To create this character, I found the impressive concept of this Thief by the 2D Artist Yelli on Artstation.
My goals with this character were to study and practice more about armor, leather clothing shader, hair cards, and especially female anatomy and skin texture.
For reference, I have the main components such as facial features, armor, leather pieces, weapon, skin, and hair as reference points.
These help me develop each part of my process, but certainly, as the project progresses, I’ll be adding more references to guide me.
- Marmoset Toolbag
- Substance 3d Painter
Modelling & Sculpting
To create the high-poly model, I always use Zbrush, where I can sculpt both organic and hard-surface pieces.
For hard-surface, I begin sculpting with Dynamesh and then often use the Zmodeler tool, this gives me a cleaner topology that will help me in the future, even during the retopology stage. For me, this is the most enjoyable part of the process, as it’s where I conduct various design tests.
Creating the initial block out of the character gives me a good idea of what the final result will look like.
I always opt for a cleaner block out without details to streamline the process in the future. Additionally, I make use of symmetry extensively to expedite the project.
For the face, I always seek photos of a real person.
In this case, I used actress Deborah Ann Woll, who portrayed Karen Page in the Daredevil series, as a reference.
I chose this actress as a reference because I thought her features would blend well with this character.
Tips – Skin Texture
For the skin texture, I chose to use a Zbrush tool called HDGeometry. It provides a very high resolution, as I couldn’t achieve good quality with just the regular subdivisions.
After creating the texture, you can export the normal map directly from Zbrush and generate other maps using another software, such as Substance Painter, for example.
For this project, there was a lot of trial and error involved in creating the hair.
To create the hair texture, I used the software Fibershop, which is excellent and easy to handle. For grooming, I used Blender.
For feathers, eyebrows, and eyelashes, I used Fibermesh in Zbrush just to test different ways of doing it.
I started by placing the strands that would cover the entire head for the primary shapes, then added some smaller strands for secondary shapes, and finally included the flyaways. For the eyebrows and eyelashes, I created them in Zbrush using Fibermesh, using just one card for each element.
Uvs & Baking
To unwrap the UVs, I used Blender, which currently has many plugins and tools that are very helpful in character development. In my case I used RetopoFlow and UV Editing,
For the bake, I used Marmoset, where we can easily control the cage, making the process much easier.
This character ended up with 108k triangles:
This is the stage where you begin to see your character come to life within the engine. At this point, I always start by working on the base color and then experiment with different details on the character.
It’s crucial to pay close attention to the shaders and materials you’re using for each specific object. For instance, when creating a leather shader for clothing, incorporating variations in roughness is essential.
In the case of aged leather, using a mask of exp. (Concrete) can be effective, and then hand-painting specific details.
I brought all the low poly assets that have been created to Zbrush and posed the character using Zbrush’s Tposemesh plugin.
I then bring the updated models into Marmoset Toolbag 4 to do the tweaks and final renders.
Lighting & Rendering
The lights in this scene are very simple, consisting of a top-down light, two key lights from the right, two fill lights, one from the front and the other from the left and some rim lights. After creating the final renders, I take the images to Photoshop to adjust colors, contrast, and lighting.
The scene was rendered using Ray-tracing and Hejl with the parameters below:
So, the project lasted about 18 weeks, and my main goal was to get better at digital art stuff. I was all about leveling up in making skin look real, getting the lowdown on female anatomy, and perfecting the tricky art of making hair cards.
Along the way, I faced some tough moments and some wins, all adding up to a big learning experience. Week by week, I saw real progress in my skills and started noticing all the tiny details that make character design pop.
This project wasn’t just about what I set out to do, it fueled an ongoing quest for awesomeness in my artistic adventures.