After posing the character, I exported a plane to ZBrush to make the ripples, then exported a displacement map to use with a displace modifier in the mesh for the water (Fig.06). Before I used the displace modifier, I selected a small part close to the Fish Man to subdivide. This way I could optimize the polygon count of the water, creating a heavier mesh where it needed it (Fig 07a - 7b).
Textures and Shading
To texture the head I used the ZBrush plugin ZApp Link so I could project pieces of photos onto the ZBrush mesh using Photoshop. This was very handy since I am very familiar with the tools in Photoshop. Using this procedure is like photo manipulation over a 3D mesh. One good photo of a fish was enough to make the texture of the head (Fig.08).
The idea with the armor was to not make it look to old; I didn't want it to look like it came from a World War II submarine. The intention was, however, to make the armor look rusted and damaged. Some photos of rusted metals, scratches and painted metals were enough to make the armor textures.
All the armor materials have mental ray arch design with glossy reflections applied. A map was applied on each material to vary the reflection intensity. Making a reflective material helps the object reflect its environment and that's why I put trees all around it, even if they're not shown in the final image. Reflecting environmental elements and lights made the character more of a part of the scene.
Here is an example of the torso material. All the rest of the armor followed the same standard (Fig.09). Of course all these glossy reflections meant that the rendering time was increased.
As I mentioned before, this scene is very humid and cloudy. To show this, I couldn't use direct lights or sharpened shadows. Everything had to look smooth with soft shadows. The main light is a huge Sky Portal that covers the scene to simulate the cloudy sky. The other lights illuminated some areas on the character that were too dark and made some specular spots to help the armor looks wet (Fig.10a - 10b). All these lights meant the scene was close to the final result I wanted. I kept in mind that in Photoshop I could improve the overall look very quickly, so the most important thing at this stage was to keep the information of each rendered detail, like the reflection, specularity and volumes.