The Ammut

Character Breakdown

Mike-Amir El Frangi


Mike-Amir El Frangi

Principal Character Artist


Hello everyone! My name is Mike-Amir El Frangi and I am a Principal Character Artist at Quantic Dream. I have been working in the industry as a character artist for about 6 years, starting in a mobile game company in Paris before transitioning to AAA games when I joined Ubisoft Bordeaux a few years later.

Concurrently, I work as a freelancer making printable miniatures.
I love working on any type of character in any given style, my personal favourite being stylized characters, even though I enjoy doing big scary creatures from time to time!


I was contacted by OnePageRules and commissioned to do this depiction of the Egyptian god Ammut, based on a concept by Fran Fdez.

I immediately fell in love with Fran’s rendition and attention to detail and wanted to recreate the threatening, ominous yet beautiful vibes in the 3D sculpt. The idea was to get as close as possible to the original concept while making it 3D print ready.



I used Zbrush as my main working software and tried to do as much as possible inside it, although I sometimes switched to Maya when I needed to make some precise or specific adjustments to a model.

For my renders, I used Keyshot and took advantage of the Zbrush to Keyshot bridge to instantly import my models there without any hassle.
The final images and some post-process passes were composited in Photoshop.


Before working on any project, I gather as many references as I can to have a solid base on which I can start sculpting my character/creature. Like a lot of artists, I like to use PureRef for that, which is free to download and super easy to use.

I also like to do some research about the character or creature I am about to work on.
In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Ammut was described as having the head of a Nile crocodile, the front legs and body of a lion and the back legs of a hippopotamus, three of the biggest predators in ancient Egypt.

Knowing that I started gathering enough lion, hippo and crocodile references to be able to understand how their bodywork, before mixing them into what will become the Ammut.

I added some elements that could be useful for the different armor parts and decorations, like Egyptian props and hieroglyphs.

Finally, I had some images from multiple 3D sculptors that I used as inspiration and as the level of quality I wanted to achieve. In addition, I also gathered some images of some previous OnePageRules models to try to match the general style.



Before starting to work on the Ammut, I had to make sure it was sized correctly, as the sculpt had to be 360mm long from head to tail, so I created a box in Maya that fit these measurements and imported it in Zbrush. That way I’d make sure that everything was right and avoid bad surprises later on.

I started blocking out the body of the using spheres that I placed and moved around, using the concept art as a guide to see where each element had to go and to keep the general proportions.
Blockout is a crucial step in your workflow and it shouldn’t be overlooked, as it allows you to have a feel of the silhouette and shapes without wasting too much time and effort on details.

In general, I use Dynamesh on a lower setting, as it allows me to focus on sculpting big shapes first without worrying too much about topology. I then gradually increase that Dynamesh resolution, in order to create more refined details.

I mainly used the Move and ClayBuildup brushes, the former to be able to quickly move topology around and the latter to sculpt some rough shapes. DamStandard was also a useful brush to carve some early details and define muscle groups.

The blockout went into multiple iterations, where I started by working on the anatomy of the Ammut, then adding armor later on.


For the armor parts, belts, and in general more complex elements, I masked the corresponding area on the body of the Ammut and extracted a shape out of it. You can do this by going to Tool > Extract.

Some elements like the saddle and the different shiels on his shoulders and hips were just basic shapes that I added to my scene (Tool > Append > Choose the desired shape), which I also tweaked to match the concept.


Once I had most of my elements blocked out the way I wanted them, it was time to polish them and give them their final look. I used a lot of different techniques and workflows for each part so I’ll try to talk about as much as I can.


During the blockout, I made sure to have all my different parts separate as their own subtools. That way, I can have more control over each individual part, allowing me to isolate them for more comfort, and to avoid having one single heavy mesh.

I started refining the anatomy, working first on the primary shapes and making sure to check the references that I gathered on PureRef for the different animals. The goal was to make the Ammut look believable and match the anatomy of the existing animals it’s made of, while also having logical transitions.
At this point, I usually stop using Dynamesh. Instead, I duplicate my subtool and Zremesh it, making the topology cleaner and allowing me to use Subdivision levels. To get some of my details back, I project the Zremeshed object onto the Dynamesh one.

Once again, I used the Move, Claybuildup and DamStandard as my main brushes to create the different muscle groups as well as the Standard, Orb_Cracks2 and Slash2 brushes for the secondary and some tertiary shapes, like the skin folds and the claws, nails, teeth and tongue details.


Scales/Skin Details

I used multiple techniques for the different scales and skin details on the head, body and tail.

For the body and tail, one feature I mostly took advantage of was the Alpha3D brushes that I used to create most of the scales. The same way regular 2D alphas work, Alpha3D brushes will store a 3D shape and use it to deform your topology when applying a stroke. This also means that you need to have enough resolution to avoid blurriness and lack of details, so I’d recommend using subdivision levels and working on the highest subdivision.

This is great when you need to add small and repetitive detail like scales, horns, fur, etc., although you can break that repetitiveness by making more scale variations.

These are the different scales I made for the Ammut.


And here’s an old (but still relevant) GIF I made about how to create them.


When my brushes were ready, I started placing them on the body and the tail, trying to have a nice flow to them and checking how they look compared to my references.
The big scales on the spine and the tail’s ridge were sculpted directly into the tail and torso meshes to make them unique and give them the desired shape.

After that, I did a sculpting and polishing pass on the whole thing to break the repetitiveness even further and add some damage/wear to them.


The skin was made using the Standard brush in DragRect mode, and by adding a frog skin alpha that I dragged around where I wanted it to be. Layers were used to have better control over the intensity of the frog skin.

