Before starting any project, I always collect a lot of reference images to ensure accurate execution from a functional perspective. I invest ample time in this process, dedicating as much time as necessary. I’m particularly enthusiastic about discovering images on Pinterest.
In this project, I intended to create something based on real objects, so I explored online stores for relevant references. Additionally, I gathered 3D artworks from other artists as a source of inspiration and a benchmark to strive for in terms of quality.
Typically, I organize my references into distinct groups (such as face, hair, makeup, tattoos) to facilitate planning and make it easier to navigate later on.
Modelling & Sculpting
For high-quality sculpting, I used ZBrush as the main tool. Some hard surface props were blocked in 3ds Max or ZModeler.
I created most props in separate parts and assigned individual polygroups for quick show and hide functions. This allows for easier management and sculpting.
I envisioned textures using ZBrush’s noise and polypaint. I recommend using seamless tile textures, painting the desired colors, and checking the preview before transferring to Substance Painter for the final result. This approach prevents over-sculpting or under-sculpting.
The layer function in ZBrush is quite useful, providing the courage to sculpt more boldly and allowing for fine adjustments.
Cloth – Marvelous Designer
From the beginning, I had concerns about the jumpsuit tied around the character’s waist, so I decided to start in Marvelous Designer. I researched jumpsuit patterns and created them from scratch. Marvelous Designer’s simulation was instrumental in achieving a more relaxed and natural look compared to hand sculpting.
After preparing the designs in Marvelous Designer, I imported them into ZBrush for additional sculpting.
Once satisfied, I added thickness using dynamic subdiv and incorporated details such as folds, micro wrinkles, seams, and scratches.
I worked on texturing in Substance Painter, striving to represent it as closely to reality as possible. Regular checks were necessary as Substance Painter results may differ from the rendering engine.
The most challenging color for me was black, as it appeared darker in the Marmoset engine than in Substance Painter.
To address this, I used different shades of black to distinguish objects like bags, magazines, and belts. Blending several colors together created a base color, and I added dirt and stitch details to achieve a used yet textured appearance.
I applied a skin base first, adding details like pores, freckles, and wrinkles by layering with spray, dirt brushes, or alpha textures in both lighter and darker tones.
Adjusting height and opacity facilitated blending. I also incorporated shading to simulate artificial shadows, dark circles, and smokey eye makeup.
Layers with variations of alpha of veins were added, adjusting height and opacity. A thunder image was used for large veins.
Tattoo & Scars
For tattoos, I inserted PNG images and processed them in Substance Painter. It was crucial that each image blended naturally with others, using brushes to seamlessly connect them. Given that my character is a prisoner, selecting designs that resonate with the meanings of real prison tattoos and align with the character’s personality and situation was a fun process.
I initially filled the tattoos with black, but then added green on top to convey the idea of ink spreading and blurring over time, giving the impression that the tattoos age and turn green. By adding height values, I expressed the presence of tattoo ink beneath the skin, adding a realistic dimension to the tattoos.
I began texturing the scar by layering a base fill layer. I wanted to create scars that were not fresh wounds but had healed over time with new skin. So, I started by applying a reddish layer at the bottom, followed by the natural skin layer, and finally, on top, I added a white layer to represent the newly healed flesh.
To convey the rough and uneven texture of the scar tissue as it healed, I used the following brushes in Substance Painter. These brushes allowed me to add height and a blur filter, creating a textured and uneven appearance for the healed flesh. This attention to detail adds depth and realism to the character’s appearance.
For this project, there was a lot of trial and error involved in creating the hair. I experimented with various programs and plugins, but I learned that there are no shortcuts for properly crafting hair.
First, I divided the section and created a hair card using Ornatrix. It is easy to make uneven hair cards that provide a natural appearance.
Afterward, I utilized a Hair Card plugin to move the vertices and generate the visible hair strands on the surface of the head as intended.
Since my character has super curly hair, I added numerous flyaways to give it a voluminous and full-bodied look.
I then exported them to ZBrush, allowing me to refine the hair shapes further. Additionally, I incorporated hair accessories using ZModeler.
I created the texture in Fiber Shop, a fantastic program that enables easy adjustment of individual strand settings.
I blocked the texture into a thick hair base (to hide the scalp), two main textures, two long flyaways, a short flyaway, a side hair, and two cornrows.
UVing & Baking
For this project, I used Rizom UV and Marmoset Toolbag for baking.
These programs are efficient and provide high-quality results. I prefer Marmoset due to its name-based baking, skew function, and individual cage control features.
Rigging, Rendering & Lighting
Every pose was rigged with Biped in 3ds Max. For those who are not riggers, this process can be a patience test.
So I set only 3 poses and just tweaked eyeball focus a little bit by linking it to dummies.
I used the Marmoset Toolbag for my rendering engine. It is very easy to render your work to high quality. I recommend putting on various HDRI and choosing the best mood and background.
Lighting was very challenging for me. So I employed the basic lights such as HDRI skylight, key light, individual rim light (head, shoulder, boots).
When taking a full-body picture, using just one rim light may not be sufficient, so it’s necessary to divide the area into several sections and illuminate them separately.
For the beauty shots, I used gel tap which is in lighting. You can choose what your shadow looks like.
My character is a prisoner, so I chose jail bar shapes. You can make them quickly in Photoshop.
- It takes a lot of time to find reference images.
- The quality of high-poly modeling matters as it can affect the final look.
- Even if your work is not finished, put it into the rendering engine and check. Shapes and textures may appear differently in the rendering engine compared to the ZBrush and Substance Painter viewport.
- It is fun to work while setting your character’s personality and background.
I’d like to thank my mentor, Changgon Shin, for his feedback throughout my learning process.
Also, my friends who helped and supported me. Thank you for reading!