What’s up everybody! Today we are going to try and produce some organic looking scales using a combination of Fusion 360 and Blender. Let’s go!
I’ve been on a quest to produce natural looking scales for my molds for quite some time now and it’s led me all over the place. I want to give you a quick update in the hopes that someone smarter than me will be able to take this process and refine it a bit better while I sit around and struggle with blender. But first let me overview the process I’m at right now and show you the results I’m getting.
So you produce the mold in Fusion 360 and then what you want to do is export each half of the mold as an OBJ file and high refinement. This is key as I’ve found, you don’t want anything less than high when you’re going back and forth because the blender is high. Once you have your OBJ file exported, you need to open up Blender. Now, I don’t know Blender much at all, I am like a bind squire looking for a nut in there, it’s crazy how complicated this software is. I wanted to share this with you because if you know Blender better than I do, you’ll be able to get far better results.
Here’s the basic idea, you load your OBJ into Blender then you go into sculpt mode and the first thing you want to do is remesh. You’ll see you mold looking like of like garbage right now so if you just click over in the little tool icon, go down to remesh and just click remesh it’ll look like nothing is happening for awhile and then all of a sudden your mold will look normal again. That is key because I was trying to do it before figuring out remesh and it just looked really bad and was not useful at all.
The next thing you want to do is use a texture, specifically a scale texture. Textures, in this case, are black and white images so you can just go into Google and search for scale texture, scale displacement, scale height map, etc. and find black and white scale patters. That’s what I’m using in this demonstration and I’ve linked it here. I’m using this one because it is a little more organic, not just rows and rows of the same scales because I think it’s the most like a normal fish since they don’t have perfect scales most of the time. Once you have your image, go to the texture button which is the little checkerboard over on the right-hand side. Click new, open and then find your image and you’re good. Again, I can’t give you a complete tutorial on using textures in Blender, there’s several videos out there and I have a playlist linked to them here. These are the videos I’ve found to be helpful in this process so you can watch the same ones I did or you can look up your own Blender texture tutorial videos. Just be careful when you’re looking for videos, Blender is rapidly under development, the current version is 2.9 and they’re about to come out with 3.0 so if see any Blender tutorials just make sure it’s the latest version. All the version are pretty similar, but if you go older than 2.8 it gets different and very confusing.
So now you have your texture in here and you need to do something with it. So if you go back and clock on these little tool icons here you see you can go down to texture and you’ll want to choose stencil. Now when you choose stencil, if you take your mouse and go back into the main viewport, you’ll see your stencil appear over here on the bottom left corner. If you hold the right mouse button and clock and hold the right mouse button you can drag the stencil over and put it over the area you want to be in. If you need to rotate it as we do here, I hold down the control key, right click and then move the mouse around. You can rotate it into the position you want it, you can scale it up or down if you hold down the shift key and right click the mouse. Once you have your stencil in the place you want it to be, select the draw brush and what you want to do now is change the strength of the brush which you can do if you click in the upper left at the very top. There you’ll see this strength icon and just click on that to change it. I like to use a .2 and this allows for you to kind of roll your brush over the texture. How much it’s going to imprint this texture into the model is higher than this number, the higher the number the steeper the gradient and the more strength it has. Obviously, you don’t want to deform your mold greatly with your scales, you want a nice light touch for the most part. I like to start at .2 and as I brush it over more it’ll get higher and higher which is the tricky and artistic part of this process. Once you click .2 you can change your brush diameter in the same place, by strength. You can just click on it and type in a number but I also found you can click the F key and then move your scroll wheel up and down to change the size as well, then click the left mouse button to set it. I found that to be helpful but again, there are several tutorials over Blender.
Now you’re ready to start putting your pattern into place. You just click the left mouse button and drag and paint over the area that you want to have your scale pattern with. Again, this is the part that gets tricky as you want to keep it away from the plat parts of your mold if you can and obviously jeep it away from any other parts of the mold that you don’t want scales on. I believe if you want to make this process easier, you would use masking which I haven’t gotten into yet but I’m sure you can find some masking Blender tutorials that would be useful for this. Masking is basically just covering up an area of your model to where it doesn’t get the stencil when you put your mouse over it. Again, it would be super useful and I’m sure you can find a tutorial on it. Once you’re satisfied with your scale result, the last thing you want to do is you wanted to remesh again. Now I’m not 100% sure this is required but I didn’t remesh once and I got a model back out without my scales so I think it’s very important to do. You’ll click on the little toolbox up here, go down to remesh and just click remesh. You don’t have to change any of the settings.
Once that is done, you’re ready to export it. You’ll just click on the file, export STL, save it to where you normally save it and then you’re good to go. Now you want to obviously do this with the other side of the mold as well so you just have to repeat the process. You can actually bring them both in at the same time if you want to and just hit the little eyeball here to turn one off and on. Doing this is how you get some better symmetry, but it’s up to you. Personally, I like that one side has a different pattern than the other but that’s just me. I like what I have so now all I have to do is print. To do that, all you have to do is load it into whatever slicer you want, in my case I’m using CHITUBOX and load it in and you can see the pretty scale patter is in the model so it’ll come out in the print which is exactly what you want. Hit print and look at the results, they’re pretty killer.
I hope you found that useful, guys! Again, I’ve linked all of the tutorials I’ve watched on Blender and if you want to see how I make the initial molds in Fusion 360 I have a full playlist here.
Take care and Tight Lines