Making Of 'Princess of Madness'
My first step was to put one of Maggie Reilly's albums into Winamp...
In general before I start to create a portrait image I study some photos, or other artist's images and paintings, to spark my imagination. Sometimes I'll borrow ideas from other artist - unfortunately there aren't really any completely new artistic ideas under the sun these days!
My original concept was to create a female clown, but I changed my mind later and so the original concept and the result are totally different. When I was in the process of creating this image, new ideas came into my mind and these shaped the final image.
I have tried to add a classic, painterish effect to the whole image to enhance the fine art effect with the post work in Photoshop. I didn't want to create a colorful picture and that's why I didn't use too many colors. Those I did use were warm because they can add to the old-ish effect of an image (Fig.01).
Fig. 01 - click to enlarge
About the Character
I started this piece with the head of the character. I created the whole head in a classic way, using two reference photos of the front and side view of a female head.
First I created the eye-slot and its environment and after that I continued with her nose and her mouth. The ear was created separately earlier; it was a pre-created mesh that I made some years ago and have since used for all my character models. It's the same with the eyeballs; I have my own body part collection!
I always model half of the head and body, then mirror them to the other side and attached them together with the "Join" option in Blender. Her body was also created separately, just like her hands and her head. I only modeled half, with the help of body reference photos.
After that I divided the whole model into different parts for unwrapping to the UV map. I divided the model into face, limbs, torso, ears, lashes, nails, lips, etc... I used different materials for different body parts with similar material settings. For the torso, limbs and face I used the same materials with different textures. I used multiple materials on each object; the lips had another material just like lashes, and nails etc (Fig.02).
Setting the skin material is a very exciting thing. Basically I used SSS (Subsurface Scattering) with 3-4 texture including a color texture, a bump map texture and a specular map texture. I mixed these textures with a gradient ramp dark red to light red. This step enhances the "real meat effect" of the material. I set the gradient ramp to the skin input "result" and the method to "overlay". Most Blender artist use too much SSS effect in my opinion - so the skin material they create becomes like a wax instead of skin. Another good way can be to use nodes, but I don't like to use them.
I made her lashes from a simple plane object which contained a color texture mixed with an alpha texture. When I set the material of the lashes I turned off its casting and receiving shadows option. If the lashes cast shadows then they make the environment of the eyes much darker. In this way, I sacrificed a bit of reality to make my image better. I don't think it's always necessary to get reality at any price.
Creating eyes for a model is the simplest thing. As I mentioned earlier, I'd already modeled the eyes beforehand and they were a part of my body parts collection. The eyes were two modified UV spheres which contained one-to-one different materials. I used a simple Z transparent material with a reflection texture (HDRI map) and high and hard specularity for the cornea. I set the diffuse shader to oren-nayar and the specular shader to blinn. The iris and the eye white were just a color texture and a bump map texture respectively (Fig.03).
About the Clothes
Creating clothes is always my favorite part because it is a huge challenge. Their details influence an image in a huge way. I think well created, detailed clothes are half the success of any image.
In a close up view I don't advise using normal maps to create wrinkles - I don't think it looks very good when we see the shadow of a gap without a fabric hill. My wrinkle technique is very simple. Most artists want to avoid triangular surfaces but I dare to state they are necessary for creating realistic looking clothes. I don't like clothes with surfaces that are too smooth and where the wrinkles are only made of normal maps, but that's just my personal taste.
Of course, in some cases, I will also add tangent normal map textures to the materials of the cloth to enhance the wrinkle effect, but not in this case. My model technique is the following: I created - in this case - a simple female dress along the body surface. I then divided her cloth and jester king hat into different parts with different materials and I used multiple materials on each object. After that I unwrapped the parts of the clothes for creating UV maps. I didn't use only one huge baked/drawn texture map for the coat and hat. Instead of that I used small 512*512px, tileable, color and bump textures. I set their repeats to 25-30 and the map input to UV/flat. In this way it's much easier to set the right size for the weave of the fabric and in a close view the weave is much clearer and will follow the wrinkles of the cloth, making it much more realistic.
The last step was to give a bit of shine to some of the fabrics, for example: edges. I did this with the integrated textures blend option; I selected sphere blend and set its map input to reflection - it uses reflection vectors as the coordinates of the texture - and the 2D projections to Z,Z,off (Fig.04).
Fig. 04 - click to enlarge
Rigging and Posing
I basically chose a daydreamer pose for the character. I think this pose is expressive enough and I was trying to convey a believer who lives in her dreams.
Blender can offer some very easy and good ways of rigging a character. In this case I mixed the weight paint option (painting the weight with a brush) and weighting vertex groups. The weights of each vertex point or vertex point groups can be determined manually, so you can attach the vertex points to the proper bones very precisely (Fig.05).
Lights and Camera
The lights are very important to make details visible and besides that they also add to the ambience of an image. In this image I used four spotlights: two light yellow and two blue. Only one of the light yellow lamps cast a shadow and it had the most energy (1.200). I set the edges of the spotlights to very soft, just like the edge of the cast shadow. Beside the lights I turned on the ambient occlusion option.
After I set the lights, I moved onto the camera setting. I moved the camera far from the character and then zoomed in. The lens was set to 160 units (Fig.06).
Fig. 06 - click to enlarge
All post work was done in Photoshop, naturally. In general, I rendered the character with an alpha mask so that I could easily match the background behind the character in Photoshop.
The background was a pre-created, hand painted image and it was set behind the character.
The last step was to give lights to homogenize the whole image. For this I used the gradient ramp option; this step gives the main ambience to the image. As can be seen, I chose warm colors (Fig.07).
And that's all I can write about how I made this image.
Very Best Wishes!