Making Of 'Jean Grey'

The main objective for this project was to do a cartoon version of the X-Men's Jean Grey and to learn how to create a nice presentation image of the model using the ZBrush renderer. I chose this character in particular because Jean Grey is one of my favorite X-Men.

Before I started the production I searched for references about style; in this case, the character and possible poses (Fig.01). My intention was to do a still image, so I didn't need to care so much about edge loops or UVs. Because of this I chose ZBrush to do the final pose and render.

Fig. 01

Fig. 01

After this process I established the style and I started doing a base mesh for the character. For this project I used Autodesk Softimage for the modeling. It was only the base shape of the body, nothing fancy, which I could then use to start the sculpting inside ZBrush (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

Fig. 02

All the sculpting work was done in ZBrush. First the shape of body was corrected and the face was refined a bit. After that, the mesh was duplicated so I could turn on DynaMesh and start sculpting the blue part of her outfit. I maintained the original subtool, so I could duplicate it to start other parts of the outfit like the gloves, boots, belt etc. The original subtool was used to create the yellow part of the outfit. With this subtool I used the regular subdivisions of ZBrush (Fig.03).

Fig. 03

Fig. 03



DynaMesh gives an artist more flexibility when sculpting because, after every re-DynaMesh, the mesh is reconstruct evenly and one can continue the sculpting, so there are no "useless" polygons added to the mesh. I used the same process to create the gloves, boots and belt. For these accessories, all the extra polygons were deleted and the geometry was re-DynaMeshed during the sculpting process (Fig.04).

Fig.04

Fig.04



The hair was sculpted in a similar way (using DynaMesh), but instead of duplicating the body for a new tool, a polysphere was selected. First the general shape was established and then the details were made (Fig.05).

Fig.05

Fig.05

The main sketch was now finished and ready for posing. ZBrush has a powerful tool for posing, called the Transpose Master. I used this to do a first pass on the character's pose. Then the pose was refined with some subtools, especially the hands, face and some wrinkling on the clothes (Fig.06).

Fig.06

Fig.06

After posing the character, it was time to finish the sculpt. First I refined the face and hands. Then the body was refined and I sculpted some extra texture for it. Another tool in ZBrush that came in very handy for this was the Surface tool. I created a very simple UV for the body using the UV Master tool. Some polygroups were also made to help the tool create the UVs (Fig.07).

Fig.07

Fig.07

Then, by using the Surface tool and adjusting some of its options, it was possible to create this hex tile texture for the clothes. When I use this technique, I pay attention to the density of the mesh (always in a high state). I always store a morph target of my mesh and I do the deformation in a layer of the subtool (Fig.08).

Fig.08

Fig.08


Before sculpting the surface modifier, I masked it out and used the deformation option (Inflat). Then I applied it to the model (Fig.09).

Fig.09

Fig.09

After adding some final touches to the sculpt, I stated to do the painting. All the objects were hand-painted using only ZBrush. The process was really simple; I just picked some colors, adjust the intensity of them, chose an alpha and then applied them (Fig.10).

Fig.10

Fig.10


Some materials were applied on each subtool to add volume to the painting. Here it was very important to use the regular materials and not the MapCap materials, because the light in ZBrush works better with the regular ones. Then I started to light the model. First of all, I deleted the basic light that ZBrush uses and created a light rig using the Lightcap tool based on an image. After some tweaking I came up with the first pass for the final image (Fig.11).

Fig.11

Fig.11



I used some other passes to do the final composite. These included a key light pass, where the image-based lights I'd created before were deleted and a new single light was made and adjusted. I also changed all the materials to a basic material with a black color. The same process was followed for the back light pass (Fig.12).

Fig.12

Fig.12

Some other passes were made for the final composite, like an alpha mask for each subtool and a depth pass. Some other passes were made with a MapCap applied to the whole model. That's why I needed to create some alpha passes for each portion of the model. These extras passes were used to enhance skin color and highlights. Here I used the masks a lot (Fig.13).

Fig.13

Fig.13

I used Photoshop to composite the image and create the final version (Fig.14).

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

Conclusion

I had so much fun doing the character and learned a lot about using some of the tools inside ZBrush to help my workflow. I found it very interesting the way the light cap and the render inside ZBrush can give you a nice preview of how your model will be presented.