I didn’t use Alpha3D brushes for the scales on the head, as I noticed they were very organic and chaotic on real-life references. Instead, I opted for a more classic approach, sculpting the scales directly into the head and using layers to control my work.

I started by defining the scales’ shape with DamStandard and used ClayBuildup, Standard, hPolish to refine them. When they were done, I added a layer of frog skin to give the extra detail and give it a bit of breakup.



For the armor parts, I used poly modeling, either with the Zmodeler in Zbrush or in Maya to have more control over it. I started by masking out an area with the desired shape, before extracting it, Zremeshing it to have a clean topology, and then using the Panel loop function to give it some thickness. Then I creased or beveled some of the edges to sharpen them. All the armor parts were made out of simple shapes that were mixed and stacked together to create the different layers.

After that, I used various brushes like TrimDynamic, hPolish, TrimSmoothBorders and MalletFast2, different Orb_Slash, as well as adding noise to create the damage and wear that you can see on them.


For the wings on the sides of the armor, I created one feather that I duplicated a few times, then made it the shape of a wing, before adding some more elements to tie them all together.

Finally, the hieroglyphs were done the same way I did the scales, using Alpha3D brushes.

Cloth and Bandages

The bandages were basically Zremeshed cylinders that I moved around and deformed to give them the intended shape. I preferred this method over masking and extracting in order to avoid having gaps in the 3D model that could lead to potential problems during the printing phase, and as the insides were never going to be seen anyway.

After placing them all, I started sculpting them using the usual brushes (ClayBuildup, DamStandard, Orb_Cracks2, etc.) but in addition to that, I also took advantage of some of Zbrush’s cloth simulation brushes, especially the TransposeCloth and MoveCloth.

I found out these brushes were a great way to create a solid base for simple folds without having to rely on external software like Marvelous Designer.

Be wary that the result will greatly depend on your polygon density, the higher it is and the smaller the folds will be, so I recommend staying in the first two subdivision levels for this.


The cloth belts on the torso were done in the same manner. After creating the base folds, I did some sculpting passes over them, increasing or reducing some of the folds, as well as adding details and damage in some areas.

The big fabric underneath the armor was also done in the same way (more or less). I started by masking the area on the body of the Ammut, extracted it and cleaned it. Then I sculpted basic shapes and used cloth simulation brushes. Rinse and repeat until I was satisfied with the look.


Finally, the hair was done using the Stylized Hair Brush Pack by the amazing Hong Chan Lim ( These are InsertMultiMesh brushes (IMM for short) with the curve mode turned on. Basically, you draw a curve and the brush will repeat a shape alongside this curve, with a taper on the end.

These kinds of brushes are great for creating all sorts of stuff like horns, hair, ropes, etc. that can have complex curves or elongated shapes.

In my case, I just drew multiple layers of hair using this brush, giving it a nice flow and trying to get a lion mane to feel to it. I did the same on the back of the front legs.

And here’s the final result!



Now that the high poly was done and I had all my elements, it was time to pose the Ammut. For this, I used the Transpose Master tools inside Zbrush.


By hitting the TPoseMesh button, Zbrush merges all your visible subtools into one single file and in a separate scene, with each object as a different polygroup. It is highly recommended to be using subdivision levels for this, as the Transpose Master goes for the lowest subdivision available! So avoid having super heavy dynameshed subtools, as this will slow your scene and make things harder to deform.

That said, I started working on the pose, matching the one that was given to me with the concept. As I didn’t have an environment to pose my Ammut in, I used basic shapes like cubes to simulate the big pillar/obelisk and the rocks/dunes he is standing on. When I was done, I clicked the Tpose | SubT button to apply the pose to my working scene. After that, I still had to clean some areas that got messed up by the Transpose Master. I also took the opportunity to sculpt some shapes again, like muscles for example.

For the terrain, I used some previous assets that were done for OnePageRules, moving, cutting and combining subtools to get the result I wanted. Here’s what the Ammut looks like posed and with the small diorama!


Rendering and compositing

I rendered the Ammut using Keyshot, which is great at handling very heavy objects (the Ammut was around 130millions points!) like they’re nothing, and you can export your object in one click thanks to the Zbrush-Keyshot bridge.

It’s fairly easy to use and there is a library with a great selection of materials to work with. I used some custom materials and relatively simple lighting made of key light and rim light. The background was a simple backdrop with a dark material applied to it.

Then all that was left to do was to find some nice angles, hit the Render buttons and listen to my PC scream for a few minutes. Special thanks to my good friend Ali El-Hashimi who helped me find some nice camera angles for this project! You can see some of his works here:

I rendered multiple versions of the same camera angles but with different materials applied to the model like metal, marble, etc. These will be later used in Photoshop to create the final image.

Once I was done with my renders, I imported everything in Photoshop and did some compositing, using the previously rendered images, alongside some light photo bashing, color, values and levels corrections.

Here’s what the photoshop file looks like.


And here’s a walkthrough of every step from the raw render until the final image.



And that’s basically it! The Ammut was done!

Sculpting the Ammut was a lot of fun! I love working on big creatures and I have a soft spot for ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology in general, so this project with right in my alley! The whole fact that Ammut is basically three animals in one, creating interesting anatomy to work on, combined with the armor and different hard surface elements made it a really cool challenge, and I’m super happy with the results.

I would like to thank GamesArtist for giving me the opportunity to write this article. It’s never an easy task to summarize several months of work and put it on paper but it’s always a fun exercise and I hope you’ll find it useful and maybe learn some stuff!

In any case, thank you for making it to this point! Feel free to check out my Artstation page if you like my work, and to add me on LinkedIn if you want to have a quick chat!