Vampire’s Bride

Character Breakdown

Alexandra Boshevska

scene2render1
ArtistPhoto

Alexandra Boshevska

3D Artist

Introduction

Hi there!
I’m Alexandra, and I’ve been working as a 3D artist for three years.
I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge in 3D and game design, with the goal of creating my own video game one day.

Inspiration and Goals

It’s kind of a funny story when it comes to how this character came to be. Unlike my usual approach of starting with a specific concept in mind, I began by simply wanting to practice creating real-time hair.

As I placed the hair card layers, this idea came to me: what if an elf lady had been bitten by a vampire?

So, I went to work on more than just the hair. I sculpted her head and then modeled the clothing and placed everything in a scene in Marmoset Toolbag.

It’s an unusual process for me, but I learned more about hair creation as well as practiced texturing skin and jewelry.

Since I didn’t have a clear concept of the character’s appearance, my main references were focused on real-time hair, skin textures, and a selection of beautiful jewelry images that I found helpful while designing the clothing.

image1_references

Inspiration

In terms of inspiration, my work is mostly influenced by dark fantasy and horror themes, and this project was no exception. I really enjoy crafting elegant and beautiful, but subtly dark characters.

There’s a certain intrigue in creating art where, at first glance, you see a beautiful creature, but upon closer inspection, you can see there’s something off about it and there’s an underlying darkness seeping through.

Tools Used

For this character, I used ZBrush, Autodesk Maya, Substance 3D Painter, Marmoset Toolbag 4, as well as Fibershop for hair card creation.

Hair Creation

First, I used this great program called Fibershop to make the hair textures. It’s really easy to make hair textures this way, as this software is easy to learn, and the different options available for hair creation are very fun to explore.

I always like to add a bit of the noise filter in Photoshop on top of the specular and albedo hair maps. It gives a more interesting look and breaks up the colors on the hair strands.

To achieve that, I add a new grey layer on top of the albedo or specular map and add noise to it. Then I change the layer’s blending mode to overlay.

Hair Grooming

For hair grooming, I used ZBrush. I wanted to place hair cards down quickly, so I imported the hair card meshes I made in Fibershop into ZBrush and applied the alpha texture so they had transparency

Then, masking the hair cards, I could bend and twist them to achieve the hairstyle I had in mind.

I placed a base layer forming the base of the hairstyle. I then added a couple of extra layers with thinner strands to break up the hair’s silhouette. The last layer I added was the flyaway hairs. It makes the hair look more realistic and complex.

 

Blockout and Modeling

After I was happy with how the hair looked, I proceeded with sculpting the character’s head. I blocked it out, and when I thought it was the right look, I retopologized it in Maya and brought it back into ZBrush so I could detail the skin.

I projected the head sculpt I already had in ZBrush onto the new mesh with cleaner topology and then, using layers, added skin details such as pores and wrinkles. I used one of XYZ’s head displacement resources to achieve a nice detailed face.

Then, I went and refined some of the wrinkles and lines so they’re more pronounced in areas like the mouth or the under-eye area.

A small, but useful tip I have for detailing heads is to store the morph target of the mesh you’re working on, so then you can ‘delete’ the projected detail from any brush or alpha you’re using.

Also, make sure to work in layers so that you can make the details less or more visible, as well as the option to remove the layer in case you need a clean mesh.

Texturing: Skin and Eyes

The eyes’ irises were also sculpted so they had more depth and a more realistic appearance.

For this, I used various references along with basic brushes in ZBrush to sculpt the details. Masking some areas also added to the depth I wanted to achieve.

The eyebrows and eyelashes were made by placing one hairpiece made with the curved tube brush and then duplicating it until the eyebrows and eyelashes looked nice enough.

I then went and used polish so the hairs were thinner.

Some other elements I added to make the model look more realistic were the cornea and a mesh I made with curves tube that would cover the tear line

image10_eyedetails

Texturing: Clothing and Accessories

Finally, the sculpting stage was completed with the outfit creation.

I modelled a very simple mesh for the dress base, then used different brushes with curve mode to create the jewelry.

I wanted to have a dress covered in jewels and then decided to incorporate coins to make it look more interesting.

In my country Macedonia, gold and silver coins were traditionally sewn onto clothing, especially women’s garments, to signify the wearer’s status and wealth.

