Sculpt and paint a fantasy dark elf character


In this making of I will go through the process I use to create this kind of illustration. I’ll show some of my sculpting workflow, and how I used the new NPR filters inside ZBrush to achieve a painterly look before enhancing it in Photoshop.

Dark elf with weapon

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Pose and sculpting

For this step I started directly with a posed character from DAZ studio, then I did each piece separately and attached them to the posed model. Also, I had another model in T-pose to model some pieces with the symmetry tool and save time.

Dark elf with weapon

Some of the brushes and tools that I used to create the assets

Material and textures

This is one of my favorite steps in the process. I play with different  options for textures, color, and materials, and sometimes some happy accidents pop up in the middle of the process too. Here I show you the MatCaps I used for this illustration and also how I used the render properties in ZBrush to blend up the materials in the armor pieces.

Dark elf with weapon Daz 3D

MatCaps, tools for texturing, and how to blend different materials in one mesh

NPR Filters

The NPR Filters is a new feature inside ZBrush. This tool was so decisive in determining the final look and style of this illustration. It allowed me to explore many options and get amazing results for my renderings. It is a bit hard to explain how the tool works due to the quantity of parameters and options that you can manipulate and combine. It is up to you to play with that tool.

Dark elf with weapon

Here I show you the new panels added to this tool. Also some examples of a few of custom filters I have done so far, applied in this and other projects

Render passes

Render passes are so important for my workflow. They allow me to have control over each aspect of my render like shadows, light, specular, and even creating new materials, and it helps to improve the renderings.

Dark elf with weapon

Here I show some of the render passes I did for this illustration and how I used them to create the final look

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After I have all my passes composed in Photoshop, I started to do the post-production work. This meant paintovers, fixing render errors, adding effects, color correction, and so on. I used many of the Mixer brushes for my painting; this gave a good sensation of a painterly look to the image. Also, for color correction, I used the adjustments layers, in this case I used the “Color Lookup” then I started to play with the different options that it gave me. I played with the fusion modes and opacity values. After I had all the details done I proceeded to add the final touches, using the Camera Raw filters, chromatic aberration (if it needed it), High pass, and so on.

Top tip: Practice and explore new workflows

Practice is the only way to achieve success in this industry, for that reason I encourage you to practice as much as possible, explore new workflows, and new software that can help with your process. This will help you to grow as an artist and get a job in the industry. So keep working hard and doing good art!

Dark elf with weapon

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