The term Low Poly is a term commonly used in the world of 3D, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, but what does it mean? What is considered a low poly model? We will explain everything about low poly 3D models in this article.
Definition of Low Poly
A Low Poly 3D file is a lightweight 3D file. Indeed, the term Low Poly (Low Polygons, few polygons) defines 3D models that have few faces. The number of faces of the model will determine whether it is a low or high poly model.
Let’s take an example: a 3D file that represents a cube can be composed of 6 faces (6 polygons), which makes it a Low Poly 3D file.
Conversely, to represent a sphere in 3D, you need more polygons, and this is where the term low poly takes on its full meaning.
In high definition, a sphere can be made up of millions of polygons so that the edges are the least visible possible and have the least possible tilt of angles.
In polygon models, depending on the face that makes up the sphere, we can more or less see a smooth and perfect sphere.
Low poly 3D models are generally accompanied by a texture whose definition has been lowered and optimized. This makes it possible to have an overall lighter 3D file.
To begin with, you should know that the design of a virtual object in 3D is done in modeling software, for example, 3DS Max or Blender. The design of an asset from simple shapes with a low number of polygons, like a cube, will be worked on to obtain the desired shape.
Low poly modeling consists of doing this while keeping the number of polygons relatively small. This method is opposed to “High poly”, more often used by AAA video game studios, whose productions are mostly rich in detail and realistic.
But the term low poly has spread, and now refers to a particular aesthetic. It’s composed of solid areas of color or textures with little detail.
In the early days of three-dimensional video games, the majority of them, such as “Super Mario 64” were made this way. This is because the technology was not yet sufficiently developed to support complex assets and high textures.
Today, we have technologies that allow us to create games bordering on photorealism. However, we notice the presence of many games that refrain from using them, opting for this more minimalist approach.
In visual communication as in fashion, we can observe key trends from inspirations from around the world. The Low-poly design mixes reliefs and geometry by associating polygons and playing on the nuances of colors.
The origins of low poly models
The use of Low Poly art originates from the beginnings of 3D animation (about twenty years ago). It was a technique used to create video game scenes and three-dimensional scenes.
Simulating 3D scenes using low polygonal resolution has reduced rendering times. This significantly accelerated the development process for video games and animated films.
An artistic trend
The Low Poly “look” has become a design trend.
Illustrators are now using simple polygons to communicate textures and depths in their compositions while not sacrificing the minimalist aesthetic but creating a very structured dynamic.
Why is it so popular?
First of all, because it has a strong visual impact, the details are reduced and we can then get to the point.
Combined with a minimalist interface, this allows for a more intelligible gaming experience than in others. Another benefit is that, by limiting the number of details, this gives more importance to light and shaders in the game. These play a more important role in the visual atmosphere.
If the assets and textures are not realistic, then we can afford to increase the contrasts, and bring supernatural colors to the environment.
The result is an aesthetic richness that cannot be found in games with realistic graphics. It allows artists to compose sublime worlds and landscapes. Examples: ” Firewatch”, “The Witness”, “Rhyme “.
Low poly also offers a considerable advantage in one of the most important criteria in video games; performance. Indeed the reduced number of polygons decreases the effort and the time necessary to load the 3D elements.
This, therefore, makes it possible to run these games on less powerful touch tablets or smartphones, on which sophisticated games such as “Monument Valley”, “Crossy Road” or even “AbyssRium” are available to name but a few. some.
Making graphics in low poly also makes it easier to integrate simple geometric shapes. This is more complicated in games with realistic graphics because it can create a break in the visual consistency.
This remains a huge advantage to the low poly style which makes it one of the most common today on the video game scene.
This is not for users but development studios, because low poly is a quick and easy way to design assets while allowing good quality output. This makes it an ideal process for development studios, which don’t have the resources that a studio like EA, Bethesda, Ubisoft, etc, have.
What does a Low Poly 3D file look like?
This process allows images to be created using only two-dimensional polygons (that is, without any shape or curve). The term “Low poly” therefore does not refer to “low quality” but to a computer technique.
It is not necessarily possible by viewing the rendering of a 3D model to know if it is a low poly model or not.
Low poly 3D files are generally intended for use in video games or real-time web viewing.
Low Poly – What size and weight limits?
No standard can categorize a 3D model in Low Poly. It is a generic term whose file weight limits, a number of polygons and edges can be imposed differently depending on the platform or the software.
For example for the use of 3D models in ARKit, the Apple Development Kit for Augmented Reality, Apple recommends the integration of low poly 3D models.
How to convert a 3D file to low poly
Nowadays, it is not possible to convert a 3D file to low poly automatically without loss of quality.
This conversion work is manual work that can be done by a 3D designer. The 3D designer will therefore perform retopology work consisting of lightening the basic 3D model, for example by removing the non-visible parts of a model, to make the file as light as possible.
Where is the low-poly model used
As with the concept of High Poly, it is common to hear the term Low Poly in the development of video games. It is a technique that achieves really attractive finishes in a video game despite its apparent simplicity.
Thus, it is used in numerous games, videos, and images. It helps users obtain an appearance in which the characters and objects. In this way, it is possible to see the faces that make up these characters and objects.
Cinema 4D and Blender are two examples of computer programs that allow scenes in Low Poly. Among other things, they help to create this style with different intensities and textures and in a very simple and fast way.
What is the difference between Low-Poly and High-Poly?
For each 3D model, we will take into account the number of polygons (polycount). Depending on the end-use of the model, the number of polygons may need to be reduced.
Indeed, the artist will sometimes start his work without necessarily giving himself a limit. If his resource is intended to be used in animation (movies or other), then he can most of the time afford a high polycount budget.
On the other hand, if the goal is to integrate the resource into a real-time application, depending on the target platform (and therefore, the technical limitations) and the use that will be made of it, the artist will have to reduce the number of polygons, while keeping the details as much as possible. This version, which is ready for video games, and therefore has a lower polygon count will be called low-poly.
The advantages of Low Poly
- Very light file weight.
- Allows file exchange more easily.
- Allows fast real-time uploads on the web.
- Requires less work on the graphics card of the computer, smartphone, or tablet compared to high definition 3D models.
- Overall, it is possible to create very fluid 3D, Augmented Reality, or Virtual Reality experiences.
The disadvantages of Low Poly
- Limits the display of model details.
- Affects the rendering quality.
- Limits the integration of information.
Low poly is a simple and minimalist approach to the artistic and visual design of video games. Used in the early days of real-time 3D, it is now enjoying considerable success among a large number of players and developers.
The graphic qualities, the possibilities offered by this method, as well as its relationship between limited resources and great results make it a significant three-dimensional option in the world of video games. Also, with its timeless and clean style, low poly is destined to keep its appeal for a long time.