Morph, Sculpt & Create 3D Characters with Reallusion Character Creator & ZBrush

Learn to morph, sculpt and create 3D characters using the Reallusion Character Creator with ZBrush...


In this tutorial we will prepare a base mesh in Reallusion's Character Creator (CC) using morph sliders to control the output. Then we'll take this through the iClone pipeline (Character Creator > iClone 6 > 3DXchange 6) to ZBrush for sculpting and enhancement of the base mesh we prepped in CC.


Since the pipeline takes care of all the tedious work like rigging, we can concentrate on the creative part of the project by using third-party modeling applications like ZBrush, Mudbox and Sculptris to modify the mesh at a higher division level. We then generate a normal map based on the high density mesh sculpt and use it to project that sculpt onto the low density mesh of the original model. We also export the modified low density mesh to use as a replacement mesh in 3DXchange which works out all the rigging details for us. In fact, we don't even see a menu that mentions rigging!

We finally get to do the fun stuff, while Reallusion sweats the details and takes care of the tedious nature of rigging behind the scene completely invisible to the user.

Transforming the Base Mesh into a Unique Character

Transforming the Base Mesh into a Unique Character

Prepping the Base Character in Character Creator

Starting with the default character project, with actor selected, press the Reset button. Next use a combination of sliders to create a base mesh that suits your needs in general. In this case, I used a combination of the Male face and body sliders along with slimming down the waist and lower trunk all the way to the feet. Calves, thighs, forearms and upper arms were all slimmed to near comic proportions since a stylized look is our goal. After creating a mesh that suits your needs, you are ready to send it to iClone. From iClone, send the character into 3DXchange via the button on the right side-menu. From 3DXchange export as an OBJ to the location of your choice.

Completed Character Base

Completed Character Base

Import the OBJ into ZBrush for Sculpting

Divide the mesh to level 5 then return to level 3 to begin work. Using Clay Buildup, I add mass to the brow, jaw, cheeks and chin area. Using the Smooth tool, work the mass into a more organic shape at a low setting. If you wish to square off the look of your character now would be a good time to use the Flatten brush to square the jaw, top of the head and other parts of the character.

Adding Mesh to the Base Character at Subdivision Level 3

Adding Mesh to the Base Character at Subdivision Level 3

Building/Shaping the Nose and Adding a Facial Scar

With the methods used in Step 2, add mass down the nose and across both nostrils, then work the mass into the sculpt with your Smooth tool. Next, using the Standard tool draw out a raised line across the cheek of the character. Use the Dam Standard tool at a small diameter to cut out a trench down the center of the line you just drew with the Standard tool. Now, use the Inflate tool on low setting to draw the two sides of the cut together looking like a healed scar.

Mass Buildup on Nose and Facial Scar

Mass Buildup on Nose and Facial Scar

Creating the Mohawk Mesh

Draw the mask in high resolution but extract the new mesh in low resolution. Smooth the newly extracted mesh using the edge mask that appears after extraction. Remove the mask entirely and divide the hair mesh up to level 5. Use the Short Hair sculpting brush (over at BadKing) to create strokes that resemble hair. A little practice will familiarize yourself with how it works. Remember there is always Undo. Don't be timid with your strokes. You use the Move tool set to a large diameter to pull the hair mesh up and give it height and body.

Using Masking and Extraction to Create Mass for Mohawk

Using Masking and Extraction to Create Mass for Mohawk

Creating and Shaping the Eyebrows and Goatee

One again we'll use the Masking tool to draw off the area of the eyebrows and goatee. Then we'll extract to create new meshes. Draw out the eyebrows first and extract. Remove the mask then draw out the goatee with a new mask and extract. You are now ready to use the Move and Smooth tools to shape the object using the Short Hair brush to create the hair strokes.

Creating the Eyebrows and Goatee Sub-Tool Meshes

Creating the Eyebrows and Goatee Sub-Tool Meshes

Creating Skin Wrinkles and Generating the Normal Map

We'll use the Standard brush with a Spray setting and Alpha 58. Set the intensity low and small-to-medium in size. Go over the entire surface of the body, face, hands and legs to apply the wrinkles. Increase the brush intensity till the wrinkles are to your liking. It may be necessary to go over parts of the face more than once to get all the nooks and crannies. It just depends on how detailed you want your projected normal map to be.

Generating the normal maps is a simple enough affair, in that it only requires going to the Normal Map menu and selecting the proper button. The tricky part is selecting the proper part of the mesh for the proper normal as CC generated characters come in as one tool with no SubTools. Use Shift+Ctrl while clicking with your left mouse button on the object you wish to hide, such as the eyes. Swing the head over and go through the neck to select the teeth. With those hidden and only the head of the mesh visible you can now extract the normal map for that part of the mesh. Toggle Shift+Ctrl until the body is visible, then extract the map for the body if needed. Create the Normal Map on the Normal Menu, then press clone on the same menu. Now go to Texture and vflip the texture and export to a location of your choice.

Skin Wrinkles and Exporting the Normal Map

Skin Wrinkles and Exporting the Normal Map

Exporting and Replacing the Mesh in 3DXchange

It is imperative that we lower our subdivision level to the original mesh level of one. The number of vertices have to match the original mesh in order to swap out the meshes in 3DXchange, just as any morph needs the same mesh makeup to interchange. After exporting from ZBrush, the process is very simple. In 3DXchange, select the BODY mesh in the left menu and press the Replace Mesh button on the right side-menu. You will then be prompted to load the OBJ you just exported from ZBrush. It's that simple... unless you didn't go back to level 1 before exporting. If you get an error message telling you the mesh doesn't match, then you most likely forgot to make the body and other parts visible, as it only exports what is visible - or - you didn't drop down to the original mesh level before exporting.

ZBrush Mesh (left) iClone Mesh (right)

ZBrush Mesh (left) iClone Mesh (right)

Export Facial Hair and Dress Character, Add Normal Map, Skin Textures

In this step we'll go back through iClone from 3DXchange via the Apply to iClone button. Then straight from iClone where we can add our ZBrush generated normal map, or back into Character Creator via the Edit in Character Creator button, where we can now add skin textures and dress the character as well as modify the clothing. If you loaded the ZBrush normal map before you went into the Character Creator, and you add a different skin texture, you will have to reload the ZBrush generated normal as the newly added skin textured replaced it.

NOTE: While you can load the normal map in iClone or Character Creator keep in mind that the Character Creator normal map channel is set to 50% by default. If you go into iClone and don't get the relief on the features you think you should be getting, then go back into Character Creator, set the Normal Map slider from 50 to 100 then back to iClone. You should now have a much more intense normal map.

Export the facial hair objects at as high a level of division, as your project can handle for better projection of the hair sculpting. Bring each object into 3DXchange as you would any prop or accessory and export it out as a prop to iClone. Once in iClone, attach the prop to the proper location, and it now becomes an accessory which can be saved with the character or separately. It has to be Attached Not Linked. Linking is for controlling on the timeline like dropping an object where attaching makes the item a sub-object of the character.

The Final Character

We now have a working custom character with facial hair that lip syncs and emotes without having to tweak an envelope, hide a bone or worry about any of the mechanics. The Reallusion iClone/Character Creator pipeline takes the complexity out of character creation.

BONUS: Correct Radical Normal Maps

BONUS: Creating Facial Morphs in zBrush

BONUS: Creating Custom Morph Sliders

BONUS: Creating Morphs from your Characters

Click here for more info and tutorials on iClone and Character Creator.