"The Mirror" began when I was doing a face a few days ago, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to so I decided to give it a try in a different way. I wanted to do something grotesque: big nose, big forehead, creepy looking... so I took the head that was driving me crazy and I changed it with no direction.
For the base head I used only quads; there is not a single triangle in the whole model, which helps to keep the model clean so you can select edge loops easily and create better UVs. It also gives you better performance (Fig.01).
For the sculpting I usually use ZBrush. I go back and forward in the different levels of subdivision, changing my brushes constantly. I also change the "focal shift" a lot, which provides an easy way to do sharp shapes of hard edges. I find this technique works very well to get a more defined model (Fig.02).
I started with the standard bone structure for humans and added the muscles and skin, but kept these ideas of something grotesque, just exaggerating some parts. Then I closed my eyes a little - just enough to see shadows on the model that I could turn into shapes. Some random bulbs around the surface were added, and then suddenly I saw where I was going! It was like watching clouds and imagining things like animals, or whatever else you can see, in those shapes. For the more human details I used pictures of real people, some of them from 3d.sk and some others from art and photography books that I've been buying here and there. The latest I bought was a book of portraits by Steve McCurry (Fig.03).
I added some details with the stencil tool, but not too much - just in a few places, because by that time I had in mind what kind of picture this was going to be and I knew all the details should be in the front of the face (Fig.04).
I baked the ambient occlusion and worked on the SSS shader, as well as the lighting. I needed a back light for the contour and the translucency of the big ears, and another light to create the shadows of the nose and eyebrows so it could have this scary look. I was using mental ray for the render, but I didn't use final gather or any other kind of global illumination; with the baked ambient occlusion I had enough and it worked well and saved me resources, so the render could be fast. I find it important to analyse what you are going to need and use only that. Don't waste your computer processing power in something you barely need just because everybody uses it! I always think first about what I need and then try to optimise the process in order to get the most from my computer (Fig.05).
For the material I combined different colours, not just the normal red and orange SSS. I needed it to look like flesh because it's creepier, but at the same time I was looking for something pale and out of this world, which is why I used blues and greens for the different layers and speculars. I'm never afraid to experiment with odd colours - you never know when you can find something new and interesting! (Fig.06)