Making of 'Majin Buu'
Hi, my name is Jonas Skoog, a 3D character artist living in Stockholm, Sweden. I loved manga and anime when I was younger and Dragon Ball Z was one of my favorite series. It therefore felt natural to pay tribute to my childhood heroes/villains with a 3D sculpt.
The purpose of this image was not to exactly replicate one of Buu's forms, but to create my own interpretation - although you might find a lot of Kid Buu in there! Got to love artistic freedom, right?
Collecting good references is key when sculpting! That is why every time I start a new project I search both the "reference folder" on my PC and the internet for vital references. I then create a collage of the best ones (Fig.01) and keep the rest in a folder nearby.
I actually took the process even further this time and ordered the entire Buu Saga on DVD, as well as the game Dragon Ball Z: BurstLimit for my Xbox 360! Although Buu does not appear in the game itself, it was still a great source of inspiration!
After that I sketched out concepts to establish the right direction and style (Fig.01).
To get the ball rolling quickly I used a generic basemesh (Fig.02) I had lying around, which I then modified in Maya to resemble Buu. Once imported into ZBrush it was all a matter of establishing a good silhouette by using the Move brush. It was now finally time to pull out the Claytubes brush! Being a traditional sculptor I must say that this is my all-time favorite brush since, in my opinion, it is the closest to clay that you can get in 3D. Love it! By working your way up from the lower subdivisions one by one you can get a smooth mesh and details exactly where you want them without any lumps.
One important thing when sculpting organic characters is anatomy references. This is why I always keep the book Anatomy Drawing School by Andas Szunyoghy next to me at all times. Two other life savers are www.3d.sk and ZBrush Character Creation by Scott Spencer.
For micro details, the standard alphas that come with ZBrush work best for me. My two favorites are Alpha 58 and Alpha 23 (Fig.03). With these and the right stroke settings you can create almost everything from pores to tiny wrinkles.
The Radial menu from my Wacom Intuos 4 is a real timesaver. Here you can see the brushes I use the most in my sculpting. I always try to improve my workflow to be a better and faster artist so this menu is evolving alongside me as I learn new stuff (Fig.04).
Texturing / Topology
When I was almost done with the sculpt it was time to redo the topology. I always do this right before the last detail pass since there is a chance you will lose some detail in the process. Working in ZBrush I started by drawing out the imagined topo grid all over the sculpt using Polypaint to eliminate any guess work. All that was left was just to follow the texture map and voila, I had new topology!
All the texturing was done inside ZBrush as well, using the mottling techniques described by Scott Spencer (ZBrush Character Creation). This involves blending different temperature zones into one, providing a very rich surface. By painting all the textures by hand, I got a more stylized feel which I thought would fit the final image.
Next up was getting some nice matcaps to make the sculpt pop! (Fig.05). I ended up tweaking most of them, changing the color, cavity and glossiness to my liking. Since I wanted to stay inside ZBrush there was no needs for UVs. Instead I made use of the Adaptive UVTiles. This way I did not have to bother about hiding any texture seams, which can usually be a headache.
Like I mentioned before, I wanted to stay inside ZBrush as much as possible. This gave me the opportunity to test out the renderer provided (ZBrush 3.5 Best Render). It had a lot of issues when trying to render in high resolution, but in the end I was quite happy with the result.
Three of the biggest issues I encountered were:
- The shading/light rays didn't match up between the high and low res render of the same view, which made it very hard to make test renders in low res and then expect the same result in high res.
- Backlight artifacts, probably caused by scaling issues in the render.
- ZBrush crashing all the time!
To get the most out the image I chose to render out in passes. The best way to do this is to first store your chosen camera angle in ZApplink and then just go crazy with different matcaps and materials, rendering them out one by one.
Fig.06 shows some of the different passes I used together with which Matcap/material. This is, of course, an old technique now that ZBrush 4 has been released with its multimap export and SSS render capabilities, but the same use of passes still applies.
It was now just a matter of putting all the pieces together and creating an environment for the image. Like always when I comp passes together, it was all about experimentation to see what looked good. But I like my work files to be well organized and named properly to speed up the workflow. As you can see in Fig.07 I divided the layers into three sections: Foreground, Specular and Background.
The first layer group is my background layers. This is where I put the raw render and everything behind it.
Next up are all the specular passes for the skin, water, rocks etc. I split them up even more by using layer masks to isolate specific areas for more control.
The foreground layers consist mostly of smoke and steam to blend Buu with the background along with some color/mood layers.
To finish the image I applied a Lens Blur filter using the Depth map exported from ZBrush (Fig.08).
And here's the final image (Fig.09 - 10).
I hope this Making Of has been useful and as much fun to read as I had writing it! I would like to thank Jo, Simon and the rest of the 3DTotal team for giving me the opportunity to write this article. I would also like to give a big thanks to Akira Toriyama for creating Dragon Ball because without it this image would not exist.
For a full 3D view please visit my Turntable gallery at http://www.pixologic.com/turntable
If you have any questions feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org