123D Sculpt is another 3D iPad app from the Autodesk 123D series (last time I showed you Catch, for making 3D models from photographs ). Sculpt is specifically made for the iPad – and is free for the time being. Sculpting is a natural fit for the iPad touch interface, and the app is an incredibly powerful way to realize your most horrific nightmarish creature designs, or simply as a fun creative exercise.
Because this is such a major point for some users, I’ll get this out of the way first – the app only lets you share your creations in the form of videos and pictures – exporting to .obj files is noticeably absent, so you won’t be able to 3D print these, for instance. It’s odd considering the whole 123D app series is based around the idea of using Autodesk’s own 3D printing service, but there you have it. This is promised as a future feature, so I think it’s safe to assume at that point the price may well increase or be available as an in-app upgrade. That said, you can save your creations in the app, so when the feature is finally released, you can go back and export your past creations.
If you’re looking to use this immediate for professional 3D modelling or printing though, you’re out of luck for the time being. Curiously though, there are some featured models on the 123D website that state they were made in Sculpt – and can be downloaded as 3D objects or printed – so it’s likely being beta-tested now.
That said, I think it still has it’s uses for character modelling and visualization – and if nothing, it would be a great distraction for the kids.
Begin your model
The first great feature of Sculpt is the inclusion of a gallery of base models – blank shapes which you can customize. This makes it far easier than starting from a ball of clay (but you can also do that, if you really want to), and one reason why I think this will appeal to users with otherwise no previous experience in 3D modelling. I suspect children will also particularly appreciate being able to customize their own dinosaur – a variety of animal shapes are also included.
In-app purchases expand the range of blank models to begin sculpting from, each costing 99c for 4-5 new models.
Interface and controls
Moving around the 3D environment follows a familiar model of pinch to zoom, twist to rotate, and to pan you need to hold down two fingers. Any actual sculpting is done using a single finger touch – painting the various tools onto the model. Upon first launch, there’s a helpful series of basic tutorial screens to get you familiarized.
There are 7 basic modelling tools available to you on the sidebar, outlined below.
Most should be self explanatory, and while some may seem somewhat similar, with practice you will find distinct differences between them. For bulking up in general, you would either Inflate or use the Add in layers tool – the latter tends to dull away some features as each layer smooths out the last to a small degree. To create ridges, the general purpose Add tool is best. Anyhow – the best learning process is to simply try them all out – there is a helpful multiple-undo tool in the form of a back arrow on the top of the screen, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Each tool also has controls for size and strength of brush. The weaker the brush is set, the more it will blend with the existing model.
Symmetrical modelling is also a feature I really appreciate, though it isn’t enabled by default. To turn on symmetry mode, touch the wavy line on the top of the modelling screen, and you should see it turn into two wavy lines; a line of symmetry will also be indicated on your model. Any sculpting you do with this activated will be repeated on the opposite side!
Color and texture
Colorizing your model can either be done with a simple paintbrush style, or you can make use of one of the many built-in texture overlays. To do this, first select the Texturise tool, then find an appropriate texture. The texture appears in a large screen, and you can think of it as an iron-on transfer. Position your model underneath, then touch over the texture to apply to the model beneath. Again, you can control the size and opacity of the brush, so you’re able to mix textures together.
Here’s my evil lizard man thing I came up with in 10 minutes:
It’s a free, and frankly it’s a lot of fun. Give it to your kids or visualize your darkest fantasies. It’s utility may be limited in terms of exporting, but that will come in time and the app itself is enough to rival any beginner level sculpting software, and even easier to use thanks to the iPad touch interface.