My wife found a Monarch butterfly lying on the ground, and brought it home. We took some pictures, and were hoping it would recover. Unfortunately it turns out that a fungus had paralyzed it, and was eating its brain. The up side is we took it apart after it died, took even more pictures, and I was able to convert them into a 3d model.
I learned a lot about bugs during the process. How they are put together, the similarities and differences between them. The model itself turned out to be as photorealistic as I've ever made an animal. The photographic textures help with that. If you'd like the model, feel free to contact me (or visit the download page: Blender model, Butterfly, free download). Everything was done in Blender and the Gimp. If you have comments or feedback, feel free to leave it here. If you'd like to commission a custom 3D model, I can help you with that.
Ahh, finally! A full butterfly render! I love it! Here you are folks, a Monarch Butterfly, in 3d, reconstructed from a diseased specimen. Special thanks to my wife for bringing the original butterfly back, helping me photograph it, and putting up with several days of me ignoring her while I worked on the model and texturing.
A front view of the fully modeled and textured 3d Monarch Butterfly. You can see the difference between the top and bottom of the wings. In general, the bottom forward wing has darker lines, while the bottom back wing has lighter more yellowish coloring.
Butterflies look strange without their wings! The Thorax hair isn't quite right, and the white spots on the underside don't show up as well as I'd like. Overall though, it's a bug!
If you're wondering where the other two legs are, they are tucked up against the front of the thorax. Butterflies mostly use the back two pair of legs, so I made the front ones non-functional, just like in real life. You can also see the rolled up proboscis at the bottom of the head, used for sucking up juices from flowers and such.
Another render of the wingless body. Here you can see the white stripe on the back. It isn't quite like the photos, but it's pretty close. Also, the two "shoulder pads" which cover the joints of the forward wings are visible here, with a white dot in the center of each. Not sure that is totally accurate to actual butterfly morphology, but the reference photos seemed to indicate the structure.
The body of a wingless butterfly (without the wings) looks much like many other insects. The thorax shape is very speculative, since it's hard to see under all the hair that will eventually go on. The abdomen is very accurate to the reference photos I took, as are the legs.
You can see the trailing edge of the wing is not straight, but interrupted by many corrugations. God's design is amazing! I haven't captured much of the detail here, but I hope the texture will do it justice.
Here is a top view of the butterfly wing geometry. You can see the veins and corrugations which strengthen the wings, provide circulation, and create the patterns of color. The veins run in the center of the dark lines, and the corrugations mark the centers of the light spots.