Armored Lizard Beasts

Hi, my name is Bruno Câmara and over the next few pages I'll be explaining the process I used to create my lizard character. I hope you like it!

The main idea for this tutorial was to come up with an armored creature of some kind, so I decided to create a reptilian beast that lived a long time ago, in a fantasy kind of era where there were few resources and constant conflict. The beast wasn't very intelligent and basically lived by fighting for food. He was always one of the first on the battlefield and his armor wasn't particularly strong or thick because of the lack of resources and the fact that the lizards can't forge metal. It was basically made of things he found or collected from dead enemies.

With this idea in my head I started to sketch some rough ideas (Fig.01). I created some messy silhouettes and then the character began to form out of these.

Fig. 01

Fig. 01

Generally the first sketches you make are the most cliché ones. The more options and variations you sketch, the more interesting and original they become. In Fig.02 you can see the option I chose as the concept for my character, which I then developed into the final concept shown in Fig.03.

Fig. 02

Fig. 02

Fig. 03

Fig. 03

It is here that I defined everything. You don't need to do a detailed sketch or concept for your images, but getting some ideas down on paper may help. It helps me a great deal when I start the sculpting, as I already know what I plan to do and have things like scale and pose decided in advance. I always gather references at this point as well, as it helps sell the image and make it more accurate.

Modeling

Then it was time to start the hard work. For the modeling I separated the character into three main parts: the head, body and props. Before anything else though, I started on the main base using ZSpheres (Fig. 04).

After building the structure I converted it to a mesh (Tool > Make PolyMesh 3D). I then started to define the proportions and general shape of the muscles (Fig.05).

Fig. 04

Fig. 04

Fig. 05

Fig. 05

Sculpting the Head

On this mesh I had already defined the shapes of the head, but I hadn't detailed it yet so I did a simple retopology to have a better base to start from (Fig.06).

Fig. 06

Fig. 06

To make the retopology of any mesh, do the following:
1. Create a ZSphere and hit Edit
2. In Tool > Rigging, click Select Mesh
3. Select the mesh you will use to create the
new topology
4. Go to Tool > Topology > Edit Topology
5. Turn Symmetry on (if needed) and click on
the model to begin creating new geometry
6. Press A to see the new mesh
7. When you are done, press Tool > Make
PolyMesh 3D.

That's the process I used to make the new mesh for the head. This new mesh had some basic edge loops for a better flow and easy detailing in the future. Once the new topology was done I started to detail the head using a reference of a blue-tongued lizard and a Komodo dragon to help me.

The first one stands out among all other lizards because of his nice body texture and weird tongue. Since my armored lizard was going to be huge, at three or four times the size of a human, his skin would be more like a Komodo dragon's or a dinosaur's than a little lizard. Other references were used too, like iguanas and other lizards.

After gathering several references, I also downloaded several alphas related to lizard skin. You can find great alphas on Pixologic's website.

I started defining the main muscles on the head and neck and the folds of skin. I then moved on to the gums and tongue (Fig.07). The eyes were a simple Sphere3D object and the tongue was made from ZSpheres.

To make the teeth I masked the position of the teeth on the gums and used Extract to create a new subtool. Then using the Inflat tool and the Pinch brushes, I pulled and shaped each tooth (Fig.08). Like the tongue, the drool was also made from ZSpheres (Fig.09).

Finally I detailed the scales around the mouth and eyes manually. Basically I masked the mouth region where the scales would be, inverted the mask and used a combination of the Standard brush and Inflat brush to highlight the scales (Fig.10). I used this process for the major scales; the others I did with skin alphas (Fig.11).

I didn't spend much time on the shoulders as they were going to be hidden behind the leather clothes. In Fig.12 you can see the completed head.

Fig. 07

Fig. 07

Fig. 08

Fig. 08

Fig. 09

Fig. 09

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Detailing the Body

The lizard's body demanded a mixture of human and lizard anatomy. To tackle this I collected as many references of human muscles and lizards as possible. I tried to create a strong body that looked balanced enough to carry the weight of the armor.

