Making a poseable character with cloth simulated clothing

Hey folks, I’m learning Blender with the goal of using it to make character artwork to use in comics/graphic novels. I’ve been reading tons of tutorials and doing tests, but I have ended up with questions that nobody seems to be covering. I’m hoping to find some help here, or at least referrals to tutorials.

My overall goal is to have a poseable character model that I can clothe, and for that clothing to properly follow the character when it is repositioned. I am not doing animation, so it doesn’t need to work perfectly for that. I just need to be able to do a variety of poses, and have the clothing behave properly in the final position. I also want to use Blender’s cloth simulation to have the clothing properly drape across the model, and create accurate creases and folds.

So far, I have a base model and rig (although not properly weight painted for realistic articulation, and only Auto-IK so far.) I have made basic clothing, and gotten it to follow the model using the Armature modifier. I can tweak the weight painting to decrease clipping issues, and am exploring options like the mask modifier to help with little spots of the base mess showing through. I am not uploading a blend file of this, as there is little point. My questions here are general and conceptual, not specific.

So, questions:

  1. I am finding tons of tutorials explaining the basics of modeling clothing, and the basics of weight painting. However, nobody seems to actually go through the whole process of weight painting clothing that actually works on a moving body. I am running into issues with my weight painting working fine for one angle of motion, but then if I try another angle, the base body clips through. But then if I fix the painting to work for this new angle, the original angle breaks again. Can anyone recommend some more in-depth guides to weight painting clothing?

  2. Again, I am finding tons of tutorials on very basic cloth simulation (like dropping a mesh square onto a sphere, or making a flag or cape) but it seems like nobody is talking about any application beyond making a static object that you then never move. I want to be able to have a character in a cape, or robe, or baggy pants, then re-pose the character and re-simulate the clothing to get proper draping again. I’ve experimented with it some myself, but I usually end up with the simulation blowing up on me (literally. The cloth bounces up away from the mesh and hangs there defying gravity, instead of draping over the model.) Where can I find more information on simulating cloth for actual clothing on a rigged character? The only advanced stuff I’ve been able to find is very out of date, and still uses softbodies for clothing.

  3. A common piece of advice I see in tutorials and on these forums is that, when making clothes for a model, the model’s mesh should be deleted under the clothing to avoid clipping issues. However, if this is done, then you no longer have that geometry to act as a collision object for cloth simulation. Is there a better way to avoid the body clipping through the clothes than just deleting the body? Or a better way to make the simulation work?

  4. Some of the clothing items I want to make are things like jackets, cargo pants with pockets, etc. These items are baggy in some areas, and more stiff in others. From what I can tell, I can use weight painting and pinning on my cloth to get different parts to behave differently (for example, if I wanted some baggy pants to crease and fold, but not the cargo pockets on them.) Is this the proper way to go about handling different stiffness/density of fabrics in the same item, or should I somehow be splitting these items up into different objects?

Any help is appreciated.

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I’m assuming that you understand in order to get cloth to work you have to let it drop… (which involves a same amout of animation rendering)…

Also the parts of the body that are penitrating the cloth don’t have to be deleted only made invisible… that way you still have your collision surface … but say like on your character you will have to separate out skin areas with a separate material that can have 100% Alpha turned (as well as some other settings adjusted) …
Remember that you can separate out matterials on a single object by going into edit mode and selecting groups of faces and then 'Asign’ing them to a new material…

not a perfect fix… but might work for what your doing as a temporary fix for now…

Also note that once you’ve gotton a weight painted model of the base character that works with your rig, you can transfer those weights to the clothing with just a few clicks. For the poke-thru: the mask modifier is your friend.

Thanks folks. I’ve been playing around with the Mask modifier since the time of making this post, and it certainly makes things like better. However, I am running into the problem that, if after I position a limb, if ANY part of the base mess is clipping through (even if mask if making it invisible) then when I run the cloth simulation, the collision completely freaks out from bouncing off the clipping area, causing my cloth to jump up. For example, on a pair of pants with a clipping spot at the knee, the pants will vibrate themselves all the way up the leg and end up bunched in the crotch before falling off the model entirely. If I adjust the leg down very slightly so they have no clipping, then they behave just fine.

Is there a way to fix this? Or do I have to achieve 100% no clip to have my cloth work properly?

the other thing with doing this only for stills, is that when you are satisfied with the layout/pose of you scene, you can apply modifiers such as armature/cloth and sculpt out any weird bits like pokethrough etc as a final pass before rendering. This is also handy for fixing normal armature deformations in extreme poses.

Another thing, depending on how tight you want the clothing to be, it might be easier to pin most of the object and just simulate sleeves etc. Fully simulated clothing can be very difficult to avoid getting the cloth stuck on the mesh etc.

I am interested in the exact same questions.

