Sculpt a furious warrior in ZBrush & Maya


Hello, my name is Souhayl Ben Ali and I'm a character artist. My dream is to create fantasy characters/creatures for big movies and/or game companies, and I'm going to share with you the process, tools, and techniques that I used to create my furious creature.

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I always start by taking the time to find good references (anatomy, clothes, skin, bones). Anatomy is one of the skills I try to keep learning. There is still much to learn and every day comes with the opportunity to keep learning. The best thing you can do to make a character look good is to use references, without them it’s more difficult to achieve the objective. I usually look for tons of real-world references, not just for the whole shape, but for each part of the body to create an interesting and more realistic look.

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Sculpt and concept

I just started sculpting to see where the flow would take me. In this first step we don't need to concern ourselves with the details, our main goal is to get the proportions right. Don't rush this step because if your base here doesn't look right, you're going to get problems later trying to fix it.

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When I am satisfied with the morphology of my model, I use ZRemesher with guides and Polypaint to have a better topology, and work with the refinement, especially at the level of the eyes.

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After re-meshing, I used Unfold3D to unwrap the model and took it to Maya to separate the different parts of my model to multiple UDIMs in order to get higher details when rendering.

Displacement map

In Mari, I start projecting the xyz displacement textures in my model and I exported the resulting maps. Then I go back to ZBrush and split my model according to group UV. I imported and applied the maps to the mesh as displacement and I continued to sculpt in another layer to make a variation.

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In Marvelous Designer I create and simulate the clothes and export them to ZBrush as OBJ files. In ZBrush I use ZRemesher for the clothes to have better topology, and I use micro mesh techniques to add more details.


I began with things like the shoulder armor bones and the skull from a Dynamesh piece, where I have more freedom to play with forms without concern about topology. Once the base form was finished, I did a quick retopology and start dividing and adding some more details. I also created an insert multimesh brushes curve and then used it.

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I use Substance Painter for texturing. It has a powerful procedural system that can help to speed up the painting process (procedural textures, smart mask). I like to work with fill layers and painted in the layer mask because it allowed me to easily adjust the color as I go. I started with paint colors and then I added dirt layers, I work in different channels at the same time diffuse, roughness, and normal.

XGen in Maya

For the hair and the fur I used XGen (interactive groom) in Maya. I sculpt groom in layers using brushes like density, length, and comb, add different modifiers like clump, and noise.

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Lighting in Arnold

I used three area lights (one key light from the top to make him look a little furious, one fill light, and one back light to separate the model from the background) and aiSkyDomeLight with HDRI.

Shading in Arnold

The skin character was assigned an ‘aiStandardSurface’ material. The diffuse map was plugged into the ‘subsurface color’, the roughness to roughness and normal map to Bump Mapping. IOR values were adjusted to give the desired result (the IOR value for the skin comes as a preset in Arnold’s standard shader material, which is 1.4). Subsurface type was switch to 'randomwalk.' I used AiColorCorrect for roughness and color map to play with saturation and contrast. For assets I also use the ‘aiStandardSurface.’

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