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3D Printing -is that the end for sculpting?

Discussion in 'Sculpting' started by Tecumsea, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. Barke02 Active Member

    As many have already pointed out digital sculpting is not the end of traditional sculpting, far far from it. It is not a magic wand that you can wave and get amazing results. You have to be seriously talented to be able to produce a good digital figure. Have a go yourself.....Scultris is free and you can download it right now. After a couple of hours you will realise just how talented the guy who produces realistic sculpts really is.

    There are a lot of really naff digi sculpts out there. Google 'ZBrush', click on images, and just look at how many 'Orcs' and 'Trolls' there are, and how symmetrical they are. Notice how few are really good realistic sculpts? The human brain is amazingly clever at spotting flaws in human anatomy, but as there is no such thing as an Orc how can they ever be wrong?

    As many have also pointed out 3D printing is just another tool in the arsenal. I crated some CAD helmets and had them 3D printed ready to be moulded and cast in resin, and now would never dream of trying to use putty ever again for a man made precise object like a helmet. I have a simple rule now: For flesh and cloth use putty. For anything machine made, helmets, weapons, etc. use a machine to replicate it...i.e. a computer and a 3D printer. Some of the CAD designed weapons by such companies as LiveResin are phenomenal!

    It will probably be the younger modellers who will truly push the digi sculpting, as they are a generation who were 'born digital'. My 5 year old daughter can wield a mouse as easily as any pencil or brush. She will grow up with 3D sculpting programs installed on her PC, and probably be taught them in school by the time she's a teenager. She will think nothing of designing her own jewellery and printing it out (Shapeways do a lot of this now).

    It really is an exciting time to be in this hobby, the choice is better that it has ever been. The tools at our disposal are incredible and improving all the time. Some of the projects I dreamed of years ago have now the possibility to become reality, I just wish I had the time to learn more of the software!

    Have fun with it dudes!
    Ray, pokrad, housecarl and 2 others like this.
  2. zodiac Active Member

    Colin I don't think this is really possible or viable.
  3. Ray Active Member

    Anecdotally, most of the digital figure renderings I’ve seen to date-maybe not so many as to form a valid opinion-appear kind of lifeless and plastic, not at all like a real person. I mean who thought the special effects in the latest chapters of Star Wars was as good or better than the original hand made models?-Not me I thought they sucked. However, if we have a close look at some of the people and stuff rendered for video games I’d have to say that a lot of it is as good as anyone is likely to ever be capable of sculpting. Consider also that the methods used to make these video game hero’s is much the same as used to create for 3d printing. So yes one day it will be possible to produce from digital images photo realistic figures.
    For me the questions are, can you do it as quickly and cheaply on the computer as I can on the bench with putty. I confess to not knowing all that much about 3d imaging so my perception may be a bit off however, from observation I have arrived at the conclusion that I can do a brand new figure much faster by hand than the same thing can be created digitally. Excellent, excellent that is if you are only after one of a specific figure in one specific scale. Not so good if you want to make multiples in various scales, or want the capability of altering the same figures pose, facial expression, drapery or any number of other things. You want this in a digital format simply alter what you’ve already created using it as a basic form then you’ve got something new. In putty you need to start over for all but the most basic alterations or the pose will not usually come off natural looking, weight distribution balance and all the rest needs building up from scratch.
    Personally, and I have an admitted bias, I prefer my special effects hand made with all the personality and character given it by the hand of the artist. On the other hand I just spent the last couple of months making 1/48 scale chainsaw patterns and I wish someone had volunteered to make the things digitally and print them instead, I’m no longer a fan of chainsaws at least not miniature ones. So from my biased point of view I would really welcome 3d prints of all inorganic details, especially things machine made and things from metal, heck I think I would even welcome boot and shoe laces, maybe even the whole boot as a 3d print. But, leave the flesh bone and drapery to the hand of an artist perfection is found in the inclusions (diamond reference that) left there by the hand of nature or an artist.
    Bottom line, sure in some instances we sculptors will be replaced by a geek at a computer console but the remainder of instances-and there are likely to be many-will be left forever to the other kind of geek that pushes putty for fun, love or the love of cash.
    Humbly Submitted,
    Jamie Stokes and Gra30 like this.
  4. JasonB A Fixture

    You might want to check this out. They even scan a model! Ok, a toy of a Naboo fighter, but close enough.

