I tried to stay as close as possible to the given reference (Fig01), which was just a ¾ sketch depicting the main proportions, with some details here and there, and the colour scheme for texturing. Not having an overly detailed sketch is good for me, since it allows more room for personal touches and pushes me to figure out visual and mechanical detailed solutions, whilst still keeping the overall feeling unaltered. I immediately recognised three kinds of elements that I had to deal with: a generic male body covered with a dark grey under suit; a dark-blue, light, rubber armour; and a metallic, light-blue, heavy armour. My modelling workflow was therefore bound to these priorities. Firstly, the body, which sets the figure proportions, would later on have to be covered with armour, and so with this in mind, and a tight deadline to reach, I took a generic, male model which I have made previously and started changing his proportions using the Free Form Deformation Box and Soft Selections (Fig02).
As you can see, I left the facial features and most of muscle definition undefined, because those parts were supposed to be covered by armour. Soft Selection is an extremely valuable tool for quickly tweaking proportions, just be sure to also select the Edge Distance, with an appropriate value in its roll-out menu, to achieve a much more localised control of the Falloff. As you will notice in Fig03, I also made large use of the Symmetry modifier during the modelling process, and used Turbo Smooth with 2 levels of subdivision set constantly at the top of the stack. By assigning a short-cut to the "show end result on/off” button you can easily model at step zero and immediately see the overall, smoothed result by pressing a button (I use the space bar, for example). Once I was satisfied with the general proportions of the body under the armour, it was time to proceed; covering the body with metal plates. Of course, the dark-blue ones were applied first since they are seen closest to the body, followed by the light-blue plates.
No special techniques were used here, and once again the modelling was in subdivision with the very same stack as shown in (Fig03).
I usually start with a single quad, and then extrude the edges all around, trying to stay close with the volumes and shapes of the given reference. There was a lot of turnaround of the meshes; you need to observe the volumes from almost every possible point of view to be sure that the volumes and shapes are solid, and of course you must also be aware not to not go too far away from the body underneath. When satisfied with the general volume, a Shell modifier helped me to give thickness to the piece. In this phase, I tended not to bother too much about every single rivet, hole
or cut; I simply tried to develop a good quad topology of the main volumes.
Of course, the topology is achieved by taking count of the main cuts and holes, but the rest can be easily done with a normal map or a bump map - it's up to you to decide whether a single detail is worth being modelled or put into a Bump map. I usually adopt comfortable criteria, which means that if something looks tricky to me, whether to be carved or extruded into an existing geometry, then I usually put it into a Normal map. When you make something for production you don't usually have enough time to model everything, so you need to set your priorities.
As you can see in Fig04 - 11 a lot of cuts are not currently modelled at this point, but have been done with a Bump map.
So basically, all the modelling followed this workflow, and most of the detailing, as you can see, has been left to my own imagination (and has been a lot of fun!). After modelling all of the armour I then modelled, in Subdivision, some folds on the body underneath, in areas where they were more visible, like the middle of the arms and the backs of the knees. This presentation of renders was done in Mental Ray; the material is a simple Mental Ray SSS fast skin material, whilst the lighting is just a couple of Photometric Area lights and a back Omni light with Final Gather turned on (Fig12 - 14).
Basically, texturing-wise, I divided the mesh by materials, which means that every material shared its unique texture sheet, with very few exceptions. Every piece of mesh therefore needed to be UV edited to achieve this. I found the use of Pelt mapping to be very convenient - and the best choice - for complex shapes like these. After UV editing I usually render a template of the UV (after subdividing the mesh at least at step 1) so that I have a base to paint over the diffuse texture. (Fig15 - 16) shows the rendered texture sheet for the metal armour material and the rubber armour material.
The diffuse texture is a mix of photorealistic metal textures, and painted rust and dirt. For this I used a free brush collection made by Andreas Byström (www.ericknelson.com/wurp/dirtbrushes.abr)