Bulma MK-01- The Making Of
Freelance character artist Genc Buxheli shares his ZBrush workflow for
Hi! I am going to share with you my workflow for designing a character. I decided to redesign Bulma from the Dragon Ball universe, I wanted her to have a cool looking suit of armor.
First things first! I gather as many reference pictures as possible and then start sketching. I already had a general idea of how this character should look because Bulma is a well know character from /Dragon Ball/ and we all know Iron Man's armor. The hardest part was getting the Iron Man armor to look as if it was made in the Dragon Ball universe. Akira Toriyama (the creator of Dragon Ball) uses very distinct round shapes when designing mechanical for vehicles and androids.
This is the fun part. I start off in ZBrush from a sphere and activate DynaMesh and then move stuff around until I get the basic shape of the body. While doing this, I had my concept in the background so I could check the proportions were correct. I generally sculpt a basic musculature because I like to practice and in the meantime have a real idea on how clothes or armor is going to sit over the body.
Detailing the head
I always start with the head and face when adding the details; it helps me get the right feel of the character right from the beginning. The DynaMesh head is divided, while ZRemesher takes care of the correct PolyFlow. Then I detailed the head for three more subdivisions. Since this is anime style, I didn't want to overdo the detailing so I kept it very subtle.
Modeling the upper body armor
Making the armor was definitely the hardest part. I started off with some basic retopology in ZBrush to get the general shape of the armor parts. Then I used ZModeler to extend and detail the different parts in the armor; manually creasing every edge and always using Dynamic Subdivide until I was happy with the shape. Then I applied the Dynamic Subdivide to go down a subdivision and uncreased all the edges and deleted the higher subdivision. I repeated this process for all part; it helps make the edges softer while preserving their shape.
Modeling the tank top
I used Marvelous Designer to quickly make the tank top, I could have done it in ZBrush but I liked the idea of the fabric being deformed by the armor from underneath it. I created a quick pattern and then used the tools within the software to pull it over the shoulder pads for a cooler look. Then I exported the mesh in to ZBrush to five some more details to it.
With the high poly mesh now complete, I export all the SubTools in to 3dsMax where I do the retopology. Thanks to ZModeler most of the armor parts have a correct (and low poly ready) first subdivision level. When everything is low poly, I like to start optimizing the mesh by reducing the polys and improving the topology for a correct animation.
I find UV mapping to be the most tedious part of creating characters. I don't like to automate this process most of the time, since I think that only the artist can perfectly align each piece depending on their importance. It's best to always check with a checker texture to see that there's no stretching in the mesh.
Baking can take a long time to finish, but it is worth it to see all those details you have worked on finally converted into a texture. For this piece, I baked an Ambient Occlusion, Tangent and Object Space Normal maps; a Mask map that divides the different materials, Cavity map and the facial PolyPainting.
I imported the mesh in to Substance Painter, this helps me to quickly create different looking PBR materials, some of which have their own values of wear and tear. I only textured the metal and rubber parts here. The face and hair was done by hand in Photoshop.
The pose is the final step and it makes the character feel alive. I wanted to give the impression that she has been on an adventure looking for Dragon Balls, and now she finally has it. When I was happy with the pose, the mesh was exported to Marmoset Toolbag for the final lighting and rendering.