Low poly modelling has been a great way to create innovative, modern simplistic looking designs. I have often thought how can you create low poly models without complex cad modelling skills. Do you need to be a wizard on 3D cad with the ability to add multiple work planes, slicing away at a model to give it that low poly look? The answer is no, to start low poly modelling you simply need a cad model and then Autodesk Meshmixer.
First of all you need to create a standard 3D model, this can be done in any cad package. Then you need to export the model as a standard STL file, like you usually would for 3D printing. Instead of slicing the model you need to import the design into AutoDesk mesh mixer. Mesh mixer is free to download and an amazing price of software that anyone who is starting out in 3D printing should know about. As well as low poly modelling, you can do a multitude of different functions that are usually not available in standard cad packages. When I first started 3D printing I wasn’t aware that you can actually substantially alter 3D cad models after you have saved them as an stl file. I always thought once it’s in that ‘stl stage’ then that’s it, you can’t change it. However, through experimenting with meshmixer I found out there is a whole new world out there for altering stl files. One of these features is the ability to low poly model.
Low poly modelling is the altering of an stl file so that the model appears triangulated. With an stl file being made up of thousands of tiny triangles to form a mesh around a model. To create a low poly model you simply need to make these triangles larger and more pronounced. Even though this results in a less detailed model, the outcome is ‘low poly’ in its appearance.
The idea of low poly modelling is a popular one in the 3D printing community with file repositories such as thingiverse running low poly modelling competitions. We have even created a dedicated low poly model section to show case some of these fantastic looking designs. But how do you create one of these designs easily? The process is simple and we have outlined the instructions below;
Step 1 .
Either download a model or design a model using 3D cad software. Export this file as an stl file. In this case we will use this low poly ring as an example. You can download it here.
After downloading Autodesk Meshmixer, import the stl file into mesh mixer. (Don’t try and open a stl file in mesh mixer, this won’t work, you have to use the import feature).
Once imported you then need to select the model or the area of the model that you want to give the low poly effect to. I use the select feature and then the brush. Make the brush the desired size, in the case of making a full low poly model, you need to select the whole model. This may involve rotating the model and ensuring that all parts are selected.
Select ‘edit’ then ‘reduce’, then use the slider feature to change the appearance of the model. When moving the slider you will then reduce the amount of detail in the stl mesh resulting in the low poly look. You have to be careful not to reduce too much otherwise you will loose the appearance of the actual model.
Step 5 – low poly editting.
Once you have the low poly look, then export the file as an stl file ready for 3D printing. An ideal percentage to use would be 97% to 98%. The less percentage the more detail is kept.
When low poly modelling, ensure that your stl file is error free before 3D printing. Most slicing packages fix the files automatically, if not then we recommend using ‘netfabb’ or if you have windows 3D builder app, then this will run an automatic repair on the model.
To see more low poly models then check out our dedicated category here. Also if you have a design to share then you can share it for free or sell copies of the model.
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