Making Of 'Max and Milton'
Part 1: Modeling by Jason Baldwin
I was asked to design two characters inspired by the old Goofus and Gallant comics from Highlights magazine. One character should ooze attitude and pre-teen rebellion, the other should be an unabashed teacher's pet, but both should feel modern. I decided that I would take an aggressively graphic approach to the design, so I referenced character work from Jamie Hewlett and the movies Coraline and Open Season. I wanted to push the idea that they were opposites, so I tried to make every single element of each character different to the same element in the other character. I did a few drawings with my remedial skills to work out the designs. Here are a few designs of Milton (Fig.01).
Max's design was based on a lollipop shape. He is skinny, has a wide face, small torso with a high crotch and thin arms with large hands and feet. He's supposed to have an "I don't care" style that he probably takes hours to co-ordinate every morning.
Milton's design was based on a triangle. He's chunky and even though his head may be wide, his facial features are small. His torso is large with a low crotch, and his arms are chunky with proportionally smaller hands and feet. His design is supposed to hint that his mom may still buy his clothes and decide on his haircuts, but he throws on whatever clothes are wadded up on the floor beside his bed.
I modeled both characters with standard extrusions and edge cuts. My first modeling pass was of solid "naked" models. From there I duplicated and scaled out the relevant polygons and modeled those into clothing (Fig.02).
I was careful to pay special attention to creating clean graphic lines on their faces and their silhouettes. I created hard corners on their fingers, lips, brow and bridge of the nose. I let the clothes be more naturalistic, but tried to keep some of the wrinkles graphic. I also tried to make everything a bit asymmetrical (Fig.03).
To pose them, I built simple IK rigs and bound them with default smooth skin values. I rigid-bound any belts or chains since I'd rather tackle those deformations by hand. When creating a static pose I find a simple IK rig to be the best route because it is extremely difficult to maintain proper proportions and ground contact with deformers alone. Once the characters are posed I fix deformations by skinning or by manual adjustments (Fig.04).
I wanted their poses to complement each other and demonstrate their personality. Both of their poses create a similar line of action, bowing to the screen left and back, but since they're facing different directions the result is different. Max is leaning away from the screen's right point of interest while Milton is shyly looking up and over his shoulder. Max's hips are pushed back, causing him to slouch in a closed pose while Milton's hips push forward and open his pose up. Once I was happy with the poses I added simple grayscale shaders to the models (Fig.05). I then created a render with a three-point light setup and an occlusion render, and handed them off to Joe to do his post work. Up till this point we'd been playing around with the idea of Max having long hair. We ended up going with spiky hair and Joe changed that in post production.
Part 2: Texturing by Joe Beckley
Since this was being used as more of a concept piece I painted it all in Photoshop. Elements like color scheme, fabric scale, amount of sub surface scattering, and overall shader quality are much easier to block out and adjust in this phase. For simplicity I'm going to focus on Milton (Fig.06).
Based on Jason's three-point light render, I created vector masks for each separate item, like the clothing, skin, hair, etc. The reason I used vector shapes here is because of the flexibility of being able to adjust the shape if I need to later down the line (Fig.07).
Once the masks were created for each object, I used them to block out my color scheme. At this stage of the process, it's just used to block out the image for overall unity. Rather than trying to adjust a skin tone to something that's white, it's nice to have a surrounding local color to work with, although they'll change depending on surface type. I started using the layer-blending mode as Multiply (Fig.08).
My next step was to go back into each layer and start to apply layer effects. This is a very quick and easy way to get shape and surface quality in quickly. Taking the skin for example: by changing the adjustment layer to Overlay and adding an orange/red tinted inner glow layer style set to Linear Dodge at about 20% Opacity and 15px size you get a great sub surface look.
Once the layer effects were in, I went back and added finer detail and blemishes, freckles etc. For other areas with more specific texture definition (i.e. shirt, pants, tie etc) I created a specific base material and warped and painted the texture. I then created a vector clipping mask for the original mask shape. After the basic material was in place then dirt, scratches, rips and wear were added as a vector clipping mask-blended layer
After the basic shading and texturing was complete, I went back in and adjusted specific tones and did broader adjustments (Fig.09).Again, using the skin as an example, I added a warm pinkish/red tone on the cheeks and ears, and a cooler bluish/purple tone on the forehead and other shadowed surfaces to give it a more grounded feeling. Since Jason had provided me with an Occlusion pass, I applied it to the top of my file as a Multiply layer. To avoid the occlusion muddying up the image, I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer to it. This allowed me to do a subtle color bleed effect.
At this stage, the image was pretty close to final (Fig.10). The only thing left to do was to integrate the characters into the background, and add any last high res fine detail like stray fabric strands, eye glints, subtle environment bounce etc (Fig.11).