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Making of a hungry, angry alien

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Date Added: 1st March 2017
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Arek Tomaszewski shares his ZBrush workflow for recreating one of Creature Box's aliens...


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This sculpt was one of my speed projects that I started doing last year, the idea is to use an existing 2D concept and turn it into 3D (with my own twist) in one to two days. This time I picked one of the sketches by Creature Box from their second book; I've been a fan of their work for quite a while now because they have very strong style which can be seen across all their designs. Another thing I think about when working on these sculpts is the time frame, for this one I just didn't have time to do the full body and expressions.

Step 01: Building main shapes

The first step is to get the main shapes1st step is to get the main shapes right. I started sculpting in ZBrush with a Sphere mainly using the ClayTubes and Move brushes; I had the original Creature Box sketch loaded in the background and used that to help me create the basic shapes. I used DynaMesh whenever there were too many polygons, I used the DynaMesh Master plug-in because you can set the amount of polygons you want and keep it nice and low. The fewer polygons you are working with mean it much easier to keep control of the shapes. The aim of this step was to get the main shapes done and correct; I focused on the head first and then moved on to the rest.

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Sculpting the head

Step 02: Adding other base mesh props

When I was more or less happy with the head I started adding in the other base meshes for the props, as well as the jaws and teeth. I followed the same process as sculpting the head - start with a ZSphere and shape it according to the concept. I then added a hand by pulling out a cylinder (although I ended up remodeling it using a ZSphere.) To create the uniform I masked out the initial shaped and extruded it.

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Adding the props to the head sculpt

Step 03: Hard surface props

I modeled the hard surface elements of the image in 3ds Max, again I tried to spend as little time as possible doing this. I am mainly a Maya user but the tools for modeling in 3ds Max are so much faster than they are in Maya, so when I have to model hard surfaces I use Max.

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Modeling the hard surface props

Step 04: Combining it all in ZBrush

I imported the props into ZBrush to pose them properly. Once I had the gun in right position I rebuilt the arm using a ZSphere so that the fingers would wrap around the gun. I also continued to build up and refine the shapes on the face.

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Bringing everything together

Step 05: Topology

As this is a speed project I used ZRemesher to work on the topology because doing a proper session of retopology would take far too long. For UVs I used UVMaster it is fast and I knew I would be painting in the textures anyway; this is not something I would normally use in production but it is perfect for a personal speed project.

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Working on the retopology

Step 06: Detailing skin

The three things I did to detail the skin:
1. I used the Clay Buildup brush in Spray Stroke mode with very low intensity (2) to make the uneven surface of the skin because it would look weird if it was too clean and perfect
2. For wrinkles I used the Slice brush and manually carved them in them manually and used the Inflate brush on the side of the slices to give them some body
3. For the pores I created alphas from TexturesXYZ for ZBrush and projected them with the Standard brush

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Skin details

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The finished skin details

Step 07: Painting skin

I mainly used ZBrush to paint the skin - I started with the Standard brush in Spray Stroke with alpha07. I painted the base a pink color and then added red with low intensity around the eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, and around the fat on the neck. I did the same with a blue color and smoothed it all out in RGB mode. Once that was done I added some veins with alpha22. To add some color variation over the whole model I added some darker blotches on the skin. I finally painted a sub-dermal layer in a darker pink and added some orange to the overall color.

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Painting the skin

Step 08: Texturing hard surface props

To texture the gun, uniform, and ear pieces I used Substance Painter which is fantastic for texturing hard surfaces quickly. You can quickly generate textures based on the edge flow and normal curvature of your objects which is great for a speed project.

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Texturing the hard surfaces

Step 09: Lighting

For the lighting I used V-Ray for Maya with a basic three point light setup, I made sure that the rim light was stronger than the normal as I projected the background on to a curved plain behind the character. I wanted to get the feeling of strong sun light coming from the back. The shader setup was fairly simple; I used V-Ray Standard materials and the V-Ray AlShader. Doing it this way was great because it got me the results I wanted much faster than if I had used my usual method of blending V-Ray skin with V-Ray Standard material.

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Lighting setup

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Shader setup

Step 10: Rendering

There was nothing fancy about my rendering process; I used the standard settings with few render passes that I usually use for quick composting - including Reflection, SSS, Specular, MultiMatte, ZDepth, and AO.

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Render passes

Step 11: Comping

For comping I used After Effects, I screened the spec with a MultiMatte pass added some SSS and adjust it with Curves. For the final look I used Magic Bullet Suite and frischluft plugins to add Grain, Blur, Bokeh, and Color Variation. I also added optical flare to enhance the sun effect coming from behind the monster backs. With these final touches I was done. Thanks for reading!

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Final image

Related links

To see more of Arek's work check out his blog
Arek is also on Behance
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