He had a lot of questions. Which questiion?

  1. Folds are hard. Model by hand. Don’t expect magic from cloth deform. Is magic possible? Maybe. Will you reach good folds faster by hand or by waiting for magic? By doing it by hand. Just sculpt it already.

  2. If you want to use physics, use non-rendering meshes for it and transfer to rendering meshes. This should be how you handle all physics, not just cloth. Don’t try to use rendering meshes for physics. So stuff like “where did my collider go” just disappears. Your collider should not be a rendering mesh anyways.

  3. If you see tuts for soft body deform that you like, use soft body deform. There’s nothing wrong with it. Cloth is newer, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. (And it’s basically soft-body anyways.)

  4. In physics, topology is king, and your topology needs are different than in rendering. (That’s part of why you never render physics meshes directly.) Vertex density is part of topology, and it’s part of physics-- a dense physics mesh is not just like a sparse physics mesh only more detailed. They behave completely differently.

  5. If you want good weights on clothes, mix between data transfer from body for tight and autoweights for loose. Use a vertex weight proximity modifier, targeting the body, to distinguish between the two if you want.

  6. If you’re rendering in Blender with a full body, actually, don’t even weight clothes. Use a surface deform modifier instead. Fix the bad binds with a targeted, nuke-level corrective smooth.

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Wow I can’t believe it’s been 6 years since I asked this! Luckily, I’m still around, and I know the answers to all this stuff now. @bandages has covered a bunch of things, but I’ll add some more.

Here’s a thread from a couple months ago showing some parts of my current workflow, and clothsim stuff, so take a look at that first.

Here’s some rules of thumb for how I approach things now:

A) If you want decent looking clothing, first you need a decent looking body. Your clothing is going to end up copying weights from, being Surface Deformed to, or colliding with the body. So make sure the body’s deforms are correct, especially on joints like the knees and elbows. You cannot do proper volume preservation in these areas without using a Corrective of some sort, either bones or shapekeys. I recommend DanPro’s excellent rigging videos to see how to set these up, or check out the BlenRig addon which comes with corrective bones.

I recommend the Rigify addon as a good place to start, and then add your own corrective bones at whatever complexity level you need. My current setup uses the deform cage from BlenRig, but rigged with my own modified Rigify setup (my above thread shows autorigpro, but I’ve since switched to rigify.) If you use a deform cage, its much easier to work with the weights, transfer to new characters, etc.

Corrective smooth is a big help but can’t do everything on its own as it can’t create volume, only smooth it out. So it can fix the inside of an elbow or back of a knee, but not the point/kneecap.

B) Once your body is rigged decently, then you can approach clothing. The sort of rigging you need on clothing will depend on its properties:

  • If the clothing is skin tight, put it in the same deform cage as the body and use Mesh Deform. Or use the Surface Deform modifier to attach it either to the body or deform cage. Rigid details may need to be rigged to the armature to stop them from stretching. You can use a vertex group to mix between Mesh Deform and Armature as needed. But note that as of this writing, Surface Deform cannot be controlled with a vertex group. It has been suggested to the creator of it that the option be added, but I think they have a lot of higher priority tasks so who knows if or when that will happen. (EDIT: Surface Deform is getting vertex group option in 2.83!)

  • Baggy clothing (cargo pants, big sweatshirts, skirts) should be given cloth sim in the baggy areas, and then use deform cage or armature for tight areas like waist bands. You can control mixing this with a vertex group in the mesh deform/armature modifier, and with the Pin group in the cloth sim. Cloth sim is harder to use the closer the mesh needs to conform to the surface, so just don’t use it on those areas and you’ll avoid 90% of the collision problems.

  • For clothing that is in between, what you use will depend on the level of accuracy you need. As soon as you introduce cloth sim, your whole workflow changes because you now need to pose the body, and then run the sim to get the cloth into position. So avoid it as much as possible. A lot of clothing (jeans, dress shirts) will have too much volume to behave properly with just surface deform and won’t fit in the body’s deform cage, but doesn’t really have enough bagginess to necessarily need cloth sim (depending on level of detail/realism of course. At full realism everything should be all cloth sim.)

  • Surface Deformed or Mesh Deformed clothing will get strange results if the volume of the clothing is too different from the volume of the deform object. To help with this, you can make an instanced copy of the deformer (which is presumably armature rigged) then expand its volume with the Displace modifier.

  • Don’t be afraid to add new bones for specific parts of clothing. You may find that you use Mesh Deform for most of it, but then want to add bones to control shirt tails, sleeve cuffs, or other areas that will need to move differently from the body.

  • Be warned that Surface Deform can have errors when trying to bind to certain meshes, and sometimes creates artifacts (jagged areas), especially on high res meshes. Don’t rely on it too much. When it works that’s great, but always have a backup plan to use another rigging method because sometimes it just won’t work, and there’s very little you can do about it. Hopefully it’ll get improved in the future.

