123D Creature by Autodesk Inc. icon

Hey guys, today I thought I’d check out an app that’s been getting quite a bit of press, Autodesk’s 123D Creature ($1.99).

This app is billed as a tool that will allow beginners to experiment with 3-D modeling by creating monsters, and as I am a complete novice when it comes to Autodesk software, I thought I’d give it a try and let you know how easy (or hard) it is to use.

The creature creation app opens with a set of directions, which make the process look easy enough. Create a skeleton, sculpt details, add texture, and viola, you have a three-dimensional monster to share.

Crafting a skeleton involves three elements: joints, bones, and limbs. Joints can be dragged to create limbs and a general skeletal outline, while bones dictate the thickness of limbs. Limbs themselves are made up of groups of joints and can be posed, scaled, copied, and pasted for symmetry.

I started off with a little blobby human-shaped skeleton, which could be dragged and manipulated in any way. Two finger dragging allows the camera to be manipulated to any angle, which helps when designing a monster.

In practice, creating a skeleton takes some trial and error. Joints move at the same time and without knowledge of general creature anatomy, it’s hard to decide how to move joints to create the appendages that you want. It takes a lot of adjustments to get the look you’re going for, but I assume it will get easier with future creatures.

123D Creature by Autodesk Inc. screenshot

Joints are just the first step towards creature creation, though. Other options, like shaping, allow you to make limbs thicker or thinner, while posing allows you to adjust position and scale allows you to make a monster thinner or thicker.

When you have a suitable skeleton, you can bake it into a creature. This process takes a few seconds, and when it’s done, elements like fur and feathers can be added, as well as sculpted details. I haven’t mentioned it before, but you can pinch to zoom in, which is handy when adding minute monster elements.

I thought that sculpting was one of the hardest parts of monster creation, and it was here that I wished for a better undo tool. I made an error here with my monster that I couldn’t undo with the provided sculpting tools, at least not in a quick manner. While you can undo with the small arrows on the screen, it only lets you undo a limited number of moves.

I gave up on giving my monster the look that I wanted with the sculpting tools. These were difficult to use and time consuming as well. Luckily, painting was quite a bit more fun than sculpting. You can use a brush or a paintbrush to add any color you like to your monster. While I considered AppAdvice blue, ultimately my monster demanded a orange and white color scheme.

In this section you can also paint on images, which adds texture. This part wasn’t as intuitive, but basically you select the image you would like to paint on, position your monster under it, and swipe on the texture to the areas that you choose.

123D Creature by Autodesk Inc. screenshot

This was easily the most fun part of the entire process, but keep in mind that texture and paint are mutually exclusive, meaning you can’t paint over textures. You can, however, import your own photos to use as texture. There are all kinds of readily available textures, including metals, furs, skins, eyes, teeth, and more.

After being painted, you can use the rendering section to select lighting and backgrounds for your creature. You can change the lighting type and location to highlight exactly what you want. There are plenty of simple backgrounds to choose from and you can also import your own photos. Effects add even more customization options.

When you’re all done, you can save your monster, share it on social networks, or save a 3-D version of it. You can even print it with a 3-D printer via Sculpteo for a fee. My monster was $14.42 to print in a medium size.

There’s a community option where you can view creations submitted by other users. You can download these creatures to modify and manipulate yourself (be warned, though – a download takes a sizable amount of time). It’s quite a bit of fun to see what others have crafted, because there are a lot of talented modelers out there.

All in all, using 123D Creature wasn’t hard, but it is definitely an experience that takes some time. You’re also not likely to get the exact look you want the first time around, but luckily, experimentation is a lot of fun.

My biggest complaint was the fiddly camera angles when painting on textures and the lack of a better undo system. Other than that, this app provides a unique creation experience that makes it well worth the purchase price. 123D Creature currently on sale for $1.99, so now is a great time to pick it up.