  5. zodiac Active Member

    Hah, yeah but all the work then cleaning it up in software then adapting it for reduction or enlargement, not as simple as that. The cost would be difficult to recoup bootlegging existing figures out at different sizes.
  6. T50 A Fixture

    If new technology like 3D rendering/printing can replace manual sculpting, it will also
    replace manual painting. But I thought we are here because we appreciate things done
    manually and the painstaking process?
    I don't think I need to worry about it. I'm sure I can render a descent figure on ZBrush
    once I learn it.
    Jamie Stokes, callum, LVM and 2 others like this.
  7. zodiac Active Member

    It won't ever replace traditional! it will be a choice. I don't see how a digital sculptor is a geek as Ray puts it though, they've been through the very same learning curve as trad sculptors plus they have had to learn very complicated software programs as well. Always thought a geek was someone who repaired your PC for the price of a pint and never washed. Producing painted printouts is very viable too, I've seen some excellent ones produced where the 'painting' was done in Mudbox and/or Photoshop.
    Meehan34 likes this.
  8. Gunthwaite New Member

    An interesting topic - I enjoy scupting figures in the conventional sense but I am really excited about the possibilities of 3D printing. It means that I can create a figure and reproduce it at whatever scale I want (subject to the limitations of printing).

    In any event, I don't think it's a case of either conventional scupting or digital sculpting. I'm in the process of creating my first computer designed figures. The expense of 3D printing (to an adequate standard) will mean that my prints will become masters to reproduce (in my case these will be in white metal). From what I've achieved so far, I'm pretty confident that the digitally created figures will be significantly better in quality than the figures produced by more conventional means.

    However, I have a few more "old skool" figures in the pipeline before any computer generated figures will be released.

  9. pokrad A Fixture

    That is exactly my point - there is still need for talent and hard work to do a decent figure (I know that cause I tried many times and failed miserably)- yes, computer helps a lot with the symmetry - but in the end you have to break that symmetry and do things by hand to make it look right ;)

    Skills are still required, just slightly different set of skills than in traditional sculpting ! We can compare it with the differences of putty and clay sculpting - many skills required are the same - but some of them are completely different.

    The only thing I want to point out in Your post is : if You are good with pencil - do not use a mouse - use a pad ! In the beginning it requires a bit of training, but I find it more "natural".
    Ray likes this.
  10. pokrad A Fixture

  11. renarts Active Member

    After seeing the Lesnar figure in Atlanta and then going home and really delving into what is possible with 3D, I'd have to say that the day of the hand sculptor is numbered outside of one offs for personal enjoyment. Sure you'll still have the desire for handcrafted, much like with other objects d'art. But for commercial applications, the cost effectiveness and ability to quickly produce a master or make changes on a theme, the 3D system is the way to go. With unparalleled detail and scheduling. With everyone bemoaning the price of figures these days, the most visible and sensible means of cutting costs is to reduce the amount of work and or labor that goes into the master. Yes, I agree it sucks for the figure sculptor. And for now, in many cases the ability to match the best we've seen to date is about equal with the best figure sculptors. But its only a matter of time before the number of 3D jockeys out number the sculptors and we see a transition of talent and resources. With the advent of data libraries where "faces" can be purchased as well as the newer cottage industry of "stock" images, accessories, etc. available for purchase, it stands to reason that this is the next logical step in figure production. Think too of how many times have we seen on this and other forums the statement "that's a really nice figure but I don't work in 54mm, 75mm, 120mm, 200mm... now you can have it in any size or a variety of sizes, allowing figure companies more offerings on the same figure without paying for a sculptor to spend alot of time on it. They just increase the scale ratio and print the new mater. Much like no one wants to have to update software, PC's, game consoles, phone technology, cameras, etc. so to is it natural in this arena. There will always be the more luddite in nature (like me) that will resist this branch of tech. But the winds of change are blowing. And we are fooling ourselves if we continue to resist. What would really turn the figure production arena on end would be for a company to introduce a mass production system of 3D printing that would allow large runs of figures, essentially killing casting houses. Or, as the rest of the world is watching this manufacturing process, to go to a web site, pick your object (figure, car part, appliance part, etc) insert credit card, and download to your personal 3D printer.
    Gene Roddenberry is laughing hysterically right now as his progeny springs to life.
    armorer likes this.
  12. armorer Member

