Making of “Owl Sorcerer”

3D character modeler Vahid Ahmadi takes us through the ZBrush and Photoshop process for "Owl Sorcerer" based on a concept by Chengwei Pan...

I am a freelance digital sculptor, 3D character modeller, and I have worked for various game studios, for Playstation, Bluepoint games, and others. "Owl Sorcerer" was inspired by a Chengwei Pan concept, and created with ZBrush and Photoshop.

Blocking out

At first I started thinking of the main shapes according to concept that I would need, and then I started modeling. I used a combination of ZSpheres, Dynamesh, and a base mesh for blocking out the main shapes and posing. I used ZSpheres for the hands and then made a mesh out of it, before dynameshing it back to the body.

Modeling and painting part 1

Well after some modeling I started painting using ZBrush's different alphas, using ZAppLink to go back and forth with Photoshop too, to add more depth to the colors. To achieve more resolution you can use higher subdivisions as well as higher document size for projection, and then simply paint more and more on top of it. For lines and abstract scratches, I used the ZBrush Slash2 brush located in Lightbox, and Dam Standard.

Modeling and painting part 2

I again use a lot of flat color to make my own highlights and specular, and sometimes even the rim highlights. This way you can almost treat ZBrush like a 2D software for painting because when you want to render your desired highlights, skin tones, and so on, you can use a ZBrush BPR render pass to add more depth to it. For the tiny hairs on the face I used the IMM Hair brush with different intensities and draw sizes, as well as different curve profiles. This IMM Hair brush is free to download from Gumroad here. But remember to play around with this brush until you achieve the best result.


For rendering, I used ZBrush BPR render with a high value of blur set to 9, and rays set to 80. I created a variety of passes: fill light, keylight, bounce light, HDRI light render, as well as rim and reflection lights, different shadows, AO, SSS and so on.

Blending passes in Photoshop

And finally, they were all brought together in Photoshop to complete the final composition.

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