Master modeling and meshes
Discover how to create intricate shoulder pads and convincing facial hair in Maya and ZBrush, with Henrique Naspolini's detailed Dwarf project overview
In this article I will demonstrate how to create some of the details on this model using Maya, ZBrush and its features, like MicroMesh and GMH2 script. I will cover some of the more complex processes that I used when making this character in order to help inspire other artists.
The idea to make this model came up when a group of friends of mine decide to take on Alexandr Pechenkin dwarf concepts. I ended up with the crossbow dwarf and I soon saw it as a good challenge due to the great amount of detail. It was a great opportunity for me to practice some of my skills as well as experiment and learn new ones.
Making the shoulder pad
To make the shoulder pad I used 'Micro Mesh' in ZBrush. Thanks to this, it was somewhat easy to get what I wanted, but there was some hiccups along the way that I had to figure out to get it correctly. This is what I will be working through in this article.
Creating the base mesh
First I needed to create a base-mesh that had the form I wanted for the shoulder pad, and the detail mesh that I wanted to replace the polygons of the base mesh with. It's important to note that the detail mesh needed to follow a 1:1 ratio. So if you make a detail mesh that is rectangular-shaped, you need to adjust it to a square-like shape, so the micro-mesh can properly fill up the polygons of the base mesh, otherwise it will leave gaps.
With the base-mesh selected I then went to Tool>Geometry>Modify Topology, clicked on Micro Mesh and selected the detail mesh. A message popped-up saying that micro-mesh is only visible in BPR, but I just clicked OK to make the message go away. At this point I don't see anything different – but the Micro Mesh button is enabled, meaning that it's technically working. Then I clicked on Convert BPR to Geo in Tool>Geometry to see what it gave me so far.
Finding the faults
All right, obviously this not what I wanted, so I stepped back a little. To fix this I used a more simple detail shape to identify what is going on. First I turned on Draw Micro Mesh in Render>Render Properties and then turned Polyframe on (Shift+F). That way I could see a sort of preview of the detail mesh on the base mesh. Then with the new detail mesh applied to the base-mesh, I could clearly see the orientation of the MicroMesh.
Fixing the mesh
To rearrange the orientation of the polygons, first, I clicked on Align Edge to match the orientation of the all the polygons in the same continuous surface. Then to match the orientation on all the polygons I isolated each polygroup and clicked on Spin Edge until they got the orientation that I wanted.
Converting to geometry
Once the orientation was fixed I could then render to see how it looked and then converted the MicroMesh to actual geometry by clicking on Convert BPR to Geo again. To give it a little more variation I used the Transpose tool to move and rotate some of the outer pieces.
Making the beard
Using GMH2 was pretty easy. It basically works like this: Make a strip of polygons that is the shape you want for the hair strand. In the GMH2 window click on Create GMH Style and name it hair_01, for example. Select the polygon strip, select the GMH Style that was just created and click on Apply GMHStyle and the hair is applied to the mesh.
It is still possible to modify the polygon strip (Move, Extrude etc) and the hair will adapt to it. The next thing to do was to create a second GMH Style and apply it to the same polygon strip, to give it some variation. Just like the first step, I clicked on Create GMH Style and named it hair02. I then selected the polygon strip, selected the second GMH Style that was created and clicked on Apply Second GMHStyle.
Each GMH Style has its own individual settings. To modify them select one GMH Style at a time and click on Edit GMH Style. It will take you to the hair attributes in the Attribute Editor. There you will be able to modify the hair width, clump width, curl, color and so on.
The hair styles can and should be applied to multiple meshes. That way the hair style attributes and its modifications are propagated to all meshes using that hair style. It's good to note that while Edit GMH Style will edit the attributes per hair system, GMH Surfaces Edit will edit the attributes per mesh.
Filling out the model's hair
I repeated this process on the polygons I used to build the beard. I created a few different hair styles to control different areas of the hair, such as the eyebrows, goatee, hair, and mustache.
You can render this hair in Maya, but in this case I wanted to have an object that I could export and import into other software, so I had to convert the hair and Maya's Paint Effects, to geometry.
To do that, first, I had to find the right node in the outliner. I looked inside the GMHStyleSystem group for the node named with the suffix pfxHair and selected it (in this case I had to select two since the beard was made with two hair styles), then went to Modify>Convert>Paint Effects to Polygons and clicked on the options box. I made sure the poly limit is set to 1000000, otherwise wouldn't convert all the hair, and clicked Convert or Apply. The hair was then converted to geometry.
Making other hair-like objects
The same technique was used to make the hair on the feather, arrows, and purse.
For the rest of the details I used a custom IM brush to make the stitches and Celtic-looking alphas to fill large areas of the gear with detail. A hand-made sculpt was done for the ornaments on the quiver using clay and standard brushes, and I added surface noise to add high frequency detail (fabric) to the skirt.
On the face I used a lot of DamStandard and Standard brushes to make the wrinkles, as well as the Inflate brush, to give more volume to the folds. I also used some alphas to add pores to the skin.