I started this piece with something as simple as a Z-sphere (Fig.01a). Playing with the Symmetry tool, an idea was born (Fig.01b)! Z-spheres are simply awesome! They allowed me to build the body of my concept in the fastest way - ever (Fig.01c) - and with a clean mesh, too (Fig.01d)! The UVs were done in 3ds Max, and I added the left arm and the hat before starting to sculpt the details (Fig.01e).
Once I'd imported my Subtools (Fig.02a), I got sculpting (Fig.02b)! I still didn't know at this stage how the final picture was going to look ... but ZBrush allowed me to change anything at any time - very quickly (Fig.02c)! So I started looking for a cool facial expression; I knew this was going to be the most important thing to have in a fun image (Fig.02d - e)!
I did the texturing using the poly painting technique in ZBrush - it's a great tool for achieving something quickly (Fig.03)! I could then make tweaks later on in Photoshop, using the normal map, displacement and cavity to get something more accurate, and to add extra details. I usually paint with the "Toy plastic" shader - it keeps the colours true, and I got good specularity and bump. You can paint fast with the colour spray mode and some alphas; i love beginning the texture work in ZBrush because you don't have seams to worry about and you see the result directly on the hi-res mesh!
The same thing was done for the other objects in the scene, except that some were done in Max with the good old poly modelling technique, starting from a box (Fig.04). When I don't want to spend too much time on my UVs, I use the automatic mapping in ZBrush. If your model is very low poly it's usually not so bad, and with the poly painting there are no seam issues!
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