Making of ‘Elf’
Step 1: Composition and gathering references
First of all download the free software called pureref for free from this address. It's very simple to use just simply drag all your photo references there and hit export in the save tab - it will make a photo collage for you. Before doing anything I rig my scene with very basic shapes to imagine possible problems.
Step 2: Making hair and hair sheen
The ZBrush IMM hair that I used for this is here free to download.
For hair reflection I used a basic material with some adjustments in the light section, as it shows in the left image. You have to go to the light properties curve and change the profile like the picture, and also you can change ambient to zero. For the second part go to the basic material settings and increase the specular value and change the spec profile similar to the image to increase the contrast.
Step 3: Polypainting tips in ZBrush
This is the workflow that I so often use for painting in ZBrush. I use a flat color and paint the essential rims, highlights, shadows, and colors by hand on a flat material in ZBrush, to control the colors and highlights exactly as I want. I used a standard brush with different RGB intensity profiles for making a hard brush.
Step 4: Finalize
The elf lineage skin is 'skin shade 4' with diffuse set to 100 and spec level to 3D with a combination of flat colors. The material is hand-painted spec, rims, and highlights as mentioned earlier, and the render is done by using ZBrush BPR with the shadow settings as the picture below, and always turn off vibrant shadows because it causes extra saturation and burned colors.
Step 5: More about materials and painting
I started painting the model inside of ZBrush using standard brushes with low RGB intensity and using color spray with some ZBrush default alphas. I also used spotlight projections. I used a ZBrush double shade material, basic material, skin shade to create the gold, leather, skin, and fabric materials by playing around with spec, diffuse, and reflectivity values . There is more info in the article about making materials inside of ZBrush that you can read here.
Step 6: Rendering with ZBrush BPR
I rendered her with different shadows, rim lights, flat color, and so on, and also used HDRI lighting renders with different camera angles in ZBrush and Photoshop.
Step 7: Photoshop to mix ZBrush passes
Once in Photoshop I was able to create multiple passes and then combine them using the Multiply levels. As always, I played around with the levels until I was satisfied with the final result, and then called it finished!