Praying Mantis

Hey guys! My name is Victor Maiorino Fernande and I live in São Paulo, Brazil. I'm just starting my digital artist career by studying at Melies Cinema and Animation School.

Usually I use software like Softimage XSI, ZBrush and Photoshop for post-production and map correction. I study a lot of traditional art, such as paintings, composition and drawing, because it really helps when it comes to my digital projects.

This is my first Making Of and I'm going to write the production process of my image "Praying Mantis".
My inspiration came from Igor Siwanowiczv photos. He shoots a lot of macro photos of insects. And that was just the style I wanted for my image. I chose the praying mantis because it is my favorite insect. I also searched lots of references on Google.

I started the modeling in ZBrush, using ZSpheres for the base mesh and blocking in the form I wanted (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

Fig. 01

Then I started a second blocking process, where I added more details. After that I started reconstructing the model in ZBrush so I could take a lighter mesh into XSI. I opened the mesh in UV Layout and sent the OBJ files to ZBrush; that way I could make all the details and do all the painting so I could turn them into maps (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

Fig. 02

For those details, I turned off the ZBrush symmetry and used some alphas to make the mesh have a more organic feel. Then I used thinner tools so it could have a more natural look (Fig.03 - 05).

Fig. 03

Fig. 03

Fig. 06

Fig. 06

Fig. 07

Fig. 07

For the painting, I used Polypaint with the flat material, so I could see the original colors the map would have. I also applied the basic colors of a praying mantis. With the cavity mask turned on, I painted in the smaller details (Fig.06).

Fig. 08

Fig. 08

After those steps, I put the praying mantis in its final pose and extracted the following maps via ZBrush: normal, displacement, bump and diffuse (Fig.07).

Fig. 09

Fig. 09

I opened the model in XSI and started to apply the shaders with the maps I'd extracted from ZBrush. I positioned the lights in places I thought would look good and started the texturing using SSS shaders (Fig.08).

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

I linked the normal map so I could have the little details (displacement was used only on its front legs, antennae and that shell like part, because it makes a more detailed silhouette). The bump map was used as a base for the reflection map.

For the subsurface I used my diffuse map as a base. All the subdermal, epidermal and backscatter color modification was done in Photoshop. I also made a weight map for the backscatter. After many tests, and looking at references of real praying mantis, I got the result I wanted (Fig.09).

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

After those tests I used that shader as a pass and changed it to XSI's Mia material, so I could do the reflection in separated passes. I worked the reflection map and gloss with my diffuse base in Photoshop, painting where I wanted more or less gloss (Fig.10).

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

I used mental ray to render all the passes and with those two materials ready, I took the depth, occlusion and incidence pass (Fig.11).

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

All the compositing was done in Photoshop (Fig.12).

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

And here's the final image (Fig.13).

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

I hope you liked this Making Of and that it helped you in some small way. If you have any questions, you can contact me by email at: or visit my two blogs: www.victormf3d.blogspot.com or www.melies.com.br/blogs/victormf

Thank you all!