Making Of 'Arkeon'
With this model my goal was to learn how to use normal mapping for a low poly character, a technique that was new for me in that moment. The model Arkeon Sannath it's from a game called Confrontation.
Probably cause I'm more used to working in high poly than in low poly, I decided to started modelling the high poly version first. Compared to other models, this part was a bit difficult, basically due to the small size of the reference that I'm working from. The real figure is only a few centimetres high, so it was difficult to see all the details. The modelling pose of the arms was really strange, but it was the closest to the original pose to the real reference. The big shoulders didn't allow for much arm movement, so I decided to model it this way to avoid problems.
I modelled most of the parts as separated meshes, and doing nothing really special with it. After all the poly modelling done, I only had to add some chamfer edges in parts to keep the hard edges when turbo smoothing.
Once I had the high poly version finished, I cloned it and started to delete some edges and lots of the bolts and bumps to keep the poly count as low as possible. Really I didn't have any poly limit, so I just tried to make it with less possible polys as possible, without losing too much of the quality. At the end I finished with 7887 tris for both the character and the sword.
Once the character was modelled, It was time to unwrap the low poly version. First I started by unwrapping all the pieces separately, some using cylindrical mapping, but the majority using pelt mapping. To save work I just unwrapped one side of the symmetrical parts (legs and arms) and then mirrored them to have the other side cloned and unwrapped.
When I had all the pieces, I attached all of them in a single mesh, and added a new unwrap modifier (really in two meshes, one for the sword and one for the character). Then I just had to scale all the pieces and place them trying to have the maximum space occupied, as in the image. Once finished, I collapsed the unwrap modifier and detached the pieces as they were before attaching them, because I wanted to create the normal maps separately for each piece, as I thought it would be easier that way.
To learn how to do the normal mapping I had read the tutorial that comes with 3dsmax. They explained it really well so I'm not going to explain it too, but there's a very important thing. In the tutorial it said to change the "Normal map space" from tangent to world. If you're doing a character, don't do that change, or all the normal mapping information would be wrong when moving the character. Leave it in tangent, and it will work well.
Once I had all the normal maps done, I attached the low poly pieces so I only had two objects, the character and the sword. I also collapsed all the normal maps, creating just two maps. Before starting to texture, I did another render to texture. I added a white skylight to the scene and a plane to make the ground, and added a flat grey material to all the objects. With this I did a lighting map of the sword and the character with render to texture. I used this map as a top layer of the textures in Photoshop, set on multiply and 30% opacity, to make the texture look less flat and to help with the painting.
To create the textures I used some base layers, some masks and some self made brushes. For example, with the metallic texture that I have used on most parts, I started with a metallic base layer, nothing special, just a very clean metal texture, that I duplicated and moved to make it fill all the texture size. Then I used a very oxidized metal texture with a mask to add the oxide spots. I also created two brushes from mask images to add some scratches that I used in different layers with different opacities and blending modes. The same with the mud and the blood, I used combinations of masked layers and self-made brushes. I've also added some hue/saturation and brightness/contrast layers with masks applied on them to do the darker bolt colour or the gilded parts, and finally, I added some layers with dark or white colours to enhance the shape of the modelling in the texture.
I created 2 textures, the colour texture and a specular/reflection texture, that was the same colour texture in black and white and with a few changes in some layers to make it look more as I wanted.
As I just wanted this character to test the normal mapping, and I only wanted him to be posed and not to be animated, I used a simple biped to rig it, and the skin modifier to skin it. I only added a few bones with splineIk to move the cloak. If it was for an animated character I would probably use bones for all the character, but in this case, the biped was ok for most of it
The final renders were done with Brazil. I used an hdri skylight and an area light for the main light source