As I had already modeled a base for the body, I used it to begin to define the muscles of the limbs, but before I did that I deleted all of the head geometry as it was no longer necessary. I started with the arms and hands, and defined the muscles and veins (Fig.13). I then moved on to the legs (Fig.14), and finally the torso and tail (Fig.15). Some parts were not detailed as they were going to be covered by cloth and armor.

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

Fig. 15

For the scales I used the same process as I did for the head. I manually modeled the main parts like the elbow and joints. For the rest I used a lot of alphas and adjusted any problems that arose.

The final body can be seen in Fig.16. At this point I had seven subtools: the head, body, eyes, tongue, drool, upper teeth and lower teeth.

Fig. 16

Fig. 16

Modeling the Props

There are several props on this character. I divided them into five different parts and created them in this order: cloth, armor, shield, leather straps and weapons. For both parts of cloth I used Extract (Tools > Subtool > Extract). Extract is just great and really speeds up the workflow. At the lowest level of subdivision and with the Ctrl key pressed, I masked the rags of leather that I wanted to extract (Fig.17).

Once they were masked I clicked Extract. I set the parameters for Edge Smoothness to 0, Surface Smoothness to 0 and Thickness to 0.3. Depending on the model you make these values may vary. After extracting them I softened the edges of the extracted model manually, so I could have a better range of smoothness. It was necessary to separate the cloth from the body a bit with the Move brush, to make them fall on the body, simulating gravity. I created three different rags of leather for the torso (Fig.18).

For the lower clothes I had to extract a base geometry and mask over it to make out the final cloth. I created two rags (Fig.19).

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Fig. 18

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Fig. 19

The Armor

I thought this metal armor would be useful as the lizard would have to defend against frontal attacks. It would be very old and worn, with pieces of chains and wires around. The fastest way to create it was with ZBrush's ShadowBox.

This is the quickest way to model using ShadowBox:
1. Create a Sphere (Sphered3D primitive)
and tap the T key to edit
2. Click Tool > Make PolyMesh3D to
transform it from a primitive to polymesh
3. Now click Tool > Subtool > ShadowBox
4. Hold Ctrl and click and drag on the canvas
to clear the mask and erase the sphere
5. Now you have what you need to start
working in ShadowBox.

With a resolution of 300 for ShadowBox (ReMesh Resolution parameter) and the X axis symmetry turned on, I drew the mask to generate the armor's base (Fig.20).

It's even better to build props like this to the correct scale (Fig.21). Simple as that! Now the base of the armor was ready to be detailed. I started bending the armor with the Move brush to improve the curvature. Then with the Slash1 and Slash2 brushes I made marks all over it as if it had been involved in plenty of wars. Another great tool I used was the Polish brush, which allowed me to flatten some areas.

After this I used some metal alphas for minor details, such as rust and wear and tear (Fig.22).

Fig. 20

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

Fig. 21

Fig. 22

Fig. 22

With the armature complete, I moved on to modeling the wires and chains hanging from it.

For the wires I used ZSpheres, which I patiently rolled one by one until I had the correct thickness. For the chains I used a Ring3D primitive. I modified it until I had the shape of a chain's ring and multiplied it until I had the length I required for my chain. Using the Subtool Master plugin I merged the rings to create a single object (Fig.23).

Fig. 23

Fig. 23

Using Transpose to move and rotate, I positioned the chains just like the concept and, using the Move brush, I bent them to give them a sense of movement. You can see the finished piece of armor in Fig.24.

Fig. 24

Fig. 24

Shield

For the lizard I created three different shields. One of them is the medusa shield. I started in ShadowBox by creating the basic shape (Fig. 25). After the mesh was generated I used the MatchMaker brush to get the contours of the cylinder. This new brush is perfect when making one surface conform to the contours of another.

