Inspiration & Goals
The concept for the project Mongroth was born while I was sitting in my living room. With a sketchbook by my side, I quickly jotted down a loose drawing that ignited my curiosity to explore the design further.
This impulse led me to dive into ZBrush for a preliminary blockout, enhancing my grasp of the design’s spatial aspects.
- Marmoset Toolbag
- Rizom UV
- Substance Painter
When I embark on a ZBrush design, I always open my PureRef scene—a compilation of images I encounter daily, including those from my favorite designers. A single perusal helps me internalize these references, enabling the creation of something novel and distinct.
I also maintain a scene dedicated to human and animal anatomy, handy for more intricate creations.
Creating the Crystals
Fashioning the crystals provided a soothing experience, as adhering to the planes of the forms prevented blunders. I commence by establishing the volume, determining size, sharpness, and whether the structure is a fusion of multiple crystals or a solitary one fragmenting into several pieces.
Initially, I employ brushes like HPolish, Trim Dynamic, SnakeHook, and Clay Build-up. Once foundational shapes are in place, the Slash brush aids in layering and fracture simulation. Subsequently, I unleash creativity, crafting sharp, abstract forms, and most crucially, reveling in the process.
Creating the Teeth
For creatures featuring teeth like these, I follow a workflow akin to the one depicted in the video. Occasionally, I separate the teeth as distinct components, while in other instances, they remain part of the head.
Beginning with the Dam Standard brush, I outline the teeth, striving for intriguing contours. The snake hook comes next, elongating the teeth. Dynamesh proves invaluable, simplifying this step.
Each tooth becomes a distinct polygroup, facilitating sculpting, splitting, or inflation as deemed fitting. Ensuring gum compatibility with the teeth is pivotal, achieved by masking the teeth and inflating the gum atop them, producing a flesh-like encasement.
Lowpoly & UVs
For personal projects in my leisure time, I forgo meticulous retopology and UV unwrapping, prioritizing the joy of creation. Additionally, design concepts may evolve, rendering meticulous preparatory work wasteful.
My focus lies in crafting a basic low-poly model, preserving its silhouette, and generating UVs with optimal texel density, facilitating swift baking and immediate integration into Substance Painter. Polycount and UV sets take a backseat. I utilize Decimation Master to confine each set under 100k or 50k, as per preference.
This approach offers flexibility, permitting quick modifications via decimation. It’s essential to note that this low-poly method pertains exclusively to personal projects—while not ideal, it proves swift and efficient.
The images illustrate decimation and polygroup separation, streamlining UV Master usage. Any ensuing UV errors can be addressed in software like Maya, Blender, or Rizom.
Texel density consistency is pursued, occasionally favoring heightened resolution for character/creature summits to accentuate focal points. Baking employs standard Marmoset 4 settings, yielding 4K/8K resolution with 16/64 sampling and 16-bit maps.
Pablo Munoz Gomez’s Skin brushes and Texturing XYZ’s alphas from a Male 30s set underpin tertiary character detailing. My detailing approach remains uncomplicated. I lay the foundation with surface noise, manipulating strength and scale to harmonize with the creature.
Subsequently, the image showcases my utilization of Standard, Dam Standard, Deep Standard, Single Pore, Generic Skin Base, and Skin Imperfections brushes, fashioning substantial details.
Once content, I select 2-3 XYZ alphas and apply them with Drag Rect to introduce finer details, enhancing specular and roughness interplay. Simplicity prevails in these aspects, embodying the adage that sometimes, less is more.
Texturing the eyes was relatively straightforward, with simplicity reigning to prevent overshadowing the visage. I initiated by accentuating redness at the eye corners—exaggerated for added intensity.
The pupil adopts a basic form, a central black dot. For the iris, minimal adjustments in the albedo were made, primarily focusing on the emissive map.
Curiously, I introduced white veins/details using Substance’s vein physics brush, injecting intrigue. Mongroth omits a cornea mesh, as its inclusion appeared unnecessary.
Material creation, especially for creatures, hinges on intuitive judgment rather than formulaic parameters. Variables like specular, roughness, and other maps are tailored to suit specific contexts.
Consider Mongroth’s desert habitat; adjusting these parameters imparts contextual authenticity. My material structure adheres to the fundamentals:
- Normal with Detailed Normals
- Thickness map for SSS
Designing the ice crystal material initially appeared challenging, but it emerged as one of the simplest materials. Maps encompass Albedo, Normal, and Roughness. SSS imparts transparency and an icy aesthetic, unexpectedly achieving the desired outcome.
In a production environment, I’d introduce a specular and possibly a cavity map. For personal projects, this approach suffices, as demonstrated in this endeavor.
My final phase involves iterative refinement of the model, textures, and lighting. In Mongroth’s case, emphasis was placed on texture elements, particularly skin cavities and the icy chest texture.
Introducing asymmetry to the facial features grounded the character in realism. Adjustments to specular and roughness maps aimed to balance highlights, ensuring a nuanced, 60-70 percent shimmer attributed to surrounding ice and water.
I desired a decidedly basic and somewhat menacing appearance—nothing overly dynamic. To achieve this, I sifted through images of UFC fighters who had posed for media day shots.
I then imported the low-poly model into ZBrush, making use of the T-Pose mesh, and found myself prepared to proceed. Employing extensive masking techniques and refining the outcome by applying a blurred mask, with the pivot set as a joint, produced remarkably pleasing results.
Patience is key; avoid rushing or prematurely abandoning the process. Even the simplest pose requires a considerable investment of time to appear impressive.
This project progressed swiftly due to the rapid alignment of the design with my vision. The need for extensive revisions was minimal, allowing me to complete the project in about two weeks, working on it after my daily commitments.
Although I could have dedicated more time to tasks such as thorough retopology or integrating the model into UE5, my primary objective was simply to revel in the creative process. Gratitude is owed to my friends who provided invaluable feedback throughout this journey.
For those aspiring to design creatures, my counsel is to embrace the prospect of failure and forge ahead regardless. It’s worth noting that a substantial majority of my sculptures and designs remain unpublished.
Thus, I encourage you to enter the realm of ZBrush with a fearless disposition, allowing your imagination to manifest on the canvas. Don’t be disheartened if the results appear unsightly or subpar, as every endeavor contributes to learning, and your mind will selectively extract insights from each sculpting experience.
Personally, I find that engaging with multiple personal projects significantly aids in rejuvenating my perspective and seamlessly transitioning between different artistic styles.