The Making of 'Stylish Killer'
After seeing Erika Tcogoeva's concept on Pinterest (check out her work!), I decided I wanted to translate it into 3D. I didn't know how stylized I wanted to go but I knew I wanted to approach it as a production asset, and have a nice V-Ray render by the end.
Hard-surface pieces (gun and shoes)
Usually I start every project by poly-modeling the hard-surfaces. You can polish a sculpt forever, but you know when a hard-surface piece is done!
In the concept, the gun is pretty loose but I felt it had a Glock 23 feeling so I started looking for reference. I found a good side picture and used it as an image plane in Maya – then I just old-school poly-modeled it. I decided to make it as accurate as possible because it is one of those assets you can re-use forever.
I found it easier modeling the shoes by starting from the sole's silhouette. I took a cube, scaled to fit the sole center (width and height) and then extruded to get the right shape. I then duplicated the cube, moved on top of the sole and followed the side view of my reference. I extruded and obtained a very ‘boxy' base mesh.
I creased the edges and sent it to ZBrush, where I sculpted the secondary details.
Sculpt the face
Starting from a DynaMeshed sphere in ZBrush, and with my female anatomy board on Pinterest open on the second screen, I did a rough sculpt of what I believed the 3D version of the concept could look like.
I wasn't too concerned about perfect anatomy but, at the same time, I didn't want to go too stylized with it. She has very sharp features so I tried to preserve them by keeping a feminine and gracious look; at the same time I knew the feeling with an SSS shader in V-Ray could be different.
I poly-modeled a single eyelash and used the script SpPaint3d in Maya to instance the mesh on her eyes. Applying a subtle random rotation and scale value you can get some interesting results very quickly.
I took an old base mesh and stretched it to fit the concept's proportion.
Once I was vaguely happy, I started refining the S-lines of the female anatomy, trying to get rid of stiffness and get a tonic (yet harmonic) fit female body. This process is never as simple as it sounds. Even if her body is mostly covered by the dress, in order to have an effective pose it is always a good idea take the proper time before moving forward.
Model the other meshes and retopologize
I decimated the mesh, imported it into Maya 2014 and used the new modeling tools to retopologize the face. You can use the NEX plug-in in the previous versions of Maya.
For the rest of the body, I used ZRemesher and eventually fixed the parts with weird topology (like the hands).
Once finished with the model, I used Setup Machine to get a rough rig to pose the character. For the pose, I tried to accentuate her sensuality and at the same time give the impression she is confident and perfectly aware of what is going on around her.
I exported all the pieces in UV Headus to get the UV done. I was then able to start having fun in ZBrush and sculpt folds and details until I was happy.
I also assigned some basic shaders just to get a better feeling of the direction I was heading. Depending on what resolution you want to work with, you can export Displacement or Normal maps (or none if you are lazy and want a very heavy Maya scene with decimated geometry – I'm not proud of it, okay?)
For the face texture I used a pre-done face texture from 3d.sk and used the Smudge UV tool to move the UV into position. I opened the UV editor on one monitor and the viewport on the other and I moved the UV until the texture was perfectly matching the model. It is a very quick and dirty way, but if you don't need a very detailed skin texture it gets the job done very well! For a more realistic render I would have used projections in MARI or Mudbox.
For the rest I used a pretty standard approach based on tileable textures, done with Photoshop and projection/painting in Mudbox.
I made a custom brush for the sewing line of the dress. Once I got the color maps done I worked on the spec and bump.
For the eyes I tend to model everything separately: cornea, sclera, iris and pupil.
I assigned a transparent high reflective shader to the cornea and an SSS shader (I started from the milk preset in V-Ray) for the sclera and iris. For the cornea I used a radial ramp for the transparency channel in order to stay clear of the iris and give a white patina on top. A small torus, opportunely placed, with visibility turned off, cast a soft shadow where the sclera and iris connect. Once I was happy with the effect, I imported the eye into the scene and ran a test to see if it worked as I planned.
This was my first time trying Yeti. Once you get through the first steps (assign a yeti node, create a groom and import the groom...) it suddenly becomes very intuitive.
I usually create a groom for every major strand of hair so I can comb them separately. To get the look I want I use a combination of the Move and Sculpt brushes. I found it easier if you grow the hair as you comb to have a better control of the flow. I used the standard VrayHair 3 with a brown shiny preset.
Over time I've built a library of shaders and materials so I can have a good starting point. Using Sunday Pipeline I was able to easily import them into the scene and test how they looked before I started editing them.
Once all the textures and shaders were ready, I ran the VRayMaterialIDOptimizer script, which assigns a V-Ray material ID for every shader and creates the necessary multi-matte passes.
At this point I used VrayRT to play with the lights and get the mood I wanted. First I chose the direction, then the sharpness of the shadow (smaller lights cast harder shadows, bigger lights cast softer shadows) and then I adjusted the intensity.
Once I was getting closer to where I wanted to be, I started rendering with higher quality until I was satisfied. For the final render I created the other passes (AO, rawGI, rawReflection and rawRefraction). The LookDev phase is one of my favorite.
I imported all the passes to NUKE. I then used multi-matte to assign a Color Correct node to every shader to easily tweak the saturation, contrast, color gain, and so on. Once I was happy, I played with glow, sharpen, color aberration, noise and vignette until I could get rid of some of the CG feeling (being careful to not overkill the compositing).
I then saved the NUKE script. I eventually adjusted the textures (if I changed the color of some shader in post-production) or the light intensity and launched a HD render that would be reloaded in the script.
I rendered a TGA image out of NUKE and opened it in Photoshop, where I played with the Dodge and Burn brushes and tweaked other minor things.
At this point I'm already thinking about the next project. Hope you enjoyed!