Hi there. Following all the great work on the Sketchfab forums has inspired me to share my current project here. I'm going to post periodic model updates to my Sketchfab account as well as here in the forum. i also post regular updates to Twitter but I can go into more detail here.
CURRENT PROGRESS - COMPLETE:
I'm working on a real-time Sci-Fi helmet inspired by the superb "Modeling a Sci-Fi Helmet" tutorial by Kent Trammell over at CG Cookie. Kent shares a modeling workflow that starts with sculpting the main forms in Blender before re-topologizing to more traditional polygonal meshes to get a really accurate hard-surface look.
In Kent's example, he keeps his model high-resolution and renders Static renders in Blender Cycles. In my case I'm going a step further and moving on to a lower-poly mesh to be able to share it in real-time here on Sketchfab.
While Kent encourages letting the sculpting dictate the form, I wanted some form of basic planning so I went ahead and made a couple of basic sketches:
I made this one in about 30 minutes using "MyPaint" which has an "Infinite Canvas" mode which allows you to just keep drawing without worrying about the edge of the document. It's freely available on Mac, PC, and Linux, but I find the Linux version to be the most robust.
Early in this sketch I established the idea of a sort of Sniper helmet with having different lenses that could spin in on the one eye allowing the wearer to view different distances when looking through a scope.
From here I dived into Kent's tutorial. Blender has some terrific sculpting tools. And while it can't handle as many polygons as something like ZBrush I like that you remain in a modeling environment in which you can switch between polygonal (box) modeling and sculpting easily without – for example – moving back and forth between meshing in Maya and then sculpting in ZBrush. Of course some folks have done some amazing hard surface modeling in ZBrush which no doubt inspired Kent's tutorial.
Kent uses a grease pencil add-on which allows you to sculpt forms then cut into them to define the key shapes of the helmet. Here's where I ended up after about 2 sessions of sculpting. Maybe 8-10 hours?
The idea at this point is to have a pretty smooth model, but knowing that you are going to later re-topologize the mesh to get it "industrial smooth" - an analogy would be like making a clay sculpt of a car as part of vehicle design to get the main forms down before getting it millimeter perfect.
I guess I should point out that a few years ago I invested in a Wacom Cintiq which - though expensive - has paid for itself many times over. That said, digital sketching and sculpting is very achievable with a tablet, and is something I did myself for years before "upgrading."