So you've done the house, you've done the wooden board and now you want to start making models of living creatures like humans. Well, making living things like what you see in the made-for-Blender movie Big Buck Bunny is pretty complex and most beginners start off by making stick figures. So, start off by hitting 5 and then 3 on your number pad (NUMPAD 5 and NUMPAD 3). The 5 puts you in Orthographic View as opposed to Perspective View, and the 3 gives you a view like the one above called Perfect View, in which the X-axis is pointed straight at you.
Useful Select Tools
Make sure you have everything deselected and zoom in a little bit. If you've already worked with Blender a bit, you probably get sick of having to select each vertex or edge separately. So, hit B to access the Border Select. This should give you something that looks like two intersecting lines that meet at your cursor. Now, what I do is click in the upper left-hand point of the area that I want to select, and then drag down and to the right. When I release the mouse, all the vertices in the area I just selected are highlighted in orange. Rotate the view a little bit, and I notice that the vertices in the direction facing away from me are selected too. And then I hit NUMPAD 3 to get it back to Perfect View.
To access Circle Select, I hit C on my keyboard. Now my cursor has a circle around it. Click and drag to select multiple vertices, including the ones in the “rear” of the cube. If you select a wrong vertex, you can deselect it by clicking the scroll wheel, which functions as a middle button. You can also rotate the scroll wheel to adjust the circle size. This is much faster than having to mess around with SHIFT + Right Click and having to rotate the cube if you're not in Occlude Geometry mode for selecting multiple vertices, edges or faces! Anyway, right-click to get out of Circle Select when you are done selecting the vertices you want.
You can also use Lasso Select by holding down the CTRL button, left clicking and dragging. It produces a field that can look like a lasso. You can also use Lasso Select to deselect points by using CTRL + SHIFT + Left Click.
Create The Legs
You might remember the Extrude tool if you saw my article on turning the cube into a house. Basically, Extrude takes selected elements of an object, duplicates them, and then extrudes them outwards while creating new edges and faces with the original vertices as one terminator. As a reminder, hit E on your keyboard, and then lock it to the Z axis if it isn't already by hitting Z. Then, hit NUMPAD 2 to extrude the selected vertices by two Blender units along the Z axis. Hit Enter to lock it in. Repeat until you have five cubes stacked on top of one another, totaling 10 Blender units tall. Don't forget to hit Enter each time so you don't end up extruding any single cube by 22 points. (CTRL + Z is useful here for correcting an error.)
Once you have that, hit A to deselect your previously selected points. Then, use Border Select to select the vertices on the right side of the top cube. Create two cubes extending out to the right using the same method. The results should look something like this:
Now you want to create a cube going back down from the last one on the right. This can get a little tricky, because my first instinct might have been to extrude my selection downwards by -2 Blender units. However, Blender doesn't extrude by negative units. So use Border Select to highlight the vertices on the bottom of the cube and then use E and NUMPAD 2. Blender will create the cube going back downwards. Repeat this process a few more times so that you have another stack of cubes equal to the one on the left. That will work for our stick figure's legs.
Create The Torso
For this, you'll want to dolly your view up a little bit (SHIFT + Scroll Wheel). Select the top vertices on the middle cube on top, and use E and NUMPAD 2 to stack five more blocks measuring two Blender units each going upwards from that middle one.
Create The Arms
I bet you're starting to see where this is going. For the arms, I just go to the second block from the top, and then select the vertices on the left side of that block first. I extrude a few 2-Blender-Unit cubes on that side first. Then, I select the vertices on the right side of the block and add the same number of blocks on that side to keep it symmetrical. (This guy can be as tall or short as you like if you want to customize your own stick figure. He might even have unusually short, stubby arms.)
Creating The Head
The head isn't cube-shaped, so what I want to do is add something called an icosphere. To start with, I hit NUMPAD 7 to access the Top View of your stick figure. This is also a good time to check whether all your arm, leg and torso units were added correctly because sometimes things do get a little out of whack when extruding points. This happened to me a couple of times when I thought I had all the points I wanted selected, and it turned out that I was only extruding one edge.
To double-check, count the number of cubes in the column you now see. It should be an odd number if you made the arms symmetrical. The center one is the neck. Select the 3D Cursor from the Pivot Center drop-down menu on the 3D View header and place your crosshairs cursor on the center cube.
Now use SHIFT + A to get the Add Mesh drop-down menu. Select the Icosphere, which will be added where you have your cursor.
To get back to your front view, hit NUMPAD 3. By good fortune, the icosphere is almost where I want it. When you're looking at a 3D world on a 2D screen, the placement of the cursor can fake people out, and it could have ended up near the feet. If that happens to you, hit G to Grab it, Z for the Z axis and move it up to the appropriate place. That is one small head for a tall guy, so I hit S to Scale it and drag outwards to make it larger.
That's pretty decent for our first stick figure, so let's customize him a little bit by adding modifiers. Be sure to save it now, so you don't lose your work if you have to start over.
We are now in Object Mode and he still looks like an obvious series of geometric figures. So select all by hitting A if he isn't selected already. Go over to the Properties window on the right side of the screen and select the Object Modifiers icon that looks like a wrench on the top row of icons. Each modifier will apply a set of algorithms to your currently selected object, which is our stick man in this case.
One especially useful modifier is called Subdivision Surface. To find this modifier, go to the Add Modifier drop-down menu and look under the Generate category.
Makes a huge difference right there, doesn't it? I can see that something is funny-looking about the right leg (Might have to do with the fact that something went weird when I was extending the cubes and I haven't gotten it fixed quite right), but the rest looks just about like I expected. Basically, it smooths out the corners of my figure.
It also gives me some options for modifying variables in the algorithm. The two I use most often are the View option, which adds more subdivisions in the 3D View window, and Render, which does the same for the actual rendering of your 3D object. Obviously, you'll get a more realistic preview of your 3D Render if you give them both the same value. Blender keeps these two options separate because higher values can eat into your memory if you have a lot of meshes and subdivisions.
If you zoom in on your object, you'll probably notice that it still has recognizable facets. To help smooth that out, go to the left side of your screen to Object Tools and look for your Shading options. The shading can be either Smooth or Flat, with Flat being the default. In Flat, each surface is rendered as a facet. The Smooth option will smooth away those facets. This is nice for more rounded objects like this that you don't want to have that chiseled look. Flat is good for objects that require more flat surfaces, like buildings. The polygons are still there but the stick man now looks like a more consolidated object.
So that's a basic stick man that looks a bit funky because I gave him a kind of “stick leg.” Actually, it would be cool if I turn him into a pirate when I start adding detailing (Aaargh!). But, seriously, this is a good start for getting used to extending basic geometry out to a more complex figure and adding modifiers and shading.