Ironman Helmet Modeling by Bracer Jack
Ironman Helmet Modeling by Bracer Jack

When I first saw Adi Granov's Ironman Helmet design in the movie, I was overwhelmed by how he had designed something that looked so geometrically simple yet harbors such a high-tech sophisticated look.

Very naturally I seek to replicate that design for the sake of my own satisfaction.

I will also be taking this opportunity to share some of the key points I engage in when modeling hard surfaces as I had received a number of emails regarding how I go about modeling the Evangelion Eva heads which you can see here.

The principle is the same, the key is to "Tighten the Edges" to create that fantastic highlight catching edge fillet effect when the 3D model is subdivided.
In an ideal world, the perfect 3D model is one which edges are all sharp fillets thereby allowing it to catch perfect highlights everyway it turns.
Please note that this principle should not apply when modeling LARGE scale buildings or anything huge as the fillet effect would end up giving your large scale buildings that vacuum form plastic toy model look.

The first thing one must do before any modeling begins is to obtain a decent schematic view of whatever one is modeling.

Original Drawing by Phil Saunders and Adi Granov

However if you are as obsess with the movie version of the helmet design as me, you would have notice some small differences which I will not bother explaining, for what it's worth if you can't tell the different, you might as well use this image as this drawing originated from the designers themselves.

Click on the image to see a larger version of it.

In my case, I prefer the way the cheek bone "structure" was designed in the final movie version.

Bracer Jack's Ironman Schematic

I also would like to improve on the design consistency on the back of the helmet and to adjust the ratio of the helmet's frontal nose area curvature and a couple of other nick-knacks to fit the human facial proportion that I personally like, all in all very small changes but are things that matters to me.
P:S: Just in case you are curious, I have a short nose and I tend to draw my characters as such, in this case I had also altered the ratio of the helmet to reflect this. SORRY !

There's a lot of redrawings, refinements, blab bla bla but when all is said and done, these are the final line placements.

Don't move on until your schematic is dead solid, this is very important for technical modeling, you can have more leeway for organic modeling when it comes to schematic accuracy.

Schematic Planes in Place

Bring the schematic into your 3D modeling application; I will be using very basic tools so you can pretty much follow the workflow regardless of your application of choice.

You can download this file containing my schematic drawing and the 3DS Max Schematic planes placement here.

Cylinder Place Holder

The first thing I did was to create a place holder for the ear "tube", I did that because it was the only shape I am the most sure of, it's just a simple cylinder.

The next thing to tackle is the cheek plate.

Edge Extrusion procedure for the Ironman cheek plate

This will be the first and last image to demonstrate what I am basically doing throughout the initial modeling process; I started out with a simple rectangular plane with symmetry mode on and I keep on extruding its edges and placing them in their rightful coordinates repeatedly until the entire structure is complete.

Ironman helmet basic front structure completed

The basic frontal portions of the helmet completed using the method illustrated on the previous step along with some simple extrusions, nothing complicated, the only thing it takes is time.

Ironman helmet basic rear structure completed

Same goes for the basic back portion of the helmet.

In retrospect I guess I could have started out the back with a sphere but in this case it started life from a single rectangular plane like the rest of the helmet...oh my god the time I must have wasted tweaking those vertices to look like this when I could have just use a sphere and refine from there instead...

With the basic layout of the helmet complete, it is best to layout its UVs at this point, however I will not dwell into texturing as that is another topic unto itself.

Helmet back thickness implementation
Jawline Refinement
Line chamfer and Bolt extrusion

Implement thickness to the back of the Helmet along with one extrusion.

The original Ironman Helmet concept was for this to be a two piece plate so that one can slide up inside another; I am not going to implement this as I do not see how the geometry can actually do that.

Added one more line to enhance the jaw area.

Added one more line alongside the already existing line pattern, implements overall thickness and extrude that thin area in.

Cut a smaller square pattern at the corner using "insert" and then intrude and extrude the smaller polygon to create the bolt.

