Rigging Characters for Animation, Pt. 2, From New Riders | 8
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Inside Maya: Rigging Characters for Animation. Pt. 2.
Painting Smooth Skin Weights
Painting weights is one of the single most important stages for your character's deformations to look believable and appealing. The process of painting weights basically involves using the Artisan paint brush architecture in Maya to paint on a value somewhere between 0 and 1. This will tell your skin cluster which joints will have an influence on the movement of which vertices.
The following text describes the process I use to paint weights on a smooth bound character. Then following exercise elaborates on the specifics involved to achieve good character weighting.
First, just as if you were doing a painting, rough in your general values by blocking out your weights, going through groups of vertices as well as each joint, and flooding them with either 0 or 1 values. Next, paint with a medium-size brush around the edges of your weights so that all the influences are at a value of 0 or 1. When you are finished and you have painted every single joint at either 1 or 0, you set the Artisan value to 1 but turn the opacity down to about .33.
Then go through and lightly soften the edges of all your weights by painting with this partially opaque brush. Every once in a while, use the smooth brush at this stage to also soften the edges. The last stage is to go through and use the smooth brush exclusively to really soften the weights on the joints that you want to have a lot of fall-off to their weighting. During this entire process, you should be testing your character's deformations by bending the joints and testing the controls. When you get things looking pretty good, you should do major motion and extreme poses for your character; test the weighting on an animated character that is hitting really exaggerated poses (with hands way up in the air, bending over and touching the head to the toes, and so on). At this point, you can go back and paint in the weights to fix any problems you see.
As a general workflow process, painting weights can seem somewhat repetitive, tedious, and often frustrating. It can feel like as soon as you change one joint's weights to look good in one pose, the other pose no longer works. It is important to note that sometimes it is simply a process of finding an acceptable state in between. Usually, though, if you follow the workflow outlined in the steps ahead, the painting of your character's weights should end up being a very smooth process (no pun intended!).
Exercise 17.13 Common Workflow for Effectively Painting Smooth Skin Weights
Created: March 11, 2003
Revised: November 7, 2003