Making Of 'Horn Monster'
Generally, I like to think ahead and plan my models, but with this one it was different. When I started this model I was very busy at work doing army type characters, trying to improve our pipeline, and I was dealing with lots of constraints. At one point I wanted to do something at home that would be fast and personal, just to refresh my mind more than anything. What I had in mind was a smiling monster with two pairs of horns and two pairs of eyes looking at something peaceful. If I had to redo it now I would change a lot of things, especially the render and the skin, but all the same this piece was fun to create and work on!
I started modelling rough geometry in 3ds Max; two pairs of horns looking down and very simple geometry for the head to leave more freedom whilst sketching in ZBrush. With the base geometry I started sculpting in ZBrush until I had the general shape I wanted (Fig.01).
Once the sketching was done I exported the model and took it into 3ds Max. I applied an optimise modifier on it, and using Polyboost I started retopologising it. This step can be done in ZBrush but I personally prefer doing it with Polyboost as I find it easier and quicker (Fig.02).
The next step was to unwrap the UVs of my model; I also did this step in 3ds Max using the Pelt mapping tool and I adjusted the result by hand and by using some relax options (Fig.03).
With the new edge flow now fitting the model with UVs on it, I could start detailing the model slightly in ZBrush. For this step I mostly used the Standard and the Inflat brushes. I created two models for the big horns, the first one wasn't satisfying and I found the small spikes on it too aggressive for want I intended to use the model for (Fig.04).
I started over but kept the general size and curve and ended up with something that was more fitting for my idea (Fig.05).
I wanted the neck skin to be different than on the rest of him. My idea was that the monster could elongate his neck slightly when he wants to catch fireflies, so the skin would need to appear more folded in this area.
The monster lives in a cave so rocks will be likely to fall, which is why I made the top of his head bonier and harder, to protect his brain from the shock of any falling debris. He can also use his horns to scratch the rocks to detach the salt crystals, which are also part of his alimentation (along with the fireflies).
For the textures, I wanted something very simple - again the idea of the whole thing was to get something very quickly. I just used some noise textures, the cavity maps were generated in ZBrush and some quick highlights were added in Photoshop (Fig.06).
I put some veins in the subsurface textures, along with some skin stains, to get more variation (Fig.07).
For the render I used Mental Ray with the regular skin shader. The geometry inside 3ds Max was quite light so I used a normal bump to get all the detail information from ZBrush, and I added a noise bump to get some finer skin pore details.
The textures used for the head and the horns were 2048*2048 because my PC at home wouldn't support larger textures (Fig.08).
I'm not a lighting specialist so generally I just put my lights in the direction I want and then I do all my tweaking inside Photoshop (Fig.09a - b).
Fig.09a Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Fig.09b
I usually work with separate renders for all lights, but to continue with the "fast" idea that I was going with for this piece, I made just three passes this time: the complete render, object colour (for selection in Photoshop) and the occlusion pass (Fig.10).
And then it was all just 2d work to finish up. I added a blurred picture of a cave for the background, I tweaked the colours and contrast, and so on. I also painted in the fire flies. One idea I had was that the monster was emitting some kind of ultra sound to attract the bugs, but then sound isn't something you can show, so I added some blue circles around his head to illustrate the idea - it's subtle but I like the effect (Fig.11).
Fig. 11 - Final Image
Overall this piece took me around 8 hours from start to finish during my free time. I'm happy with the overall feeling and colours; the purpose wasn't to go into too much detail, but more to enjoy doing something personal and to take a break from work.
Thanks for reading, I hope you've enjoyed this article.
To see more by Rodrigue Pralier, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 8