Making of Assassin

Alexandra Magócsi walks you through how she create her tribute to the new Assassin's Creed film in ZBrush...

Creating portraits in ZBrush is very popular right now; sculpting a game or cinematic character has been something I have wanted to do for some time. When I saw the trailer for the upcoming Assassin's Creed movie I was very impressed and I decided to use it as a reference for my next personal project.

Step 1: Blocking out basic shapes

I sometimes do sketches and drawings before jumping into sculpting just to get an overall feel for the character. I like to start assembling my models on the lowest subdivision level; I kept working at a low resolution until I had completed the basic shapes, this made it much easier to make changes. In ZBrush I used the Move, Clay Buildup and Trim Dynamic brushes to block out the character. At this step I wasn't concerned about any likeness, I was more focused on getting the anatomic proportions right, like the shape of the skull and a position of the ears which are normally overlooked when we only focused on getting the likeness.

Base Head

Base Head

Step 2: Likeness

I jumped to the 3rd subdivision level to block out secondary forms like eye bags and lower lip folds. I tried to get a good likeness at this stage by using plenty of references and making sure I had enough information for modeling. When you have to rely on images found on the Internet, it can be very tricky to get the details right because of camera distortion and angles. So it's better to look at as many references as possible. At this stage I prefer to make any fixes on different layers so I could compare them and then decide which version looks the best. Finally to get a more realistic look I added a bit of asymmetry to the face.

Sculpting secondary forms

Sculpting secondary forms

Step 3: Detailing

I added details on the fifth and sixth subdivision level. For the wrinkles I used the Damn Standard brush followed by the Inflate brush to shrink the areas I carved in. For the pores I used some Custom brushes. It is important to note you shouldn't apply it equally over the whole face, it is better to study where the pores are more noticeable, such as on the top of the nose, cheek, and under the eyes they are bigger, also there are some that go in and out from the surface. Using different brush sizes and intensity with a layering approach helped me to get more realistic results.

Detailing

Detailing

Step 4: Beard creation with Fibermesh

I created the beard using Fibermesh. First I painted a mask to define the beard and mustache area and generated the fibers from there. Under the Fiber settings I tweaked the Max Fibers, Coverage, Length, and lastly Gravity. After accepting the settings, the fibers are ready to edit as a polygonal object. I used the Groom Strong brush to pose the fibers in the desired direction, then Groom Lengthen to get back some length that I lost in the process, the Groom Toss to have a little bit of variation of the length, and the Move brush to make final tweaks. Finally I added thickness to them with the Inflate Tool under the Deformation tab.

Beard creation with Fibermesh

Beard creation with Fibermesh

Step 5: Creating eyelashes and eyebrows

For the eyelashes and eyebrows I wanted more control so decided to place them by hand. I did that part in Maya. After making the surface alive I drew curves then added thickness to them with paint effects. After playing with the settings a bit I converted all to polygons. For the eyelash I modeled one piece then I multiplied and placed it over on the surface with randomized size settings.

Eyelashes and eyebrows

Eyelashes and eyebrows

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Step 6: Simulating the hood

I used Marvelous Designer to simulate a piece of cloth for the hood. I decided to make a thin silk-like fabric which allows more details and folds in a nice way. I set up some pinpoints and dragged the cloth around until I achieved a version I was happy with. Finally, I changed the simulation sample settings to best quality in order to have more detailed and accurate cloth simulation. By default Marvelous Designer works with triangles. You can convert the tris to quads already in Marvelous by using the Quadrangulate function by going to Main Menu > Edit > Context Menu > 3D Garment > Quadrangulate.

Simulating the hood

Simulating the hood

Step 7: Detailing the hood

For the embroidery effect I used custom alpha brushes that I made in Photoshop. I searched for references of medieval Spanish floral symbols and Assassin's Creed pattern concepts to help me design the embroidery. After the base drawing was done I placed an interesting clothing texture on the top and added some brush strokes to make the embroidery less uniform. I inverted the pattern and made a PSD file that ZBrush could read as an alpha. The small details of the fabric were made with the Surface noise feature. I loaded a textile alpha for the noise that I found at the online library of Pixologic.

Detailing the hood

Detailing the hood

Step 8: Rendering

The rendering was done in ZBrush. I rendered three main lights and three rim lights separately to give a nice ambient occlusion feel. I modified the shadow settings to get soft shadows. Then generated the Occlusion, Shadow, Depth and Alpha render layers. I got render layers like Specularity from the Quad-shader I have set up for the model.

Render layers and settings

Render layers and settings

Step 9: Composing render layers in Photoshop

I loaded all the layers I rendered in Photoshop with the following Blend Modes: Beauty (Normal), Ambient Occlusion (Multiply), Shadow (Multiply), Specular (Screen), Reflection (Screen), Rim Lights (Screen), Main Lights (Soft Light). After building up and adjusting the layers to each other I added Lens Blur that was guided by the ZDepth. You are only able to load it at the Lens Blur Option panel if you create an Alpha Channel for it. As a final touch I added some noise to the image.

Compositing render layers in Photoshop

Compositing render layers in Photoshop

Related links

To see more of Alexandra's work check out her portfolio
Take your character skills to the next level with Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting: Characters
Looking for inspiration? Check out the 2dartist magazine

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