Mojo Jojo

Character Breakdown

Simon Sarmiento

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Simon Sarmiento

Senior Character Artist

Introduction

Hello there!
I'm Simon Sarmiento, a Senior Character Artist, most recently working at Supermassive Games.

Goals

With that in mind, I analyzed multiple character options, from starting my own concepts to recreating some of the most memorable characters from my childhood.

I believe that much of what we do is to feed our inner child and honor what got us interested in the creative industry. In discussions with my partner, we found that this character was one of the most powerful we remembered.

So, from that pool, I picked Mojo Jojo this time. His energy and interesting design drew my attention, and I saw the potential in the design challenges I had to face, which inspired many ideas.

Software

  • ZBrush
  • Maya
  • Marvelous Designer
  • Xgen
  • Rizom UV
  • Substance 3D Painter
  • Knald
  • Marmoset Toolbag
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Unreal Engine 5

Mojo Jojo Overall Concept

He’s a striking and iconic character with exaggerated proportions and bold colors. I aimed to highlight the key elements I needed to preserve or enhance and to find a balance between realism and the original concept.

  • Large, Exposed Brain: Encased in a transparent dome, his brain is one of his most recognizable features.
  • Green Skin: His vibrant green skin gives him an otherworldly appearance.
  • Flamboyant Outfit: He wears a high-collared cape, gloves, and a belt, often in shades of blue, white, and purple, contributing to his villainous look.
  • Facial Features: He has prominent, arched eyebrows, a large jaw, and expressive eyes that convey his maniacal personality.

To start, the process involves rethinking volumes, shapes, and details to make the design work in a three-dimensional space. In 2D animation, certain elements are exaggerated or simplified for visual impact, but these need to be adjusted for realism in a 3D live-action context.

One of the critical design elements was ensuring that his proportions followed those of real-life apes.

By basing Mojo Jojo’s proportions on real apes, I grounded his appearance in something familiar to the audience, helping to make the character more believable within the context of a live-action film, where viewers expect a certain level of realism.

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During this process, I focused on analyzing the 2D design and identifying the key features that define his silhouette and personality.

I began by recreating his iconic shapes, such as the large brain dome and his pronounced jawline, ensuring they maintained their recognizability while being proportioned to look plausible in a real-world setting.

The Costume

Mojo Jojo’s design bears a resemblance to villains from Japanese tokusatsu shows, which are known for their live-action special effects and often feature exaggerated, flamboyant antagonists.

This influence is evident in his costume design, which can be likened to the dramatic and elaborate outfits seen in tokusatsu series.
The high collar, cape, and gloves are reminiscent of characters like those from the “Kamen Rider” series.

Usually, I start with rough ideas and test them as early as possible under proper lighting conditions. This helps validate the volumes and shapes, ensuring they work well in a three-dimensional space.

It also allows me to visualize if the overall character mood is progressing in the right direction.

By examining the model under realistic lighting, I can make necessary adjustments early in the design process, ensuring that the character maintains its intended impact and believability.

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Once I tested some shapes and a basic color scheme, I refined the blockout with the next steps in mind. I focused on how I would start refining the different garment panels inside Marvelous Designer.

During this step, I outlined every panel and its volume, giving individual depth to each piece. This detailed planning is crucial as it allows for a more accurate and realistic simulation of the fabrics.

By carefully defining each panel, I can ensure that the clothing will drape and move naturally, contributing to the overall believability of the character.

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With that solid base in Marvelous Designer, I imported the blocking and started to trace each panel using the Line Avatar tool.
From the resulting rough patterns, I began polishing to achieve proper garment stretching and volume.

It is useful to add new layers on top of each panel and use different fabric physical properties to create contrast between panels and add realism to the costume.

This approach simulates how these pieces would be sewn together in real life, enhancing the authenticity of the final design.

Additionally, adjusting the fabric properties allows me to experiment with different textures and behaviors. Using the layer settings, the simulation will keep a smooth interaction between panels.

Finally, to have a clean topology for detailing, I did a manual retopology on top of the flat patterns exported from Marvelous Designer, and from there, transferred vertex positions using the welded original mesh exported from MD.

This gives me a nice base to add small details and tweaks to the model inside ZBrush.

Surfacing

I started the process by baking utility maps inside Marmoset Toolbag, including Normal Map, Ambient Occlusion, Thickness, Cavity, and Curvature.

I prefer to bake these maps outside of Substance Painter because Marmoset gives me more freedom to tweak and review each map for accuracy.

Inside Substance 3D Painter, I have a custom setup that allows me to easily mask my ID maps. These ID maps are crucial in Unreal Engine for masking out each material type and assigning specific detail normals.

In Painter, I can also set up roughness, specular, and metallic values, using support detail textures as well. Therefore, I primarily focus on getting my base color, ID masks, and secondary masks like weathering passes within Painter.

