I have several base meshes I usually use for any human character I sculpt. Two or three base meshes are suitable in most cases (though proportions change from one person to another, general shapes, bones etc., are things you find on every human being). Another example of a base mesh that gives me satisfaction can be seen in Fig.04.
Once the sculpt is done, you might want to do some retopology if necessary. In this case, I didn't do any since the model was only intended for a still image and the result was okay.
During the sculpting process, you might want to go deep into each level before increasing details. I usually think of each level of details as a base for the next, going from the general shape to the fine details (Fig.05 - 06).
I put the face in pose quite early, as I had a precise idea of what the final posing would be, and having the head posed is helpful to work on details such as eyes and symmetry breaking. I also prefer to get rid of the Symmetry tool as soon as the general shape is blocked. It helps get a better, more lifelike, feeling (after all, if I had to do the same work with clay, for example, the Symmetry tool wouldn't be available.
As you might have noticed in the preceding images, I didn't sculpt all the fine details. One thing I learned during this project was that it's more comfortable and flexible to work on fine details such as pores and light wrinkles with a bump map. I see several advantages in doing it this way:
• There's no need to get mad with mesh resolution (I stayed under 1 million polys for this model)
• The alpha maps require a lot of tuning and tend to inflate the model when you sculpt pores and details with them
• If you have to redo some areas (and more specifically, if you have to smooth some parts of your sculpt), the fine details layers stay intact
• Saves some rendering time, since fine details are not obtained by displacement, but by a normal bump.
To paint bump, I use the bump channel of the painting area of Mudbox. This tool is just top notch stuff! You get the same feeling as if you were sculpting. Then, it's all about using alphas, stamps and stencils. You can use those packaged in the software or create your own.
To add nice variations to your painting, don't forget to use randomization for your stamps. Mudbox offers some interesting options regarding rotation, spacing and size randomization (Fig.07).