Inspiration and research
When I first saw the works of 2d artist [www.cagedbeagle.com]
Dean Yeagle, I loved them and I decided I wanted to create a 3d model with that style. After some time I decided to start this character: Smanatha, trying to translate Dean's style into the 3d world, too see if it would look as good as it does it in 2d.
The idea of this project was not to create a 3d Mandy nor any of his characters, but to create a new character of my own, inspired on his style. For this reason, I started the project doing a research on his works, and I tried to keep the proportions and style he uses as much as possible.
Samantha was poly modelled using 3dsmax using. Modelling the body I had to be careful in keeping a good balance between not doing a too detailed or too cartonish body, but the edge topology wasn't to different compared with modeling a realistic body. The head was a little bit more tricky, as the cartoon style was much more visible (specially on the eyes), so I had to be careful not to make her head too "deformed" compared with a realistic head.
The brows, eyebrows and hair were also poly modelled. The hair was mostly done using a box and extruding them to give it shape. I did some big hair meshes covered with smaller ones, to give more volume, and the sensation that there were diferent layers of hair.
Some people have asked me about the clothes, so I think it's worth talking about them. I did a few diferent sets of clothes, as I wanted to show this character as an animatable one and not as a character done for only one image, and being able to change the clothes, made it more interesting for me.
The cloth is also poly modelled, and I usually use the same method to create all the cloth parts. Lets use the t-shirt as an example.
To start with it, I take an snapshot of the body and delete the parts that I wont need (in this case, legs, head and the lower part of the arms). I also apply a push modifier with a low value, just to make the cloth mesh grow a bit over the body, so its "floating" over it, and not collapsing it. Once I have this done, I can start deleting or simplifying some parts that I needed for the body mesh, but that I will not need for the cloth. In this case, I don't need the belly button to be shown, as I don't need things like the "hole" the vertebral column shows on the body. The breast zone can also be mostly deleted, specially the central zone, as a t-shirt will cover it and change the shape. We can also simplify the mesh a bit, if we need it during this phase, reducing the poly count in zones that dont need it.
Once I have this done, I usually start adding the cloth details, starting with the seams that cloth have. In this case we have 2 different kind of seams; the ones on the edges of the cloth (neck, arm holes and the lower hole), and the ones on the sides of the cloth that arrive to the neck and arms. These seams are also useful in the unwrapping phase, as they can be used to cut the cloth in diferent parts making it easier to unwrap. Making this seams is not hard, as we can use the topology we already have from the body, just moving it a bit to give it a more natural shape. With a few extrudes and chamfers we can build those structures.
Once we have that done, there's a very important thing to do to give "life" to the cloth, and it's adding the wrinkles. Wrinkles are a very important part of all clothing items, as they give realism to it, and they also give us information about the kind of material the cloth is made from. Depending on the cloth and on the shape of the body they are covering, wrinkle's shape, direction and size can change a lot. This can be seen very easy searching for some images of people wearing diferent kind of clothes. Making them is not hard, as we can cut the mesh as we want, breaking the quad structure, as breaking it will create wrinkles, and that's what we are looking for. I usually try to use the edges I already have to build the wrinkles when possible, and add some cuts/chamfers when I need more details.
There's an extra trick that can add realism to the clothes over a body, and that becomes more important in characters like this one, where we have the character both nude and with clothes on. The body shape change in some zones depending on what we are wearing. The easiest example are the breasts, their shape and position its completely diferent when wearing a bra or when not. In the same way, the panties or encircled trousers will press the sides of the legs, making the nude body shape change. Adding those details will add more realism to the cloth, making it seem that is really pressing the body and interacting with it, and not just floating over the body. As in this case I wanted both the body nude and with clothes versions, what I did was to create 2 morph targets with the shape that the breasts and the side of the legs would have with clothes on, so I had this morph targets of when the character was nude, and on when she had clothes on.
Textures and Materials
As with the modelling, I wanted a balance on texturing, not making it too real, but not making it too simple and cartoonish. I usually start the texturing work with real skin images to build a good base, so then I can paint over it adding different tones to different zones, and also adding details like freckles, spots, veins... In this case I thought all those spots and veins would add too much realism to the skin, so I avoided them. I also used some Photoshop effects like blur and the palette knife, to soft the texture a bit, giving it a bit more cartoonish look, but keeping a realistic base as I wanted.