Making Of 'Jester'
Jester is a personal project that I started five months ago. I wanted to create an ambiguous character that was colorful, fun and light-hearted. However I also wanted the image to have slightly creepy overtones. The overall aim was to make the viewer feel slightly uncomfortable, without it being too obvious. Among my numerous references, the Joker from the Batman series and the film Clockwork Orange were the ones that stood out the most.
The modeling stage was mainly done in ZBrush 4. I started by working on the face as I knew that this is where most of the creepiness would come from. The creepiness was particularly portrayed in the jester's eyes. After the face was modeled I made it asymmetrical and decided that I wanted the jester to be looking up at the camera, which would be in an elevated position.
I then moved onto the body, which I made quickly from an old base mesh to establish the proportions. I didn't spend too much time on this, but I still wanted an accurate mannequin that I could add clothes to without too much trouble. It was also important to make sure that the pose meant that there would be plenty of places where the jester's clothing could hang. I wanted him to look as if he was bowing forward a bit, as if he was an old man. The general rule of thumb that I use when modeling is that if something is made of separate pieces in real life they should be separate subtools in ZBrush. I applied this principle for this model as it made things more manageable and gave me more freedom.
When I got to the detailing stage I had to divide my scene into multiple sub-scenes as the polycount quickly raised up to over 100 million. All the fabric patterns where either stamped from custom created alphas, or created through inflating a mask (Import texture > Mask from intensity > Deformation > Inflate). The Roll options were also used to create some of the custom trim patterns on the shirt and pants (Fig.01).
Easy Texturing with Spotlight and Polypaint
I wanted to experiment with Spotlight to texture the face and hands. There are a lot of tutorials about this powerful tool so I will not go into details in this article; however, I will point out that as I had sculpted the pores I removed them from the photo references I used for texturing. I knew that I would reintegrate them to the diffuse texture later through a Cavity map.
When the spotlight texturing was laid out I took care of the rest using Polypaint. I wanted this character to feel like an illustration so I exaggerated the skin tones and tried to remove all of the photographic detail. Fig.02 shows a flat render of the horns. Cavity masking was very useful for parts of it, but parts of it were still hand-painted. Fig.03 - 04 illustrates the result of combining Spotlight and Polypaint on the face. Fig.05 illustrates the same technique on the hands. Note the slight stains on the skin to emphasize the age of the character.
To texture the character I used techniques that varied depending on the type of task. To finalize the face texturing I baked Cavity, Displacement and Normal maps. This helped me a lot along the way as it gave me quick masks. In Fig.06 you can see the Specular, Rough Diffuse, Epidermal and Normal maps. I wanted to have sweat on the face and in some of the wrinkles, hence the light gray color on the Specular map. The Rough Diffuse and Epidermal maps were going to be used in the shading stage. The Subdermal and Backsurface maps were also created, but their effect is much more subtle.
Fig.07 demonstrates my masking technique. I baked a Displacement and Normal map for most of the clothing. I also created black and white masks in ZBrush through cavity masking and hand-painting. They would be useful in the next step to isolate and blend materials together.
Fig.08 demonstrates the technique used for the pants, which is more traditional. I polypainted them and baked a Diffuse, Normal, Cavity and Displacement map. Some parts of the clothing use a tiling velvet Diffuse map as a base so I created three shades of these (Fig.09).
To emphasize the fabric patterns and make them shine I went for a gold-looking material. I used a blend material with a velvet shader in one slot and a gold material in the other one. The black and white masks proved to be incredibly useful here as they gave me full control over where the velvet and the gold should go. I was also able to fine-tune each of them separately. The cloth used Roughness and a Fresnel falloff in the diffuse. For the skin I used Master Zap skin + shader. The settings are demonstrated in Fig.10. Blending through a shellac material is another option to help you get nice specular spots and reflections. Another interesting shader is the one used for the collar that I wanted semi-transparent. I got this result by using a simple tiling alpha.
This step was pretty straightforward. To enhance the ambiguity of the character and create contrast I wanted one side of the face to be lit by a warm light, as if there was a fire on one side. I then wanted to contrast that with a cooler color from the other side. The lighting setup can be seen in Fig.11. An HDR was also used to make the lighting a bit more uneven and create more reflections on the gold patterns.
Compositing was done through several passes in Photoshop. I used a base render to which I added a Rim light, Zdepth, Alpha mask, shadows and Ambient Occlusion.
I hope this Making Of was useful to illustrate the various techniques used to create this piece. Thanks for reading!