The world of VTubers is an exciting blend of technology, creativity, and online culture. Central to a VTuber’s identity is their virtual avatar, which represents them in the digital space.
This blog post will dive into the intricate process of VTuber modeling, detailing the stages, tools, and skills required to bring a virtual character to life.
1. The Conceptualization Stage: Before diving into VTuber modeling, we need to define all aspects and design of our project. This involves:
- Moodboard: In the moodboard we have to gather images that convey the vibe and aesthetics we want in our VTuber Model, we can define colors, appearance, clothes and aesthetics.
- We recommend choosing the best images that represent your project and combining them into a PDF file or single image.
- Sketch: Before anything else, sketch out your VTuber’s design on paper or digitally. Think about their appearance, clothing, and any other unique features, based on the moodboard we created before.
- Character Background: It’s also helpful to think about the character’s backstory, traits, and persona, as these can influence design decisions.
2. Choosing the Right Tools: After creating the concept of our VTuber, it’s time to put it into practice, the digital modeling world is rich with software. Some of the prominent ones used for VTuber creation include:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Clip Studio Paint
- VRoid Studio
The choice of this software will depend on the style of the model, for VTuber 2D models we recommend Clip Studio Paint or Adobe Photoshop.
Clip Studio Paint: Clip Studio Paint (formerly known as Manga Studio) is a digital art software designed for drawing and painting.
Popular among comic book artists and illustrators, it provides a wide range of tools tailored for creating manga, comics, and digital art.
It boasts a natural brush feel, vector capabilities, and advanced features for creating comic panels, inking, coloring, and text effects.
Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is a widely used graphic editing software, and it’s considered the industry standard for digital art, photography, and graphic design.
It offers advanced photo manipulation capabilities, raster graphics editing, text tools, and an extensive set of brushes and effects.
Photoshop is known for its versatility, allowing users to create and enhance images, design web graphics, and even produce short animations.
For 3D VTuber Models, we recommend VRoid Studio or Blender.
VRoid Studio: VRoid Studio is a free software that allows users to create 3D characters with an anime-inspired aesthetic.
Aimed at both amateur and professional creators, it offers intuitive tools for designing unique 3D character models.
These characters can then be used in various VR/AR platforms, games, and other animations.
Blender: Blender is a powerful, open-source 3D computer graphics software used for creating animated films, visual effects, 3D printed models, interactive applications, and video games.
It provides a comprehensive suite of tools for modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and even video editing.
Due to its versatility and zero cost, Blender has garnered a large and active community of users.
2D VTuber Modeling Process
For this example, we will use Adobe Photoshop but it can be done the same way in Clip Studio Paint:
1. Use the moodboard and previously made sketches to design your final VTuber model.
2. Remember to draw part by part of the body and pay attention to the details because after the model is rigid, everything will appear in the final animation.
3. It is also necessary to separate all the parts into layers as in the photo below, so that we can create the skeleton when rigging the model.
Remember to do your best and add all the details at this stage as it is already the result of the final VTuber model.
2D VTuber Rigging
2D VTuber rigging is distinct from 3D rigging. While 3D rigging often involves skeletons and mesh deformation, 2D rigging is more about transforming and deforming flat images to give the illusion of movement and depth. One of the most popular software choices for 2D VTuber rigging is Live2D Cubism.
Here’s a basic guide on 2D VTuber rigging using Live2D:
1. Prepare Your Artwork:
- Layers: Before importing your artwork into Live2D, ensure it’s properly segmented into layers. For example, separate layers for the head, eyes, mouth, eyebrows, hair, etc.
- File Format: Software like Live2D often prefers PSD (Photoshop) files, preserving the layering structure.
2. Import into Live2D:
- Open Live2D Cubism and create a new project.
- Import your PSD file.
3. Create a Mesh:
- After importing, you’ll wrap a mesh around each of your layers. This mesh will be used to deform and animate the artwork.
- Make sure the mesh is detailed in areas with more movement (like the mouth or eyes).
- Add Articulation Points: These points determine where your image will bend or move. For instance, to make the eyes blink, you’d place articulation points around the eyelids.
- Movement Anchors: Decide the pivot points. For example, if you’re rotating the head, where should it rotate from?
