The making of 'The Magic Tattoo'

Freelance 3D Illustrator Matt Roussel shares how he makes 3D illustrations using CINEMA 4D

This piece is an illustration for a children's book /The Magic Tattoo/ that I am currently working on. The story is about a young girl who has to make it out in the world by herself so an old tattoo master does his final tattoo on her. The tattoo is of a monkey which comes alive to help the girl on her journey. The idea behind this illustration was to give a general atmosphere for the future buyer of this book, without really telling the entire story. The book will be published this autumn in France.

I will explain how I work for the cover, using CINEMA 4D tools such as modeling tools and new sculpt tools.

Modeling the body

I always start my 3D illustrations with a pencil sketch, this is important especially when it comes time to do the lighting and postproduction work. I will use the old man as reference for this tutorial.

Using CINEMA 4D I begin with a cube as the base for his head and use the Extrude tool to make a rough appearance of volume for the head. I decided not to make this model as a single whole piece but to build it up part by part, e.g. head, arms and legs etc.

Sculpting the head

Sculpting the head

Each individual body part before using sculpting tools

Each individual body part before using sculpting tools

Assembling the parts

Once all the pieces were completed I assembled them to make the whole body. Each piece was in a separate subdivision box so that I could see how they looked before committing to the final pose; I didn't want anything out of place!

The final pose of the old man

The final pose of the old man

Sculpting

Once I was happy with the composition and position of the pieces I moved on to sculpting. For the purposes of this tutorial I will show how I sculpted the head, I repeated the same process for each part. To do this I remove the shape I want to sculpt (the face) out of the subdivision box and activate the sculpt interface.

There are lots of different tools when you open up the interface and I keep subdividing the layers five or six times. When the modeling step is over, I take out shapes from the subdivision box and active the sculpt interface. In this interface many tools appear and I start to subdivide the head. I repeat the same process for all the parts until I have finished the character.

I used five or six subdivision levels

I used five or six subdivision levels

I used the knife (couteau) tool to carve the wrinkles on his face

I used the knife (couteau) tool to carve the wrinkles on his face

To give his vest the creases and folds I used the brush (brosse) sculpting tool

To give his vest the creases and folds I used the brush (brosse) sculpting tool

Time to texture

I don't consider myself much of a texture specialist as I do not think I am very good! Also, I tend not to use UV unwrapping. I usually use the basic tools in the BodyPaint interface to apply texture to the model. I try to size my images around 2500x2500 pixels, this is a good balance to ensure I have enough definition in the final render. When the texture is automatically applied I paint on the shape with a simple pencil. The result may not be perfect but I know I can fix it in Photoshop after the final render.

Adding some basic texture to the model

Adding some basic texture to the model

Scene setup

I modeled all of the individual characters using the process. Once they were all ready, I added them to a new scene and adjusted the camera angles I need for the final image. From this base I can start to work the light.

Arranging the characters in the scene

Arranging the characters in the scene

Lights and render

I use a Sky object for the Global Illumination of the scene and added some other lights to enhance details. For this scene I added six lights, most of them in inverse square mode to have a good realistic aspect. The white light from the right side of the render is made with a plane shader with an illumination texture. It gives this feeling of daylight coming from the window.

The inverse square lights

The inverse square lights

Side lighting to represent daylight

Side lighting to represent daylight

I use the Physical render in CINEMA 4D it is very speedy and has the same characteristics as other complete render modes. In the Physical render mode you can give you bad definition in the shadowed parts. This is a question of shadow subdivision, don't hesitate to maximize the shadow subdivision from 2 to 4 or 6 depending on the render time you need. It will take a little more time for the render the more you have.

Physical rendering

Physical rendering

Poor definition of shadows

Poor definition of shadows

Photoshop adjustment

You can see the good quality of the CINEMA 4D render. I made a few minor adjustments to the lights and I also added a canvas texture to the render to give it a drawing/painting effect. For that I created a canvas texture and applied it using the Glass Photoshop filter, on a layer with opacity 50% on the final render as background, I add a multiply layer with the same canvas texture to give this painting/drawing effect.

A close up showing the canvas effect

A close up showing the canvas effect

The final image

The final image

Related links

Head over to Matt's website for more of his awesome work
You can buy Matt's first book Angelman here
For more tutorials on using CINEMA 4D have a look at our eBooks
Read our interview with 3D generalist Øyvind Fiksdal