Fig. 25

Fig. 25

To use the MatchMaker brush do the following:
1. Tool > Subtool (this should already
contain the object you want to deform)
click Append and choose the object to use
as the contour
2. Now you have two subtools: the main one
and the reference for the contour
3. Position the reference object below the
object to be deformed
4. With the main one selected, choose the
MatchMaker brush in the brush palette
5. Click the center of the object and drag;
now the object will deform in accordance
with the object underneath.

After getting the contour of the cylinder I subdivided the shield a couple of times, turned on Symmetry and started sculpting the Medusa's face. For the snakes I masked their shape on the mesh and used the Inflat brush to pull them out. For the ornaments I used the Stitch brush with a round alpha and modeled some screws around the border. Finally I destroyed the shield using the ClayTubes and Slash1 brushes.

To create another shield I used the same process as I did on the previous one, only I changed the format and used a sphere as the contour (Fig.26).

For the third shield I basically used Extract to create each of the pieces. From a cylinder I created a disk and subdivided it to be the wood part. Then one by one I masked the edge, center and arrow-shape, and used the Extract (Tool > Subtool > Extract) to create the metal parts. I then detailed the piece of wood and metal with screws and creases, and made them old and broken (Fig.27).

I then placed the shields and created more wires with ZSpheres to tie them to the body (Fig.28).

Fig. 26

Fig. 26

Fig. 27

Fig. 27

Fig. 28

Fig. 28

Leather Straps

I modeled the leather straps using Extract to match the concept. I masked around the body and limbs, but erased a small piece where I could connect the loop with a Ring3D primitive (Fig.29).

I repeated this a few times until I had this (Fig.30).

Fig. 29

Fig. 29

Fig. 30

Fig. 30

Weapons

There are many weapons on this character, consisting of the secondary ones that hang on him and the main one he uses to attack. The secondaries are the remains of weapons, swords and broken spears of past battles. For the swords I made one complete sword and from it created some variations. I used ShadowBox to create the base mesh (Fig.31) and used Symmetry to create them. Once they were made I used the Move and Polish brushes to detail them. I created variations using clipping brushes to break them into different parts.

To cut any object in ZBrush using Clipping brushes, do the following:
1. With your object on the screen and in Edit
mode (T key) hold Ctrl + Shift.
2. The Brush and Stroke palettes have now
changed. Choose a Clipping brush like
ClipCurv and a stroke, like Curve.
3. Still holding Ctrl + Shift, click and drag to
start drawing the cut.
4. To make a curve just tap the Alt key. When
you have finished, release Ctrl + Shift to
cut the mesh.

I used the same method for the spear (Fig.32).

There is also a broken axe, which again I created by using the same method as before.

The blade and the handle are the same mesh. The Polish brush was essential here to make the details really sharp. I also used rusty metal alphas to make it look worn (Fig.33).

Fig. 31

Fig. 31

Fig. 32

Fig. 32

Fig. 33

Fig. 33

The other main weapons are a machete and a cleaver. These were all created in the same way (Fig.34 - 35).

Fig. 34

Fig. 34

Fig. 35

Fig. 35

Texturing and Posing

With the hard work done it was time to put some color on the character. As the head and body were different subtools, I focused on finishing the texture of the head to give the final look for the body. I started by filling the head of the lizard with a yellow tone, which also complied with the main reference of the blue-tongued lizard. I then used a lighter tone for areas like under his chin and chest. I like to use an alpha for the transition of tones to match the texture of the skin (Fig.36). In this case I chose to use a scales alpha.

With the Standard brush and FreeHand stroke I added some dark stripes at the beginning of the back, as they were on the reference. I also polypainted some more random scales of the same color on the stripes. For the tongue and teeth I used several references of human teeth and the mouths of some lizards like the Komodo dragon.

For the eyes I used the DragRect stroke. I projected a picture of a chameleon's eye as I found them much more expressive than other lizards. For the drool I used a reference image of a Komodo dragon, which has very thick and white drool. After the head was ready and the final look was okay, I painted the body in the same style. The final body can be see in Fig.37.