5. Parameters and Motion:
- Live2D uses parameters to control movement. For instance, the parameter “EyeBlink” would control the eyes opening and closing.
- For each parameter, set the range of movement. Using the “EyeBlink” example, one end of the parameter would be fully open, the other fully closed.
- Use the Deform Tool to shape the extreme positions of each parameter. This determines how the model looks at the furthest extents of its movement.
- For added realism, apply physics to parts of your model. This could be used to make hair sway as the head moves or to give bounce to certain accessories.
- Live2D has a dedicated physics engine where you can define inputs (like head movement) and outputs (like hair sway).
7. Test and Refine:
- Use Live2D’s built-in tools to preview how your model moves.
- Adjust the rigging and parameters as needed until you’re satisfied with how everything looks and feels.
8. Integrate with Face Tracking Software:
- Once your model is rigged, you can integrate it with software that tracks your facial movements to animate the model in real time.
- Software such as FaceRig, PRPR Live, or VSeeFace can be used to capture your movements and map them to your 2D VTuber model.
9. Stream or Record:
- With your model set up in your tracking software, you’re ready to go live or record content. Combine this with broadcasting software like OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) to incorporate overlays, switch scenes, and more.
Remember, while the initial rigging process can be intricate and time-consuming, the results can be exceptionally rewarding. Moreover, the more you practice and refine your skills, the more lifelike and expressive your 2D VTuber avatar can become.
3D VTuber Modeling Process
If your VTuber model is in 3D, the process for modeling and rigging is completely different, once the design and concept are set, the actual 3D modeling begins.
- Start with Base Model: VRoid offers default models. Choose one closest to your concept.
- Customize Features: Adjust facial features, body proportions, and other elements.
- Design Hair: Use the hair editor to craft unique hairstyles.
- Apply Textures: Paint directly on your model for skin, clothing, and accessories.
- Export Model: Save in a compatible format (like VRM) for use in motion capture software.
For detailed modeling or unique designs, tools like Blender, Maya, or ZBrush may be required. These tools offer more flexibility but also come with steeper learning curves.
3D VTuber Rigging
Rigging is a crucial step in the VTuber creation process. It involves adding a skeleton or structure to a 3D or 2D model, allowing it to move and animate in a way that mimics natural movement. For VTubers, this ensures their digital persona can replicate their real-life movements, from subtle facial expressions to full-body gestures.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the VTuber rigging process:
1. Understand the Basics:
- Bones: These are the individual parts of the rig that represent different parts of the body, such as limbs, spine, and facial bones.
- Skinning/Binding: This is the process of attaching the 3D mesh (your model’s exterior) to the bones.
- Weight Painting: This determines how much influence a bone has over a certain part of the mesh. It ensures smooth and natural movement.
2. Setting up a Skeleton:
- Start with the Torso: Begin by placing bones in the spine and chest. The spine often consists of multiple bones to allow flexibility.
- Add Limbs: Arms and legs are added next. Include bones for upper and lower parts and smaller bones for hands and fingers.
- Head and Neck: Ensure the head can rotate naturally.
- Facial Rigging: This is especially important for VTubers. Include bones for the jaw, eyes, eyebrows, and even individual parts of the lips for accurate facial expressions.
3. Skinning the Model:
- Bind the Mesh: Attach your model to the skeleton. Most software will provide an automatic initial skinning, which you’ll refine manually.
- Adjust Initial Skinning: Check for areas where the automatic skinning might be off – areas where the mesh stretches unnaturally or doesn’t move with a bone as it should.
- Weight Painting: Using weight painting tools, adjust the influence of each bone. For example, when you move a finger bone, only the corresponding finger should move without affecting the adjacent fingers.
4. Facial Rigging:
- Blend Shapes/Morph Targets: Instead of (or in addition to) bones, many VTubers utilize blend shapes for facial expressions. This method involves creating different versions of the face for each expression (smiling, frowning, etc.), and the software blends between these states.
- Jaw Movement: Ensure the jaw moves naturally when opening and closing.
- Eye Movement: Rig the eyes to move and blink.
- Lip Sync: For accurate speech, you might want to create various mouth shapes corresponding to phonetic sounds.
