Model & sculpt a primate aviator in ZBrush & Maya

Introduction

Hi, my name is Paulo Lima and in this making of I will talk about the process of producing a 3D character for still images. I will talk about all the stages, from the search for references for creation to the post-production of the final image in Photoshop. Hope you like it!

monkey 3d model render character design mammal detailing

Briefing and search for references

First, it is necessary to understand if the character has a briefing sent by the client or if it will be based on a concept by another artist. In this case, I had a briefing and then I looked for references to create a semantic panel and be able to start imagining the character design. I always look for references on Google, Pinterest, Unsplash, Artstation, Behance and “Anatomy For Sculptors Book”. References can be photos, inspirations and concepts of the character's dress, appearance and anatomy.

research imagery photos inspiration references
Some of the references I gathered in PureRef, free software and easy to use.

2D sketch creation

In this step, I try to find a style for the character. At the briefing for this project, I was free to choose the style, so I chose to make a cartoon character with exaggerated shapes since it is what I like to create the most. I did some experiments until I got close to what I wanted (sketch 5).

I used Photoshop to make these sketches.

3d modeling and retopology

I used ZBrush to do the organic and hard surface modeling and Maya for retopology. First, I make the blocking of the body and assets and refined according to the references. At this stage, it is necessary to have a lot of patience and enjoy every movement of the pen to sculpt. If possible, put on a song that you like to hear and don't take your eyes off the references.

In the retopology, I was mainly concerned with facial and body loops for animation, even if the purpose of the project is a still image.

ZBrush and Maya viewport

ZBrush and Maya viewport

ZBrush and Maya viewport

UV mapping in Maya

This part is super important and depends a lot on a good topology. It is necessary to prepare the character to texture in Substance Painter and for that, I use Maya to open the meshes. It can be done in any 3D software, it depends more on preference. A tip for this step is to always check the opening with a checkered texture to see if nothing is too distorted.

UV sets and checkered texture

Texturing in Substance Painter

For textures, I use Substance Painter in conjunction with Photoshop. I do a lot of hand painting but I also use procedural textures for some assets, as in the case of the clothes and glasses of this character that I used some patterns. For painting the body, I used some references from this primate race along with those from humans to find a middle ground in transmutation.

Substance Painter viewport

Substance Painter viewport

Substance Painter viewport

Substance Painter viewport

Shading in V-Ray Next

For shading and basic lighting, I used Vray Next in Maya. I like to use the hypershade to configure the materials and gather the textures that I import from Substance. In this step I tried to copy as much as possible realistic aspects of metal, fabrics and primate skin. That is why it is always important to have many references.

V-Ray viewport rendering and hypershade

Posing with ZBrush

To create the pose, I used ZBrush. In it, I used the Transpose Master plugin to be able to unite all the SubTools in one and thus be able to mask and rotate the parts of the character with the transpose tool and leave it close to the pose of the concept I created.

ZBrush viewport using the Transpose Master plugin

Grooming with XGen in Maya

For me, grooming is one of the most complex stages of creating a character. Having a correct targeting of the guides is essential, but in the case of this character, I used several modifiers and expressions because I wanted a more realistic look for the hair and to tell the character's story. To reach the expected result, I had to carefully observe how the fur of this primate breed behaves.

Guides of the hair and the back part of there in V-Ray IPR viewport.

Guides of the hair and the back part of there in V-Ray IPR viewport.

Rendering in V-Ray

After modeling, this step is certainly the one that requires the most patience. To have a quality and speedy rendering in V-Ray, it is necessary to verify the samples of primary and secondary rays until the relationship between render time and quality is sufficiently optimized. For that, it is necessary to know well the physical concepts of light and camera and decrease the resolution of the rendered image for the tests to be faster. When I got the result I wanted, I went back to the final resolution and left it rendering and always checked if there were any errors.

One of the tests I did to check the samples, image A was not yet the final one.

Post-production with Photoshop

When I rendered, in the output of the EXR file I added several passes such as separate lights, Z-depth, ambient occlusion, self-illumination, refraction, and so on. All this to have greater freedom of corrections and finalization in post-production with Photoshop. I use an editing pattern that I have been adapting over time, my completion today is one of the things that most characterizes my projects.

In Photoshop I like to organize all passes and layers in folders.

Top tip 1 - Dedication, organization, and self-promotion

Dedicate yourself, have a good personal and study organization and promote yourself on social networks and communities. I started from scratch and that's how I got it to evolve until I did my first professional job. Don't give up, only those who give up cannot reach their goals.

Top tip 2 -  Feedbacks

Whether pro or not, everyone can present something that you have not seen in your work and that can be changed. In all my projects I ask for feedback from my family, friends, and the 3D communities I participate in, and this has helped me a lot to evolve.

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