Making Of 'Snapshot of a Zombie'
I have been sculpting quite a lot of heads lately to improve my sculpting skills and I sort of have the feeling I'm starting to understand the anatomy of the head, which is actually one big puzzle. Once you know what goes on under the skin, a whole new world opens. A world full of freedom. By respecting the facial structure of a human being you can start sculpting your own wonderfully weird designs. So I thought it was time for me to do something else than generic heads, copies of references or digital doubles.
Concept and Modeling
What I absolutely love about ZBrush is the freedom an artist has. I started out from a very simple base head (Fig.01) and then began searching for a concept. I didn't really have a specific design in mind, but I was heavily inspired by the fantastic work of Schell Sculpture Studio. After concept sculpting for about two hours I had something I was quite happy about... back then anyway (Fig.02)!
I wanted to take the sculpt a little bit further this time in order to improve my rendering skills. I have been focusing on sculpting and anatomy so much lately that I'm kinda ignoring every other aspect. Once I got this design I liked in ZBrush, I had to retopologize the mesh. I prefer doing the retopo in another package than ZBrush, so I decided to use 3D-Coat. While there are a few different programs I could have used, I've always liked 3D-Coat's retopo tools. I think it's a very efficient program and its MAC compatible.
For most character artists, retopologizing is probably a boring job, and although I'm not a technical wizard myself, I kinda enjoy building a nice clean mesh. So I exported my ZBrush head at level 4 (mid level) as an OBJ and imported it into 3D-Coat for the retopo. After four hours I ended up with this new mesh (Fig.03).
Before going back to ZBrush, I had to make UVs in order to texture my head later on. I did a simple unwrap in modo. With this new clean mesh I went back to ZBrush to project all the details of my original design onto my new mesh. You can simply do this by clicking the magical "Project All" button. All you need to do is select your original mesh, have your new mesh as a subtool of it, subdivide this subtool until you have approximately an equal amount of polygons as your original mesh. You are now ready to click the "Project All" button!
Once I had most of the details of my original design on my new mesh with UVs, I could start thinking about texturing. I really wanted to achieve a pale look, so I knew it was gonna be quite a challenge to get the skinshader right. For the colormap, I started painting from a high-res image that I'd downloaded from 3D.sk (which I really recommend if you are serious about character modeling and texturing).
Since I was using Maya's SSS fast skin, there was also need for a subdermal or epidermal map to create subsurface scattering. The subdermal layer is the middle layer and simulates the red glowy effect. To create a subdermal color map you need to saturate your diffuse map and give it an extra reddish tint. The epidermal layer is the top layer of our skin, so this needs to much more desaturated (Fig.04).
With all my texture maps sort of finished, I started tweaking the sss skin shader to get the look I had in mind (Fig.05). After a lot of trial and error, I got something I could live with (Fig.06).
I hope this overview made some sense. Forgive me for not digging deeper in every aspect, but I wanted to give more of an overview of my workflow, which works very well for me. Finding a workflow that suits you can take while, but is very important. I am now working on some full body characters with this same workflow and it's going pretty smooth. For some more work please visit http://delavega.cgsociety.org/gallery/ or you can always contact me on
Thank you for your time, and thanks to 3DTotal for the support!