This Joker model was actually in my head for a long time before I was able to create it. For about one year I didn't have the time for any personal projects, but this year I took ten days' breaks and happily started work on my vision of the Joker! Right from the beginning my goal was to create a slightly different look for Batman's enemy, the Joker, and I chose Glenn Fabry's "Die Laughing" artwork as the main source of inspiration for my own interpretation of the character.
Before I start modelling (and before I get my side views, front views and blueprints, etc.) I try to figure out how and where I can apply the materials in my artwork. When I'm sure, I start collecting references, as you can see from Fig.01, covering most of the areas of the model that I eventually want to texture. (Fig.01)
Base Mesh & Mapping
The base mesh was modelled and mapped in 3ds Max. When I start any new personal project, I always try to create proper mesh flow and mapping right from the beginning - it's easier and quicker in the later stages of work. In Fig.02 I have tried to mark in red some of the modelling mistakes which caused problems later on. The next problem I came across and figured out (when I decided to use my high poly model in the final render), was the UV layout. With the UV laid out, the textures were very small for each part of model - even 4096 resolution textures were hard to work with! For a better UV layout I had to separate the head, body, legs and arms, and I decided there that that would be enough mapping! When modelling, it's necessary to keep good topology. In my case, I had problems with the head where, in modelling stage, I lost details on the hair and mouth parts. It's also crucial to keep your mesh in quads, to avoid any problems. If more than four edges are connected to one vertex, it's a problem! (Fig.02)
ZBrush Modelling Tips
I used the Move and Clay brushes in ZBrush for the basic shapes. The Clay brush has nice organic surface and it's my favourite tool! For the veins I used the Standard brush with alpha and Lazy Mouse on step five. For small wrinkles, threads in the vest and similar details, I used the Pinch brush with alpha (Fig.3a - b). The Inflat brush was also used here in lots of places, for example on the folds in the trousers, on the hair, and on the wrinkles too. For skin pores and details, I found it good to use the Spray brush with a noise alpha.
Posing, Exporting and Normal Map Exporting
I used Transpose, Move and Rotate modes in ZBrush - it was quick and easy in the Joker's case! For the final render I exported a fourth object level (about 900K polys) to an OBJ file. To export the normal map I used the default setup "default_tangent_space" with the Seam overpaint and Sharpen parameters. The final normal map was 4096, and with a bump map combination it was adequate. (Fig.04)
Here you can see the setup of the layers used. I mostly used Overlay or Multiply blending modes. For the purpose of this Making Of I used the xNormal programme to bake Ambient Occlusion, but you can use ZBrush-generated displacement maps with high contrast. (Fig.05a)