    May be sculptors afraid use this technology will reduce the cost of their work?
  13. zodiac Active Member

    Well said renarts but I think you are going a little far in announcing the imminent the death of the traditional sculptor, people will always sculpt by hand, maybe more so in the future for artistic reasons which is a good thing, I agree on your points about producing masters in our hobby, this will change but not quite in the way you foresee. Imagine I'm a manufacturer and want to commission two figures, for one I hire say Mike Good and the other an up and coming 'name' but with only a couple of pieces under their belt, good but a lot to learn etc and not of Mikes standard, I would expect to pay Mike a hefty wedge and the other person a not so hefty wedge. Same with 3D artists, there will be good, bad and ugly, those who take to it and those who don't but you will still have to pay the artist the going rate and that won't come down just because the master is created on a screen believe me, you have to pay for talent and what made that particular talent the level it's at - years of hard work, experience and practice. It may involve more complicated contracts too. To produce figures digitally that are a cut above the sculptor has to have basic anatomical and artistic knowledge, engineering knowledge and the 'x' factor shall we call it?, to do exactly the same as they do with clay. Figures will still be cast the traditional way for years to come I think too, 3D printers that are within the $2000 range aren't good enough for prototype figure production yet and the materials are too much like vinyl to tool successfully, stepping is a massive problem too. There are better printers but they are extremely expensive and then you still have to tool the print to get it mold ready. I wouldn't say it's viable for a small figure manufacturer yet as it would take a century to get into profit!
    renarts, Merryweather and Diegoff like this.
  14. Diegoff A Fixture

    I think it's like when photopraphy appeared.
    Many people said that painters dissapear.
    I think that 3D is just another tool, as I said in another thread seeing this:
  15. Ray Active Member

    The thing I wonder is how many digital sculptors are there that can go from concept to mold in under a week of free time-say 15-20 hours. This time frame is contingent largely on the complexity of the figure’s pose, scale and equipage, the pose I suspect has more consequence for the putty sculptor than the digital one but any increase in the poses complexity is bound to cost more time getting it right. To keep the comparison relative both hand and digital sculptors would start from scratch with only a basic armature, or whatever the digital equivalent is working in one scale say 1/32. My bet is not very many, perhaps none at all, I really don’t know. However I do know that it’s more than just possible to achieve this with putty on a regular basis. Of course this is assuming that weapons and other major accessories that are used for multiple sculpts are not part of the actual sculpt. These things in my experience can take as long to create as a complete figure but are usually not required to be made new for each new project.
    From what I’ve seen so far, and this is anecdotal so not data, it seems to take longer to push pixels around that putty to achieve the same results. Also, I strongly suspect that with the current state of the printing technology (might be of little long term consequence this) that cleaning up a print for mold making likely takes nearly as much time as it takes the putty pusher to make a figure entire. I say this because of my own experience cleaning up poor castings for painting, and these can be improved more easily with the addition of some minor putty sculpting which we must assume the digital sculptor would be reluctant to resort to. Before the cleanup process can even begin the sculpt has to be printed, while the putty sculpt is already being put into a mold. And, this is further assuming the digital sculptor kept up and finished his digital figure in the same or less time than it took the putty sculptor to create his.
    As I mentioned in my earlier post I see the most benefit from digital sculpts being in scaling and re-use of each creation. I also assume the just like the putty sculptor digital sculptors will in time create a selection of pieces and parts that can be used repeatedly on different sculpts, not just weapons and equipment but also hands, shoes and other people parts. However, as the putty sculptor already does this the benefits are probably equal to both technologies. At the same time I realize from my experience of hand and CAD drawing that it is a whole lot faster and easier to alter previously created items digitally than with pen and pencil, with pen and pencil the draftsman almost always has to start from scratch while the digital draftsman simply alters where necessary the item already drawn. Of course with sculpting things are a little different because it is possible to easily remove and add bits to stock castings without starting over again, which isn’t usually the case with printed drawings. Still the analogy is a good one, especially when we consider how much easier it is to alter the scale of a digital drawing over a hand drawn one, a couple clicks of the mouse and you’re ready to print, no scanning no math to figure out the reduction and no fuzzy fat lines if the scale is increased, digitally things remain in proportion.
    None of this is to take away from the merits of either technology rather to point out that the benefits are not all to one or the other. In my estimation putty pushers will probably remain safely in demand for a long time to come, perhaps forever as the merits of hand work will likely always remain and not decrease no matter any improvements to the digital method.

