Making Of 'Starfleet Officer'

Introduction

Hi, my name is Anto Juricic, also known as Grapix on various CG forums including the 3DTotal forum. I am going to talk about the creation of my latest work "Starfleet Officer" and what it takes to make such image.

At first I did not know what I was going to make and all I had was this interesting reference image I'd found on the internet (Fig.01), so I decided to try and use it in some way.

Fig. 01_head_refrencing

Fig. 01_head_refrencing

Base Mesh

The first thing I did was set up a very primitive base mesh, which had enough volume for any kind of human bust. The easiest way for me to do this was to use ZBrush and ZSpheres, which are very easy to manipulate and it's almost like some kind automatic mesh generator.

After I'd drawn a few spheres, I converted them to polygons and from there it was only took a matter of minutes to shape the existing geometry into something more human-like (Fig.02).

Fig. 02_head_zbrush_sculpting

Fig. 02_head_zbrush_sculpting

For that task I found using the Move brush in combination with a low pressure Smooth brush to be a best choice. If you like you can further develop your base mesh by exporting the mesh to software like Maya and adding few loops around the mouth area and eye sockets.

Also deleting polygons from the bottom of your base mesh can really pay off later when you come to divide the model to a higher poly count and it also leaves more room on the UV map for visible and more important parts of mesh (Fig.02).

If it's possible, I recommend using image plains to rough out basic proportions. The most important thing when sculpting is to gain good overall proportions, along with solid primary and secondary shapes. The worst thing you can do is to rush too soon to higher levels in ZBrush and start adding wrinkles and pores without establishing good overall shapes.

After shaping the mesh to a form that closely resembled the look I was after, I started to make new and better optimized topology (Fig.03). Even though ZBrush has a great re-topology tool, I like using 3D-Coat for the task because it offers more control over the mesh.

Fig. 03_mesh_head_model

Fig. 03_mesh_head_model

Sculpting

Since the new mesh now had better topology it was ready for further sculpting. Fig.04 illustrates my sculpting progression through the levels.

Fig. 04_modeling_head_mesh

Fig. 04_modeling_head_mesh

As I mentioned before, patience is one of the key ingredients when sculpting. For sculpting surfaces like skin pores and roughness of the skin, I used a Standard brush with the stroke set to Spray and alpha 25 or alpha 07 from the ZBrush alpha palette. You don't really need fancy alphas taken from photos to make a sculpt look close to real because the ZBrush alpha palette holds everything you need if you understand how the surface of skin should look. 

A close up of the face can be seen in Fig.05.

Fig. 05_facial_texturing

Fig. 05_facial_texturing

Texturing & Rendering

Now it was time to transfer some of the fine details to renderable texture maps, as well to add some color to them. ZBrush can generate great looking normal maps, which can also be used as templates for layering a color map inside Photoshop and that's how I did the color map for this image.

I found some nice photographic references at 3d.sk and used them to cover the whole head with skin color inside Photoshop. I then went back to ZBrush to cover up some visible stitching with a little help from the Projection Master.

I wanted to keep my workflow as simple as possible, so color and normal maps were enough. I decided to use Modo 401 for rendering because it's lighting fast and real time progressive rendering was just what I needed to set up a fast and good looking skin shader (Fig.05).

The Scattering distance parameter is closely related to size of your model and that's why I've shown the size of my bust in Fig.05, so that you can see the height to scattering distance ratio.

For the lighting I used an HDR image, which comes with Modo 404, set to Environment and I did not use any additional lights. Note that an HDRI should not really be used alone, but I chose to break this rule because in this case it worked well. If you are going to follow this workflow then please note that Global Illumination is your main light generator, along with an HDRI Environment, so don't hesitate to experiment with different HDR images.

Fig. 06_settings

Fig. 06_settings

At the end I decided to give him a Starfleet Officer's uniform because I felt like this would fit with his warrior-like scarred face and besides that I am great fan of Star Trek!

Here's the final image (Fig.07).

Fig. 07_character_final_render

Fig. 07_character_final_render

Related links

To see more by Anto Juricic, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection