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Making of 'The Joker'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:

Software Used

On this project I used Maya for the base model, ZBrush for details, Photoshop for texturing and matte painting, Shave and Haircut for the hair, and Mental Ray for rendering.


When I first saw The Dark Knight movie posters I really liked them - especially one of them. I decided to try and create something similar, just for fun, but I didn't want my character to look like Heath Ledger; I wanted to do something that was similar, but still original.

Concept Design

I usually start with a concept design, but since I already knew what The Joker looked like (having seen the posters), I didn't need to on this occasion.


I started the base by modelling the head area (Fig.01). I didn't use any model sheets or reference images and I tried a different method for this project. I usually do use model sheets and start with a poly cube and extrude faces, adding resolution step by step, but for this one I started with a poly face and extruded edges. Once I'd finished the head I decided that the method was quite convenient for my needs, so I decided to model the rest of the character in the same way.

Fig. 01

I took a generic male model, which I found on a Gnomon training DVD, and used it as a reference for extruding edges. In the end I had to make some modifications because the reference model was too muscular for my project and I didn't want The Joker to look like some kind of body builder (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

One thing I'd like to point out is that I wish that I had used a model sheet, at least for the face. The reason for this is that, it may not be obvious in my poster, but the eyes are too close together, and using a model sheet would have eradicated that problem.

Once I'd finished the base modelling and UV mapping, I did a quick smooth bind, posed my character and exported everything into ZBrush.


I imported the head model into ZBrush and appended the rest of the model as SubTools. When I start sculpting in ZBrush I always try to focus on the overall picture and gestures first; I don't worry about all the minor adjustments and surface details until I'm satisfied with the general appearance. Most of the time, I tend to rely on bump maps, as opposed to creating high frequency details in ZBrush. The only area that I did use high frequency details on was the face (Fig.03). 

Fig. 03

I spent less time on sculpting the trousers than the rest of the model because, based on the lighting that I had in mind, I knew that it was going to be almost black in that area in the final image. Once I was finished with the sculpting I exported every piece with a normal map. The mesh that I took into Maya was 148,712 polygons (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

continued on next page >

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