Making Of 'Horned Man'
The purpose of this making of is to outline the tools and techniques I used in the creation of my image, Hornedman. The image started as a sketch inside ZBrush and grew from there into the final image almost by accident. Sketching characters in ZBrush is a great way to concept ideas, mess around with forms and come up with cool new things. After the sketch I retopologised the head section of the model and from there used the polypaint tools in ZBrush to create the textures. Rendering was handled with Mental Ray in 3ds Max. I find Mental Ray to be the most accessible of the available rendering systems for Max, and the fact that Max already comes with it makes it great. Also, having used XSI for many years, the creation of shaders in Mental Ray has become second nature to me.
The starting point of many of my images, characters and dailies are done in ZBrush in the form of a sketch.Â As my drawing skills aren't really worth writing home about, I find ZBrush to be a real lifesaver in terms of creating concepts. And the great thing is that you can visualise your concepts in 3D and even use the concept as a template to model over later on in the pipeline.
For this character I started with a basic human form mesh that I created in XSI some years ago and have been using in many projects since (Fig.01).
Using this mesh at the lowest sub-division I pushed and pulled it around with the Move tool and Standard brush in ZBrush to find a base form and silhouette I liked. From there I worked my way up the subdivision levels adding progressively more detail using the Clay Tubes and Clay brushes only. An overview of the different sub-division levels can be seen in Fig.02 - 03.
For this model I decided to just retopologise the head as the loops on the body were adequate for my needs. The retopologising process was simple; I exported a mid-res .obj from ZBrush into 3ds Max and then used Polyboost's surface snapping tools to create a clean mesh over the old one. For the body I just exported the lowest subdivision out of ZBrush and joined that onto my new head. I then exported this new low-res .obj back into ZBrush, assigned it as a SubTool of the original sketch, subdivided it up to 4 million polys, and chose Project All to project my sculpted sketch onto my clean topology (Fig.04).
As this was still indented to be a full character I also modelled some base gear and straps for him in 3ds Max
For the texturing stage I decided to use the polypaint feature in ZBrush. As the model still didn't have a set of UVs this was perfect for me to sketch on a try out some ideas for the skin. I used a technique outlined by Scott Spencer with his Stinger Head model to paint the texture. Firstly I chose a base colour for his skin, and then painted on sprays of red, blue and green in key places. Then I "noodled" the skin with white veins and finally sprayed over it all with my base colour at a low opacity. This is a very fast and effective technique for concepting skin tones and painting textures. As I still wasn't sure what to do with him at this stage, I left the texture rough (Fig.05 - 06).
Finalising the model
Once I painted the texture I realised that for the best image I should just focus on his head, so I hid the parts I didn't want in ZBrush and chose Del Hidden to get rid of them. With just the head left I exported the lowest subdivision and took it into RoadKill to layout the UVs quickly and easily. To finish up, I added an extra subdivision to the head and added a few more details and bumps. I then exported a mid-res .obj for the render and generated a Normal Map in ZMapper.
Once the head was in Max I assigned Mental Ray as my renderer and added a Fast SSS Skin material to the head as I knew that's what I wanted to use. For the lighting I used a very simple 3 omni setup (Fig.07). The first one was just above the camera to act as the main light and shadow source. I turned on Mental Ray Shadow Maps for this light, left the intensity at 1.0 and set the colour to a slightly orange/peachy tone. The fill light was behind and to the left of the model; this one had shadows off, intensity of 0.7 and a slight blue tone. The final light was behind and to the right of the model, this had an intensity of 1.6 to simulate a really bright light and all the other settings were left as Omni defaults.
For the shading of the skin I only needed 4 textures (Fig.08). I took the skin I painted in ZBrush into Photoshop and overlaid the green channel of the normal map to give the diffuse texture a bit more depth. This gave me my final diffuse texture. Then, using adjustment layers, I desaturated the diffuse to make the Epidermal map, then over-saturated and changed to a yellowy hue for the Subdermal Map (fatty tissue), and finally changed it to a red hue and tweaked the levels to get the Backscatter Map.
Once I had these the rest of the shader was simple to setup (Fig.09). In fact, most of the options were left on the default settings. I didn't use any specular maps for this render as I was happy with the shiny look I was getting without. Don't fix it if it isn't broke!
With the skin shading complete I went onto creating the shaders for the horn. I decided to create these procedurally to save a bit of time. To get it to look right I needed 3 different materials. The first one was the bone material, for which I used a picture of concrete from Total Textures: Volume 2 (www.3dtotal.com/textures) as a diffuse and bump map for the horn itself. For the glowing 'hot stuff' inside, I created another material out of a Mental Ray shader node. I added a Glow (lume) shader to the surface node and controlled the glow with noise nodes (Fig.10).
The final material I needed to make was a Blend material. I dragged my simple bone shader to the Material 1 slot, my glow material to Material 2 slot, and dropped a dirt mask onto the Mask slot. And hey presto, I had a fiery horn shader!
For the final image I rendered out my man with the skin shader, and then with the fiery horn shader. I also rendered out an ambient occlusion pass. This is what the raw render looked like (Fig.11).
In Photoshop I first composited the burning horn with the raw render by simple making a masking layer and painting the horn out, to allow the hot horn underneath to show through. I then set my ambient occlusion pass to multiply. I also added a simple background using noise filters and the motion blur tool. The rest of the tweaks were done with adjustment layers, mainly Colour Balance, Curves, Levels and Photo Filters, each with layer masks so I could control where they affected. Lastly, I painted on some fine hair on the top of the ear and on the face using a small brush in Photoshop, and then cropped it for a better composition (Final Image).