The first thing I needed to do was to pre-plan my project. This was important because my main focus was on my character modelling reel, and so I wanted to make the image work from all angles and be able to move. With these goals in mind, I firstly needed to create a rough concept drawing. I used a lot of references and research materials, which I found from the Internet and books, and watching documentaries was also useful. I left the concept (Fig.01) rough and simple, so that I had the freedom to modify it later on.
The first thing I do when creating a model is to prioritise the function and reason behind the work. That's why I focused on the effective line flow of the mesh in this piece. Evenly spaced polygons are your best bet! I don't use special techniques when I'm modelling, and since I wanted to animate this character, I had to start out with a neutral pose first of all so that I could then move it with my bone rig.
My model was separated into 3-4 parts (Fig.02). The first part was the deformable organic geometries, like the head, body, hand, and flippers; second was the diving suit and equipment; third were the additional accessories, such as the gun, etc. The key was to keep things simple and organised.
Once I was satisfied with certain details, I started to UV-unwrap my character. Basically, I grouped four different materials, so I unwrapped them separately (Fig.03). I used both native XSI unwrap and Roadkill. Roadkill is a freeware that you can get from this website: http://www.pullin-shapes.co.uk/page8.htm. Basically, it can unwrap your model automatically by just selecting the cutting points, and I use this as my XSI plug-in.
At this stage, I needed to take my model into ZBrush for further detailing. I didn't want to sculpt all the geometry I had; I only sculpted the parts that were worth being sculpted, in particular the deformable or soft parts (Fig.04). In ZBrush, I used an elastic brush to create wrinkles on the diving suit. The deformation in the tools option, such as inflate, was very useful in creating some symmetrical and non-organic shapes. It was important to pay attention to balance of the details; I didn't want to concentrate in just one area. I imported the diving suit's hard armour so that I could preview the overall look, when necessary.
With regards to the head (Fig.05), this was one of the crucial parts of this piece; the head of your characters will most likely become the main focus of expression, and so with this in mind I had to use references for my character. In my case, I used a Hollywood actor's face as my reference. I used different alpha and drag brushes to create the pores on the face, and you can even create custom alpha brushes for this task! I used Zmapper to create the normal map, after I was finished with the sculpting.