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What is a Base Mesh?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A base mesh is an object that has been modeled in virtual three-dimensional (3D) space using a 3D computer graphics program. This typically refers to a model that is fairly crude, often with few features and without texture mapping, which is why the term “base” is used. Many of these types of meshes are available for free on the Internet from different artists, which can then be used by other artists to create specific characters or objects through manipulation of the mesh. A base mesh is typically created relatively quickly, and often serves as a placeholder for testing purposes.

Regardless of the model that is created, a base mesh will typically consist of a wireframe that is connected by a number of faces, or polygons. The wireframe of a 3D object consists of the individual points, or vertices, on a form, which are then connected to each other by lines. This can be easily imagined using basic geometric shapes. A square has four sides and each corner is a vertex connected by a line between each of them.

If the square is extended into a cube, then the base mesh for that cube would consist of six faces, or polygons, each one making up one side of the cube. The cube’s base mesh would be made of the vertices at each corner of the cube, each connected by lines to make six squares. These lines and vertices make up the wireframe for the cube, which can be imaged as what the cube would look like if it was made using wire to create the basic shape of the object. When this wireframe is then filled with polygons, like stretching fabric over the wire shape, then the base mesh is created.

This base mesh is typically low in detail, often with only the crude shape of the final object. The base mesh for a human figure, for example, will appear like a person but might not have individual fingers or facial features. There is typically not a texture to the mesh either, meaning it will often be a solid color and not have the appearance of cloth, skin, and other texture details. This mesh usually has far fewer polygons than more detailed models, making it easier for a computer to render. This makes such meshes ideal for running tests such as quick lighting renders, animation tests, and checking early builds of a video game.

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Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Nov 08, 2011

@pastanaga - It's possible to do some really fantastic 3D work with online base mesh models if you are willing to tweak them a bit.

But, this generally applies to non-human base mesh models. Humans are extremely difficult to get looking good, just because we are so attuned to knowing what is human and what looks right that even making the model too perfect can be a tip off that they are fake.

In fact, it might be easier to try for 3D cartoon character modeling, rather than trying to make a realistic human figure, just because then it doesn't look like you've tried to make something look a certain way and failed.

By croydon — On Nov 07, 2011

Something you should bear in mind if you are going to download free base meshes from the internet, is to check the usability of the meshes. Sometimes they are only available for non-commercial work, or they are not supposed to be manipulated in form. Sometimes they can be used for commercial work, but the artist wants an acknowledgement and a link back to his/her page.

It's just common curtesy and it costs you nothing most of the time to respect what the artist wants in regard to his or her work. After all, they spent time on it, and then left it where you can use it and that is actually a really generous act.

By pastanaga — On Nov 07, 2011

I've seen some pretty awesome online comics that were done by someone downloading free base meshes from the internet and manipulating them into the form they wanted, then adding skins and voila, you have a comic.

Although I would caution that even though it worked well enough for what the artist/writer was going for, I wouldn't expect it to be of excellent quality.

It's possible, of course to have amazing three dimensional work these days, but the free base meshes are never going to be much more than basic, with standard skins to drape over them.

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