Concept & References
In a project like this one, I always like to find as many references as I can and to be very clear about what I want to do before starting to model. For this image, as the subject was a rogue, I searched for references in videogames, illustrations and real photos ... I always try to get a large amount of them, and then I try to design nice clothing, a good pose, and so on. For example, the body armour was inspired by a lingerie photo (Fig.01); I used it as a reference and started tweaking it to make it look like an armour. I also got the idea of that a pattern from there, too, which I used on some other parts, such as the small shield and on the skirt.
I used 3ds Max and ZBrush to model. I did everything in a T-pose at first, instead of modelling it in the final pose, as I thought it would be nice to have the possibility of animating the body (even though I'm not planning to do it) (Fig.02a - b). I started creating a low poly version of the body. In this case, I did the body and the head on different meshes, because I reused a headless body which I had already done for an older project, but ideally it would have been better to model them together to avoid the merging of the body and head parts.
Anyway, the process was pretty much the same; once I had the low poly version, I took it into ZBrush. I always work the same way here: I subdivide the model once, and then I do as many details as I can in that subdivision level. Once I'm happy with that level I subdivide it again and continue detailing until I get around 7 subdivisions. I try to do as many adjustments as I can in the lower subdivision levels, because the more detail you can do there, the less you will have to tweak in the higher levels; it's trickier to keep the model nicely smoothed if you have to do big tweaks in the higher levels. Once happy with the results I went back to Max, using displacement and normal maps to get the details from ZBrush.
Half of the clothes were done using the same method (modelling the low poly version in Max and detailing in ZBrush) and the other half (the more rigid ones) were modelled in Max only, as I thought it would be faster that way. There's nothing special about them; I usually duplicate the body mesh, delete all the parts I don't need for the cloth, and start modelling from there using the body as reference to see how the clothing should look.
When texturing, I always use a combination of real photos and handmade paintings to create them (Fig.03a). I usually create a base texture using real photos and start adding more layers over them, using more real photos and/or handmade paintings to get different colourations all over the texture. I use that method in all kind of textures - body, clothes or environment. Using the body texture as an example, I start creating that base layer using real photos to cover the whole texture map, trying to delete all the details that are not needed, such as the highlights, shadows, wrinkles ... Then I start adding layers over it, using real photos to add details (like the lips, nipples, belly button and so on), using hand painted layers to add different colorations (adding reds and blues, making darker and lighter zones and so on) and also adding smaller details, like wrinkles, spots and veins, etc.
With all those parts on different layers allowed me to create the other maps I needed (specular, bump and so on) very quickly, adding a few hue/saturation or brightness/contrast effects on the top layers, and I was also able to turn the layers on and off when I didn't need them for each texture.
I used Mental Ray to render the scene, so most of the materials were done with the Mental Ray architectural material. There isn't much to explain about this; most of them had diffuse, bump, specular and environment maps, but perhaps the skin material is more interesting (the material can be seen in Fig.03b - c). From top to bottom, the maps are the diffuse map, subdermal map (a much redder version of the diffuse), the specular map and two blue noise filters to give some randomness to the specular parts. There's also a normal map in the bump channel, but this can't be seen in the image.