The making of 'The Blue Monkey'

Thales Simonato de Oliveira describes the process he used to create his version of Goro Fujita's The Blue Monkey – coming 2nd in June's cartoon gallery competition...

With this tutorial I'll show you something about the process for creating The Blue Monkey, as well as some tips about the still procedure. It took 2 months to complete the image, focusing especially on the fur and the render, and keeping the modeling, UV and texture very simple. I hope you guys enjoy this making of. The Blue Monkey was based on the image Long Tail Creature by Goro Fujita.

Before deciding on the project to be done, I always think about an aspect that I want to explore. In this case the project began with a study of body hair. Navigating through Pinterest, I found an image by Goro Fujita that interested me a lot. It featured a single character, the background was basically one image, and it was possible to dedicate myself to developing the fur.

Since I had a still image in mind, all the modeling and UV steps were specific to this – the character has no loops or planned UV.

The original 2D concept by Goro Fujita

The original 2D concept by Goro Fujita

Modeling

The modeling process was extremely simple, since there would be no animation. The base was made out of a zSphere, and crafted while considering the silhouette and the main volumes.

After it was complete, I detached the head from the body to make it easier to work with. The body was modeled following the concept, but I didn't like the final result. So I created something from scratch. The hands and feet were
modeled later.

The body model was created from scratch

The body model was created from scratch

UVs

There is no retopology on the body, only decimation, and the UVs were opened in ZBrush using UV master.

The UVs for the model

The UVs for the model

The texture

In order to create the textures, I used MARI. All of the textures from the body and the head were painted, and the body features texture projection. For the body, I used multiple textures to obtain the look I wanted. From the completed diffuse map, I followed this process below to create the surface distortion.

01. I imported the diffuse in black-and-white and applied it to the texture
02. I made a mask from the texture's intensity
03. I disabled the texture to view the mask better
04. I used Inflate to dose the quantity and roughness

After that, I exported the normal, cavity, bump, and displacement maps.

The body model was created from scratch

The body model was created from scratch

The exported maps for the tree textures in the scene

The exported maps for the tree textures in the scene

Body hair

Before working on the hair, I considered what could be separated to make things easier. So I made three systems for the body hair: one for the head, another for the face (short hair), and a third one for the body. Based on the concept, I highlighted the main streams in red and the secondary ones in blue.

Demonstrating the fur direction

Demonstrating the fur direction

Developing the fur

While developing the fur, I reviewed my references and picked up some main features, like flow, variation, congeries, brittle strands, and more. This made the fur more natural. To get the final render, I made 7 tests. You can see five of them on the image here.

Testing the renders of the fur

Testing the renders of the fur

Lighting

For this scene, I used only two lights: sun+sky, and a back light.

The simple lighting set-up

The simple lighting set-up

Composition

To complete the composition, I used NUKE and Photoshop. While creating the background, I cut multiple trunks, plants and flowers from secondary images, and I diagramed them on top of a parent image. This image contains the cuts that were created to improve the scene's depth.

On the composition I used the Beauty, Ambient Occlusion, Reflect and IDs passes. On the image, you can see the Point Position and Normal passes that were rendered just in case I needed a relight.
At the end these were not used.

The passes used in the creation of the image

The passes used in the creation of the image

Final image

I hope this making of article can help you with your studies. If you have any questions, I'll be more than happy to
assist you.

The final render

The final render

Related links

See Thales Simonato de Oliveira's portfolio over on his site
The Blue Monkey scored a massive 1,183 points in June's gallery competiton
We have a range of ZBrush eBooks that may help you create your own animal