Making Of 'Bronze Bust'
This model was inspired by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I got excited about the film and started a sketch. I tried to focus on the overall shape and the bronze shader, and forget about the deadlines of work. It was one study, without compromise, and working this way helps me to relax my routine and create something. I like to feel free to create an image, without boundaries.
First I started with a sphere in ZBrush and began to tweak the overall shape using DynaMesh. I think it's one of the best tools for artists to sketch some ideas in ZBrush, because it allows you to start from a simple shape and reach the final design you want with a balanced topology, which helps you a lot in higher subdivisions. At this stage I try to use every polygon the subdivison gives me, because lower subdivisions give me better feedback while I'm sculpting. It's faster and I have more control over the shape (Fig.01).
After that I started to think about details, so I went to higher subdivs and started to add some wrinkles and pores, and work on the beard, using basics brushes like Clay and Standard. For the pores I used some bump skin alphas.
People asked me about the hair and modeling pipeline. It wasn't a hard thing to do; I just started the base hair volume with the Claytubes or Clay Buildup brushes, which are great because they create some hard edges that look like real hair flow. After that I started using the Clay and Standard brushes to polish the hair, creating some fine details like smaller strands and cleaning the mesh. When I was happy with the result, I started to add the finest details. For this task I used the Standard brush with alphas 38 and 39 as it allowed me to create some thin hair (Fig.02).
Now that I was happy with the look of the hair and the overall shape, I added some pores to the skin. For this task I like to use some skin alphas with the Standard brush using the DragRect feature. Every alpha was designed for a specific part of the face, so I tried to test the alphas first to see which one would fit better on that area (Fig.03).
Once the modeling process was finished I created a simple cavity map from ZBrush to use it later on in the shading process. This map could also be used as a mask, for the V-RayBlend, or used as a bump on the base material (Fig.04).
After that I used Decimation Master and imported the model into 3ds Max for the rendering (Fig.05).
Before I start the lighting process I always like to do a little research on photography sites to get an idea of the feeling that I want in my scene, because bad lighting can ruin a great model. In this case I did a simple lighting setup, with three lights and a white background, because I wanted contrast in the scene - not just a light that showed the model, but a light that created a dramatic look. As you can see in Fig.06, the top light helped me to create some shadows on its face and the eyes, and inside the mouth. The other lights, I used to create the backlight, which helped to highlight the silhouette and create some shining spots.
The next step was to create the shader. It wasn't a complicated shader; my main goal was to reach a good-looking bronze aspect, with green spots and an un-polished look. In this case I used a blend material: the base material was a green opaque shader, and the first layer was the bronze. As I mentioned before, I used the cavity map from ZBrush to separate the shader layers (Fig.07).
In V-Ray is when you use a high reflection glossiness, keeping the values below 0,8, which is very important to increase the subdivs level. In this project I used a low value (16), because it was a very bumpy surface and it "hid" the low resolution of the shader. On polished surfaces it is better to use higher values, like 32+, because if you don't you will have a very grainy reflection. Another tip@ I used some yellow on the reflection color as it gave me a golden look (Fig.08).
Once the shader was done, it was time to render the final image. It was rendered at 4000 x 3000 pixels and it took around 1-2 hours to complete. I used a Gamma setting of 2,2 on the scene and rendered lots of passes, but I used just three: the beauty render, the ZDepth and a V-Ray Raw Reflection. These helped me a lot with the composition, giving me control over the highlights.
I used some Curves and adjustment layers in Photoshop to increase the image's contrast the way I wanted and added some dust after that (Fig.09).
This project didn't take me lot of time; it was a fast study and I really enjoyed doing it (Fig.10)!
I hope that you liked this tutorial!
To see more by Fernando Ometto, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9