All other material settings are tweaked directly in the Unreal Engine editor, which reduces the number of iterations needed between software and helps me achieve a result that is closer to the final look.

For this project, I’m working with ACES color configurations. This allows me to match color spaces in both Painter and Unreal Engine, providing a wider color gamut and more information to work with.

This setup ensures that the colors and materials look consistent and vibrant across different platforms, enhancing the overall visual fidelity.

Additionally, using ACES color space helps in maintaining accurate color representation throughout the workflow, ensuring that the final output in Unreal Engine closely matches the intended design.

Grooming

To create Mojo Jojo’s facial and arm fur, I used XGen within Maya, integrating it with the Unreal Engine Hair Strand System.

I began by establishing the primary fur guides, carefully aligning them with my sculpted fur proxy to ensure the overall shape and flow matched my initial design.

Once the basic shape was in place, I started with clumping modifiers to replicate the natural grouping found in real animal fur, which added an essential layer of authenticity.

Following this, I incorporated additional modifiers such as cut, coil, and noise. These modifications introduced subtle variations and irregularities, breaking up the uniformity of the strands and enhancing the natural appearance of the fur.

By consistently referencing real-life examples, I ensured that Mojo Jojo’s fur aligned with his villainous character while still appearing believable.

This approach allowed me to maintain the integrity of the original concept while enhancing its realism, ultimately contributing to a more compelling and immersive live-action adaptation.

Look Development

Once in Unreal Engine, I utilized a custom layer material setup, which makes the material tweaking process both enjoyable and efficient. This setup allows me to aim for the final results with greater precision.

Using my color IDs, I can mask each of the materials while retaining the base color I painted in Substance 3D Painter. Additionally, I have the flexibility to override this color or adjust the hue, contrast, and saturation.

This capability helps me achieve the desired result directly within the engine.

I’ve also set up breakup textures, including separate roughness and metalness detail maps. This approach is similar to using a master material inside Substance Painter, providing additional control over the material properties.

By integrating these detail maps, I can enhance the surface characteristics, adding a layer of realism to the model.

Furthermore, this material setup allows for dynamic adjustments and fine-tuning, enabling me to respond to feedback and make iterative changes efficiently.

This ensures that the final look of Mojo Jojo is both polished and true to the intended design, enhancing his presence in the live-action adaptation.

To create Mojo Jojo’s skin shading, I used a custom skin shader with extensive control over various parameters.

This shader empowers me to meticulously adjust elements such as cavity, transmission, specular, and region maps, enabling precise real-time customization of the skin’s appearance.

Utilizing a cavity map enhances the depth and texture in Mojo Jojo’s skin, mirroring the intricate patterns seen in real ape skin. By incorporating a transmission map, I replicate the subtle light interactions beneath the surface, adding depth and realism to the skin’s appearance.

The specular map is instrumental in managing the skin’s reflective properties, ensuring they align with those observed in real apes.

Additionally, the region map facilitates localized adjustments, allowing me to tailor specific areas of the skin to match the diverse textures and tones found in ape skin.

Drawing inspiration from real ape skin references, I introduce subtle nuances and variations that contribute to an authentic and convincing appearance.

The flexibility to fine-tune each parameter enables me to achieve highly detailed and adaptable skin shading, meeting the unique requirements of Mojo Jojo’s character design while enhancing his overall visual impact.

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Final Presentation

For the final lighting presentation, I wanted to test Mojo Jojo in context, so I built a small level using Megascans assets and an HDRI to recreate a section of his secret lab.

In lighting the scene, I always focus on highlighting the principal elements of the character. In this case, the brain dome was crucial, so I positioned the key light to emphasize this feature and how it interacts with the head.

Secondary lights were placed to simulate practical light sources within the scene, enhancing the context and creating attractive rim lights that outline the character’s silhouette.

Additionally, I experimented with various lighting conditions during the look development phase. This step is essential to check how the colors react and how the volumes read under different lighting scenarios.

I used the HDRI backdrop available in Unreal Engine to achieve this, ensuring that the room size matched the HDRI environment.

Using Path Tracing, I could achieve realistic lighting without the need for additional light sources.

By meticulously adjusting the lighting setup, I aimed to create a compelling and realistic environment that enhances Mojo Jojo’s presence.

This process not only showcases the character in a believable setting but also allows for fine-tuning the visual impact, ensuring that every detail is highlighted effectively.

Conclusion

Reimagining Mojo Jojo in a realistic 3D style for a live-action setting has been an exciting journey of creativity and technical skill. Each step, from initial design to final lighting, was essential in bringing this iconic character to life in a believable and impactful way.

I hope this breakdown provides insight into the detailed process behind the transformation and inspires others in their character design endeavors.

Thank you for following along with this project!

Thanks to GamesArtist.co.uk for having me. It is really important to have this space to share and learn new tips and techniques.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to my ArtStation.

See you in the next one!