Using Blend shapes was one of steps I enjoyed most because it is at this point that I could define his personality. I've used many references to help me achieve stylized expressions, not least of which was Syndrome from The Incredibles who was a great reference for what I had in my mind. It's important to exaggerate the expression as much as you can while still maintaining a natural look. During the modeling process I used a mirror to observe myself and understand how the muscles react in different expressions (Fig.04).
Texturing and Shading
I began creating the textures in Zbrush using Polypaint because it's an easy way to define the basic color variation directly on the 3D model. After this I exported the maps into Photoshop and started detailing them. For materials like the leather and fabric, I used Seamless textures I found on websites like CGtextures.com but the skin was completely hand painted (Fig.05).
As I was planning to use mental ray to render my image, I chose the SSS Fast Skin material for the characters skin and skulls and Arch&Design for the other objects. I tried different light rigs to observe how the shaders reacted since my plan was to do an animation using the Viking and so each of the materials needed to work regardless to the lighting scheme (Fig.06).
After many nights testing Hair shaders I discovered P_HairTK created by Ledin Pavel. I was looking for realistic hair rendering and this shader allowed Final gather, Ray Traced shadows and many other features with a fast render time.
The hair was the most challenging part of this project. As the character is stylized I had to stylize his beard and hair as well which was a nightmare. Initially I tried the new plugin called HairFarm, but after many tests I decided to move back into 3ds Max's native Hair and Fur. The solution I eventually used was to divide the beard into different meshes. It gave me better control of the general shape and made the styling process easier (Fig.07 - 08).