Talented 3D artist, Esteban Pacheco describes the workflow behind his 3D creation, Chef Eric, from the sketching stage through sculpting, mapping, linear workflow, rendering and post-production
Chef Eric is one of the 4 main characters of The Fine Diner, a final modeling project I did at school a few years ago. Since then, I've wanted to texture and render one of the characters and I decided to go with Chef Eric.
For me, the main purpose of this project was to create a render, so my workflow doesn't really apply to games or animation, and it certainly was more of an experiment for me than a process. Also, I took this project as a texturing and rendering challenge and to push myself to learn new software and techniques, so a lot of my time on this project was spent on research and going through tutorials online.
Here's a breakdown of the process:
2. Modeling: Maya, 3ds Max and ZBrush
3. UV Mapping: UVLayout and 3ds Max
4. Texturing: Mari and Photoshop
5. Rendering: V-Ray in 3ds Max
6. Post-production: Photoshop
As you can probably tell, I went all over the place with this character and so keeping track of all the steps was essential. I'll be going through each phase of my workflow and hopefully you can find something useful along the way…
Before opening your 3D application, it's always important to spend some time collecting reference online, and roughing out your concept with simple sketches. If you feel like doing so and have the time for it, you can go ahead and create a quick color concept that allows you to understand your character better and will help you decide the color scheme for the texturing phase early on.
Of course, you will make changes to the design once you're modeling your character, and that's perfectly okay! For example, you might find that you want to add (or remove) stuff, change the shape or move things here and there; but sketching your concept serves as a very helpful first step in any project.
Rough sketches inspired by research conducted online
Taking one of those sketches further and adding color
In the 3D software, I modeled a base mesh in Maya which I then brought into ZBrush and started sculpting away. This is the part when things started getting fun since this is where you work on the overall look of your character.
The first stages of sculpting
Sculpting in ZBrush
A mistake I normally made when I first started using ZBrush was to subdivide the mesh way more than I needed before I was even done with the main shapes. I found myself sculpting at these high levels and I spent a lot of time trying to fix things. So my advice is that you should start at the lowest level and only add more levels when you really need to. Obviously towards the end you might have to add a couple more levels to add very fine details, but it's important to max out every level before you move on.
Also, if you're, for example, at level 5 and find yourself wanting to change the general shape of the body, you can come back down to level 3 or 2 and do so. That's what makes ZBrush (and all other multi-level sculpting apps out there) so special, and this is one of its core advantages.
Anyway, back to the body. The brushes I used for this stage were the Standard, Clay, Move and Smooth brushes. I also did some basic sculpting on the torso because I needed to use that main shape as a base for the clothing.
Refining the model in ZBrush
Modeling the accessories
After the basic body sculpt was done, I exported it at level 2 from ZBrush and brought it into Maya to model the clothes and props. They were kept simple since most of the modeling work would be done in ZBrush.
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Modeling the accessories in Maya