Creating reptilian monsters
Tiago Oliveira takes us through his process in the creation of his prowling Beast image.
This character was inspired by Jaemin Kin's art. I created this work during a workshop a while ago with Rafael Grassetti, and will show you all the steps that I went through during this project.
First of all, I researched some animal references, like felines, lizards etc. After that, I started modeling the form from a sphere in ZBrush. I divided the modeling into steps and the first step was to work on the proportions and primary shapes like the muscles, face, spine, nails and teeth. This first step is very important because this is where your model will get his defining shape.
I then used ZRemesher for retopology, using guidelines to get the right flow in his head and body.
When the retopology was ready, I started to apply details to sculpture mesh. I specifically added more defined muscle and some scales, using masks and inverting and inflating them (in the Deformation Panel).
For the fine detail, I made three PolyGroups: the tail, body and head. After that I split them into three SubTools to get more subdivision levels in each part. This way I could make pores, wrinkles and cracks. I used some alpha maps to do some of these details and made others using DamStandard, to give skin variation.
I worked this way over the whole of the model's texture, using some alphas of alligator's scales and other animals. The most important thing to remember is to take care that the details don't seem fake.
PolyPaint and textures
To paint the creature's textures I used PolyPaint and one alpha to give color variation to its skin. It's very important to keep this variation and to contrast darker areas in lower parts of the model, so you get more volume in the sculpture.
After I finished the PolyPaint, I Unwrapped it and baked Cavity and Displacement maps to use them in the color textures later to get more detail.
When posing the character it's nice to think about the camera angle and to look for some references. Also, you have to pay attention to the line of action and do some tests. To pose my creature, I used Transpose Master, and used masks and Rotation to pose each part of the model following my references.
When I finished the pose I used Decimation Master to export the mesh. I was doing a still image and not an animation, so I didn't need to worry about the final mesh.
Note: Always check the Keep UV option, so you can use your textures.
I used the basic 3-point light concept: key light, fill light and rim light. Then I added some additional lights to light up some of the darker areas. It's always good to get some references either from photographs or other artists' work to help with lighting the scene.
The shader I used was the FastSSS2 from V-Ray.
Rendering and composition
After all these processes, I rendered some passes for the final composition so I could have more control in Photoshop.
After that I got some images from the internet so I could use them in my composition. I wanted to create an ambience and not just a studio background.
The most important thing is to keep studying and working, because that way you will see an evolution with each model. Here is my final image: