Making Of 'Sanlik'
This creature was designed for a short film that I wrote two years ago. His race is Quelonian, a reptile species that has evolved with the course of time. They live on an aquatic planet, where the cities are floating on water. Looking for alternative resources, the Quelonians created the Spatial Scout Program (SSP) and here is where our character comes in. He is a space scout. I have always wanted to make characters that fit into some story; it's easier and more fun this way.
The first step was to draw as many sketches as I could: sides of the figure, proportions, face details etc. I am not a professional concept artist, but I always try to draw the best that I can so that I have a better understanding of what I'm going to create in 3D (Fig.01).
I also did some test color in Photoshop (Fig.02).
In this Making Of I am going to explain the texturing process in more detail, since I made a retextured version of Sanlik using textures from the 3DTotal Textures collection.
I collected some references of animals like amphibians, reptiles and birds, which helped me a lot to understand how the skin should look and how to adapt the details on a humanoid body (Fig.03).
Modeling and Sculpting
Having all the references set up and all the sketches, I started with a very basic base mesh done in 3ds Max and then imported it into ZBrush to start the sculpting process. At the beginning, I focused on the gesture of the character, paying attention to all the proportions and the silhouette.
Anatomy is very important even for non-human characters as this always gives a more realistic feeling (Fig.04).
When I'd finished with the gesture, I analyzed the figure to see if all the scales looked nice (Fig.05).
At this point it was a good time to re-mesh my creature before starting to add details (I posed the model and made a few renders) (Fig.06).
I was very careful, detailing the scales and masking them one by one, applying alphas and then sculpting over the top. I also made details inside the mouth. I paid attention to the size of every scale; for example, on the face they are tiny while on the back they are bigger (Fig.07).
Note: I used the alphas just to mark the scales; most of the work was done by hand with the Clay and Slash3 brushes.
The following image shows the model with all the details on it (Fig.08).
For the armor I made simple meshes in 3ds Max (Fig.09) I imported them into ZBrush using the crease Smoothing Groups plugin and then subdivided the mesh.
To start the details I first used the Slash3 brush to make the lines between the pieces of the armor.
I used lots of alphas to make all the little things like the screws, lids, vents etc., and for those bigger shapes I made a masked section and extruded the zone using Inflate in the Deformation panel. Lastly I used the Mallet Fast and Slash brushes for all the damage, scratches and knocks (Fig.10). At this point all the modeling was done.
With everything done right now, I proceeded to unwrap the body and pieces using UVLayout to start the texturing process. I baked a Displacement map in ZBrush and applied it into the body mesh. For the hard surface I used a Normal map. The following image shows a render of the body with the V-Ray displacement mode and a simple clay material (Fig.11).
Making the Diffuse for the Body
Previously, I had set up a V-Ray scene with an HDRI light to bake an Ambient Occlusion and I'd also baked a Cavity map from ZBrush. I used these two maps as the base of the diffuse texture. They are on the top of everything. I inserted them in a folder named "AO". Under this folder I created all the rest of the folders and layers (Fig.12).
The next step was to create the textures for the scales, skin and mouth (I placed them in different folders). I started with the textures for the scales: I created a base layer with a green color, then I used the "brown01" map from the Total Textures V11:R2 - Alien Organics DVD. I repeated it all around the canvas, changed the blend mode to Darker Color, opacity to 45% and applied Color Balance to give it a more greenish look (Fig.13).
I also used the green base layer to determine the overall color of the texture. Notice that the empty areas of the texture are filled with a black color; I usually do this to not distract my eyes from seeing the texture everywhere (I just applied a mask with the UVs alphas into the root folder and outside that folder a black layer)(Fig.14).
After that, I used the "brown12" map and repeated it all around the canvas, changed the blend mode to Soft Light, opacity to 60% and changed the Blend option in Layer Styles (I moved the white arrow to the left to preserve only the darkest areas of the map)(Fig.15).
At this point, the texture still looked too uniform, so I used another map to give it more variations; "material06b", this time from the Total Textures V07:R2 - Sci-fi DVD. I changed the Blend mode to Vivid Light and applied a contrast of 100 (Fig.16). You may be asking why the skin in the render looks a bit red, that is because I was using a SSS map in V-Ray.
