Creating a stop motion lookdev with Substance Painter and Blender
I'll show how to create a 3D character that looks like a stop motion production, using specific tools in ZBrush to apply the handmade effect in the sculpt, techniques in Substance Painter for the textures painted by hand, and tips in Blender Cycles for the fabric texture and shaders.
For this project i saved two kinds of references; the first was some shots from the movie Paranorman (by Laika Studios), that showed interesting details about the surface of the characters. After that, I photographed myself from different angles, to use as reference to sculpt a stylized self-portrait in ZBrush.
In ZBrush I started with a sphere and Dynamesh. I made many attempts until I got the right look of my face, but at the same time stylized as well. After I found a nice look in the sculpt, I used ClayPolish (in Geometry Tab) with some tweaks to apply some hard edges to the model. Also, I did some tweaks with Trim Dynamic for hard-edged areas like nose and lips, and Dam Standard to simulate areas with hair. For the jacket I avoided hard edges because the point was tosimulate a real fabric in the final render, so only Inflate Brush and Standard Brush was used.
For this project, my point was to focus more on the creative process, so I did not create retopology or manual UVs. After finishing the sculpt, I used Decimation Master to decrease the amount of polys in the model (but still keep the details), and Automatic UVs in ZBrush as well. Both tools can be found in the ZPlugin panel.
Head textures - Base color
After importing the head in Substance Painter, I baked the maps and started to paint. The first step was to take a further look at the references and some making of videos from stop motion movies as well. This allowed me to understand the process of a handmade paint, and with that I could start the texture process with a better idea of how to simulate this kind of effect in digital media. So I created the base color, and used fill layers with different colors (like red, brown, and light gray) with random Grunge textures as Masks, to apply color variation. Each layer has different values in Roughness as well. For the hair paint, I created a Black Fill Layer with a Black Mask, and I used the Calligraphic brush to paint in the mask layer.
TIP: For this step I like to avoid Symmetry, so the variation on both sides of the model can look more natural.
Head textures - Grunge effect
After the primary paint was done, I started to apply surface dirt and scratches in the textures. The first thing was to apply a random Grunge Map in the Hair layer, so for that I found a nice effect of scratched paint for that Layer. I also used the Curvature Mask and Ambient Occlusion to create layers of dust and imperfections. Smart Masks was used in this step as well.
Head shader - cycles
In Blender Cycles I applied the final textures, but I missed a few more details in the surface, so I used new textures with a Mix RGB node, to blend the new details in the Substance Painter textures. I also added a grunge texture to use as a Specular Map, and a Scratch texture was used for Bump. I applied a bit of SSS Randomwalk in the shader, to get closer to the reference images, like a translucent plastic or something similar.
Jacket shader - cycles
For the jacket I worked only in Blender Cycles. I used different textures with Mix RGB nodes to blend all of them. I started with some fabric textures (with box projection, to avoid UV seams) and I mixed them with a light gray fallof (Layer Weight Node), this created a cool old dust appareance for the jacket fabric. I created a new UV map (project from view) for the Pink Floyd artwork, and with a Mix Shader and the fabric texture, I could mask some parts of the art to make it more old and scratched.
The final step was to add fur with the Particle System, with some tweaks in the Roughness sliders.
After the shaders and textures were done, I started to play with different lights in Blender. I like to use area lights in most of my renders, and this case was not different. I did a couple of renders with different lights, but in the principal one, I used warm lights and a cold one, all of them tinted with the Blackbody node in the lamp properties.