Most of the time I’m thinking about art in some form (music, sculpture, illustration, photography, movies, games…) and I learned digital sculpting and 3D modeling to use as a platform to express my artistic thoughts.
For every new piece, I aim to improve something that could be done on the previous project but I didn’t have the skills for it at the time. I enjoy working with realism and mixing with a little bit of stylization and fantasy, something that I have done to this project that started as a simple bust and I kept changing to something more personal and pleasant, giving the character more personality.
As the main goal, I wanted to improve my skin details sculpting, texturing, hair cards, and design.
Maya, Zbrush, Substance 3D Painter, Fibershop, Marmoset Toolbag.
I organized this project into 4 sections: head, design, jacket and hair. All of those 4 should be harmonious.
Head: I used the real role model known as Kamui T. His face has such unique
features that I thought would be perfect to use as the direction. Have in mind that this
is not a likeness project.
Hair: Something young and fresh.
Jacket: Old leather, I imagined that this character has had this jacket for a long time
Design: CD Projekt Red artists did an outstanding job with characters of Cyberpunk 2077 and I used Takemura as a reference to make a good integration of organic and
hard surface augmentation, and explore my own design that can be clean and believable.
For the head, I started with primary forms and slowly tweaked the model until I got satisfied enough with it. Check all facial landmarks is a must, so with Dynamesh and very low resolution, I sculpted and only added more density when there was nothing else to tweak at that stage of the model, going far as possible with the same resolution.
For the jacket, shirt and glasses, I made a block inside Maya and exported it to Zbrush.
For the neck, Dynamesh and Zremesher helped me to find the correct design that was clean and simple, yet believable.
For the hair, first I used an extracted mesh with Dynamesh for the starter look and then used a CurveTube brush to create depth to the design. A lot of exploration for the hair until I followed the final design.
Retopology and UVs
After finishing blocking, I worked on the retopology of assets and UVs, making it clean and using the most space possible.
After all UVs and retopology work, I started detailing the mesh. For the head, I used the 3D Scan Store free head model to project details over my mesh. You can check their content here.
The steps were: Project 3D scan store over my mesh -> Use their Ztl file provided inside the model package to create a displacement map -> Use the Displacement map in the mesh that was projected over my Dynamesh model and now I have a model like I sculpted but with scan details.
After this, one last step, because for me, the scan mesh is too dense, so I projected a lower resolution mesh that I did earlier in Maya, over my high poly model. You ask me “why such a complicated process?” and I answer 2 things:
- This is the only possible way that I found to use scan data in my mesh.
- I want to use scan data over my mesh so I can tweak them! If I simply use the same maps of the scan, my models will always look the same and I want to have the control of creating new pores, wrinkles, smooth areas, create pimples, etc.
And the mesh looks cool with all those details.
l the clothes, neck and accessories have a more straightforward process of adding subdivisions and sculpting details.
With all details done, I organize both high poly and low poly files and apply the bake by mesh name and create IDs for high poly mesh.
All baking process is done in Substance 3D Painter.
Texturing and Rendering
Together with sculpting, this is where I most enjoy doing it.
My process of texturing requires going back and forth with rendering, to check what’s really happening between my viewport of both software.
I tried to make them match the best as possible but lights and other features make them look a little bit different. I start using 3D Scan Store as a base map and like the high poly details, I tweak over and add my hand painting, and other features like skin patches, redness, tweaked color zones, red marks, tattoos, bumps, scars and more. Roughness, Specular, SSS and Normal maps I create through baking maps.
Magdalena Dadela has a superb tutorial about skin texturing that I always use as a supplement for my skin painting work.
The same applies to the jacket, shirt and accessories.
I apply smart materials and tweak them using masks, generators and other tools until I got something realistic and believable.
There’s not a short answer about doing hair. In my case, there’s a lot of trial and error and hair is especially tough to make work properly. First I create the texture inside Fibershop, which is a powerful tool that makes it easy to tweak the much I want each strand.
I export the albedo map and imported it into Maya. What I do is: create a base layer with thick flat hair cards, just to fulfill the bottom of the cards and hide the head (I call it a base layer).
It is important to mention leaving the hair cards side by side without crashing each other too much and they should follow the flow of the hair.
The breakup hair is where you will shine, will be on this layer that you will distribute your cards that will be visible to the camera and give design to the hair. Super important to mention: create hair chunks with your breakup cards! This will make your hair more real because in real life, hair follows a flow but in-depth create chunks.
Flyaways are just some strands not attached to any specific chunk and roots are the hair cards that help to create the transition between the hair breakups and the skin.
Finally, it’s time to create a presentation for our friend!
This isn’t something that is from scratch because since texturing I’ve been checking renders and creating lights to fix, test and improve stuff. For the rendering engine, I used Marmoset Toolbag with Ray Tracing.
I want to merge 3D with photography, so I don’t really use many lights because I want to create what would be a real place environment and not a studio environment.
Shaders are simple as well, I want the maps to do all the work without me changing too much of the shaders – what I changed in shaders are Specular values through the sliders and emissive values because the map it’s only a mask of where will glow and the material will set how much and the color of the emission.
What really changed and improved my renders was the post-effect settings. Below you can see what I used for this project but don’t be too attached to what I’ve done because each project requires different settings, you should try for yourself new settings and of course, use photography as a reference.
Take your renders and make updates in photo edit software, so you can check out what is better for your presentation.