Making Of 'Bunny'
There weren't any sketches or concepts done in the process of creating this character, I simply wanted to create a cute, cartoonish bunny character. The only reference I had in mind at the time was of Bugs Bunny's girlfriend from the movie, Space Jam, but I didn't use any actual visual references in order to avoid copying that character.
My first attempts were kind of strange. It wasn't easy for me to make a bunny look sexy, funny and charming all at the same time, and instead I was getting a rather disturbing "thing". So I played around with exaggerated proportions and focused more on the character's face to try and achieve an appealing look.
The first step was to block the main proportions of the full body. Starting with a 2x2x2 cube, I performed a series of face extrusions, tweaking vertices to define the main front silhouette and profile (Fig.01).
Once I was happy with it, I started adding edge loops, cutting faces randomly and adding detail where needed. At this point it looked sort of creepy and there were a lot of 3- and 5-sided faces (Fig.02).
Due to my lack of care back then, and since its main purpose was for a still image, I left all the faces that way, but when I smoothed all the problems showed themselves (Fig.03).
About two long years later, I opened my old files to finish them once and for all (most 3D artists will know what I'm talking about). Then I started to clean most of the polygon flow, deleting faces, adding new ones, and optimizing the topology to create the clothes from this mesh by selecting the matching faces and duplicating them from the model. This is a well known method I use to dress most of the cartoon characters I create (Fig.04 & Fig.05).
The hair was made by drawing NURBS curves and extruding planes along them; the eyes are NURBS spheres converted to polys (Fig.06).
UVs & Texturing
I unwrapped the model, trying to keep the seams away from the view. I unwrapped the legs, arms, hands, feet, head, torso and ears separately, and once all of them were unfolded I sewed all the parts together, except for the ears. The result was a nicely unfolded mesh in one single UV shell (Fig.07).
The clothes and other body parts, such as eyes, teeth and tongue, were also unfolded in the same way (Fig.08).
I chose a blue-purple-pink colour scheme for the final render, so those were the colours I used for the maps. The body texture was hand painted - nothing fancy; the clothes were textured using textures from Total Textures: Volume 1 and details were painted using some custom brushes. I baked an occlusion pass for all of the textures and used them to colorize the final maps, and to add darker areas at the same time (Fig.09 & Fig.10). The hair was hand painted in Photoshop.
The materials were very simple (with a very messy shader network): the clothes used a blinn material with a very low specular value and no reflection, and the body used a MISSS_fast_simple (Fig.11). The scatter layers were painted using the body texture as a reference and colorized to a reddish-pink colour.
Rigging & Posing
I used this character, along with another one I had, to learn the basics of character rigging in Maya more than a year ago. It was a long process involving several tutorials and getting help from the Internet. I rigged the two very different characters - a thin, cute bunny and a fat, ugly red devil - with the same system, and both worked very well (Fig.12). The face had just a few blend shapes due the limitation of the face topology, but the result was good enough for my purposes (Fig.13).
Lighting & Rendering
The lighting setup consisted of one area light for the main character, two spotlights - one as a rim light and one for the background - and glowing planes for the reflections in the eyes. The scenario was just a curved plane. The still was rendered in Mental Ray with Final Gather turned on at 3000x4000 pixels. It took about four or five hours to finish. I made several poses, but the rest were rendered at 900x1200 due to time limitations (Fig.14 & Fig.15).
I used Photoshop to add a warmer mood to the final image. First I adjusted the tone with a Curves Adjustment Layer and a Photo Filter and I then adjusted the overall levels slightly, to make the image brighter. I added a slight lens-blur using a depth pass from Maya, which made no real difference to the final render, but a big one to the high-res image. The final touch was one greyscale stock image over the full composition in two different blending modes, and a low opacity value to give a less clean look to the background (Fig.16). The same method was applied to the other five renders I made (Fig.17 & Fig.18).
This is one of many of my dearest works; there are many things I learned from this single image, and of course a lot more things to come from it, I'm sure. The work done on this image involved lots of things I still use in my daily works, and the entire process was a lot of fun too (except, of course, when waiting for the renders!).