The idea for this project was pretty loosely thought out. I wanted to create a blue crab: their colouring and organic shape seemed like subject matter that would challenge me at this stage of my 3D work, and it also seemed like a great way to learn how to use ZBrush. The upshot of not developing the idea further was that I had a lot of options when it came to how to use the finished model, but that advantage soon became a disadvantage when I got to the point where I needed a scene.
I had certain techniques in mind for the project that I knew I wanted to use, so in a way the project was an excuse to learn these techniques. First, I wanted a challenging organic model to create. I also wanted to use ZBrush for the model and the textures. I wanted to develop some UV techniques I had recently learned, and I wanted to feature sub-surface scattering in my materials. Furthermore, I wanted to develop my rigging skills a bit. And finally, I wanted to render to OpenEXR so I could make use of the exposure channel in post. I did accomplish all these goals and it made for an all-round crucial learning experience for me.
The base mesh was done in 3ds Max, and from there I went to ZBrush. The whole experience was a learning curve in ZBrush, but I was able to make good use of a variety of tools. First, the crab was reassembled as a tool with SubTools to help maximise the amount of detail I could add. I overdid it a bit, but I now know how to temper that and use SubTools better in the future. I used custom alphas with various combinations of strokes to do the sculpting. For the hairs I used a ZBrush stencil, created in Photoshop. I guess the other feature I used all the time was the Transpose tool. This animal was perfect for it and I had been certain to have an edgeflow conducive to this feature (and a rig) beforehand. One of the 21 SubTools is shown in Fig.01.
To paint each of my maps I used ZBrush again. Using all the aforementioned features, I completed the diffuse map first (Fig.02a). Then, for the greyscale maps (Fig.02b), it turned into an iterative process where, as I was creating my materials in Max, I'd return to ZBrush as needed to create SSS maps and specular maps and such (Fig.02c). Finally, the normal maps were exported from ZBrush, as usual, using the ZMapper (Fig.02d).