"Le Rabbit" cannot be described as the result of an extremely well organized and planned process. In most of my personal work I give priority to the "fun factor" and try to keep the whole process really enjoyable. So, I try not to plan everything in detail at the start, and tend to leave a lot of decisions to be made along the way in order to keep all the phases creative.
During the creation of this image I bumped into several problems, especially regarding the fur. I am not a digital hair expert and I had to face some questions for the first time. These problems may sound basic to some readers, but I have decided to talk about them and the way I solved them, because some of you might consider these tips valuable.
Regarding the motivation to create this piece I had wanted to make a more cartoonish character for ages, because this is a type of language with which I feel really comfortable. An image about a humanized rabbit with lots of attitude started forming in my mind ... and what was supposed to be a modeling exercise of just a few days ended up being a finished piece that took me about two months.
From the beginning I had the intention to sculpt the model in ZBrush. At the time I was not so familiar with ZSpheres and I wanted to make sure that the character had enough detail in certain important areas, like the snout, so I decided to go old school and create a low-poly version of the rabbit with good topology for further detailing in 3ds Max.
I created a box with a few subdivisions and applied the Symmetry Modifier on top, in order to create a mirror axis at the center of the body. I then applied the Edit Poly Modifier below the Symmetry Modifier, and started editing the polygons with "Show end result" turned on so that I could see all my editing being mirrored, to have a clear idea of the full silhouette.
The usual Edit Poly tools, like Extrude, Chamfer, Connect, etc. were used to create a T-pose version of the character. I created some extra edgeloops around the joints (elbows, neck, wrists, knees, shoulders) so that I could pose him later and have enough polygons to work with in those areas. I also decided to model the fingers individually, rather than just give volume for the hand, so that later I could position the fingers more accurately (Fig.01a - b).
One thing that I have learned from previous projects is that it is very important to have the eyeballs' geometry present while we model a face. It is very easy to incorrectly model the area around the eyes, especially the eye socket area and the way the eyelids make contact with the eyeballs. So, I created two spheres in the place of the eyes to guide me. With this particular character, the eyes have different sizes. I did this to emphasize the rabbit's expression and really exaggerate the lift of the eyebrow. It also contributes to the wacky feeling of the character.
The basic shape of the front teeth and the gums were also created at this stage to help me with the modeling of the snout, and to make sure they fitted well.
Usually it's at this stage that I take care of the UV mapping (Fig.02). It is a good time to do it because the geometry is still quite simple and easily identifiable on the UV layout. If you leave it till later you will have to deal with thousands of polygons and the process might not be so simple.
I tried to minimize the distortion of the mapping, as well as keeping as much continuous skin as possible. The advantage of keeping the geometry mapping continuous is the fact that you can paint over large areas without worrying about the continuity of the texture between different parts of the model.
I also kept all the different parts on the UV layout at the same scale. I could have used some more texture space for the head, for example, but then I would have the problem of different pixel scale on different parts of the model. Fortunately, to deal with the continuity problems on the edges of the different parts, I could count on ZAppLink, but we will talk about that later.
For the UV unwrapping I used the Unfold3D application.