Learn to sculpt & paint a 3D soldier with ZBrush & Marmoset Toolbag

Introduction

I am Rafael Mustaine, born in São Paulo. Brazil. I currently work as a freelancer developing 3D characters for the entertainment and collectibles industry. I have had the pleasure of developing projects here in Brazil and for international studios. Today it is possible to go to a collectibles store and find art of mine. It's been an incredible experience, and for this reason I developed this character to challenge myself more and learn a lot from him.

Initially, it is important to good research in the style of the character you want to develop.

This will make the process more dynamic and objective. Look for good artistic and real references to help build your character. It is important to state that knowledge in anatomy, volumes, proportion (design) is super important to get a good result.

Modeling in ZBrush

This is the stage I like the most. Modeling is an artistic moment of creativity and passion for what you like to sculpt. I used ZBrush to model the Drake, starting with a sphere converted to Dynamesh. Always be attentive to the proportion and silhouette of the character. You can also start with a ZSphere to create a structure, so you will gain more time.

modeling in zbrush
Modeling in ZBrush

Design model

This is a very artistic step – I started building the design through painting the structure. I designed each plate respecting mobility and anatomy. Note that the anatomy and proportion are important to achieve a good result – each plate respects a muscular structure making the look correct and pleasing to the eye.

design model of character
Design model

Adding elements and details to the structure

With the plates well structured, it's time to give visual identification to the design of the character and for this, I created several alphas in Photoshop to apply on each plate, informing the points of light in the structure, screws to finish the edges and exit points of air.

Note that it is a moment of creativity, but always respect the real engineering of a mechanical structure. The best reference is to analyze various concepts of mechanical characters, this way will help a lot in the construction for a solid and efficient design.

adding elements to character
Adding elements and details to the structure

Retopology

At this stage, the process is more technical and less artistic, but very important for exporting your character to other software. The retopology is important to organize the mesh facilitating in the UV mapping, the export to texture baking, rigging, and animation. I used the ZRemesh Tool for the body and the head. I used 3ds Max. Follow the instructions in the pictures as an example. More detailed videos and articles on this subject and types of software can be found on the Internet.

retopology
Retopology with ZRemesh

Projection and UV mapping

At this stage I started the process of projecting the mesh with the low-poly retopology on the high-poly mesh, to capture all the details and reliefs. You can find more information on Projection in ZBrush on the internet. For UV mapping I used UV Master from ZBrush, the process is simple and dynamic. First I divided the body parts into Polygroups to receive the mapping, and the head as well. In the final result we have the head and body with maps in 4k resolution. Mapping information in ZBrush or other software can be found on the internet.

Projection and UV mapping character
Projection and UV mapping

Baking and texturing

The texture baking process was generated through Xnormal because it is a simple and functional tool, but it is also possible to generate in ZBrush, 3dsmax, Maya, 3D-Coat, Substance Painter, and many others. For this stage I exported the low-poly and high-poly mesh with OBJ format to generate Normal, Occlusion, and Cavity maps as shown in the image below. With the generated maps I started painting the character in ZBrush. This is a very fun and intuitive stage because I had a lot of freedom to test styles and colors. You can find more complete tutorials on texture baking on the internet.

baking and texturing character
Baking and texturing

Hair with FiberMesh in ZBrush

Hair is a longer process, because it requires technique and attention to achieve a good result. I used ZBrush’s FiberMesh tool to generate the beard, hair, eyebrow, eyelash, and mustache threads. Note that I made a copy of the head, and for each part of the face I separated into Polygroups to receive FiberMesh. Always configure your FiberMesh separately for Polygroups as shown in the image, in this way it will greatly facilitate the construction process, and organization of SubTools.

character hair
Hair with FiberMesh in ZBrush

Presentation in Marmoset Toolbag

I’ve done the hair, and initiated the adjustment of the pose through masks in the limbs and rotation until reaching a good result. With the most natural pose I exported the low-poly mesh and accessories for Marmoset Toolbag 3. In Marmoset, I imported the OBJs of the character and work the shader of each element calmly and carefully to arrive at a good result. On the skin I used these maps: SSS, Reflection, AO, Cavity, and Normal. For the eyes I painted in Photoshop and loaded the maps into Marmoset too, and the body the same thing. On the Marmoset Toolbag website you can find various tutorials on shaders, lights, animation, and more.

Final conclusion

This is the conclusion of the project after ZBrush modeling, retopology, painting, map bakes, texture, and character presentation in Marmoset Toolbag.

Always challenge yourself for daring projects, this way the artistic evolution happens. Have eyes tuned to detail, know how to solve problems that will arise in the course of the project.

Many thanks to everyone and I hope this tutorial helps you.

drake soldier

Drake Soldier character real-time model

drake soldier

drake soldier

drake soldier

drake soldier

drake soldier

drake soldier