Sculpting a mythological creature


Hello everyone! My name is Daniel Sanches, known as "Daniboy", and in this making of I will show the creative process for the production of Naga, my latest 3D project. The idea and purpose come from a contest organized by the 3D collectibles artist Álvaro Ribeiro, and the theme was "mythological creatures." My intention in this making of is to show the pipeline and line of reasoning during this project, showing the importance of design, exploration, and final adjustments, maintaining a well defined silhouette, understanding the volumes of the model, achieving the right feeling and these things. My idea is to keep this with more design focus than technical details.

Sculpting a mythological creature

Searching for references

Once I had a theme, I decided that I would make a Naga. I started researching for references to use as a base through the creative process. In this part I tried to select only the main one images that will help me during the process. I tried to separate my references into parts: the first part was for the main concept, the design of a Naga by Taran Fiddler, which would guide me through all the processes. The second part was focused on the head, and the type of details that I could explore. The third part showed me some ideas for posing. The last was focused on anatomy, showing me more about the refinement of the torso, arms, and hands.

I used images from many media – collectibles, paintings, drawings, and athletes from real life

Starting in ZBrush

Having the right references and design goal aligned, I began with ZBrush. I started to block the character, exploring the silhouette and the first pose of the arms, based mainly on the concept by Taran. For the initial process I used a Dynamesh, blocking the volumes with Clay Brush, and adjusting everything with Move Brush. At this stage, everything was done with symmetry while observing the same pose as the reference, comparing, and adjusting the main shapes to feel the character.

First pass

Second pass

Third pass

Refining the monster

After blocking all the main forms, I started to refine all the pieces of the character. For this I separated some parts of the model into other SubTools for maintaining a density of polygons on each one. I used symmetry throughout this part (that I call “Secondary Forms”). During this moment, I still hold on to the feeling of the model, and my objective was to add more intensity, and get the first look that will endure to the end of the model.

The final polished model

After completing the last step, I gave one last polish to the model. At this time I broke the symmetry with Transpose Master, adjusting the arms, the hand, and the torso; trying to bring more resemblance with the concept of the Naga. I added some alphas and textures to the model. I like to use layers for that, to regulate the intensity of each part with more accuracy.

These small details reinforce all the secondary forms and give life to the model

These small details reinforce all the secondary forms and give life to the model

These small details reinforce all the secondary forms and give life to the model

These small details reinforce all the secondary forms and give life to the model

Initial setup of render

After all these steps, I finally neared my model’s end. For the render, I started the basic setup like the size of the image, the pose of the character, and the camera. I adjusted the quality of the shadows and AO too.

I like to render the models large to capture all the details with precision,
and to maintain them even when zoomed

It’s render time!

For the render I used a very similar workflow to Rafael Grassetti and Andre Castro, taking many images from different positions and with different materials, and after composed all that in Photoshop. I don’t have a minimum or maximum number of renders, I generally like to take three principal ones with Basic Material (Principal Light, Rim Light, and Fill Light) and three specular renders with ReflectedMap too. All the other renders that I take depend on the model, on the tests, and things like that. I like to use some different materials to test different effects in the final composition too.

I used a basic setup of three lights and a lot of tests with different lights and materials

Composing in Photoshop

After taking all the renders with different lights, materials, and tests, I started to work on the composition in Photoshop. I like to organize the layers in sections – Lights, Specular, Tests, and Shadow/Depth/AO. For each type I used different blend modes, but generally stayed in Screen, Lighten, and Multiply. For the additional render of lights and tests, I tested all the blend modes until I found the best and modified the Hue and Saturation, depending on each one.

This step is totally artistic, when you start to feel the mood of the model, the life with the lights and the effects you can add to that. The composing step is awesome

Adding the background

After composing all the character it was very important to adjust the background too. For that I used some Google images and tried to add and test with the model. It was very important to take care with this part. The background can NEVER have more highlight than the character. To keep it well calibrated, I like to add blur and darken blend modes in the background. I like to make a lot of tests during this part too; taking some different images and testing different blend modes and effects.

The final effects

After all of that, I like to make some manual adjustments with brushes and painting to reinforce some details in some parts. This step is small compared with the rest, but will help to increase some details that you did in ZBrush.

All this work will be rewarded in the end, so it's very important to give love and dedication to each part

Gray renders

I like to take some gray renders too, both with the complete model and with some close-ups too. The process of the renders and composing is the same, with the exception that they are gray, of course.

The gray renders are very useful to show more all details of the model.
It’s a raw vision of it, very cool to see too.

Top tip 1: Keep the workflow easy

Always try to simplify your workflow and keep it easy to work with. Sometimes you will need to adjust some things in the development of the project, so it gets easier to make the proper adjustments and continue the process.

Top tip 2: The perfect model does not exist

It’s common to keep detailing the model for days and months, always finding defects or issues in it, but it’s important too to know how to move on and leave certain things aside. If the projects are getting you tired because of numerous adjustments, know how to identify what is disposable and what is really important to change, otherwise you will get tired of it and all the pleasure will fade away.

Top tip 3: Never give up – keep moving on

It's always important to keep practicing and learning whenever you can, never give up anything. Practice every day and research new features, methods, and things that inspire you. Keep studying the forms, anatomy, silhouette, design, and all of that. Always participate and share your works in the forums, groups, and pages, and get feedback from other artists and from the professionals of the industry. Always keep yourself challenged and always keep moving on.

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