Making Of 'Pactor the Negotiator'

Introduction

This is a character design and portrait I made straight away in ZBrush. In this case I didn't use a previous design as I wanted to practice creation and improvisation while sculpting in 3D. The main idea was a civilized-looking, sober alien character that wasn't aggressive, but did have a few hostile elements.

Preparing the Basic Model

There are many ways to start a bust or a character. I don't have any preference, but in case I started it from a standard head in ZBrush because it had all the shape I would need. Then I set the DynaMesh to quite a low poly starting point and smoothed the whole surface to get rid of the human elements of the face. After this was done, I ran DynaMesh to equalize the surface a bit more (Fig.01 - 04).

Fig.01

Fig.01

Fig.02

Fig.02

Fig.03

Fig.03

Fig.04

Fig.04

Sculpting

From the previous step I started to sculpt normally and kept using DynaMesh to maintain the optimal topology (Fig.05 - 06).

Fig.05

Fig.05

Fig.06

Fig.06

These are the combination of brushes I used in order to achieve something that looked like flesh or just random wrinkles for the sculpting. It can be useful to try out something like this on a sphere, as shown in Fig.07. Step 2 of the image shows the result of applying a Rake brush with a low intensity for subtle variations on the surface. Changing the size worked fine for breaking up the surface and for overlapping volumes. For the third sphere I used the Rake and Dam_Standard brushes to increase some volumes, make deeper folds and create the overall effect of flesh.

Fig.07

Fig.07

The result of the whole sculpting process was a multiple subtool model. At this stage the overall topology and polycount was very high and became difficult to handle, especially the head subtool, which was still a DynaMesh. So I used the Qremesher option for the head subtool, which changed the topology and reduced the polycount. It didn't matter that the polycount was low, because the head subtool would be subdivided normally to bring back all the fine details using the Project All option.

Now there was a cleaner and more even surface to keep working on, and from here I kept sculpting and painting the model (Fig.08 - 09).

Fig. 08

Fig. 08

Fig. 09

Fig. 09

Fig.10 shows the poly paint of the whole model after the Qremesh and projection. The Project All transfered the poly paint as well as the sculpted details.

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

Fig.11 shows the final model without the colors. A very interesting process I like to use up to this point is to grab a render of the model, put it in Photoshop and paint ideas, variations or design modifications. For my personal work I find that it's faster to do this is in 2D rather than 3D. Fig.12 shows an example of this.

Fig.11

Fig.11

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Rendering

To prepare the render passes, first I chose a material - in this case, SkinShade. I then applied the WaxPreview, as it's shown in Fig.13. In Render > Render Properties, I enabled the WaxPreview button and then in the Wax Modifiers I tweaked the effect by increasing the Strength from 0 to 100. There were other options I could have played with that might have been interested too.

Fig.13

Fig.13

In order to render, at least the main light needs shadows. Fig.14 shows the settings I used to achieve hard or soft shadows:

1. This is a default shadow in BPR. It can be interesting, but it's a very hard shadow and you can see on the final image that I used a softer one.
2. This shadow is softer because I increased the Angle setting. The effect is like a bunch of the hard shadows repeated, offset and made transparent to build up a rough gradient. This way sometimes looks cool because of that noisy layer effect.
3. This shadow is much softer and the gradient is cleaner. It's not the most accurate, but it was enough to me. I set Angle at 66, and increased Rays and Blur slightly to make a nice version that wasn't too slow.
4. I got the final shadow by just increasing the Blur to the max and keeping the Angle at 66. This looked nice but was much slower.

Fig.14

Fig.14

By using BPR and having the WaxPreview enabled, the material had a bit of a sub surface scattering, so now was a good time to use the final model to try out how much the Wax Modifier strength needed to be to get the look I wanted for the skin.

Render Passes to Compose

These are the render passes I used to compose the picture (Fig.15 - 16).

Fig.15

Fig.15

Fig.16

Fig.16

The final image was flipped horizontally because it looked more interesting to me. The forehead marks were painted in Photoshop to make it more interesting, and I also painted some hints to remove things I didn't like and make it more illustrative looking (Fig.17).

Fig. 17

Fig. 17

Alternatives/Variations

I thought it would be cool to show some more steps that are not in the final image, but can be done from the final model and painting. The first is to post the character and create subtle asymmetries to make it more believable. I have rotated the head and made some modifications on the mouth, eyebrows, horns, etc. They are very small, but visible, changes and combined with the pose they help make the image look more natural (Fig.18).

Fig.18

Fig.18

Next I add skin surface details that the original didn't have to the posed model. I thought the original was fine without them, but they are a nice additional feature (Fig.19).

Fig.19

Fig.19

Now is a good idea to use the new surface detail to increase the effect of the skin, which gets a bit lost when some lights and sub surface scattering are used. I will add it in the color. The way to do this is by masking the skin detail by cavity, inverting the mask selection and painting the cavities on the polypaint softly with a darker or more saturated color. Then I render and check how much is enough to crank it so it suits what I want.

Here is a shot of the cavity that would be inverted to paint and a simple BPR render with the pose, now that I have the surface sculpted detail and new cavity detail enhanced. All these details and modifications are recorded on a layer to save them and still maintain the original image (Fig.20 - 21).

Fig. 20

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

Fig. 21

Thanks a lot to everyone!

To see more by David Munoz Velazquez, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy
Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection