The first thing I do when I create a character is to define proportions. Looking at references is very important at this stage and I recommend working with a low resolution model. I use the Move tool and Move brush a lot, paying close attention to volume and shape. I think this is one of the most important steps if you’re trying to create a believable and anatomically-correct character.
When I say anatomically, I’m not referring to the muscle position or their shape or their names; I’m refering to the shapes generated by them. Basically the silhouette assumed by body parts.
Often when artists approach character modeling, digital sculpting and anatomy studies, too much attention is given to the shape of a single muscle and this causes your model to look bumpy and rigid. The common error, in my opinion, is to study flat muscular system images from anatomy books that show the shape and position of muscles. The problem here is that looking at such images doesn’t give us the exact perception of the shapes generated by muscles in 3D space. So being aware of this when using such references will help a lot. Unless you are making a bodybuilder or superhero here is my advice: try to reproduce the overall shape generated by the muscles rather than working muscle by muscle. Try to reproduce that fleshy feeling.
For 90% of the sculpting process I use the Clay and Claytubes brushes. I think that those brushes are very cool to sculpt organic shapes with. Combine such brushes with wise use of the Smooth brush and you can get some really nice effects.
Another very important thing is the character’s pose. I tend to avoid the basic T pose and try to make a rigger-friendly pose instead, making sure it’s naturalistic. I don’t like rigid-looking characters. I prefer to bring down the arms to 45 degree angles as this helps to get a relaxed pose. Try to gently lift your arms up to 45 degrees using only your shoulder muscles. Leave your arms soft and your wrists without life… and that’s it! In this way your character will have relaxed shoulders, dangling hands that give a light rotation to the forearm and the elbows will be bent, which helps to better define the arm and forearm shape.
Next I start to establish general proportions by doing a lot of tests. At the same time I change the pose to make it more convincing. If the character is going to be dressed then I won’t pay much attention to the features of the body, but only create simple shapes and proportions. I like to do tests at this time because then no one will see my weird results… unless they ask me to write a Making Of!
Here are the sculpting proportions for this model (Fig.04).