Making Of 'Kate V.01'
I love sci-fi images, games and movies, so I decided to have a go at creating an original character that could be part of a bigger universe. I decided to create just a bust to push some techniques on a smaller scale. I really wanted this to go in a direction that I had never tackled before in order to learn new methods. In this Making Of I will be breaking down my general workflow for this image. I will try and focus a little more on the cool stuff, like the skin and rendering.
References and Concept
I've learned that good references are super-important in speeding up a workflow and also simply creating something that is aesthetically pleasing. I took inspiration from many places and people, but tried to combine certain elements while keeping my own creative spin on it. And here's my attempt at concept art (Fig.01).
To help me speed up the process, I started modeling the head from a base female head I'd made for a previous model. I then quickly pushed and pulled in ZBrush to get the general shape and proportions I wanted. I pretty much wanted her to have a mix of different features so she didn't look one ethnicity. Although obviously she's purple anyway so that helps (Fig.02)!
I then moved to the head gear and made a very low poly base mesh to work from. I knew what shape I wanted it to follow, but I decided to sculpt out some really rough ideas in ZBrush. Once I got a cool looking idea I wanted to follow, I brought it into Maya to create some nice topology. But I first used the Decimation Master plugin for ZBrush in order to get a polycount that wouldn't make my computer implode (Fig.03).
It was at this time that I quickly modeled the head jack piece. It's mostly just simple shapes like cylinders (Fig.04).
When I had a clean mesh for the head pieces, I started to model small details such as wires and vents. At this stage I was trying to be conscious of the silhouette and trying to be careful of not making too many messy details. It was tough coming up with things that looked cool, but at the same time believable. I found myself having to think about why things were in certain places and what uses they would have (Fig.05).
Jumping back to the head, I did the sculpting in ZBrush. This was mostly done from my imagination while keeping the concept in mind (Fig.06).
The armor was done the same way as the head. A quick base in Maya (Fig.07) and sculpted in ZBrush. For the folds I used pretty much the regular brushes such as Standard, Clay Tubes, and Polish (Fig.08).
And this is the final model before I began texturing (Fig.09).
After the painful process of unwrapping, I started texturing the head pieces. I knew I wanted to get a sort of carbon fiber look, but with a little extra gloss to it. I like to quickly get a look before I actually start my texture painting, so I threw a quick carbon fiber texture on the model and messed around with the shader. For the top render (Fig.10), I made a reflection pass and set it to Screen in Photoshop. I also had a non-final HDRI just to get some quick reflections going. Once I was happy with the look, I took the model into Bodypaint and started adding logos and scratches. The scratches were all done by hand with a small hard brush. I did the texturing on all the tech with the mindset that it was fairly new, but still well used (Fig.11).
The next step was all the other small pieces. I wanted to keep the colors subdued because the skin was going to be really prominent and I didn't want them to clash. At this point I also quickly laid down the texture for the clothes, such as a simple leather and cloth texture. This was mostly for color previewing (Fig.12).
For the head I used the mental ray miss_fast_skin shader. Before any textures were applied, I set up all my SSS layers. I knew from the start what colors I wanted so it was all down to getting the right settings and balance between mainly the epidermal and subdermal. I was trying to get a fleshy look, but with a deep blue/purple right under the surface. I kept the diffuse on a little just to smooth out and desaturate the test render (Fig.13).
For the final setup, I plugged in the SSS node into the Additional Color of an mia_material. I did this so I could use the reflection/gloss from that material instead of the specular/reflection of the skin material (Fig.14).
The diffuse maps were done in Bodypaint. It was a combination of photo textures and hand painting. I was especially mindful of the subdermal map. I painted things like veins and tattoos to get that "under the skin" look (Fig.15).
Here is the raw render of the textured head (Fig.16).
For the eyes, I modeled them pretty normally with separate pieces for the eyeball/cornea/iris. I was really experimenting when it came to the look of the eye. I wanted the eyes to definitely stand out on the character so I chose to darken the white part and kind of exaggerate the bump and reflectivity. I used a SSS shader for the eyeball itself with some noise for the different skin layers. (Fig.17)
Lighting and Rendering
For my final lighting setup, I used three area lights set to a high intensity with quadratic decay rates. I had Final Gather on with an HDRI for reflections. The HDRI was color corrected to match what I wanted and the content wasn't that important, I just needed some variations in colors and reflections. I got the HDRI from www.hdrlabs.com. I also had a light board for the eye specular. I rendered with mental ray and had six render passes: Armor, Head, Ambient Occlusion, Fresnel, Reflection, Rim Light and Depth of Field (Fig. 18 - 19).
I put everything together in Photoshop with standard layer stuff. Rim light and Fresnel set to screen, Occlusion set to multiply etc. I also added a touch of chromatic aberration. I did a little color correction, mainly for the skin, and added a simple background. I wanted to have a kind of atmospheric look while keeping that studio lighting vibe. Also, I didn't feel like modeling anything extra for the background! So I found some cool close-up photos of dust particles, added a little blur, and there it is. Here are some detail shots (Fig.20).
The final renders (Fig.21 - 22)!
And that's the whole process; nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. Thanks for checking it out and to 3DTotal for putting it up. Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions/comments/spam etc.