Making Of 'Monk'
In this Making Of I'm going to show you an overview of the workflow I used for my Monk model. I'll try to share the interesting parts about this project and I hope you can pick up some tricks and find what I say useful.
I wanted to create a medieval character in armor; that was all I knew when I started this project. When I'm working on a personal project I usually don't use a refined concept because I like to figure out everything in 3D. This model started as a sketch in a program called Alchemy (Fig.01), which I like to use to explore random ideas and develop concepts. The concept later developed into a story during the modeling process. My idea was that they decapitated this character for his sins and locked his head in this metal cage that kept it alive for eternity as punishment.
After I'd created a very simple base mesh (Fig.02), I started sculpting in Zbrush. I was not worried about the topology at all since I knew at some point I was going to have to retopologize the whole thing. So I started with basic shapes, working from big to small. I was focusing on the silhouette of the model rather than the inner details. In ZBrush there is a really good way to view the silhouette; just press V and this changes the color of the model to black (if it doesn't have polypaint on).
At this stage I used mainly the Move, Standard and Clay brushes to give some definition to the face. For the hard surface of the armor I used the Trim Dynamic and Move brushes to get the main shape and the Hpolish brush with alpha 18 to refine those shapes. The Trim Dynamic and Hpolish brushes are great for building up planes. Now I had the concept sculpt in ZBrush and the basic idea was down (Fig.03).
At this point I started gathering references from various websites to support my ideas. I like medieval mythology very much and I wanted to create something dark and eerie from that era and, of course, Warhammer always has an influence on me. I was not only looking for images but stories, symbols and bible quotes that I thought could fit the model. I watched some movies at night too to help me find some inspiration. I was searching for photos of armor and special, characteristic faces that stood out to me and that I could maybe implement on the model. I think it's a good idea to collect references before jumping into serious modeling so you won't get distracted later. For example, by looking at images of worn metal I was able to achieve a more realistic result than by just working from my imagination.
High Poly Modeling and Sculpting
Before jumping into sculpting I retopologized the concept sculpt with Topogun, which is easy to use and fast. This topology was far from perfect, but was really fast. The main purpose of this was to support the high poly details I was going to add, so this mesh had pretty much evenly distributed quads. After this I started to make the final high poly model.
Sculpting the Face
When sculpting I always work from low subdivision level to high and I don't divide until the main forms are done. This workflow helps me to not get carried away with the details. First, on a low level, I established the main features and planes of the face, using mostly the Trim Dynamic brush for the planes and the Clay brush for the forms.
Then I used the Pinch brush with a small alpha and the brush modifier slider slightly turned up to establish the sharp edges of the mouth and nose, for example. On this model in particular I wanted to hide the eyes so this would add to the mysterious feeling of the character. I wanted him to have a strong expression of decay, hate and pain.
Even if only the lower parts of the face were visible, I sculpted the rest of his face to a degree because this way it was easier to keep the proportions right. I tried to look at the model from all directions and extreme angles to search for my mistakes. I used the Pen Shadow brush for the wrinkles. Depending on your stroke this tool can give a very fluid line or a wrinkle-like effect.
At the last stage of refining I went over the whole face using the Inflate brush with gravity at 100, adding volume to the crevices. This is very useful for organic stuff. For the deep cuts, where forms overlap, I used the Dam Standard brush and the Move tool with masks.
The final stage was to add high frequency detail with alphas using the drag rectangle stroke or just sculpt the imperfections with the Clay brush. When all this was done I added a new layer to the face and created the facial expression. This way I had the sculpt with and without the facial expression and later I could easily switch between the two.
Sculpting the Armor
My main workflow for sculpting the armor was the same as for the face, gradually working from low res to high, trying to make interesting shapes. I wanted it to be angular because I think those kind of shapes look more aggressive. I used the Trim Dynamic brush for defining the main planes, the Hpolish brush to fine tune those and the Mah polish brushes to make them even cleaner. (The Mah polish brushes were made by Mahlikus The Black and you can get them here).
When I work on hard surface stuff I often switch to the Smooth Directional tool so I can control which details I want to get rid of while keeping the edges. After I was satisfied with the main shape of the armor, I retopologized it again. In 3ds Max I corrected the angles of the planes that I could not get precise enough in ZBrush and added a few edges to control them.
After the main part of the armor was done I added wear and tear to the edges using the Trim Dynamic brush with alpha 18. I sculpted the surface details using various custom alphas (Fig.04). Detailing with the alphas was not the final result; I always refine the effect with the Clay brush, making it deeper and more unique where needed. I made the scratches with the Pen Shadow brush on low intensity. Now it looked old and worn. I made the rivets with the Layer brush using an alpha.
The additional parts of the armor, like the skulls and cross for example, were modeled in 3ds Max and sculpted in ZBrush. I kept adding these to the model, making it look more and more detailed.
Making the Reliefs on the Front
First I threw some skulls and bones on a plane in 3ds Max with the Paint Object feature. Then I modeled a very simple guillotine and gallows (Fig.05).
After I exported these to ZBrush I used the MRgbZgrabber to capture alphas from these models. Later I combined those in Photoshop and got the result you can see in Fig.06.
These were the alphas I used to make the reliefs on the front with Projection Master. After these were applied to the model I used the Inflate and Clay brushes to add more depth to them and made the cuts deeper with the Dam Standard brush. The high poly part was done (Fig.07).
Texturing Part 1: Base Texture
I wanted the armor to look worn and very old, and the skin to be undead-like. I always start the texturing by defining the main colors and materials. In ZBrush I used materials similar to what I wanted my end result to look like. With a soft Standard brush I established the base colors for the face and armor. I painted the mouth and nose areas using more red because of the blood and veins and the bony parts using more yellow. I used Cavity masks to fill the crevices with darker colors. With this method I had a solid base to start from.
