I've always loved the mariners Blizzard made for Starcraft and this was my main inspiration when creating this image. I also like using a realistic cartoon style, so I thought to myself: how can I mix these elements and make the image funny?
I sketched a fish-like human who needs a special suit that he wears when out of the water (Fig.01). The water pistol is to add a comical element. I wanted to make it very clean and colorful to contrast with the rest of the scene and make it more noticeable.
I started this image in 2008 and through a lack of ideas at the time I stopped working on the image until beginning of this year. Of course after two years I had a different idea and changed the concept. My work friends also gave me a lot of ideas that helped me to improve the image. I think it is essential to listen to the thoughts of others as they always have different visions that can add something to your work.
No special techniques were used to make this image. The software I used was ZBrush to do the model and texturing. The head and body were done with standard box modeling in 3ds Max. ZSpheres are a quick way to make base meshes, so I used them to give me an idea of the overall form of the head. With the form done I sketched some details, like gills (Fig.02).
The next step was the re-topology, so I could work with a better mesh that could be adjusted more accurately. I exported the high poly base mesh back into Max and used 3D Max Graphite Modeling tools to reconstruct a new mesh over the old one.
After making the UV mapping of this new mesh, I sent it back to ZBrush so I could work on the details and textures (Fig.03).
The armor was a little trickier because it had to be a mixture of realism and cartoon. I took a lot of references from Blizzard's mariners, but I didn't wanted the Fish Man to look as strong as them. That's why I left the arms uncovered, showing a thin silhouette.
He had a cartoony look, but it was also my intention to give him a sort of realistic appearance, so I got to work on the details of his armor. The armor needed to look functional, so I created some breathers and showed how it would be assembled if it were to really exist. I started with a very simple base mesh for the body, to have a better idea of its proportion, and then I modeled the main parts low poly until I had the overall proportion. After that I went into the details, making the junctions and assets I mentioned before (Fig.04).
I imagined the Fish Man coming out of a swamp on a cloudy afternoon and the environment being very humid. The swamp wasn't difficult to model at all; I got some trees from Archmodels and deleted the leaves, so the hardest part of the scene model was already done. My aim was to position all the trees the right way, so they could be seen in front of the armor and the light could pass through the trees, making natural illumination. To do this I had to put the trees all around the character (Fig.05).