For the cloth I used different images and leather tones that had been treated in Photoshop. Using the DragRect stroke and Alpha 01 I projected the images onto the sculpt (Fig.38).

Fig. 36

Fig. 36

Fig. 37

Fig. 37

Fig. 38

Fig. 38

Before proceeding with the texture I broke the symmetry and posed the character. For the pose I tried to follow the concept, but with some differences in the pose of the limbs to create a better silhouette. I deleted hard objects such as the armor and shields, and used the Transpose Master to pose him (Fig.39).

Once I was happy with the silhouette, I started to place the props and used the Transpose Masters to make it all work together. This part took some time because of the large amount of props. I also had to be careful to make sure no parts intersected with each other.

With the pose ready, I continued to finish the texturing. I used the same texture for the leather straps, varying the tones between them, and I also applied some metal textures to the rings (Fig.40).

Fig. 39

Fig. 39

Fig. 40

Fig. 40

The next step was to polypaint the armor and wires. I searched for textures such as rusted metal and rope wires, and applied them with the DragRect stroke tool. For both I used a darker version of the textures to vary the tone in some areas.

For the shields I basically just used metal matcaps, which are freely available on the Pixologic website (http://www.pixologic.com/zbrush/downloadcenter/library/). On the website, under the option MATCAP METAL, I downloaded Deep Bronze, Rusted Gray and Worn Silver Metals (Fig.41).

Fig. 41

Fig. 41

The only texture I used was for the wooden part of the shield. For Medusa's shield I used two matcaps: the deep bronze for the Medusa's face and the rusted gray metal for the rest. I didn't use a texture here. For the wooden shield I applied the worn silver matcap for the metal part, and a wood texture for the middle. Finally for the round shield I modified the deep bronze matcap (Material > Modifiers) to a darker version and applied it.

Weapons

For the secondary weapons on his back I used a single material. Maybe I should have used some variation of hue to achieve a better look. Again the deep bronze matcap was changed to a grayer version, like steel. This matcap is great because it creates a sense of texture. It darkens the cavities and highlights the bumps so the weapons have a very old look (Fig.42).

Fig. 42

Fig. 42

For the main weapons I also used a modified matcap for the metal parts. I used the SketchShaded2 matcap for the wood, along with a few textures (Fig.43).

Fig. 43

Fig. 43

And that's it. The texturing process was now finished and it was time for my PC to work on the render passes.

Rendering

For the final image I wanted a very dark mood, with low light, as if he were in a cave. Nine render passes were used: Color Pass, Ambient Occlusion, Main Light, Specular, Right Rim Light, Left Rim Light, Depth of Field, Mask and a SSS pass (Fig. 44).

Fig. 44

Fig. 44

Before rendering all the passes I saved a view using ZAppLink (Document > ZAppLink Properties). This was to ensure that all the passes would be rendered at the same angle. I also applied a black background to all the passes and increased the FocalAngle to 140 (Draw > FocalAngle) to give more depth to the scene.

Color Pass

The first pass I exported was the Color pass, which is where all the colors were. To do this I simply applied the Flat Color Standard material to the entire scene. By just using this material, I would have lost the metal shaders, so I kept the matcaps of the weapons and all metal parts by going to Color > Fill Object, with only the M (Material Channel) button on (Fig.45).

Fig. 45

Fig. 45

Ambient Occlusion

For the Ambient Occlusion I also used the Flat Color Standard material, but with all the textures and polypaints off. To turn off the materials and textures of all the subtools, go to Tool > Subtool, hold Shift and click on the brush-shaped icon. Now you can use any color or matcap. Regarding the parameters in the Render palette, I only put the AOcclusion button on and in Render > BPR AO, I used the following values:

- Strength:1
- Rays: 100
- Res: 4000
- Angle: 360
- Blur: 2
- VDepth: 0
- LDepth: -1
- Gamma: 3

And that's it. The resulting image is in Fig.46. Then in Photoshop I used Levels to highlight a few details.

