Digital sculpting, or 3D modelling/sculpting uses software to allow the artist to manipulate a digital object in the same way as though it were made of a physical substance such as clay, by pushing, pulling, smoothing or pinching it. The software recreates a digital simulation of the sculpting process.
Digital Sculpting Technology
Digital sculpting programs representing models can use varying geometry models, with different benefits and limitations. Mesh-based geometry is the dominant model used by modern digital sculpting tools. Here the object is represented by a surface mesh of polygons which can pushed and pulled around, comparable to the physical process of beating copper plates. The other main geometry model used in contemporary digital sculpting is voxel-based geometry. Here the basic element is the object, with material added and removed like sculpting in clay. Other tools on the market combine different geometrical representation models.
Multiple resolutions on a single model being supported is the main advantage of mesh-based geometric models. Finely detailed areas of the model can be made from tiny polygons, with other areas consisting of larger ones. The mesh can usually by edited at different levels of detail, with the changes at a particular level being mirrored in lower and higher levels of model detail. The main disadvantage of mesh-based digital sculpting tools is fixed topology of the mesh as the arrangement of the polygons places limitations on the manner in which detail can be manipulated or added.
The voxel based technology allows for greater freedom over the form of the digital image. A model’s topology is continually altered during sculpting, with material added and removed, allowing the sculptor to work free of having to take into consideration the layout of polygons on the model’s surface. The limitation of the voxel geometry model is that changes made at one level of detail can destroy those at another.
Digital sculpting technology and tools are constantly evolving and are still very much within the period of rapid improvement in their development. Currently interaction is facilitated using either a mouse or a digital pen tablet with pressure sensitivity. Simulation allowing the sculptor to ‘feel’ the object is also progressing.