Take a look inside the pages of ZBrush Characters & Creatures with Mathieu Aerni's guide to full-body speedsculpting…
Learn how to model a full-body speedsculpt with Blur Studio's Mathieu Aerni in this insightful free extract from the speedsculpting chapter of ZBrush Characters & Creatures. Plus, get 10% off the book in the 3dtotal shop with code ZBRUSHCC10 – offer ends 25 March!
"As a character artist, sculpting in ZBrush is one of my favorite things. ZBrush gives you all of the tools you'll need to quickly sketch out a sculpture and then take that idea all the way to completion. It allows you to create any kind of project, limited only by your imagination and without having to worry about all the technicalities often related to the work of a digital artist. "
"Realistic human beings are one of my favorite subjects. I started this project by sketching a head, starting from a sphere and without knowing exactly where I would go next. I ended with an interesting-looking man's head, and the idea of an aged man who is having a lot of fun scaring an unknown intruder off his backyard started to take shape. "
"In this tutorial, I will cover every step of the creation for that sculpture. I will start with the blocking of the head and the torso, explaining the basic ideas of digital sculpting that I always try to keep in mind and apply. I will then explain how I created a production-ready topology and how I created another pass of details on the upper body and head. I will also cover how I created the clothes, how I sculpted the folds, and how I used NoiseMaker to add an extra layer of details on them. We will then take a brief look at hard surface modeling and finally, I'll explain how I posed and rendered"
Step 1: Blocking the head
Sculpting can be broken down into primary, secondary and tertiary forms. The primary forms are what will make a character believable, so I try to put a lot of emphasis on the basic proportions and volumes. In this case, I did not look at any particular references because I wanted to practice my improvising skills.
I started with a sphere and used the Move brush and the Clay Tubes brush to establish the broad shape on low subdivision levels. I always try to get the most out of the lower subdivisions levels before moving up. I tried to pay attention to the inflections and structures of the skull, as well as to the fat and muscles that would cover them. The process was mostly done using the Move and Clay brushes. The Clay brush gives you a real-life feeling, just like adding small chunks of clay to build up the surface.
Step 2: Blocking the torso
After I had formed the head and features of the face, I continued on the body, using the Move brush and the Clay Tubes brush combined with DynaMesh. When DynaMesh is pressed, ZBrush provides geometry to the mesh without polygon stretching. This gives me the freedom to continue sculpting without having to worry about the
I extruded the arm and torso with Clay Tubes and Move brushes. I also used the DamStandard to quickly cut some of the muscle mass. Then I proceeded to refine the general volumes and define the secondary forms created by fat, tendons and folds of flesh, just to give me a better sense of the character and help judge the volumes and proportions.
Step 3: New topology for the upper body
Using all that DynaMesh created a very dense mesh. The new ZBrush ZRemesher provides an entirely rebuilt retopology system. With a single click, it produced a very good new topology based on my original mesh.
I have experimented a lot with the Adaptive Size settings. A low Adaptive Size means polygons are as square as possible and approximately the same size. Higher settings mean polygons can be more or less rectangular in order to best fit the mesh's flow and polygon density which can be higher where necessary, like on the fingers. Here, I went with a high Adaptive Size. After a touch up in 3ds Max, I ended up with a very good animation-ready topology. I then quickly created some UVs in ZBrush using UVMaster.
Step 4: Detailing the head and torso
Now that I had a nice mesh with UVs, I imported it back to ZBrush and projected all the details onto it. I started from the very first subdivision level and slowly moved up, putting as much form and detail into every level as possible.
I moved to subdivision levels 3 or 4 and used the Clay Tubes brush in conjunction with the Smooth Brush, both with low value. I kept alternating between those two brushes, using the Smooth as a polishing tool to reduce the hard edges and refine the transition between forms. It was a very iterative process, but it gave natural-looking sculpts with a nice fleshy feeling. I also used the Standard brush with Lazy Mouse to cut finer details like the infra, the lower eyelid and the nasolabial furrows.
I continued stepping down to lower subdivisions to modify large forms. Then, I moved up to the highest subdivision level to sculpt the tertiary forms: the wrinkles, skin pores and high frequency details.
Step 5: Creating the cloth
I started the shirt with mesh extraction. I painted a selection on the chest area that roughly resembled the type of sleeveless shirt that I had in mind and then pressed Extract. I then created a production-ready topology using ZRemesher and 3ds Max. I didn't have any existing geometry to extract the pants so I had to block them using the DynaMesh tool.