Drawing inspiration from this practice, I tried to show the character’s affluence and the significance of her attire. In this case, the dress serves as a wedding gown.

UV Unwrapping and Baking

Next, I imported the model into Maya to UV it. This was a fairly quick and simple task since there weren’t a lot of elements to UV unwrap. One thing that can be brought up is the method I used to unwrap the jewelry, chains, and tiny parts, which there were a lot of.

For some of the pieces, I UV unwrapped one gem, for example, and I transferred its UV information to gems that were exactly like it. That’s done by going to mesh-transfer attributes and then in the options, enabling components in sample space.

Aside from transferring attributes, I found a very useful script by Nicolas Morlet that you can use to transfer UVs from one object to multiple similar objects. That sped up the process of UVing the many pieces that the jewelry was made of.

image13_transferUVs

After the model had a clean topology and well-organized UV maps, I started baking the texture maps.

I used Substance Painter for this. The process is not that complicated, and the results are often satisfactory.

Texture: Head & Clothing

Next is my favorite part of 3D character creation and that is texturing. I used Substance Painter to texture the head and clothing.

For skin textures, something I always keep in mind is to trust the process and that layers are key for achieving realistic-looking skin.

For this character, I wanted her to have nice-looking skin with minimal makeup. Veins were integral in capturing the corruption that had started to grow within her.

I started by placing base color layers to indicate the subdermal layer, then added a few peach, red, yellow and blue-green layers to add more complexity in the skin’s color.

I added skin details such as freckles, veins and blemishes using fill layers and masks. Having good references is very important in this part, so have lots of skin references ready such as the skin color zones.

Neck Veins

The veins on her neck were painted after I had finished texturing the skin. I used references of bite marks to paint the puncture points as well as the dark veins and bruised skin surrounding them.

This was also done using base color layers with dark and brighter colors on top to imitate depth. I played around with roughness here as well to make the bite marks appear wet and fresh.

Eyes

After I had applied textures to the skin, the eyes were done similarly. I worked only with colors with no height, roughness, or any other information to get the look and color I wanted for the eyes.

Also, since I had displacement information that I had sculpted in the eyes, I could work with the curvature map and generators in Substance Painter to add darker or brighter colors to the eye.

Clothing

For the clothing, I wanted the dress to be dark to fit the night theme. I used roughness and height layers to add tiny sparkles to the dress.

For the metal parts, I used a material I had made previously that was made out of gold base materials and again different levels of roughness, dirt and the use of the curvature map. The gems were textured similarly but with more color variation.

Final Touches

After completing the texturing process, I imported the model into Marmoset Toolbag to prepare it for rendering. I applied the textures onto the model and hair and checked if any areas could be improved.

The skin and eye base color, for example, looked like they could be worked on some more.

So, I took the textures and painted them on top of them in Photoshop. I added some more, darker veins and some color variation to the eyes.

Always feel free to experiment with different looks and color combinations when making a character. I used Photoshop to quickly paint over the head’s albedo map and checked if it looked right in Marmoset.

You can also go back and modify the textures further in Substance Painter, but I find that minor color changes can be done a lot faster in Photoshop.

Just keep a copy of the old albedo map when you paint over it, just in case you need it

Rendering & Lighting

The character’s pose was stiff, so I imported the model’s FBX files back into ZBrush and using the T-pose mesh tool, I posed her quickly so she wasn’t just facing forward in a straight pose.

Back in Marmoset, I made two scenes for this character; the first was to show the character in a more dramatic lighting whereas the other one was to show the textures more clearly.

For the main scene, I chose a sky that fit the character and lit the scene using a three-light setup. I used a blurred background image of the interior of an abandoned cathedral to go with the theme of the character getting married.

I can safely say that I have learned a bit more about hair creation, but I also practiced texturing skin and jewelry.

What I have also practiced by making this character is building a concept and a story for a character which helped shape how she ended up looking in the final renders and is very important when it comes to character creation.

Conclusion

Finally, I want to thank the Games Artist team for allowing me to write this article and thank you for reading it.
I sincerely hope you found it helpful and found some of the tips I provided useful for your projects.

If you want to see more of my work, please check my Instagram and ArtStation pages.