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Cartoon Critters: How to Stylize and Create Animals - Emu

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Date Added: 5th April 2013
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Choosing Colors

I continued to work on the design in ZBrush, improving and tweaking it and starting to add some detail (Fig.07). Some people add color to the character only after finishing the modeling process. I like to do it earlier than that as color can tell you a lot about the character's personality. For example, dark color combinations are for bad guys, whereas light colors usually express good and friendly characteristics and contrasting combinations of blue, red, green and so on are for superheroes. From time to time I turn off the diffuse to see the geometry clearly, but most of the time I work on the two together.

Fig. 07

I like to use the ZBrush UVW Master for the draft unwrap; it's a really a brilliant plugin that saves a lot of time. I usually fix it a little to make it possible to use more of the UVW space and make it easier to paint extra details in Photoshop later. I make some test renders in 3ds Max with hair to make sure all the parts work well together.

There's no magic behind the texturing process, you just have to keep in mind the final design and make the color work best for it. Don't try to use millions of colors from the beginning. First, fill the main parts of the character with solid color and if it works nicely then start to add variations and all the details you need. Remember that your character will look better if it has one dominant and a few complementary colors. When designing the emu I decided that it would be a character that basically looked cool and slightly evil (hence the teeth) though not very clever. So I mainly used bright and saturated combinations as the base color, but also added some blacks (Fig.08).

Fig. 08

Detailing Your Design

Clothing can tell a lot about your character, such as its background and habits, so don't underestimate this part of the designing process. Though it should be recognizable without any clothes on at all, this is a good chance to exaggerate some of the key features and add extra detail. For example, torn and dirty clothes can be used for poor characters. The eye patch and a wooden leg is what makes a pirate a pirate! Well, of course it shouldn't always be that obvious. Remember Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and how he used to be able to tell the background story of a person just by looking at him and analyzing the small details of his clothes? That's how you have to be - like Sherlock Holmes, just with only one difference: you have to tell the viewer through the details, not guess. I decided that my character would be a bit of an emo. I didn't want to depict it fanatically, but just wanted to give a sense of it.

Lighting Your Design

Though the lighting may seem like it is something that doesn't directly concern the character's design, the truth is you can tell a lot through the way you light your character. You can make it look more evil by lighting it from beneath, or mysterious by lighting it from the behind. The lighting and atmosphere should reinforce the character's personality.

Well, after saying all that I should be honest and tell you that in my case the lighting was rather simple. I wanted to stylize it to make it look like an amateur photo with over-burned areas, noise in the shadows and all the stuff you usually see on the internet when people try to take photographs of themselves. After some thinking I admitted that it wasn't the best idea in the world as I not only wanted the picture to be funny, but of a good quality too. The lighting set up looked like this (Fig.09). A V-Ray light for the main fill light, and three spot lights with attenuation - one for the rim, the second for the key light source and the third for some additional backlighting. I also added a plane under the character with a radial gradient in the material's opacity channel, so that the floor kind of fades away to the edges of the picture.

Fig. 09

Finishing Your Design

I didn't use many post effects on this image. I rendered the scene in several separate layers - Specular, Reflect, Hair, Ambient Occlusion and so on - then combined them using Photoshop. I added a few texture layers on top of the image to add some depth and take away that digital look a little. I created the new layer, set it to Soft Light and drew some extra highlights using a soft brush just to make the image pop a little more (Fig.10).

Fig. 10


I hope you learned something from this tutorial and found it interesting. Thank you for reading - now it's time to go and make some designs to rule the world!

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Ray Quinn on Wed, 25 September 2013 1:41pm
Hi, Can you tell me how you made the fur? I felt that your tutorial seemed to jump to a furry, textured image from the zbrush default look and im confused.. Could be me being blind but just thought I would ask..
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