C) Cloth Sim itself was not in a good place back when I asked the original question 6 years ago. Getting it to work on a full outfit on a moving body was very difficult as it was slow, prone to errors, and generally clunky. I gave up and for years did all my cloth sim in Marvelous Designer which is great for cloth, but introduces a huge amount of problems with import/export and not being able to change your mesh. But now in 2.8, cloth has gotten a HUGE upgrade and is now wonderful to work with. It’s much faster, more reliable, and the parameters are less cryptic. Now is a great time to start using it.

You can sim a whole outfit, or you can sim just a small part, such as the area behind the knee on jeans where you want wrinkles. Meanwhile, the rest of the leg is rigged with other methods. (Or you can use TensionMap and displace on those areas) Some things to note though:

  • Cloth sim only works well on meshes without thickness. If you are following the usual workflow of a solidify+subsurf on your mesh, make sure your cloth modifier is above them. If your mesh must have the volume, then you need to make a simpler version of the mesh that doesn’t have volume to be the sim mesh, and then attach your detail mesh to it with Surface Deform. In the event that Surface Deform artifacts, then solidify+displace modifier the sim mesh into a deform cage around the detail mesh. The usual workflow would be to create your basic shape with optimized topology, then copy it and add details with whatever topology you need for them.

  • Cloth sim likes evenly spaced vertices. That usually means a quad mesh, but it can also mean evenly spaced triangles. Its the vertex density that matters, not if its actually tries or quads. See the excellent Garment Tool addon($$) for a way to make clothing in blender with clean topology, or be prepared to retopologize by hand if you are box modeling or sculpting.

  • For cloth to give realistic results, you need realistic amounts of it. A garment can be modeled to look correct visually, but then have insufficient cloth in certain areas to achieve other poses. This is why pattern based modeling, such as shown in Garment Tool or Marvelous Designer, is a good idea. If you both model or sculpt you can easily end up with clothing that isn’t dynamic.

  • You can add cloth sim after an armature/deform on a mesh so that you can still give your outfit a rough pose, and then sim it. This works fine if you are just going to pose a model and then drop the clothing with cloth sim. But if you are posing it into position (more realistic) then you need to use vertex groups so that the mesh is effected by either the rig or the sim, not both. If both are on, then you’ll be getting the movement from the rig added to your cloth sim each frame, which will often give strange results (more noticeable at higher levels of complexity.) Note that since regular rigging methods all work by moving vertices, they stretch faces, and so actually change the amount of cloth present. So running a sim after them can be unrealistic (but probably not enough to matter in most cases.)

  • While cloth sim is great now, the other physics options in Blender have not changed in 2.8. Soft bodies is very slow. Rigid bodies are okay as they got some upgrades a few years back.

  • You don’t necessarily need to use the same tools to model cloth as you do to sim it into shape. The Modeling Cloth addon provides its own cloth system separate from the regular blender one with an alternative workflow and its own set of pros/cons.

Anyhow, that’s probably enough info for now. If anyone wants more details/examples, just ask.

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Yes, thank YOU for this assertive-detailed experience share on clothing. Wow, it looks like you tried all the routes. And definitely 2.8 is bringing cloth to the tool set for CG artists. I need to do more proper testings.

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hello you are awesome. I found this helpful but I cant understand perfectly can you make a short video that helps me a lot.

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Thank you very much. I am interested to render illustrations.
I am having hard time with garment. I feel like there is not enough tutorials out there maybe lot of people migrated to marvelous designer for making clothes. There are some old one where you extrude mesh from body. I was confused when to use what.

After I read your pointing, can you link me on tutorials to better grasp what are you talking about deform cage, surface deform and mesh deform? This all sounds hard. I was thinking re topology is hard, oh I hope I will not need 6 years to understand you @Oscalon. It would be great if you could find time to show us how do you do this in step by step meaner.

So I can focus only on sewing? Do you use some times this old methods? Ok, I can imagine for socks and really tight things but rest is for sewing- ok this was mine first dilemma you solved.

I have buy garment tool. I can make clothes from it- but I don’t know how to use this made garment.
How do you connect sewed parts when it is finished?
Do you re mesh it before uv unwrap texturing, do you fill sewing line with faces? Some times I got small gaps where is sewing- does this matter at all?
You know in MD that button you play animation and character puts his hands down from T pose. It looks
for me now so hard to get there.
I am so confused I was thinking to use rigid body and mesh collider inside to animate clothes skirts I see lot of tutorials for this on youtube because people use it for VRchat. But in second tough I will render in Blender and this is maybe not best result for me.
Do I pose mine character before or after fitting clothes with surface deform?
Instanced copy of deformer, ok I note this also to check out on internet.
Any idea how to start?