Model a stylized female “Rider” in ZBrush & Maya


Hello! My name is Giovane Henriques. I am a 3D character artist based in Brazil. In this making of I will be showing you all the steps behind the creation of my latest project "Rider" based on the concept by Michael Angelo Dulay. This is the same workflow that I use on most of my projects, so I hope you enjoy it.

rider steampunk girl 3d model
Final render with composition pass and effects in Photoshop

Looking for references

I try to find the essential references for each moment of the process instead of taking everything at once. This can get in the way of the creative process and get away from the main concept. In this case, I use PureRef for my reference board and I will add more references with details throughout the process if necessary.

pureref references
Initial references in PureRef

Sketch the main forms

This is a fun time in the process where I don't care about details but find the shapes of the concept. This is a cool part where you can extrapolate and let your ideas flow. I started the model from a sphere with Dynamesh using basic brushes like Move, ClayBuildup, DamStandard, and Pitch. Other parts I build using Mask and Extract and define the shapes with the same default brushes. If necessary I use Transpose Master, and with the Move brush I adjust some parts and proportions of the model.

3d digital head modelling
Sketch in ZBrush

Scale of model

Something that many do not mention but it would be nice for the people who are starting to know. Before starting retopology I always try to set the model scale to avoid problems in Maya. I always work at real size so I export a Maya cube to know how it is working inside ZBrush. When you create something from a primitive in ZBrush, the scale is tiny and this can be a serious problem later when setting shaders, lights, and displacement in other software.

maya and zbrush proportions model
Cube of Maya and ZBrush proportion

Retopology in Maya

For most parts I use zremesh as a starting point for retopology. Sometimes I use it more than once and with zguide to generate a clean basemesh, and then I export with GOZ to Maya and fix some edgeloops if necessary. This greatly speeds up the process in some parts. For the face, I already do edgeloops manually using Quad Draw to have more control with a decimated sketch of reference and "Make the selected object live" enabled.

Retopology rendering 3d model
Print viewport Maya

High-poly ZBrush

The high-poly process is relatively simple after having a good basemesh with character silhouette, so just adjust some details of some parts and give more attention to the character's face. In the face I use the "project all" option, sometimes with Mask in some parts to get the sketch silhouette. After setting the high-poly I use GOZ and in Maya I open UV and go back to ZBrush to apply some Noise Surface.

Texturing in Substance Painter

In Substance Painter it is sensational to be able to work with textures within the masks and within groups, this gives you endless possibilities to create blends without being destructive, and you can change colors later. I basically work this way after setting the color base. I add other layers: Fill Layer, Black Mask, Fill Layer in Mask, and in grayscale uniform color I add some Grunge or Procedural. The cool thing is that I can change the color of Fill Layer inside this mask and change the blending mode, and this same process works for all separate channels with rough, height, metal, normal, and others.

blending modes racer helmet
Rough variation with blending mode texture

Lighting and Lookdev

To work the shaders first I do a basic set of 3 lights. If you do a good job in Substance Painter just put the textures in the right place in Maya that will be all right, and to speed up the process I like working with UDIM to see everything once and if it is working correctly. After placing the textures I add an HDR to the scene and activate the GI for more realism. For the skin, I use V-Ray alsurface – it works a little bit different from the other basic shader. It works with Roughness instead of Gloss, be aware to invert the gloss texture or create a preset in Substance Painter to export the roughness.

Hair & peach fuzz

The hair I do with XGen. I use the same concept as Tom Newbury's tutorial. It is very dynamic working with XGen – his preview already gives you a real idea of how it will look in the end. Some modifiers are generally applied following this order; Clumping, Cut, and Noise. Of course, it depends on the reference – in this case I do a mixed Clumping. In the eyelashes I import the ZBrush sketch and extract some curves and import them to XGen as guides to keep the same silhouette. For the shader, I use Red (shiny) with small changes and push the Light Multiplier. For the peach fuzz on the coat I use a decimated basemesh to generate the hair in the same cavity of basemesh with displacement applied.

peach fuzz on female character
Setting Peach Fuzz XGen

Preset final render

For the final scene lighting, I keep the same idea of the 3 lights but with some changes. The Key and Back Light with approximately half the fill light intensity, and for the HDR I use the "Old Industrial Hall" with 0.8 exposure. For the camera I use the "Physical Camera" mode set to 72mm with ISO 900, speed 200, and f4. This is really cool with a small depth of field giving a more artistic look to the render

final rendering female character model
Lighting set viewport

Render elements and light passes

I like to do some passes in case I need to make some corrections in post-production. I usually put the separate lights in the render elements. To work properly just connect them into the Relationship Editor and each light will have its separate passes so I have more control in post-production. In Photoshop it was very simple, just a few passes with blending mode and masks in some places and some layer of levels, curve, color balance, vignette, and others, without paintover. I hope you enjoyed, any questions contact me on a social network.

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