Reflection: Sculpts and real-world functionality

Practice 1, Reflection, Research and Enquiry

3D Printing Retrospective

I wasn’t expecting to struggle during 3D printing week. This was, perhaps, the most prepared (skill-wise) I’ve been for an assignment so far – my partner and I run a small shop for 3D printed cosplay pieces, and I’m extremely familiar with the pipeline.

I ran into a few smaller snags this week: I had an issue with with adding filigree details using ZBrush’s noisemaker, and through experimentation discovered an option to apply the effect to the UVs rather than stretching the details over the full model. I took this opportunity to learn how to manually UV an object and manipulate UV layouts. However, my main stumbling block was that I felt an overwhelming need to ensure that my 3D printed scissors would function in real life, rather than just being a static accessory.

l-o-t-r / tumblr

I spent an embarrassing amount of time attempting to figure out how scissors work, something that clearly neither I nor the original concept artist from which I based this piece understood. Traditional scissors tend to have overlapping blades, whereas these were drawn to meet at the center, and were missing the necessary plane shifts around the pivot point to slide past each other. I ended up physically examining multiple pairs of scissors and observing how the pieces were shaped, along with looking at alternative bladed tools, like gardening or leather shears, online. Meanwhile, I had wasted time working out the complex contours and details to match the concept art, before I had established the basic shape.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this: always do a few quick prototypes, try to find parallels in real-world objects for reference, or stop caring about functionality altogether.

(on the plus side, when 3D printed, my scissors did in fact ‘work’ as intended, although they won’t be cutting anything!)

Real-world Functionality

As a cosplayer, I’ve been frustrated countless times in trying to recreate impossible designs in the real world. I teach a lecture on fabric manipulation and accuracy for cosplay, and one of my major talking points is that “game devs ≠ seamstresses”. By this, I mean that character artists and sculptors are constructing digital garments without necessarily knowing about fabric weights, seams, structural layers, or attachments, and it’s okay to amend a cosplay design to account for this. Because I’ve been on the other side – trying desperately to fit a garment to my regular human proportions or jury-rig a way to ‘float’ that gravity-defying prop – I suspect I have different priorities than many artists.

My first inclination is to think of how to make pieces functional in real life. I want to add accurate seamlines, pouches for carrying items, layers for handling different climates, and appropriate footwear. I think about whether a pauldron will clip through a character’s neck when they raise their arm, and about how they get dressed (will the cuff of their sleeve fit over their wrist? If not, it needs a closure! Will they be able to reach their sword where it’s holstered over their shoulder? If not, reposition it to their hip..).

The question I have to ask myself: is this worth it? Incorporating these factors takes additional time and energy, yet does it really add to a project? I’m sure cosplayers will appreciate it, but for the vast majority of players, these are characteristics that they wouldn’t even notice (although I’m still awaiting a study exploring whether these realism details subconsciously add to a game’s immersion..).


Friederichs, H. (2021). Laudna Character Portrait – Critical Role. [Image]. Available at: [Accessed: 4 November 2021].

l-o-t-r on Tumblr (2012). Boromir Fear and Doubt gif. [Image]. Available at: [Accessed: 5 November 2021].

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