In this article, I will be writing about the high poly character creation of my demon centaur, from the conceptual phase to the final render. He was made for a 3D character competition about warriors.
I chose to make a demon centaur and challenge myself with trying to make a half-horse, half-demon work well together. Although I actually sculpted the character using Mudbox, I will talk you through it in ZBbrush as I have more experience with this program and it will probably make for a more informational tutorial!
Since I entered the competition a month late, I had some serious catching up to do so I chose not to sketch a concept and rely more on my references and freestyle modeling. Either way I can't stress how essential it is to have some sort of concept to guide you through as it will save you time in the long run (Fig.01).
Obviously I had to study horse anatomy to get the muscles and bone structure right. Even if you're not going for a realistic animal, you still need to have the foundation so that your creature seems believable. At first I wanted to make the lower body resemble a bull, but I thought he would look too short and stalky once the armor was on. Always be mindful of the next step; this is why a basic concept makes it easier as it reduces the guess work. I tried a couple of variations of horns and armor, which I would quickly paint over in Photoshop (after modeling the base of the body) and settled on a design. I wanted to make him kind of wrinkly, but not old-looking, and feel pretty heavy.
When I start sculpting, I generally start with just a box and an extrusion for the neck. I don't bother with the edge loops at first because I will just retopologize it in 3ds Max when I'm done roughing the form. You can achieve a much more natural look this way and it is also a much more intuitive and artistic way to work.When sculpting in a package like Mudbox, ZBrush or 3D-Coat it is important to sculpt the form in each of the subdivision levels until that specific level can't take any more detail. If we don't do that we will start getting lumps and they will be harder to get rid of. Also the shapes will be harder to manage. Rule of thumb: make big edits in lower levels and put details on higher levels (Fig.02).
For this image I started by using the Move tools to search for form and from time to time I put a black flat material on the model to see how the silhouette read as it is very important to get a dynamic feel to translate into your model. After roughing my proportions out, I started to add muscles using something like a Clay brush. The hard edges make it easy to define the muscles. Also you can pinch and smooth to get the desired effects.To make the wrinkles I used the Dam Standard brush and Inflate brush around it. A wrinkle is not only a cut; it is also the fleshy-fatty bit around it that causes a shadow (Fig.03).
Last, but not least, I used alphas or stencils (Mudbox) to add details. You can make your own by desaturating an image, playing with the contrast and making a black radial falloff around it (Fig.04 - 05).