Making of Dragon bust

UK based 3D character artist, Kieran McKay, shares how he made his awesome Dragon Bust using ZBrush

This will be a step by step guide on how I made my latest personal work Dragon Bust. I have always been interested in the artwork from the Dungeons and Dragons books and had the urge to make a quick sculpt based on the Blue Dragon. I will show you some of the tools I used and how I created the sculpt from scratch. Thanks for reading!

Step 01: Getting started

At the start of a new project I always create my work from one of the standard geometric shapes In ZBrush. In this case I thought the sphere would be most suitable. I started with three spheres, each would form the important structures of the sculpt, the head, neck and ears.

At this stage you want to form some nice shapes basically only using the Move tool; most importantly, keep using DynaMesh or ZRemesher to get a nice surface ready to sculpt on to. Sometimes if you have some tricky areas it's good to mask off a selection and move it with Transpose.

Blocking phase

Blocking phase

Step 02: Fleshing out

So here is where I start to get an early feel for the character/creature. I generally use a mixture of the Clay, Clay Buildup and ClayTube brushes to build up some subtle volumes on top of the basic mesh. In this case I also used the SnakeHook tool to pull out those shapes on the ears. I think it's best if you keep your polycount quite low right here, and keep using DynaMesh to keep the mesh clean. I also added in some teeth made from spheres and some neck armor; these can be refined later. I think it's good to get all of the shapes in as early as possible to see it all together; you can adjust them later on.

Getting a feel for the shapes

Getting a feel for the shapes

Step 03: Making a stronger silhouette

Here I start re-positioning the basic shapes to make a stronger silhouette and slightly refine all of the shapes, bringing out stronger forms. It's important not to go too detailed, too fast here. It's good to keep everything clean and still somewhat basic, and once you are happy with the overall feel you can start detailing.

Refining the shapes

Refining the shapes

Step 04: Bring it to life

Now I can add the important details to bring the dragon to life. So at this point I like to sculpt in a range of details using different brushes and getting some nice effects. I really wanted to make this dragon look fairly mature in age and weathered, with some battle damage.

Adding details

Adding details

Step 05: Rendering

I think it's always good to spend some time playing around with some test renders and settings to show off your work! The final render was made in KeyShot and comped in Photoshop. I rendered out two passes with different light sources and another pass with strong subsurface scattering to get those subtle colors you see. I did some further tweaking in Photoshop with some Hue/Saturation and Levels etc.

Final render

Final render

Related links

Check out more of Kieran's work on his website
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