Once the texture for the scales was done I started the skin, I used the "red02" map from the Alien Organics DVD and used the same technique of repeating the map all around the canvas. I changed the blend mode to Lighter Color, opacity to 50% and also changed the Color Balance and Brightness just a little bit. Finally, since this map looked a little flat, I used the Burn and Dodge tools to get darker or lighter areas (Fig.17). Note that I made a black mask in the "skin" folder and painted white all the areas of the skin white.
For the mouth, I just made a pink base layer and over it I used the "red07" map on Normal blending mode and 40% opacity, changed the Color Balance and Brightness a little bit and finally, over them, I created a darker pink layer with 25% opacity to unify the map and again used the Burn and Dodge tool in some areas (Fig.18).
Sanlik now had a good texture, but still needed more color variation; he was very plane and basic. So I made a new folder named "Top textures" with a new set of maps that helped me to make Sanlik looks more alive.
I found the map "brown06" very useful for color variations; I changed the blend mode to Color Dodge, 50% opacity and it was perfect to create some yellow areas. I used the same map, but this time in Darker Color, and I got some nice purple dots (Fig.19). To take the skin further I used the "blue08" map in Soft Light to get a delicate variation in the texture. Finally I added some marks in the trunk with the "gray 11" map in Overlay (Fig.20).
I added some details in the back to make it more interesting. Taking the "red04" map, I just changed the blend option in Layer Style and moved the black arrow to the right to preserve the lightest colors of the map, in this case the red one. But this action also took away the dark dots, so I duplicated the layer and changed the blend mode to Pin Light. One final detail in the back was adding some marks with the map "gray11" in Overlay (Fig.21).
One more step was to paint all of the little details like the nipples, nails, birthmarks and some skin lines between the scales and teeth (Fig.22). The most important thing, the final touch to give Sanlik more realism, was adding the veins. To do this, I used the "blue08b" map. I inverted the colors by pressing Ctrl + I, then changed the blend option in Layer Style and the blend mode to Pin Light. This made the map very similar to some kind of veins (Fig.23).
Making the Eyes
The eyes were quite simple to do. I used a "green09" map and painted over all the details and veins (Fig.24). In the render, there is a crystal around it making the reflections more real.' '
Making the Diffuse for the Armor
The diffuse for the armor was much easier to do than the body. I started with two different Ambient Occlusions that I had previously got in 3ds Max and a gray base layer (Fig.25). I then created a new folder named "Colors" where I painted the grays and yellow areas in a different layer. All of them were set to Normal blend mode with 100% opacity (Fig.26).
The next step was to paint the scratches. I created a mask in the "Color" folder and painted them by hand following the Ambient Occlusion map (Fig.27). After that I started to light him by painting some glows all around his armor. I chose a very light orange color in Normal blend mode, copied it twice and changed the blend mode to Screen to make them as brighter as possible (Fig.28). Note that the Glow folder is over the AO folder because they should not be affected by the Ambient Occlusion.
Finally I used the "material06b" from the Total Textures V07:R2 - Sci-fi DVD to make the texture look dirtier. I changed the blend mode to Soft Light, opacity to 50% and applied a Contrast adjustment of 200. Also I used "alien05a" and "number__16a" in Color Dodge blend mode like symbols around his armor (Fig.29).
In the image you can see the different settings I used for the shaders of the body and armor. You can also see the SSS map that I got from ZBrush by baking a red skin material (Fig.30).
For the illumination I used the HDRI dome light method and added some fill lights and a rim light. Remember to use Gamma Correction 2,2 and V-Ray frame buffer for better results.
The following image shows the lighting setup in the viewport (Fig.31).
For the final image I took the render and the alpha channel from the V-Ray buffer and composited it in Photoshop, adding the floor, background, glows, Overlay layers for more contrast and Sharpen in some blurred areas (Fig.32).
Finally all this hard work was done (Fig.33).
This project was very hard, but fun to make. I learned a lot by mixing human anatomy with animals.
I hope this Making Of was useful to you all and thank you very much for having taken the time to read it. If you have any question or are interested to know more, don't hesitate to contact us.