Bring twins to life

Create stylized, expressive characters in ZBrush and Maya with this handy guide

In this tutorial I will show the way I made "Red twins". I will talk a little bit of my process and the different phases of the characters. I also will show how it was modeled, textured, illuminated, how I made the shading and the final composition.


At that moment, I had finished my last artwork and I didn't know quite well what should be my next work. I went to my note book, that I always bring with me, and I noticed that I had a funny character that I had drawn few time ago and I had forgotten.

I really liked this character because represents quite well the hairstyles fashion that a lot of teen use this days.

Get the concept

At that moment, I had one basic sketch of my concept and I knew that I did not want to show his eyes. When I see some kids with that hairstyle, I always think how they can handle with the hair in front of their eyes.

At the beginning, I was thinking just to make one character. So I had just a few things to work on and it was more difficult to transmit my concept. I just had the hairstyle that was the main focus of the character, part of the face and a T-shirt.


Because I didn't wanted to lose too much time in retopology I grabbed an old character, that already had a decent geometry and I started figure it out best shapes for the head. It should be simple and effective, and that was the hard part!

The hair was a very important part of it, so I spent some time trying to get the best shapes that I could.
I reached a point that I did not knew if I liked it or not. So I tried a new hairstyle with the same principles, not showing his eyes.

When I finished the second hairstyle I was even more confused, because I started to really like of both in the same way. So I thought "why do not make them twin brothers?" And that was it, I duplicate the face made a few tweaks so they could be slightly different and made two T-shirts.


When I finish blocking out all the shapes, I started with the detail and then the texture. Because they should be young I did not won't to go crazy with face texture. Then I started to paint. I usually like to paint at least three layers of coloring, so it could has more color variation and be more realistic.

I started to painting veins, red, dark blue and some dark greens, this layer should be hypoderm. The second layer represents derm, and I used skin base color with the spray brush with an alpha. The third layer, epidermis, I accentuated the highlight and the shadow areas, freckles, signs and small skin irregularities.

UV's and export

Because this was not for production, I made UV's in ZBrush. I just grab the SubTool, go to ZPlugin > UV master, then click ‘Work on Clone'. I made polygroups in my geometry where I wanted to cut the UV's and it made quite good job.

Then I used Multi Maps Exporter plug-in in ZBrush to bake all the maps that I needed and they were: AO, cavity, displacement, normal and color. With this one, I went to Photoshop and created a few more maps.

Import to Maya

I imported all to Maya and start to make the shaders.

Because I'm using Arnold to render, for the skin I used aiskin, an aistandart for the T-shirts and aiHair for the hairs.
For the hair I used Geo Maya hair 2 Plug-in, because I already had modeled the hair in ZBrush and its quite easy plug-in to get the right hairstyle.


The light was quite simple. I used mainly areaLight. Two backLight, one key light and one fill light. I also used a card with softbox hdr image, so it could illuminate a little from the bottom.


My final passes are rendered in 32bit exr file, so I could have more control and more color range to work with.
For the final composition I mainly use the beauty, z-depth and AO passes. I usually render more passes just to make small retouches. I also made some color adjustments and some refinements.

In this case, I painted the background and place it in Photoshop.

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