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Cartoon Critters: How to Stylize and Create Animals - Mosquito

By Marcos Nicacio
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Date Added: 12th March 2013
Software used:
3ds Max, ZBrush

The color map was done now so I used it to create a Bump map by removing all the saturation and then using Levels, Brightness and Contrast adjustments layers to get the right black and white map. To conclude I gave the Bump map some scratch details on the top layer, which was set to Overlay blending mode.

All the other parts like the wings, scarf, hat and the glasses were rendered using a Solid map with a Unwrap modifier just to get the color. I used the same process that I did with the mosquito's body, split the parts into sections inside Photoshop and worked on the detail on each map, for example the leather texture on the hat's Bump map.

The mosquito's body, eyes and accessories shaders are really simple V-Ray materials with variations in reflection, opacity, glossiness and bump. Here is an example of the mosquito's body, scarf, wings and hat shaders layout inside the Slate Material Editor (Fig.07).

1682_tid_FIG07.jpg
Fig. 07

Rigging and Skin

When I start the rigging process I always think beforehand: what's the character for? To pose the mosquito I needed something basic because he didn't need to be animated, just a simple pose for a still image. A rigging setup using Character Studio would be more than enough. I did add few extra bones to his nose. I adjusted his facial features and the antenna were done with a basic Bend modifier. The hat and glasses are linked to the head bone and wings, and the scarf to the top of his chest bone.

Here is a tip - before you add a Skin modifier centralize the pivot in your mesh and apply a Reset xform (inside the Utilities tab) to clean up your mesh vertices and make it 1 by 1 in 3D world space. It helps you avoid having problems in the skin process, mainly in Mirror mode.

In the Skin modifier parameters I began checking the vertices option to make the selection of the vertices possible and then changed the weight of each bone. I also removed the Show No Envelope option in the Display tab to make the interface easier to work with (Fig.08).

1682_tid_FIG08.jpg
Fig. 08


Lighting and Render

The lighting setup is quite simple too. I used two V-Ray lights, one stronger in front to give a highlight to the mosquito's face and the other was a little weaker on his back.

Before I explain about the render settings it is important to say that the character is over a matte plane to get the shadow, alpha and GI on him. To set matte in an object just right-click on the plane and check Matte Object, Alpha Contribution -1 and Shadows and Alpha.

For the render setting I mainly changed the color mapping to Exponential and checked the Clamp Out and Sub-pixel options.

The other important changes that I made to the render settings were inside the Adaptive subdivision image sampler; I like to use Min. rate = 1 and Max. rate = 4. It makes the antialiasing smoother without any serrated problem on the final render (Fig.09). To better control the post-production in Photoshop I did a unique render of the body, hair, wings and a last pass for the shadows with the render elements.

1682_tid_FIG09.jpg
Fig. 09

Post-production

This is one of my favorite parts of the process. Here is where you can use your imagination to create a background and practice your knowledge of lighting and photography. Inside Photoshop I split my image into two treatment groups, one for the background images and textures and the other group for the mosquito.

In the background group I used seven layers. It may sound like a lot, but they were all very simple and each one helped to build my desired image. The basic color came first, then three kinds of paper texture, cardboard, cracked paper, and then some light coming from the center of the texture.

In the mosquito group I had six layers to control all the details that I wanted. The first thing to do was organize the mosquito's passes. This is the order I used from the bottom to top:

- Shadow
- Wing color correction
- Mosquito
- Hair
- Eye reflection
- Extra Light

I worked on the mosquito's body layer to adjust the brightness and contrast. The eyes looked a little lifeless so I added a layer with a little window reflection. I adjusted the hair and wings too, mainly for color and brightness. To finish I selected the alpha channel for the body and added some extra light using the Standard brush in Overlay blending mode. In Fig.10 - 11 is a screenshot of the layers in Photoshop and a comparison of the raw render and the final composition.

1682_tid_FIG10.jpg
Fig.10

1682_tid_FIG11.jpg
Fig. 11

Final Thoughts

Firstly, I'd like to thank the 3DTotal staff who gave me the opportunity to show my workflow. I hope this tutorial helps you create your next character.




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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
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(ID: 250578, pid: 0) Jsin on Sat, 08 February 2014 11:48pm
nice render...but the character doesn't work for me. Mosquitoes are horrible little blood sucking parasites, so it would make more sense to make it more of a creepy (yet still cartoony) character. Even The Count on Sesame Street doesn't look that perky because it wouldn't be believable to even a child over the age of 6 or so.
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