  16. zodiac Active Member

    Nah..not really, both methods will become the norm in time. It takes as long to do a digital sculpt as it does a trad one pretty much because it's the same process, mental and physical (yes I know it's on a screen but that doesn't matter). The advantage of digital is not primarily speed. I'm not into using stock hands etc prefer to sculpt fresh each time because anatomy changes with pose so wouldn't use it that way, amateurish! kind of defeats the object of sculpting too but then again I'm very traditional.
  17. Ray Active Member

    Perhaps, Nah. But that really wasn't the thrust of my post, rather it was more speculation on the relative speed and efficiency of each method than what will in time become most common. I still suspect that digital, all things being otherwise equal, takes longer to produce than hand sculpts, perhaps not but then as no one who knows has weighed in with an opinion yet I'm content with my assumption. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
    In the mean time I have to dispute your position that use of stock parts is amateurish, on the contrary it is a sensible efficient way to proceed when the stock part suits the subject. That isn't to say that stock parts always go unaltered, or that new bits are never made when a stock part doesn't suit or can't be altered to suit. Just like traditional armature bits (hips and upper torso) stock hands and feet are a great basis for starting a new sculpt, speeding things up and taking away some of the drudgery of making everything from scratch every time. Of course if the customer, I do this part time professionally, wants something different and is willing to pay the extra expense then the customer gets what he asks for. For myself, I have learned my market and know what the expectations are, gotten to know my customers over the years, and have learned how to create a product that fulfills both expectations and improves on these enough to keep the process interesting for me without my working for peanuts in the process. My methods may not result in many masterpieces but they do keep the customers happy and enable me to keep backorders to a little less than a couple of years, most of the time. Exceptions being those tedious things I really don't want to make at all, 1/48 scale chainsaws for example, then the problem is more one of getting started than anything else.
    Personally I wouldn't want any aspiring sculptor to walk away from this discussion thinking that there is only one correct way of getting the job done, rather than the reality that the correct method is the one that works best for you no matter what anyone else says or thinks. The methods used are not in themselves of any real value, the only thing of value is the end product the quality of which is most dependent of the skills and tenacity of the creator than anything else. So, if you choose to make everything digitally, or by hand, and always from scratch or if you choose to take advantage of stock parts you've already created if the result is good, satisfying you, and if for sale your customer then you did it the right way whatever method you used.

  18. zodiac Active Member

    Stock parts for weapons etc is fine I just don't do that with my figurative work for several reasons, then again I don't have to churn a lot of stuff out so I do see your point
  19. renarts Active Member

    As I said, you'll still have the traditionalists on both sides of the table (consumer and producer) much like you'll see hand crafted furniture and the crap one can buy from Wal Mart. I think the field of photography is a good example of how fast an industry and hobby can change and evolve. The advent of digital photography had a large up hill climb (I remember using some early digital cameras that were bulky and you had to work through a hive of bugs to get usable material and some serious computer power) but it hit a tipping point and it seems that what was thought impossible quickly evolved over night. Cameras on smart phones are almost as (if not better than) some up end digital SLR cameras. What once was the realm of high end print houses, is now possible on a $70 printer from Target or Wal Mart. Giants in the field like Kodak, have been toppled. With a click of a button and a slide of the mouse and a few more clicks, you can now get your photo on t-shirts, mugs, posters, bill boards, etc.
    3D rapid prototyping is changing manufacturing and engineering processes as fast as projects can be visualized. While I agree Zodiac that there are still limitations and we may have a while to go to replace the sculptor and the traditional casting houses, I see it only as a matter of time before we reach another tipping point. CGI in the movie industry has yet to bridge the uncanny valley but it inches its way closer and closer with every production. I think the figure industry is just moving at a different pace.
    zodiac likes this.
  20. Funky50 Guest

    Really good thread this...it's give n me for one a much better understanding of this subject....

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