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The making of 'Chubby The Unlikely Hero'

By Raul Tavares
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 7th July 2014
Software used:
Maya, ZBrush
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Raul Tavares introduces the Photoshop, ZBrush and Maya workflow used in the creation of his image Chubby The Unlikely Hero...


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As technology and software evolve at an unbelievable speed, the process of creating effective and realistic-looking 3D characters has become less arduous and technical, leaving more room for the creative and artistic side to bloom. No other software allows me to imagine the extraordinary and bring it to life in high definition quite like ZBrush does.

Although this is not a comprehensive tutorial on how I made Chubby, I'm still going to try and share as much of my thought process and workflow as I can without being too boring or technical. I would have to go into much more depth if I was to show you the entire workflow, but I believe that most of my thought and working process is here. I'll take you through my workflow without getting too technical, from gathering references and developing initial ideas, all the way through to the post-production stage.

The concept

I started Chubby as a personal project, with the intention of developing it into a game character for DOTA 2. That only came about because I was actually playing DOTA 2 when the idea hit me! After ending the match I thought, ‘Why not make a courier for the game?' I would love to see something stylized yet realistic; cute yet cunning with a bit of a cat personality to it, to carry my items around in the game!

Though that initial pitch and keywords mean nothing unless a good story and concept bring credibility to your character. So I wrote a small narrative to set my direction and went on to look for references to support it:

"Chubby is a very humorous little creature. When Alduur, the beautiful exotic forest hidden from the greed of man at the center of the world, was still a beautiful forest, populated by the most exotic wildlife, you would normally find Chubby diving after fish in the crystal clear waters or being chased after provoking the elder dragons.

His beautiful round shapes contrast with his hard skin and spiky horns. Wildlife in Alduur was not kind for the weak. Being able to blend into aquatic and green environments made him survive this long. Now he has a new purpose, a new life: helping heroes in the defense of the Ancients.”


So before starting anything else I went to look for reference. I knew I wanted to design a creature that would contain all the above characteristics and be somewhat of a reptile/amphibian/dragon-like creature – but other than that I was open to any design path.

To start things off I gathered photos of reptiles, amphibians, fish, elephants, dinosaurs and every kind of real world reference (even if it was just colors or a mood) that would help support my design choices (the imaginative and extraordinary). I call these references because they exist and are based on reality. After this I go and have a look at what I call inspiration: work from other artists.

I normally narrow my selection down to a single mood-board sheet that I can have a look at every once in a while to remind myself of my design considerations. After this is where the fun starts!

I give a lot of importance to story in my designs. It can be a simple pose, a facial expression or a little diorama but, everything that you put into your design needs to tell the viewer, with very little effort, all your intentions. When I thought of Alduur and all its wonders and beauty I knew I had to somehow incorporate this into Chubby's design, which translated into his beautiful round shapes and vivid colors.

Shaping your design in 2D

Now that our theme, story and the general traits of our character have been established, it's time to start looking for our character to come to life. Not every project starts the same for me, but for this one I wanted to start with some thumbnails to start figuring out some initial shapes and design choices before jumping into ZBrush.

At this very early stage, I normally think of a simple word that defines my whole thought process to inspire the design – contrast: curves against straights, big and small, pointy and rounded, and so on. It's also important that you allow yourself to iterate on your design, simply put because you will end up with a better final design that has more thought to it. Don't stress yourself too much with these as they serve merely as a guide and the design will change.

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Going through the different iterations allows you room for exploration and variety


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