How to create a Cocohell
3D character artist Diego Sain takes us through his ZBrush workflow of the adorably creepy Cocohell!
The purpose of this project was to create a creature suitable for 3D printing and also as part of a series of characters I am working on. I also wanted to work with new tools, so I have created many different objects and components. In this making of I will share how my work evolves through my workflow process.
This project developed out of my collection of artbooks, movies and some old sketches. Collecting references is a very important part of my process, it gives me a clear idea of my concept before I begin modeling. I find that the whole project goes faster and is easier if you start it with a clear idea of what you want the end result to be. I combine all of the references and my sketches into a Photoshop file, this Mood Board forms a vital part of my entire project.
Depending on the project, I either start in ZBrush with a ZSphere or DynaMesh; Cocohell was designed using a basic anatomical plan, so DynaMesh was the right tool for the project! I always keep an eye on my reference material during this phase of a project. I prefer working with only a few brushes, in particular I like to use the Move brush for sculpting basic form and ClayBuildUp to add or remove material. I take my time with blocking in the forms, often turning the mesh around, and experimenting until I find the look I like. I try not to focus on the details but on the general form. When I'm happy with the shape of the organic parts it is time to move on to the other components. If I'm not 100% sure about the final composition I like to experiment with different combinations and build up a richly detailed silhouette, although I try not to make it over complicated!
Retopology and pose
Once I have got my basic model ready, it is time to create a clear topology. In order to do this, I usually work with 3DCoat, which is a great program for a more accurate topology. However, because Cocohell is a quick sculpt, I decided stay in ZBrush and use the ZRemesher tool. I use this along with the Remesh brush and the Project tool; this combination gives a mesh with good topology and I don't lose any of the forms created on DynaMesh model. I find it much easier to work with the SubTools renamed according to material type, e.g. metal, rubber, and cloth. This is good preparation for the rendering and texturing stages.
I decided to go with a simple, but also dynamic, pose; for this I really enjoy working with Transpose Master. Once you have a clear and basic topology, it is really quick to select your own PolyGroup, to mask it and to use the Transpose line like a joint.
This is a really intense step, but I love it! This is where I begin to create the secondary forms, and focusing on the details – this helps to add personality to my creature. I spend quite a lot of time to creating and selecting my alphas, this is a great resource to change a neutral shape on a specific material.
I try to find high resolutions reference images during the concept stage, they can be very useful with this part of my process. I started with a basic texture to define the material, then I selected some interesting parts from other images. I have worked hard, paying a great deal of attention to the brush setup in order to make a chromatic variation. The Cavity Mask is great for giving a remarkable result to the sculpted details.
Render and compositing
My creature is ready to be imported in KeyShot. I spend a lot of time finding an interesting angle and camera setup. The second step is the lighting, I have created good base materials that have a good reaction to light variation, and I used the Human Skin material with a neutral gray color and a low transparency. I then focused on the environment, I used the HDRi (from my reference images) as the basis for the ambient light, and I also added a couple of rim lights.
Now I can create the materials, KeyShot has a great material library, although I approved a small variation to the specularity and texture map set up. When I have done my render passes, it's time to merge all on Photoshop in a simple compositing, in order to correct the color and work on the final details.
Cocohell is the result of several days experimenting with new techniques, and I would like to thank 3dtotal, all the folks on 3dforum, and all the artist who inspire me every day!