The making of 'Creature 85-4'
Character artist Marlon R. Nuñez shows us how he made Creature 85-4 using ZBrush
In this tutorial I will be covering the process I used to make Creature 85-4 in ZBrush. I will discuss how to effectively create hard-surfaces ready to be textured, as well as some tips and workflows I used during process. The idea is to be able to create something without exiting from ZBrush and boost your workflow on your character pipeline.
Blocking out the base mesh
In this step we will be focusing on basic proportions and volumes for the character. I always like to start working with ZSpheres (in ZBrush), mainly because it gives you a straight volumetric approximation for the character.
Once you have it, you can use Adaptive Skin to get the first level, then, if needed, we can improve the topology flow with the ZRemesher tool. From here we start adjusting the shape with the Move, Clay and ClayBuildUp brushes, just by adding small chunks of clay and moving them here and there.
Tip: Using the brush in "Dynamic" mode with Topology ON will help to tweak the character by covering a larger area in the canvas.
I recommend you to save the initial ZSphere structure in a separate file. We will be using this RIG approximation later for the pose (Step 8).
Blocking out the hard-surface
Start by adding a sphere as a new SubTool; using the Move, Standard and Trim Dynamic brushes we sculpt the rough shape and define the volumes. Remember that this is just an approximation, so this is mainly to get the basic shape. Personally, I like to work with the DamStandard brush to draw the panels' shapes, which can be used as a guideline on the retopology process for the hard-surface (Step 3).
Retopology on the hard-surface elements
Once again, add a ZSphere as a SubTool, next use Tool > Topology > Edit Topology – by doing this you will get into the topology mode, which allows you to start drawing the quads on top of the visible elements (in this case the hard-surface approximation from Step 02). Try to work with a big radius brush during the process because it will help you to connect the vertices more easily. You can also use the Move tool to place and improve the quads' placement. Once you are done and happy with the result, you can create use this to make the Adaptive Skin, level 1 is exactly what we need.
Working with PolyGroups and Panel Loops
In my opinion. PolyGroups is probably the best feature in ZBrush. I find always working with PolyGroups speeds up the workflow and makes it more efficient. Begin by using the ZModeler brush in PolyGroup mode to draw the PolyGroups based on the panels. Once all the PolyGroups are in place go to Geometry > Edge Loop > Panel Loop. Make sure "Ignore Groups" is OFF and Polish/Bevel is set to 0.
I suggest working with just one loop. This will create independent panels based on the PolyGroups. Now delete the faces that are not seen on the hard-surface. You should delete those faces in order to be able to use the UV Master tool and create the initial UVs faster (see Step 07).
To add more subdivisions, make sure "Smooth" is turned OFF before dividing the geometry. Then polish it by using "Polish by Features" in the deformation tab.
Retopologizing the character
Now we can help the ZRemesher function by drawing curves onto the character; these curves will be used as guidelines. In addition to this, with PolyPaint, you can specify which areas you want to be denser (red) and those which are less dense (blue).
Select the ZRemesher Guides brush and draw the curves wherever you feel the topology direction should be flow. Tool > ZRemesher > Curve Strength will let you control how much those guidelines influence the new topology.
Adding the fine detail to the character
This is where we start adding those little touches which add a realism to the character; such as, veins, scratches, and porosity (pores in the skin) etc. Always working on the top most layer, we can add these final details on top of him. For the porosity you can use the alphas that are provided at zbrushcentral.com, these worked pretty well for this character. For the scratches I like to use the DamStandard and Elastic brushes; use them both with a small radius and with some patience you can achieve great details!
Using UV Master tool
ZBrush has a great plug-in to create UV's based on PolyGroups (learn more here). Once you have it installed you can access it by going to Zplugin > UV Master. As we discussed in Step 04, having each panel on its own PolyGroup will automate the UVs process.
Important: Sometimes, depending on the shape of the panels you have made the hard-surface won't always look completely relaxed and natural looking. I recommend that you relax the UVs in an external software, such as 3ds Max using the GoZ feature. This will guarantee the UVs are perfectly relaxed and a good fit, besides you will have the opportunity to arrange them better on the model.
Pose the character using the Rig Tool in ZBrush
Load the ZSphere structure you saved in the Step 01, under Rigging panel > Select Mesh, select the mesh you want to deform. Then make sure you Bind the mesh to be able to begin the process. Using the Move and Rotate actions you can pose your character easily by just moving/rotation the ZSpheres. There we have successfully created our model and all that remains it to add some textures!