Loxodonta africana

Been working on this African bush elephant. No fine details yet as I’m still at the base-mesh stage of this Sub-D surfaces model. It still needs a few refinements and tweaks at this point. The feet are a little weird at the lowest poly level but I intend to improve that with some sculpting at higher subdivision levels.

I’ll probably add a simple rig at some point to provide some basic posing functionality.

Here’s a wee GIF anim showing a transition from iso-lines to level 2 subdivisions. I’ve made an effort to keep an all quad (4 sided poly) structure this time.

Topology has a few poles and t-junctions but it’s good enough for what I need. Most issues are round the eyes and side of the face but those choices were made to hold the shape of the head.


Let’s take Nellie for a quick spin.
Looking at this GIF anim I can see there’s a few adjusts to make before detail sculpting.

It took a bunch of prep studies (pencil stuff) for me to get it to this stage but my scanner’s playing up (probably knackered) so I can’t show them at the mo. Hope to share them at some point 'cause that’s where most of the work was done.


This has been my main working drawing for modelling the elephant, for basic form and rough detailing. Reference is from the usual mix of sources, mostly photos from the web. If you think it looks a little on the small side that’s because it’s a female. I’ve used this Wikipedia chart as a size guide.

Don’t draw much these days and I forget how much I enjoy it when I do, MUST DO MORE! This one was made at 1:24 scale on a drawing pad I picked up from Wilko for £1 (I’m a proud cheapskate :grin:). Teased the contrast & shading a little in Krita.

Managed to acquire a replacement multi-function inkjet. A bit easier to get working in Linux that the last one so I’ll be scanning a few sketches and hopefully get back on track with the 3D model.


Settled on this drawing for front view finishing. Not drawn to scale this time because I’m more concerned with proportions.

Working from both photo & video observations. Watching the animal’s head change angle on video is useful, most stills taken close-up have perspective issues which I’ve tried to manually counteract in the drawing. Trunk is a bit short but that’s not an issue, the main purpose of the sketch is to guide the initial head shape. The final form will be figured out on the 3D side.

Putting it all together, a few adjusts were needed. The views don’t line up perfectly but fit well enough to bring into Blender for final shaping.


Been busy with non art stuff so I haven’t touched this for a while. Used the 3 view drawing to reshape the mesh. At the same time I’ve completely rebuilt the head with what I think is improved topology. The trunk & tail have been straightened to prepare for rigging. I’ve also moved the toenails into separate meshes to get better form on the feet.

Model is probably not suitable for serious animation (at least at sub-D level 0) but it’s OK as a posing mannequin which is what I’m after.

At the moment I’m finishing a UV map which I’ll post on Deviantart when done.

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Basic 1 tile UV map for the elephant.
Key- (if it ain’t obvious :grin:)
Red = eyes
Orange = inner mouth
Yellow = tusks
Green = ears
Magenta = toenails
Pale blue = everything else

Model does not have an ear entrance. But, it looks good, so far.

Model does not have an ear entrance.

Yep that’s deliberate. The ear entrance on an elephant appears as a thin groove so I’m putting it in later as a sculpting detail rather than modelling it with polygons at this stage.

But, it looks good, so far.


Set up a basic armature for the elephant with left side legs & ear. No controllers or weighting yet.

I had a nice trunk articulation working using Blender’s spline-IK but I’ve decided to replace it with 6 bendy bones, each split into 3 segments. The spline-IK was much smoother with 17 bones & 5 controllers but I preferred a simpler control method. The tail uses bendy bones too.

Blender’s spline-IK is great though & I definitely want to use it for sauropod necks & tails.


Love your process, the sketches look great! Model and rigging looks like it is progressing well.

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Wow! Just stumbled on this WIP. This is an education. How in the world did you get the UV Map arranged so nicely?

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Love your process, the sketches look great! Model and rigging looks like it is progressing well.

Cheers, I’m not exactly a speedy worker though :grin:

Wow! Just stumbled on this WIP. This is an education.

If you like WIPs check out my 3D printed T. rex skull thread on this very site. I cover the whole process including research, pre-production work and modelling process.

How in the world did you get the UV Map arranged so nicely?

I try to lay out polys so that the model can be sectioned cleanly. Also Blender has great UV tools (IMO), I make extensive use of pinned vertices and Live Unwrap for organic type objects. Here’s a screenshot showing cutting seams (in red).


Following a few days break from this I’ve made a little progress with the rig. Pics show vertex weighting on the forearm & calf. All done by selecting verts and assigning weights by value. So far, no weight painting necessary on such a low poly mesh.

Should really have a control for rolling the foot at the toe end, maybe later.

Adjusting & testing the weighting on the trunk, used a bit of blur brush this time to smooth the transitions. Maybe should have used more joints but this will do for simple posing.

This is the first time I’ve put Blender’s bendy bones to any substantial use, I’ve used them on the spine and tail as well. Sometimes they seem to pull apart a little as they articulate but it’s nothing major.

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I at one time made an elephant too. From the critics I learned that my elaphant lacked anatomy. I found out your model also lacks anatomy. I don’t see any of the muscle or bones. It’s not enough to just look at a picture and model, you must also know anatomy, to make the form better.

It’s the hardest part of artwork. It’s also the area that millions of artist quit at.

Spent an hour making some control shapes for posing.

Little test of the foot control.

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Thank you for sharing this; a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

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