Rajak - The Gentle Giant

Media Molecule intern Emilie Stabell shares how she made the adorable giant Rajak using ZBrush

This tutorial will take you through the process of creating Rajak the Gentle Giant. I will explain you my techniques tell you about the challenges and give you my best tips and tricks to create a successful image. Furthermore, we'll have a brief look at how to quickly create good looking fur using Peregrine Yeti and I'll show the importance of post and presentation. I hope you'll find this tutorial useful, and hopefully you will be able to use it to enhance your own work.

Finding the Right Concept

This was the very first time I decided to do a project where I wouldn't design my own concept from scratch. The reason for this was to give myself the challenge of translating another artist's thoughts into 3D without having the initial ideas and sketches associated with the concept. I stumbled across a beautiful drawing by Brandon Tyler Cebenka, and I just knew that it was the one. Everything from the shape language to the color scheme had an appeal that I rarely see in art these days, so I took it upon myself to try and bring it to life in 3D space.

<h5>The concept of Rajak by Brandon Tyler Cebenka</h5>

The concept of Rajak by Brandon Tyler Cebenka

Blocking out in ZBrush

Using the help of image planes and ZSpheres I create my basic shape in ZBrush. I make sure to continuously check my proportions in comparison to the concept, both with and without perspective turned on. Once I have obtained a decent silhouette, I start adding anatomy and bony landmarks. Anatomy should always be considered, as it will help you add the feeling of weight and believability to your model. As I knew I wanted to later add fur, I made sure not to make the sculpt too bulky as you have to consider the extra volume the fur will add to the silhouette.

My process in ZBrush

My process in ZBrush


Normally, I use quad draw to do my retopology, but since I knew the model wasn't going to be rigged or animated, I did the majority of the retopo using ZRemesher and tweaked it in a few places in Maya. When texturing, I always start out by blocking in the basic colors, then adding subtle gradients. I'll then move on to adding details such as tattoos, scars and freckles. Lastly, I will add a subtle layer of photo textures on top to give some variety? in general, I like to keep my workflow during texturing very clean and simple. Halfway through the texture process, I like to pose my model. This time I used Transpose Master in ZBrush.

The textures from beginning till finish

The textures from beginning till finish

Creating the Fur

The fur was created using Peregrine Yeti. I started by applying a scatter node to my mesh, and then plugged in a grow node defining the overall length of my fur. Usually, you now want to add a groom node making it possible to manually define direction, clumping, length etc. However, because of the deadline, I decided to do all the fur procedurally and later refine the edges in Photoshop. I painted a map in ZBrush that I used to define my length and applied a mixture of randomizers and direction nodes to get the fur to look the way I wanted it to.

Extra tip: If you're interested in learning Yeti, you can go here to see the Yeti tutorial by Bjørn Blaabjerg Sørensen who has made 11 in depth tutorials on everything you need to know about the software.

Here you can see how the fur was set up in Yeti's node editor as well as how it looks in the viewport

Here you can see how the fur was set up in Yeti's node editor as well as how it looks in the viewport

Rendering & Compositing

To properly judge the fur, I had to do a couple of test renders. I set up my lights using FlippedNormals lighting setup and rendered using V-Ray for Maya. The biggest struggle was balancing the work hours between rendering, tweaking the fur and polishing the image in Photoshop. Due to time pressure, I ended up doing a larger portion of the work in Photoshop than I'd normally advertise. However, the power of doing post work on your final render should never be underestimated. I like to use a selection of render elements such as normals, reflection, diffuse and mattes to help me enhance the final picture.

The final image with and without compositing - this clearly shows how important it is to work with your image in post

The final image with and without compositing - this clearly shows how important it is to work with your image in post

The Final Image

When you see the final image with and without compositing, you see how big of a difference it can make for your work. For the fur, I went in with the Smudge tool and blurred the edges of the hair strands for a softer more natural look. I added longer, thinner strands to the shoulders and lower arms using a normal hard brush and pushed away the belly using a soft brush and a dark green color. I darkened the background significantly to make the character stand out and finally added a subtle layer of grain to pull it all together.

<h5>The final result</h5>

The final result

Related links

Check out Emilie's work on her website
Head the interviews page to see what some of the best artists had to say when we chatted to them
For something different why not grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Sketching

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