Create a Centurion in ZBrush & 3ds Max

Introduction

This project was made during my mentorship with Rafael Grassetti and Glauco Longi in the Forge Club. As I knew the time would be a big issue I took all the shortcuts I knew.

Step 1: Initial blocking

I started from a previous project base mesh and made a pass on the anatomy and proportions to match the concept art by the amazing Daehun Park. After I had a basic body I’ve blocked out all off the armor pieces as quick as I could using 3ds Max. This method saved me a lot of time because in the end I already had the final topology and UVs for all of the armor.

The only exception was the chest plate which I did by extracting the geo from the chest in ZBrush, smoothing the anatomy and sculpting the under-plating following the concept. Still in the time saving mindset, I separated the shapes in polygroups to drive the ZRemesher. This way I was able to produce a good topology in no time. To finish the chest plate I’ve opened the UVs in 3ds Max and got it back to ZBrush.

Step 2: Engravings

The next step was to figure out how to do the armor engravings as quickly as possible. The way I did this was by painting the patterns in the armor using masks, extracting the masks and sculpting the result to give it a 3D look. I also sculpted a basic skull that I then cut, posed, and stylized in different ways to get all the skulls in the details. For the details I wasn’t worried about topology as they would completely vanish in the final result, so I did it all in ZBrush using some occasional ZRemesher only to help me get a cleaner result.

I made some attempts to simulate the cape in Marvelous Designer but with no luck, so I ended up sculpting it by hand. I wasn’t satisfied with the result at this stage, but at least I had all the pieces together and could visualize the character for the first time, allowing me to make changes in proportions to best represent the concept.

Final blocking

Step 3: Projection

With all the engravings in place I moved on to project them in the original armor pieces by using the ZProjection brush. This process can be a little dirty if you don’t take care. The trick here is to constantly rotate the model in order for the geometry to deform in a clean manner. I wasn’t too concerned with the refinement as I was to later add battle damage and banged metal look that would completely ruin any pristine hard surface work. If I had more time I would probably make a retopology of the pieces by hand, but this would have to do for now.

Step 4: Battle damage

The battle damage was created by hand, using a combination of the Clay, DamStandard, and TrimDynamic brushes.

Battle damage

Step 5: Detailing the body

It was time to detail the body and head now. After putting in the primary and secondary shapes I needed more resolution to sculpt the pores, so I separated the model into 4 parts, head, torso, hands, and legs. Detailing these parts separately leaves seams that I proceed to clean using a method that I explained in this 3dtotal tutorial.

Step 6: Finished sculpt

I was happy with overall details at this stage, but the cape still didn’t convince me, so I re-sculpted the cape by hand giving it much more volume.

Step 7: Painting the textures

I exported the armor at level 2 subdivisions which was light enough for me to rig and still retained some of the silhouette of the details. I also exported the hi-res model to bake some normal maps in Substance Painter. With all the baked normal maps I painted the textures and added some tertiary details to the armor in substance. This way I was able to escape using displacement maps for the armor in the final renders. After exporting the textures it was time for some first render tests using V-Ray in 3ds Max.

Step 8: Body textures

The texture for the body was painted in Mari, as well as the initial displacement maps I used to detail the face. The new all-surface shader worked nicely for the skin. There goes the first skin render tests.

Step 9: Grooming

Grooming is always hard for me. As you can see, my first attempt at the goatee wasn’t very successful. I dropped this idea for a while, and focused on the environment, before going back to the grooming.

Step 10: Wireframe

As you can see by my wireframe, the model didn’t capture all the engravings alone, it depended heavily on the normal maps for the end result.

Wireframe

Step 11: Final touches

After painting some more dirty maps for the skin and the armor in Substance Painter, here are some more images of the final model.

Step 12: Conclusion

This project was an awesome test to my workflow. At the time I didn’t know any other character artist that could give feedback, so the mentorship was the perfect opportunity to test myself and I surely evolved a lot with Raf’s and Glauco’s feedback.

Final image