Making Of 'Ethaus'
Generally outside of work, I try to experiment with different styles, or to polish and furnish a personal universe. I have a lot of fun thinking up creatures belonging to this world of my creation, and the particular character I'm talking about in this 'making of' article belongs to the "Sang Bleu" series - a mix between "metabaron" and "moebius" (heavy references for me).
As you can see in Fig .01, I love starting my characters from scratch, just to remove all the constraints of shape and topology. The cube is probably the simplest and best way to remove these constraints, and it gives you the opportunity to express yourself with complete freedom.
When you're satisfied with your concept, you will then be able, at any time, to redo the topology, re-project your quick sculpt and go in depth with the details. Keep in mind that the most important thing in a character is the concept - when you've got it right, the rest is all just technical.
So as the first step, ZBrush, which is for me the fastest way to come up with a 3D concept, I create a cube:
- Create a ZBrush cube primitive
- Go to "Unified Skin", set "Resolution" and "Smt" to the minimum values, and press "Make Unified Skin"
- A new tool will be created with a clean Cube mesh - select it
- Go down to the "Texture" tab and click on "Enable UV"
- Now you can go to the "Geometry" tab and reconstruct the subdivision of your cube
- When this is done, just delete the higher subdiv.
- And you'll have a perfect cube!
- Now you're free to subdivide it to get a perfect sphere
All, or almost all, of the objects where done in the same way. I'll take the chest armour now to quickly explain the work in progress (Fig.02):
- 3D concept
- Redoing the topology can be hard and can quickly become a big mess. To avoid this, I usually use the Polypaint function in ZBrush to draw the topology first, thinking of keeping nice and evenly spaced quads (keeping objects clean with quads is not indispensable, but it's still better for the entire process). I then use the Topology function in ZBrush to recreate the new wire
- Then I re-project the information from my old, dirty mesh to the new, clean one
Finally, I finish up the piece by polishing the main shape and volumes and add some details. Redoing the topology is quite important if you want to render the character without importing into Max a mesh that's too heavy.
Step 3 - 6
In Fig.03, I'm introducing the main brushes I use to sculpt and showing how I use them to come up with organic shapes:
- The Clay brush is used to define the main volumes
- The mask (with the Clay brush) can define some specific areas I want to pull out/in
- The Slash brush I usually use to smooth and also to add some depth
- Damien Canderle's brush is very useful to add some depth and to define wrinkles
- The Inflat brush is great to bulge up volume
Here's an example of how to use them (Fig.04):
- Quick main base with the Standard brush
- Clay to define the different volumes and the direction
- Slash to add an organic feel between and on volumes
- Inflat to bulge volumes and to pinch at the same time between them
- Alpha pass is useful for the "pore" details. I use Gnomon's alpha in most cases - they are pretty useful!
With this technique I sculpted the final version of the character (Fig.05 - 06).
It was then time to apply some colour to the character, to inject a bit more life into him (Fig.07):
- For the first step, and because it's always good to keep a global vision of the colours on the characters, I use the Polypaint function in ZBrush to define the main volumes and areas
- I then use XNormal which is the best tool I've found so far to generate an occlusion and a normal map from a high density mesh. The occlusion you can see comes purely from XNormal. The only thing you have to take care of is keeping all the extremities in order to have the best diffusion of light. The normal map will then be generated from the high-res mesh to be applied on a mid-res object, simply to avoid a memory crash in Max
- I usually use a couple of generic dirt maps to remove the uniformity of the colour
- This is the kind of final map I come up with
Step 8 - 9
The render was done in Max with the amazing renderer, V-Ray (Fig.08 - 09):
- The different pieces were imported separately into Max with several XRef Objects in order to save memory during the render (when you start to render a scene including high-res meshes, it's good to use some tricks to save memory, otherwise you're likely to encounter multiple crashes)
- So for all the different pieces, I use mid-resolutions of the original ones, and on them I apply a Normal map without any displacement map (to save both time and memory)
- I create three different V-Ray materials: for the skin, the gold and the rock. It's still better to use a V-Ray material when you use it as a renderer - you'll have better results
- For the lighting set up, I used a basic "studio" one. First I create a "special background object" for the light bounces. I then put two big V-Ray lights on both sides and one on the top, but behind the character in order to create more bounces. I use different colours on the lights to change the ambience. It's up to you then to play with the intensity, if you want to
- I turn on indirect illumination and play with the different parameters to get the result you can see in Fig.09
After some quick renders, I took them into Photoshop to make some minor saturation/colour tweaks. And that's it! You're free to see more work by me and to contact me for requests or more via my website: http://www.khalys.net.
Many thanks! Cedric.
To see more by Cedric Seaut, check out ZBrush Character Sculpting