Making Of 'Big Guy'
I have always been fascinated by Sci Fi and creatures. I wanted to create something from scratch, trying to learn the new ZBrush 3.5 features at the same time. For this character I was inspired by the artwork of Mass Effect. I love all the concept art you can find about the game - it has such deep characters and history - and I wanted to make something with the inspiration that it passed to me. I also looked at references of reptiles and mammals to create my creature's look.
The history I imagined for this character is that he is from a race of great warriors; you could imagine him on a huge battlefield in the first line of fire. He can be a nice combat mate, but he's brutal too. He has a deep sense of honour and respect for the enemy, but he can kick ass if he wants to.
ZSpheres, ZSketch and Retopology
The base mesh for the character was done with the help of a few ZSpheres, created to be the skeleton of the character. I wanted to learn the new ZSphere 2 features that you can find in the new ZBrush 3.5. Pixologic's ZClassroom site is a good place to start to learn it.
With the ZSketch tool you can apply ZSpheres to the ZSpheres skeleton, trying to brush it out while respecting the basic anatomy workflow. This technique is tremendously effective and allows you to quickly establish shapes as close as possible to the initial idea, but this was my first attempt and so the final topology was not as good as it could have been. I then converted the ZSketch to a mesh with the Unified Skin tool and with that I started to sculpt a couple of levels of subdivision. I used this mesh to make some detail and make the initial shapes and muscles, but this mesh wasn't useful to make higher res details because the topology was not good enough. So I made a retopology from that so that I could start the sculpting process with a clean basemesh (Fig.01).
ZSpheres, ZSketch and the retopology process can be seen in Fig.02.
Modeling and Sculpting
I used the Clay and Move brushes to start the sculpting process. The Clay brush helps to make the first anatomy strokes and volumes and the Move brush to refine the shapes and keep the anatomy right. Then I imported the model into 3ds Max to create the spines, eyes and teeth, which I then exported as a subtool. At this time I also used Max to create the UVs of the basemesh and I exported it to replace the ZBrush mesh without UVs (Fig.03).
Then I made more subdivisions to add more detail using the Clay, Standard, Slash 2/3 and Magnify or Inflat brushes as preferred tools. I made him with a big torso, huge back and deltoids, using some anatomy and hulk pictures as references.
For the high res detail (five million polygons) I used some organic alphas for the skin and an alpha drawn in Photoshop for the back pattern (Fig.04).
I used only ZBrush polypainting for the whole texture process. Starting with a couple of colours and a few variations of tonality, I masked some parts by cavity to add colour detail between the wrinkles and pores to add contrast (Fig.05).
Then I used some organic alphas to make a slightly tonal variation and created a texture 4096x4096 to export. Finally I made a displacement map and normal map in ZBrush and blended in low opacity with the polypainted map in Photoshop. Then I made a high pass filter of the diffuse texture to blend in a low opacity in the normal map to increase texture detail. With that I was able to go back to 3ds Max and make the shaders and lighting (Fig.06).
Shaders and Lighting
I exported the final mesh to 3ds Max at a medium level of subdivision and I added the normal map to a fast skin material. I used mental ray fast skin to simulate the skin shader and Photoshop to create the speculars and subdermal maps using diffuse colour as base (Fig.07 & Fig.08).
I used a basic three point lighting set up: a mental ray area as a key with an orange tonality, but intensifying the power in the face with an omni light, then an omni light as a fill and a blue mental ray area as a back light. All the lights had mental ray shadow on (Fig.09).
Rendering and Composition
I rendered the final image, saving an alpha and an ambient occlusion to compose it in Photoshop. Then I made the background after searching for astronomy photos like nebulas as a base and then making some colour variations and tonalities to match it with the rendered light (Fig.10).
And that's the work process. I hope that you enjoy it and that this Making Of was helpful for someone. Thank you!