Athena: creating a CG Greek goddess - Part 1: concept & modeling
“Athena” is a CG Goddess, and my final project for the intermediate term of Think Tank Training Centre. “Athena” was inspired by the photography of Amanda Diaz. In the first chapter I will go through how I came up with my concept, where to look for inspiration, the importance of organization, and the initial modeling/sculpting for both the character and the armor. In this chapter I mainly use Maya, ZBrush, Photoshop, and PureRef to gather my inspiration and references
Coming up with a concept
For this project I wanted to experiment with human anatomy in some sort of fantasy concept. I also knew I wanted to work from a photograph. I used Pinterest, ArtStation, and Instagram in order to find a concept I would like to recreate. I found a lot of amazing photographers who focus specifically on fantasy photography. However, I think when looking for a concept you have to be realistic and keep in mind the time constraints that you might have. I knew I could have picked any concept, but I wanted to be responsible enough to pick something I knew I could finish on time. Some great photographers I ended up finding: Amanda Diaz, Hanny Honeymoon, Natalia Lefay, and Laura Sheridan.
First, I examined my concept and gathered as many relevant references I could find that would help me with modeling, texturing, and so on. It’s important to note that one of the most important aspects you need to study when making a character is anatomy. Also, due to the armor in this concept I had to research draft drawings of Greek sculptures and ornaments. Organization with your references is also very important. Having your references clearly labeled and separated saves you a lot of time when you need to find something quickly
Initial modeling: Athena
Before I began my modeling I did a lot of research on Greek women, their proportions and features. I was not basing my anatomy solely on my concept image because I wanted my final result to represent more Greek details. Then, due to time constraints I started my work from a base mesh. However, I think that if possible, it’s always better to start from a sphere. I think it gives you more practice, and practice makes perfect. After bringing the base mesh to ZBrush I focused on completely rearranging the anatomy to a more realistic one, and I focused a lot on the face by bringing in more Mediterranean features.
Initial modeling: armature
For the armature pieces it was very difficult to find references of the exact shapes, so I researched a bit about architectural Greek ornaments and I drew the references myself in Photoshop. To model the armature I used 2 different methods. First, I would use the Quad Draw tool in Maya to outline my references to get a basic mesh. Then, I added thickness and used different deformer tools to get the right shapes. The other method was introduced to me by my instructor Magnus Skagerlund. By creating a shadow box in ZBrush you can outline your shapes in a more efficient way, and then easily add whichever thickness you want, then you can begin sculpting from there.
Initial modeling: crown
The modeling of the crown was all done in Maya and it’s pretty straightforward. For the detailed ornaments at the top I used the Quad Draw Tool method previously mentioned. It was trickier because of the complexity of it but it’s all about practice. For the crown itself I used Extrude along a curve for the detailing, and the Bend Tool to get the curviness of it along the crown. The angel was also a very straightforward sculpt made in ZBrush, and I referenced a lot of old Greek sculptures on it.
Retopology & UVs
After sculpting and modeling all the elements I had to do some retopology. I mainly did the retopology on the woman by using the Quad Draw Tool in Maya. I did half of it, mirrored it, and adjusted it since my mesh was not symmetrical. For the UVs I did the same method I talked about in my last tutorial for “Inglorious Raccoons”. I basically mainly used the 3D Cut and Sew Tool to cut my objects and visualize them on my viewport more efficiently. Since I wanted to get relatively close to my project, I had to use a lot of UV Tiles.
Careful with UVs
This is my personal experience, but my Maya is not too kind to me when I deal with UV making. It crashes a lot and my file gets extremely slow. Just something to keep in mind when you deal with a lot of UVs. Delete your history, and save continuously.
Do your research
Although I spent a week doing research and watching tutorials, I wish I would have spent more time. It was helpful to me to kind of know where I was going before I began, and know where to go back to find help. Taking a lot of notes when you research is also very helpful.
ZRemeshing in ZBrush
Just a cool tool that I learned throughout this whole process. When you export your human mesh from ZBrush you’re going to want a lot of polys in the face specifically. You can use the PolyPaint method in ZBrush to assign the density of polygons to a specific area.