When I was happy with the basic shape, I started sculpting the folds. When improvising folds, I have a tendency to do mostly long folds that spiral around the legs. I tried to include different types of folds that follow the logic of real life clothing, like those zigzag alternating folds that occur on the inside of the bend of a tubular piece of fabric when it buckles. They tend to be more angular the stiffer the fabric is.
There are almost always drop folds falling from the knees and half-lock folds on the sides that are produced when a tubular piece of cloth abruptly changes direction.
Also, pants that have been bent often leave imprints. A lot of those zigzag folds caused by frequent compressions are visible at the back of the knees of well-worn pants. When working in production, those memory folds work very nicely because they don't fight against the folds created by cloth simulation, they just add a layer of detail on top of them.
Step 6: Adding textures using NoiseMaker
I wanted to take the surface detail of my cloth models further by adding a little bit of fabric texture to the folds. I decided to go with the NoiseMaker tool in ZBrush. The NoiseMaker tool allows you to create very nice 3D noise with a wide variety of settings and parameters. You can achieve very nice results quickly.
The Surface Noise tool can be activated with the press of a button, found under the surface tab in ZBrush. A library of predefined Noise Files can be accessed by pressing the Lightbox NoiseMaker button. I chose Noise07, which already had a cool fabric-looking alpha.
Back to the surface tab, I pressed Edit to open the Surface Noise preview window and edited the settings. I experimented with different scales and strengths. Once I was happy with those settings, I saved my new Noise file and applied it to the pants, the shirt and the suspenders. I applied it to the mesh by exiting the Surface Noise preview window and by clicking the Apply to Mesh button under the surface tab.
Step 7: Creating the shotgun
ZBrush has several very cool features specially designed for hard surface or mechanical sculpting. I first created the basic shape of the gun by combining many different primitives. I moved them around with the Move tool to get something as close as possible to the shape of a shotgun. I also used the Mesh Insert brush, which allows you to pick another mesh and just stick it to the surface of the model. Then I combined everything in one mesh with DynaMesh so I could start to sculpt and add details.
I used the Planar, Trim and Polish Brush, combined with frequent use of DynaMesh to define the shape to something that was very close to the general shapes. The Clip brushes turned out to be a great way to cut away areas and slice the borders. I extruded some panels by drawing a mask representing the region I wanted to extrude and then extruded them with Inflate in the Deformation sub palette.
I proceeded to create a topology that was lower and more efficient than my very dense DynaMesh, again using ZRemesher. I subdivided this new mesh up to level 4 and then used a lot of Standard Brushes with Lazy Mouse to define the edges, as well as the Polish and Trim brushes to get nice flat areas and polished surfaces.
Step 8: Posing the character
At that point, I had all the separate elements in place so I gave the character a pose to make the sculpture a little more dynamic, using the Transpose Master tool. This creates a low resolution mesh that combines all the SubTools that you can pose.
I isolated parts of my model and rotated them to the desired pose. For example, to rotate the right arm upward, I masked everything but the arm, moved from Draw mode to Rotate mode, drew a line with the Transpose bone from the shoulder to the elbow and then dragged the end of the line that was not the shoulder to rotate the arm. Then I went back to Draw mode, painted a mask from the elbow to the fingers and rotated that part up to position the hand so it could hold the gun.
I repeated that process for each finger and to the wrists. I rotated the shoulder and the spine to give the impression that the weight would be a little bit more on the left side. I also rotated the upper torso, the head and the arms slightly to the right to give an interesting gesture.
All those manipulations damaged some areas of the sculpt and collapsed some of the volumes of the arms, so I re-sculpted those places and added new skin folds and bigger wrinkles where new tension regions were created.
Step 9: Lighting and rendering the sculpt
ZBrush offers a great solution to render your sculpture. However, I have been using V-Ray for a very long time now and I've become very comfortable with this rendering engine. Therefore, I exported my character out of ZBrush and imported him to 3ds Max for the final steps.
I had very nice topology with good UVs for all the objects, so it was easier to export the lower meshes and to render them with Displacement. I used the VRayDisplacementMod and the type was set to Subdivision. The scene was rendered using one planar V-Ray light as key and another planar V-Ray light placed behind the character as a rim light.
I first set up the renderer to low values to speed up the render times to allow quick experimentation with the light position and to play with the placement of the camera. I only used VRayPhysicalCamera here, and arranged the depth of field exactly as I wanted. For the final renders, I increased the samples for the image sampler, Light Cache, and Irradiance map. Everything was rendered as one pass straight from 3ds Max.
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To see more by Mathieu Aerni, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 8
and Digital Art Masters: Volume 9