Ironman forehead model completed
Implement thickness, tighten the edges, extrude the bolts completes the forehead of the helmet.
Jaw Completion
Same goes for the jaw; thickness and edge tightening.
Cheek Plate Refinement
The cheek plate before and after edge tightening in subdivision mode.
Edge Tightening Explained

This is what I mean by Edge Tightening, simply adding one more edge alongside the existing edge.

Most often than not, the subdivision algorithm will not give you what you want, you may have to adjust the surrounding vertices a little to "appease" the algorithm.

Basic Ear GeometryEar Geometry Completed Ironman Eye Lens

Recreate the Ear geometry, start from a 16 section cylinder, chamfer the edge, then merge the points like so.

Extrude and tighten the edges like so.

The eye is just a warped box that had its edge tighten for the edge fillet effect.
[To be more exact, it's a hollow box with thickness so that when I implement the light material, it will diffuse the light correctly like a real physical lens.]

Wire Render:
Ironman Wire Render by Bracer Jack
Geometry Render:
Ironman Clay Render by Bracer Jack

Normally, I like to keep my models perfect and clean, but for the sake of this tutorial, I shall match the dirty, battled look of the helmet as seen in the movie.

Final Render:
Ironman Final Render by Bracer Jack

It shouldn't take you long into the tutorial to realize I've given an almost "holy grail" status to the Edge Fillet effect.
The fact of the matter is, to me, a 3D model with all its edges and intersections filleted is the pinnacle of 3D modeling perfection.
This myth, however, had long been debunked by my very own observation.

The truth is, by the time you add in all your dirt/rust map to your model, the fillet effect will cease to impress; their sole purpose, catching highlight, isn't really useful for dirt/rust 3D models anyway.

I have come to realize it is an obsession to me that I model like this, it puts a strain on my modeling time and can sometimes make the whole UV mapping process so much more complicated then it needs to be.

I strongly advise that you do NOT behave like me when it comes to implementing Fillet Edges; if it looks right to you then itís alright.
I am just mental.

The 3D Helmet Model is available for purchase here:
https://www.the3dstudio.com/product_details.aspx?id_product=576110
or
http://www.turbosquid.com/FullPreview/Index.cfm/ID/681251

Months later after the creation of this tutorial, I used a low poly version of this Ironman helmet in an AR [Augmented Reality] proof-of-concept Holographic LCARS Interface experiment [This is what happen when you are a Star Trek Nerd ;p ]:
Holographic LCARS AR Experiment

You can see the video here:

To try out this experiment in the comfort of your own home, all you need is to download and print this photoshop file here.
Bracercom Logo Marker
Print out the photoshop marker file using its default settings.
If you do this correctly you will end up with an 8cm by 8cm square marker.

Here is the fun part, allow this application access to your webcam and hold the marker where your webcam can see it.

You might have to adjust the exposure setting of your webcam [more often than not, you'll need to lower its exposure setting] for the application to work properly.

Feel free to email me Bracer Jack at bracercom@hotmail.com regarding any enquires on this tutorial.

Iron Man is a trademark and copyright of the Marvel Enterprise.




Bonus Section:

Back when I first created this tutorial in Feb 2009, I imagined myself to be satisfied if even one person find this nonsensical fillet obsessed guide of mine useful.

It soon turns out that this tutorial had became one of my all time greatest tutorial hits and I would gladly attribute all these to the kick ass Ironman movie.

Every month I would receive at least one mail related to this tutorial of mine, I suppose it’s time that I add a “Bonus” section to this tutorial to satisfy the hunger that people have for this model of mine and the various knowledge required to pull this off.

Student’s Gallery

Every now and then, I’ll receive the works of earnest people that had attempted this tutorial.
Unfortunately, back then I have no idea where to display their works.
Now I do, so please send it back to me at bracercom@hotmail.com.

Richard Stothard
Name: Richard Stothard
From: Kent, England

It was a simple, and easy to follow tutorial with good pictures showing the process, also I had not had much experience with 3Ds Max before attempting this and I managed it fairly easily, which shows how well the tutorial explained and showed the process.

Thank you
Richard :)