- Move Everything: Rotate and move each bone to ensure the mesh follows correctly. Look out for unnatural deformations.
- Facial Expressions: Test different expressions to make sure the face reacts as intended.
6. Integrate with Motion Capture:
Many VTubers use motion capture technology to translate their real-life movements to their virtual avatar. Once rigged, your model can be integrated into software like FaceRig, Luppet, or 3tene, which will use the rig to animate based on your movements.
7. Iterate and Refine:
Rigging is often a process of refinement. As you test and animate, you might find areas that need adjustment. Go back and tweak as necessary.
Remember, while the above guide provides a general overview, the specifics can vary based on the software you’re using. Most popular 3D modeling tools (like Blender, Maya, or VRoid Studio) offer detailed tutorials and documentation on rigging. If you’re new to rigging, it’s beneficial to start with beginner tutorials to understand the basics before diving into the complexities of VTuber-specific rigging.
How to make expressions for VTuber Model
Creating expressive VTuber models is key to establishing a connection with the audience. While some VTuber models use a combination of bones and blend shapes to create facial expressions, others rely more heavily on blend shapes or morph targets. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating expressions for a VTuber model:
1. Start with a Neutral Face:
Before you begin creating expressions, ensure you have a base or neutral face. This is the default state from which all other expressions will be derived.
2. Understand Blend Shapes/Morph Targets:
- Blend shapes (or morph targets) allow you to create different versions of your model’s face, each representing a different expression.
- When animating, the software will “blend” or “morph” between these different shapes to create smooth transitions between expressions.
3. Create Basic Expressions:
Begin by making fundamental expressions that can be combined to create more nuanced emotions:
- Happy: Uplifted corners of the mouth, slightly closed eyes, raised cheeks.
- Sad: Downward corners of the mouth, eyelids slightly lowered.
- Angry: Lowered brow, tensed or tightened eyes, downturned mouth.
- Surprised: Wide-open eyes, raised eyebrows, slightly opened mouth.
- Neutral: A relaxed, default facial expression.
4. Lip Sync Shapes:
For speech, create shapes for different phonetic positions:
- Ah, Ooh, Ee, Oh, etc.: These will be blended in various combinations to match the VTuber’s speech with their lip movements.
5. Test the Expressions:
- Blend Shape Sliders: Most 3D software has sliders that allow you to blend between different expressions. Use these to test how well your expressions transition.
- Lip Sync: Use sample audio to see how well your model’s mouth matches speech sounds.
6. Integrate with Facial Capture Software:
- Once satisfied with your expressions, integrate your model with facial capture software like FaceRig, 3tene, or Luppet.
- These programs will track your real-life facial movements and translate them to your VTuber model using the expressions you’ve created.
7. Fine-tune and Refine:
- After testing with facial capture, you might notice some expressions need adjustments. Maybe the “happy” expression is too subtle, or the “angry” expression is too intense.
- Return to your 3D modeling software, make necessary refinements, and test again.
8. Advanced Expressions:
As you become more experienced, consider creating nuanced expressions:
- Confused: A mix of raised one eyebrow, slight frown, etc.
- Skeptical: One eyebrow raised and mouth slightly to one side.
- Playful/Wink: One eye closed with a smirk.
9. Continuous Improvement:
- Gather feedback from viewers. Sometimes, audiences will provide insights into which expressions work well and which might need adjustments.
- Continue refining your model’s expressions based on this feedback and your personal observations.
Remember that the key to a successful VTuber model lies not only in its design but also in its expressiveness. The more relatable and dynamic your VTuber’s expressions are, the more engaging your content will be for your audience.
Testing and Iteration: Before debuting, it’s essential to test the VTuber model rigorously.
- Check for unnatural movements or glitches.
- Make iterations based on feedback and tests.
If you want to take your VTuber project to another level, you can also collaborate with other professional artists to refine and adjust your model, so you can reach a high-quality level with the help of professionals with years of experience.
If you want a professional VTuber model without having to pay a lot for a professional and wait months for the result, Stream Skins has Premium VTuber Models with ultra quality, smooth animations and a complete stream package in the same theme as VTuber, see our store and find the perfect model for your stream 🙂