Model and sculpt “Hades” in ZBrush & Maya


Hello world, I am Khaled Ibrahim. I am a 3D character artist from Egypt. In the following making of I will show you how I created my latest project Hades the king of the underworld which is based on the Disney movie Hercules.

Final render with Arnold and post-effects in Photoshop


I collected many images from the internet as well as screenshots from the Hercules Disney movie to get the feel of the character, and the whole movie. I also used this info to color grade the final images. Since the hand pose is dynamic, I also collected similar hand pose photos from different people and angles just to clear some anatomy questions concerning the body of the pose and the skin deformations. I used the handy software PureRef to view my references in tiles, where I could zoom in to see the details at anytime.

photo referencing for design

Hercules movie and set references for anatomy, and other artworks

Blocking the main forms

I started in ZBrush by blocking the main forms of the bust in an “A” pose. Since the character would be wearing a shirt I made the body in two different meshes so I could keep the polycount more manageable during sculpting. The model started from a dynamesh sphere and I retopologized the mesh.

hades hercules 3d mesh

Early blocking of the head

Posing the model and sculpting more details

After I established the main forms, I posed the model by masking and rotating the body parts inside ZBrush. After posing, everything was sculpted without symmetry so it was very time consuming. I started sculpting more detailed forms, working around the whole body, and fixing bigger forms from time to time again. It was a back and forth process that helped me get the anatomy, morphology, and forms better. The whole process was very challenging and one of the hardest things was to give the impression of an evil and smart look that distinguishes Hades and the weird pose of his hands.

sculpting 3d model posing hades

Final pose and forms

Adding details and pores, and the hand painting process

After I was satisfied with the result, I entered ZBrush at the highest subdivision level to work in an even higher polycount so I could add pores, wrinkle, and so on. All those details were hand sculpted in combination with some TexturingXYZ alphas and organized it as layers, which was very helpful. Simultaneously I started polypainting the model by hand in Substance Painter to get the diffuse maps. I exported the model from time to time to see how it would look in the render result inside Maya, using Arnold.

polycount pores hades 3d character model

Layers and skin pores

More textures painting

Getting closer to the end even though I continued moving around forms to correct things. I kept adding even more details to the polypaint  and added extra displacement details to be combined in the render later, as the render would show me where and what needed an improvement. Then I added the cloth textures.

polypainting and displacement details 3d model

Skin and cloth textures


The hair for Hades was done using XGen. I modeled hair strands as tubes no caps and used tube groom to get the first layer of guides. I separated the hair into multiple collections, so it’s easier to groom and control. After that I painted density and region maps to have further control over the look. To wrap things up I added some modifiers like clump, cut, noise, and curl, then I converted it into interactive grooming to get my hair the shape I wanted. It was easier than sculpting guides for me because Hades basically doesn’t have hair. It was a fire on his head, so with the grooming brushes I tried to mimic that fire feel. After the hair was done, I added eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as tiny face hairs for peach fuzz.

xgen 3d character rig hercules hades

Hair with XGen and interactive grooming


The shirt and scarf were blocked inside Marvelous Designer. I imported the model and created a pattern to embrace it as shirt and scarf. I searched the internet for pattern ideas and then made one by combining things I found. And the cloth final details were made in ZBrush.

marvelous designer scarf and shirt zbrush

Final cloth model


The lighting and rendering was done using Arnold for Maya. I used a total of five lights for this scene. One area light serving as a key light, three other area lights with white, blue, colors as rim lights, and HDRI Light for fill and reflections.

lighting and rendering in maya hercules


Material & render

I used aiStandard with Subsurface sScatter, and I used two displacement combined with MultiplyDivide, PlusMinusAverage, and luminance node. I prefer to make the specular in different shaders and mix them with aiMixShader.

material and rendering modeling character design

Render setting and material network


Inside Photoshop I composited the rendered passes. Then I color corrected the images, and color graded based on the original movie color grading to get close to the same feel. On top of it I added some post effects (lens effects, camera blur, and so on) to enhance the realism of the final render.

photoshop composition profile character design

Compositing and color correct process

disney hades character 3d model
disney hades character 3d model

Final image

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