I painted the skin to be a natural color first and later changed it to "undead" in Photoshop. I just dragged textures of metal on the armor to give it a base color. After this I added textures from photos with Spotlight to add details and break up the surface. When I wanted to work on the whole texture at once - to adjust the levels or the hue, for example - I created a texture from polypaint, exported that to Photoshop and made the adjustments there. After that I re-applied the modified texture. If the resolution of the texture is high enough it stays the same quality.
I used Zapplink to add small details and project photos on areas like the lips. On the armor I used brushes with scratch alphas and the lighten paint mode in ZBrush to add wear and tear to the texture. Where the different subtools connected to the main mesh I painted rust drips and colored it darker so they connected better to each other.
This was the base texture I used to make all the other maps (Fig.08).
After the high poly mesh was done I decimated all the subtools with Decimation Master so they had a lower poly count while keeping the details. I used this mesh as a reference for my low poly. I started from scratch rather than refining the geometry. My high poly geometry's topology usually becomes a mess at the end of the sculpting session since I like to use the Pinch tool a lot. I used Topogun to get a base geometry for the low poly. When this mesh was done it needed to be optimized and cleaned up. I prefer to do this in 3ds Max. I removed edge loops, collapsed edges to reduce poly count. I kept in mind however that the face has to deform correctly in animation, so I set up the edge loops there properly.
My goal was to create a very detailed model so I was not worried about the poly count that much, but I wanted to put it into a game engine so it had to be reasonably low. When building the low poly mesh the most important thing I had to keep in mind was the silhouette because the normal map can't simulate the outlines of the model, only the inner details. A handy trick I often use is to make a material animation: on the first frame the material is normal and on the last one it's completely black so I can swap between silhouette and the normal view. When I reached about 16,000 triangles, including the chains, the low poly was done (Fig.09).
Baking the Textures
After I'd laid out the UVs for all the low poly pieces I started to bake the textures. I use Xnormal for baking, like a lot of people, and not without reason. I can export my highest level ZBrush sculpt into Xnormal with poly paint data and without any decimation. This way the normal map has all the high poly details as sharp and detailed as they were in ZBrush.
It has a ray distance calculator too so I don't really have to worry about setting up a cage, only for the really complex stuff. So I baked a diffuse map, a normal map and an ambient occlusion map for all my parts.
Texturing Part 2: Texturing After the Bake
I made two PSD files, one for the armor and one for the face, and grouped all my maps inside these. It's easier for me to keep things organized this way. After cleaning up small errors from parts that projected onto each other I started to refine the diffuse map. Xnormal renders out alphas for each piece and they come in very useful when setting up masks in Photoshop. To enhance the diffuse map I baked out a convexity and an ambient occlusion map and applied these on top using different blend modes. I used the red channel from the convexity map; this made the details more noticeable and the AO helped the wrinkles look deeper. On the face I had to color correct the AO because black is not good for skin.
I also created a cavity map in Xnormal with the Generate Cavity From Normal tool. I overlayed this map too, trying different blend modes to get the most detail out of it.
I started to create the other maps necessary. For the specular I desaturated the diffuse and started manipulating it with Curves. I couldn't do the whole specular with only one Curves layer since every material in the map needed to be different, so I used masks to separate everything. The alphas created by Xnormal came in handy for this. I used the Dodge and Burn tool to pop out some parts even more. I also created a gloss map in a similar way to the specular to define the highlights of the materials. I created a translucency map to define where I wanted the subsurface effect to show up on the skin. Lastly I created an emissive map for the glowing parts and an alpha map for the papyrus parts. After all maps were done (Fig.10), I overlayed a grayscale noisy texture with low opacity on top of them to break up the surface.
Rendering in Marmoset Engine
The textures can change according to the lighting so I had to create that first. To get good lighting in Marmoset is actually pretty easy. First I set up a lighting environment. I chose the "Night" preset. This already gave me a good base for my lighting. I wanted the mood to feel underground, inside a cellar or something like that. I adjusted my textures appropriately for the lighting, switching back and forth between Marmoset and Photoshop. I was able to continuously see the changes I was making because I only had to hit Refresh to see the effect.
I added a spotlight with shadows turned on and positioned it to put half of the face in shadow. This helped to make the glowing parts of the armor and face more noticeable. I turned on volumetric fog for the spotlight and added a very simple texture to it. This created the impression that the model is inside a dusty cellar. You can see my lighting setup in Fig.11. After the lighting was done I started to set up the materials.
I find that the two main things that define a skin material are the scatter depth/color and subdermis depth sliders. I desaturated my diffuse map and played with these sliders and colors until I got the look I wanted for the skin. The scatter smoothing setting also helps a lot to make believable skin as it smoothes the hardness out. I applied the translucency map to control the subsurface effect, so it became more visible around the nose and mouth area. I adjusted the specular fresnel too.
The diffuse map was desaturated on this material too; the color comes from the lighting and the specular color. I find the specular sharpness slider is important when setting up a metal material. You can see my material setup in Fig.12.
The only thing left to do was to add post effects. I added ambient occlusion, bloom and adjusted the blue contrast so the whole image became bluer. I also added sharpen to the whole thing.
I didn't do much with the images I got out of Marmoset; just added subtle dust effects with a few brushes in Photoshop (Fig.13).
Thanks for reading this Making Of, I hope you liked it. If you have any questions drop me an email me or leave a comment.