Making Of 'Nihal from the Land of the Wind'
The inspiration for this image came from the protagonist of the Licia Troisi's novels, Nihal from the Land of the Wind, a young half-elf female warrior. A very popular Italian illustrator, and friend of mine, Paolo Barbieri had created the illustrations for the novels' covers and an illustrated book about the characters in the saga and so it was his image that I used as a starting concept (Fig.01).
My goal was to create a 3D version of the Nihal character.
Once I'd prepared the base mesh of the body, I started to model the armor's pieces and clothes, which covered most of the body. Modeling each of these pieces was done in two stages: first a basic modeling stage and then a second modeling stage to bring out more of the details. All the items were done using this same method.
I started with the chest armor and I kept Nihal's body on a separate layer, creating new polygons using Modo's "background constraint" option. This way the new polygons were fitted onto the background mesh (Fig.02).
To model, in addition to the traditional tools, I used a lot of modo sculpting tools directly onto the mesh, which made the modeling process quite fast, very enjoyable and not boring at all. In Fig.03 you can see the chest after the first modeling phase and in Fig.04 the chest after the second modeling phase.
A very fun modeling stage was when I modeled the armor friezes, which were not sculpted, but modeled and applied onto the armor. Even in this case I used the "background constraint" option, as can be seen in Fig.05.
Fig.06 shows the chest's wire details.
In Fig.07 you can see the legs after the first modeling phase; Fig.08 shows the legs after the second modeling phase.
I did everything in a T-pose at first, instead of modeling it in the final pose, as I thought it would be nice to have the possibility of animating the body (even though I'm not planning to do it). In Fig.09 you can see Nihal fully modeled; any final details that were missing at this stage were going to be added later with the bump map.
In Fig.10, you can see the full model wires.
And here I started to seriously enjoy myself! First I had to unwrap the model - which is a pretty boring, but very important step. It has to be done with care, because if you hurt your model in this step, then you will see the consequences in the final result.Fig.11 shows the result with the model checker applied.
In Fig.12 we can see the UV map template.
Next I started painting the armor texture. This was painted entirely by hand (no photo!), and I started by painting the base in Photoshop, as you can see on the left side of Fig.13. I then moved directly into Modo and using its 3D painting, I painted on the dark, blackened, and lighter parts that can be seen on the right side of Fig.13. This was to help with the lighting of the model and to give it a more "illustrated mood".
In Fig.14 you can see the finished helmet, which was achieved after applying the bump map and specular map. The whole model was done using this method: making the base texture in Photoshop and then painting directly onto the model in Modo.
The same procedure can be seen on the pants in Fig.15. On the left side of the image we can see the pants with the texture made in Photoshop and on the right side we can see the pants completed with the 3D painting in Modo.
I have to say that painting directly onto the 3D model, it's really good fun. It's almost very important because that's what adds the "experienced mood" and therefore high realism to the materials. Also getting the opportunity to paint directly onto the model gives you greater control over even small details.
Fig.16 - Fig.20 show further details at the end of texturing. The colors' textures are four maps of 4096x4096 pixels: one map for the armor, one for the gold friezes, one for the skin and other accessories, and one for the leather dress.
In Fig.21 we can see the model main maps. The subsurface scattering map is a more reddish one than that of the skin.
I did the posing just using the Modo flex tool, which is pretty handy. I'd lost interest in animating the character at this point, so I didn't need to do any rigging.
Lighting and Rendering
For lighting I used a strange set up based on six emitters (luminous polygons) and three area lights (Fig.22). I chose to illuminate with luminous polygons because I especially like the effect on the skin and the type of shadow generated. I also activated Global Illumination with very basic settings.
For the final rendering, I rendered Nihal in four positions and then I put it all in Photoshop. The background was nothing but a maximized piece of the breastplate. In Fig.23 you can see the final result.
My name is Ivan Stalio (www.ivanstalio.com). I am a scientific-informative editorial illustrator, working as a professional freelancer for publishers around the world. I worked for 10 years on paper and then switched to digital painting with Photoshop. I've recently developed a passion for 3D and now in my work I use both 2D and 3D, as required.