In this Making Of I'm going to show you an overview of the workflow I used for my Monk model. I'll try to share the interesting parts about this project and I hope you can pick up some tricks and find what I say useful.
I wanted to create a medieval character in armor; that was all I knew when I started this project. When I'm working on a personal project I usually don't use a refined concept because I like to figure out everything in 3D. This model started as a sketch in a program called Alchemy (Fig.01), which I like to use to explore random ideas and develop concepts. The concept later developed into a story during the modeling process. My idea was that they decapitated this character for his sins and locked his head in this metal cage that kept it alive for eternity as punishment.
After I'd created a very simple base mesh (Fig.02), I started sculpting in Zbrush. I was not worried about the topology at all since I knew at some point I was going to have to retopologize the whole thing. So I started with basic shapes, working from big to small. I was focusing on the silhouette of the model rather than the inner details. In ZBrush there is a really good way to view the silhouette; just press V and this changes the color of the model to black (if it doesn't have polypaint on).
At this stage I used mainly the Move, Standard and Clay brushes to give some definition to the face. For the hard surface of the armor I used the Trim Dynamic and Move brushes to get the main shape and the Hpolish brush with alpha 18 to refine those shapes. The Trim Dynamic and Hpolish brushes are great for building up planes. Now I had the concept sculpt in ZBrush and the basic idea was down (Fig.03).
At this point I started gathering references from various websites to support my ideas. I like medieval mythology very much and I wanted to create something dark and eerie from that era and, of course, Warhammer always has an influence on me. I was not only looking for images but stories, symbols and bible quotes that I thought could fit the model. I watched some movies at night too to help me find some inspiration. I was searching for photos of armor and special, characteristic faces that stood out to me and that I could maybe implement on the model. I think it's a good idea to collect references before jumping into serious modeling so you won't get distracted later. For example, by looking at images of worn metal I was able to achieve a more realistic result than by just working from my imagination.
High Poly Modeling and Sculpting
Before jumping into sculpting I retopologized the concept sculpt with Topogun, which is easy to use and fast. This topology was far from perfect, but was really fast. The main purpose of this was to support the high poly details I was going to add, so this mesh had pretty much evenly distributed quads. After this I started to make the final high poly model.
Sculpting the Face
When sculpting I always work from low subdivision level to high and I don't divide until the main forms are done. This workflow helps me to not get carried away with the details. First, on a low level, I established the main features and planes of the face, using mostly the Trim Dynamic brush for the planes and the Clay brush for the forms.
Then I used the Pinch brush with a small alpha and the brush modifier slider slightly turned up to establish the sharp edges of the mouth and nose, for example. On this model in particular I wanted to hide the eyes so this would add to the mysterious feeling of the character. I wanted him to have a strong expression of decay, hate and pain.
Even if only the lower parts of the face were visible, I sculpted the rest of his face to a degree because this way it was easier to keep the proportions right. I tried to look at the model from all directions and extreme angles to search for my mistakes. I used the Pen Shadow brush for the wrinkles. Depending on your stroke this tool can give a very fluid line or a wrinkle-like effect.
At the last stage of refining I went over the whole face using the Inflate brush with gravity at 100, adding volume to the crevices. This is very useful for organic stuff. For the deep cuts, where forms overlap, I used the Dam Standard brush and the Move tool with masks.
The final stage was to add high frequency detail with alphas using the drag rectangle stroke or just sculpt the imperfections with the Clay brush. When all this was done I added a new layer to the face and created the facial expression. This way I had the sculpt with and without the facial expression and later I could easily switch between the two.
Sculpting the Armor
My main workflow for sculpting the armor was the same as for the face, gradually working from low res to high, trying to make interesting shapes. I wanted it to be angular because I think those kind of shapes look more aggressive. I used the Trim Dynamic brush for defining the main planes, the Hpolish brush to fine tune those and the Mah polish brushes to make them even cleaner. (The Mah polish brushes were made by Mahlikus The Black and you can get them here
When I work on hard surface stuff I often switch to the Smooth Directional tool so I can control which details I want to get rid of while keeping the edges. After I was satisfied with the main shape of the armor, I retopologized it again. In 3ds Max I corrected the angles of the planes that I could not get precise enough in ZBrush and added a few edges to control them.
After the main part of the armor was done I added wear and tear to the edges using the Trim Dynamic brush with alpha 18. I sculpted the surface details using various custom alphas (Fig.04). Detailing with the alphas was not the final result; I always refine the effect with the Clay brush, making it deeper and more unique where needed. I made the scratches with the Pen Shadow brush on low intensity. Now it looked old and worn. I made the rivets with the Layer brush using an alpha.
The additional parts of the armor, like the skulls and cross for example, were modeled in 3ds Max and sculpted in ZBrush. I kept adding these to the model, making it look more and more detailed.