Fig. 46

Fig. 46

Main Light

The Main Light pass was a simple sun light coming from the right. I used a white light so I could change the color in Photoshop at will. I set Intensity to 0.7, Ambient to 0 and the BasicMaterial as a matcap.

I turned Shadows on in the Render palette and the BPR Shadows option and set them like this:
- Strength: 1
- Rays: 100
- Res: 4000
- Angle: 20
- Blur: 6
- VDepth: 0
- LDepth: -1

I clicked the BPR button and made the Main Light pass (Fig.47).

Fig. 47

Fig. 47

Specular Pass

For the Specular pass I used the ReflectedMap matcap and in Material > Modifiers I set Ambient and Diffuse to 0 and also adjusted the specular curve based on references. For the light I used the same position and the same parameters as I'd used for the Main Light pass, and hit BPR (Fig.48).

Fig. 48

Fig. 48

Left and Right Rim Lights

For these two passes I used the same parameters as the Main Light pass. The difference is that the light source was behind the object. To do this I simply double-clicked on the point of light in the Light palette. I also increased Intensity to 2, because it gets weaker when it's behind the object. I made some adjustments in Photoshop to highlight these rim lights even more (Fig.49).

Fig. 49

Fig. 49

Depth of Field and Mask

These two passes were created simultaneously using the Create Maps button (Render > Create Maps). This can generate the main image, Depth of Field, Shadow, Ambient Occlusion and Mask at the same time if you want it to. I used the same parameters for the Fog tab as I did in the Depth of Field tab (Depth Cue). This way I could see in real-time how the depth of field would blur the final image.

The Depth Cue parameters were as follows:
- Intensity: 100
- Softness: 4
- Depth 1: -0.22
- Depth 2: 0.16

With the Create Maps button enabled, I clicked BPR and created these two passes (Fig.50).

Fig. 50

Fig. 50

SSS

For Subsurface Scattering I used the DoubleShade1 matcap. In Material > Modifiers, for both the S1 and S2 slots, I set Specular to 0. In Tool > Subtool I hid all the objects except the head, body and drool and I turned off the brush-shaped icon to disable the polypainted textures. I chose a reddish color as the main color and in the Light palette double-clicked on the point of light to put it behind the character. I then set Intensity to 2, Ambient to 0 and turned on SSS. Finally, in the Render palette, I also enabled Shadows and SSS. I pressed the BPR button and the SSS pass was ready (Fig.51). I adjusted this slightly with Levels in Photoshop.

Fig. 51

Fig. 51

Final Composition

Finally we have reached the last part of this tutorial. Now all I needed to do was assemble all the render passes in Photoshop. Fig.52 shows all the passes in order of assembly. I started by opening the Color pass of the character and applied the Occlusion pass using it in Multiply layer mode.

Fig. 52

Fig. 52

I then applied the Main Light pass, which was given a yellow tint in Photoshop using Hue and Saturation. This was applied using the Soft Light layer option.

The Specular pass was then added in Screen mode. In this pass I deleted some areas such as on the pieces of leather and on some metals because it doesn't make sense to have specular there.

Immediately on top of the Specular pass I applied the Rim Light passes using Screen layer mode. These fitted perfectly, but I duplicated the right rim light layer to highlight some areas a little more.

Finally there was the SSS pass over all the layers in Screen mode. A lot of this layer was erased leaving it in some parts, like the mouth, hands and tail.

After I had assembled this I flattened the image and started a new one. In this second version I applied the background using the Mask pass. Then I highlighted the center of the scene, darkened the edges of the image and used the Depth of Field pass in the Lens Blur filter to achieve the blur effect. That's it! Finally the armored lizard was done (Fig.53).

Fig. 53

Fig. 53

Conclusion

At the end of a project like this you learn a lot as there's always room for improvement. If I went back in time and started again I would change several things to make it better. I think that everyone should leave their comfort zone from time to time to learn and evolve further. I can't wait to start an even bigger project.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. For me it was an honor to write for 3DCreative and if you have any questions or feedback feel free to contact me.

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