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80 Level Digest: Great YouTube Tutorials on Creating & Animating Wings

This week, we collected some fantastic tutorials that will help you set up lifelike wings using various software.

If you are a 3D Character/Creature Artist working on a model of a flying character, one of the most challenging and daunting tasks you will encounter is to create appealing wings. Feathered or scaled, fluffy or thin, no matter what type of wings you are setting up – they will most certainly be the focal point of any project and must be executed perfectly.

That's why for this week's 80 Level Digest, we collected some informative YouTube tutorials that will help aspiring creators in mastering the art of making and animating stunning 3D wings using various software.

The first position on today's list goes to the fantastic tutorial on creating realistic-looking angel wings in Blender shared by the THIS DUDE DRAWS YouTube channel. In this comprehensive one-hour-long guide, the author demonstrated the entire process of creating stunning feathered wings, explaining how to model the body, create lifelike feathers, and prepare them for animation. Additionally, the artist explained lots of useful tips and tricks on using Blender in general, making the tutorial perfect for creators who only make their first steps with the software.

While on the topic of wings, the next guide we'd like to include is Chris King's in-depth presentation shared by the Houdini team a few years ago. While not dedicated to wings specifically, the presentation sheds some light on the process of creating realistic digital feathers, containing tons of useful modeling, grooming, and rendering techniques. Furthermore, King also provided an extensive explanation of feather dynamics and intersections, considered by many to be one of the most difficult feather-related tasks.

Next up, we've got a great tutorial shared by the Stranger YouTube channel dedicated to producing a realistic bird animation in Autodesk Maya with Forward Kinematics. With this guide, you will learn how to animate the creature's various body parts, including head, legs, and, of course, wings in a quick and easy way. Please note that the video only showcases the production process, with its author remaining silent throughout the tutorial.

If feathered wings are not your cup of tea and you would prefer to make a mighty dragon, then the next tutorial might be exactly what you are looking for. Shared by Will Falcon, the tutorial thoroughly explains how to make a thin membrane for a dragon wing in Blender using a low poly technique. Much like the previously-mentioned guide, this one doesn't feature any commentary, so basic knowledge of Blender's toolset is highly recommended.

The next position on today's list goes to Starkstefen 3D's highly-informative video lesson dedicated to modeling wings in ZBrush. In the tutorial, the creator demonstrated the entire working process from start to finish, explained how to work with ZBrush's Array Mesh and Bend Curve features, and shared some valuable tips on tricks related to 3D modeling. While not in English, the video comes with English subtitles, which can be enabled in YouTube player.

If your goal is not to make a winged creature the center of attention, and you just need to create a quick asset as one of many elements in a scene, then the next tutorial is exactly what you need. Released by PIXXO 3D, the guide teaches you how to create a simple butterfly model from a 2D image using basic modeling techniques in Blender. Moreover, the creator has shown a very easy-to-follow way to animate the creature's wings, making the tutorial perfect for aspiring artists.

Making a Bat Wing in Blender by Amelia Scarlett

The next educational material we'd like to include is Amelia Scarlett's short guide on creating lifelike bat wings using Blender. In just three minutes, the author thoroughly showed an easy method for modeling the bones, explained how to set up a thin membrane on the creature's wings using the software's tools for cloth simulation, and demonstrated how to tweak the wing to achieve a realistic result.

The next spot on our list belongs to MH Tutorials' easy-to-follow guide that will teach you the basics of rigging a bird wing using Maya. In this tutorial, the author thoroughly explained how to create a simple bird rig including Joints, IK handles, and NURBS control curves, as well as showed how to prepare the model for animation.

And finally, we've got a great two-part tutorial by Duncan Rudd that explains how to rig a wing for a stylized bird in Blender 3.4 using the software's Geometry Nodes toolset. In this series, the artist walked us through the entire working process from start to finish, demonstrated how to use the nodes to distribute feathers across the surface of a bird wing, explained how to create layered feather groups and wrap the cover feathers to the wing base, and more.

What tutorials did we miss? What videos helped you to master 3D wings? What topics would you like for us to cover next? Tell us in the comments!

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