Sculpt a stylized portrait in 3D with ZBrush


This is a making of for my Ambrosial 3D character. My objective was to create a stylized looking character really fast by sculpting with ZBrush, and rendering with real-time lighting.

loish illustration 3d model inspiration


Collecting reference

Lois’s art inspired me to create this piece. Please check out the art of this amazing artist by clicking this link. I also find references of stylized girls; Danny Mac is another master of the art.


I started with a sphere by blocking out main shapes by following the references. I tried to keep everything in Dynamesh in the beginning, just to focus on the sculpt without any constraints. Very early on, I find doing the eyes first is helpful which gives the feeling of the character from an early stage. Applying a toy plastic material with a quick Polypaint to color the eyes just gives the desired look. Easy, nice, and sweet!

3d modelling basic head shape

Blocking up basics

Progressing further, I sculpted the lips and basic shape of the torso. I also used a base mesh to serve as a ground layer for the hair which was helpful at this stage. All the while I go through research on how the hair style should look by going through a lot of images of real people. My main focus was to get the silhouette in the right shape and further correct the forms from all possible angles.

head shapes 3d models zbrush


Sculpting Hair

One thing I learned while doing the hair, no matter what technique we use, it requires lot of patience. I used the Curve brush from Olya from Artstation. Then it was just following the form of the base mesh and putting all the curves in the right place. Sometimes the curves don’t behave in the desired manner and for this I found trying out different options like Elastic and Liquid in Curve settings very helpful. Sometimes it is also helpful to lock the ends of the curve, and it gives a lot of freedom to place it nicely. Once everything was placed I just added some variation by using the Move Topological brush, displacing some strands to make it look more natural.

topological brush 3d modelling hair

Sculpting hair

Detailing and colors

Now is the time to add detailing and final touches to the sculpt before moving on to the colors. For roses, I Googled some pictures and sculpted a few petals, then it was all adjusting it to the shape of the rose, and the Move Topological brush was very helpful to achieve this. Finally, I added some vines by using the Curve Tube brush, and also the other nitty gritty elements to make it look nice. Now the time came to add some colors. It was all Polypainted without textures. I love the fact that it’s fast to do, without doing any UVs and getting too technical. No magic, just the Standard brush with a color spray was used as a base with a low intensity of different hues to find the variation. It finished up with a Standard brush with Freehand stroke, and light intensity of different colors, layering on top of each other to find a nice blend.

loish inspired 3d modelling


Export to Marmoset

After this I exported everything together in FBX format. No big trick, just trying to keep it clean with deleting unnecessary SubTools. You will find all the settings in the image.

exporting marmoset settings

Export settings

Marmoset settings

Once you import an FBX file, you will find everything there with all the meshes and their relative materials. Naming SubTools in ZBrush is very helpful to keep everything organized. In material properties, just change the Albedo to a Vertex color to get the colors painted in ZBrush. For lighting, I use a basic setup of a 3-point lighting with using spot lights.

lighting marmoset setting exporting 3d

Marmoset settings

Final render

The beauty of Marmoset is what you see is what you get. It’s real-time fast and delivers super-high quality renders within no time. I kept the Global Illumination turned on to get the bounce light effect to add more realism. Finally, to avoid any jags, I turned on the highest samples in the capture settings which was 400 pixels in this case. I added some color adjustments with post-effects. God, I love the post effects in Marmoset, they are so good. I highly encourage you to play around with them in the final stage. That’s it, I hope you enjoyed this making of.

exporting 3d loish model

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