Create a Game Character: Jouster - part 1

This exclusive, free tutorial series will explore game character creation workflow. I will cover my entire process of taking a concept through to the final game asset.

You can see how the concept was designed by Marc Brunet on LayerPaint in his two-part tutorial.

The tutorials are intended for intermediate users with some knowledge of the software being used, plus a base understanding of character art workflow.

During this tutorial series I will cover:

  1. Blocking in the proportions
  2. Sculpting the face
  3. Sculpting the armor
  4. Creating the armor meshes
  5. Finalizing the details
  6. Creating the low poly model
  7. UV unwrapping and texture baking
  8. Texturing the armor
  9. Texturing the face
  10. Model presentation in Marmoset

There are many different processes, tools and workflows available when creating characters. I'll keep things simple by explaining the process and techniques that I use in my own workflow. Although some steps may focus on specific software tools, they should be somewhat transferable between different software packages.

I hope you'll find this series of helpful in some way and if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Let's get started!

Step 1: Do your planning

Before beginning any work on a new model, it's important to analyze the concept art provided and start planning how to create the character. It's also a good idea to gather any extra reference material you may need.

Marc Brunet has created an awesome character concept for this tutorial series. The character has a lot of cool, overlapping, hard surface features, so it's important to have a good understanding of how they sit and flow in relation to each other. Look at your concept and try to determine the best ways to create the different meshes and identify any potential problem areas. Having a plan can potentially save a lot of time further down the track.

Step 2: Create the base mesh

The first phase of the tutorial is to block in the character proportions. This serves as a guide for when we start creating the armor on top. To begin, import a base mesh into ZBrush. You can use any standard human mesh - in this example I'm using a simple generic female base mesh.

Step 3: Block in the form

We'll ignore the head and face until later and just concentrate on the body for now. Turn on Symmetry (X) and start adding some mass to the arms, legs and torso with the Move, Clay and Inflate brushes. The figure underneath the armor has stylized proportions, so we'll be able to push the shapes a bit further than normal.

At this early stage I like to keep my subdivisions low and mainly rely on the Move tool to push and pull the shapes. To make it easier to adjust the torso, hide the arms by Ctrl + Shift + Alt-dragging a selection around the arms.

Step 4: Check the silhouette and proportions

The body won't be seen under the armor, so it's not necessary to add much detail. Instead, focus on getting the main forms and proportions looking right. To help visualize the silhouette of the character, I like to toggle (V) between the default black and white colors. Having the character filled with black helps you to be able to see the overall shapes more clearly.

To help check proportions, you can load the concept art into ZBrush using Spotlight (Turn On/Off Spotlight: Shift+Z, Show/Hide Spotlight Wheel: Z) by importing the image into the texture slot, then selecting Texture > Add to Spotlight.

To be able to sculpt while Spotlight is turned on, set Brush > Samples > Spotlight Projection to Off. Alternatively, you can use the See-through feature of ZBrush to see the concept art behind the ZBrush window. From here, you can adjust the character's proportions to better match the concept art.

Step 5: Sculpt your landmarks

As I said previously, the body's proportions are stylized in the concept to allow for the armor suit. The shapes through the torso, waist and hips have been exaggerated slightly, and the legs and arms have been made longer. Using the Clay and DamStandard brushes, begin hinting at the underlying structures, like the collar bone and ribs, as well as the knee and elbow, to be used as landmarks to help guide where the armor is going to be placed.

Pro tip: Transpose tools!

The Move (W), Scale (E) and Rotate (R) Transpose tools are a great way to quickly make large proportion changes to the mesh. You can either use the Mask tool or the Transpose line to mask an area by Ctrl + clicking and dragging on the mesh. Then using the Transpose tool to move, rotate or scale the mesh.

Click HERE to see the next part in this series.

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