the foot is pointed, the calves bunch up, and when the toes are pulled back toward the shin, that the calves are elongated. As well, we will have treatment for the achilles tendon to be sure that the back side of the ankle looks natural when the foot is turned at different angles.

Toes/Feet

50p right Toes are a beautiful part of a woman. Make sure you think of them!

Synopsis: We will rig each toe individually with IK constraints and create a master controller that will help with posing all toes simultaneously.

We will be able to quickly roll the foot from the default modelling position to various natural positions such as standing on toes, curling the toes, or rolling onto the side of the foot, and will be able to quickly position the toes into a nearly-natural location for each of those foot positions. Simple toe tweaks after that will finish the job.

Torso/Midriff

50p right When women bend, their mid-sections do a lot of interesting things!

Synopsis: We will make sure that when our model bends at the waist and mid-section, that her stomache and other abdominal structures look fine and do not collapse in on themselves. She should look good doing situps! There are a set of stretch bones between her ribs and hips that perform the heavy lifting here.

As well there are some rib bones and hip bones that help define this area, but mostly those will be covered in the Shoulders/Chest and Hips tutorials.

Skill Level

50p right This is an intermediate to advanced course. You would do well to follow the Dikko rigging series, before you attempt this course.

You should already be able to create a basic rig for a character, with arms, legs, fingers, toes, feet, spine, FK, IK, and basic face controls. You should already be able to pose your character (albeit likely with unattractive deforms) in most every pose shown in the gallery below.

This course will level up everything mentioned here. We will do two-part (or three-part) twist bones in the upper arms and thighs, a full face rig with articulated eyelids and functional tongue, full IK in every finger and toe, an actual breast rig that takes care of gravity, and many more of such things.

The highlights of the course will likely be the shoulder and hip segments, as I am told these rigs are provide a look and feel that many people have sought after.

Be prepared to get very deep in some very complex rig setups!

Examples of the Poses For Our Women

Sometimes she will be upside-down. Sometimes she will be on her back. She will not be afraid to bend her legs and elbows. Sometimes her hands will be in fists. Sometimes fingers spread wide. She will stand in a wide variety of natural poses.

Browse this gallery of renders.

The centre of each render is the “pleasant camera angle” pose, and to the left and right are four views of the model from different angles, so that you can get the idea that there is no cheating going on in these poses: the rig performs correctly for every joint in most poses from most angles.

45p left 45p right 40p left 40p right 45p left 45p right 40p left 40p right 45p left 45p right 40p left 40p right 45p left 45p right

Getting Started

If you would like to participate, first, get one of the girls. Philo Vivero’s Gumroad Page has the full set, but so does the Newer, Prettier FlippedNormals Page.

Next, join the Discord to ask questions and get help!

You may also email Philo Vivero directly at gmail if you desire, though it’s preferred you first join the Discord to talk to the community.

Caveats and Limitations

The intent and purpose of this rigging series is to provide the artist the capability of (after rigging) quickly producing excellent still renders of nude females.

We do not cover techniques, tips, tricks for topics such as these:

  • Animation
  • Game engines
  • Proper industry-standard rigging

To put a little more specificity to the above, if you are trying to learn how to make a rig for exporting to Unity or some chat service, this course will not cover those concepts. It is left as an exercise to the student how to make that happen. Also, if you are trying to build an industry-standard rig to work with industry animators or riggers, again, this course will not cover those concepts. Philo Viveró does not have industry experience: the bone naming, layout, colouring, and shapes may not conform to industry standards.

We are only interested in results: if we can make still image renders of beautiful nude women, then we have achieved the goal of this course.

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