Experienced Triple-A character artist shares his 3D sketchbook which takes inspiration from current affairs, popular culture and the day to day world to bring characters to life...
My sketchbook is usually full of both separate character pieces like heads and arms, as well as fully posed characters. These usually go on to become high-poly models for in-game meshes and normal map baking.
Although at this stage these are just sketches, I focus on mastering anatomy and on my use of modeling tools. Sketching is the perfect way to develop these skills at the same time. It's fast, efficient and fun.
Another cool thing about sketching is how quickly I am able to materialize the idea that sits in my head, struggling to get out. Saying that, there are often more ideas in my head than the physical time to try it on the digital canvas. Fortunately with 3D sketching, you don't need to mess with a lot of UVs, texturing and other stuff; with just a little bit of love it will look decent.
I also really like old good matte renders made in one gray material with some specular. There is a little bit of 3D magic in it, and when you make all the textures, eventually all this magic disappears and transforms into something totally different.
A stereotypical Latino gangster character
A Chechen warlord which was inspired by a news article
Inspiration and ideas
I am the kind of person who likes to observe everything: people, buildings, vehicles. Looking at the details of the world around me is an infinite source of inspiration. I often take pictures on the street with my phone camera if I see someone whose face I find interesting, or spot interesting details on service trucks.
The main way I explore ideas in 3D is through playing with form and surfaces. It doesn't matter if something is organic or hard surface, it's all about the form and surface.
The bust of a middle-aged man
Another female character design
For my work, I use a common set of main tools. For base meshes and hard-surface modeling I use 3ds Max. I tried different programs, but found that this one fits me best, and with the newer versions, it's more powerful than ever. For post-production, Photoshop is simple and efficient. ZBrush is best for the miracle of digital sculpting. Believe me, it's pure magic!
A soldier girl from the near future
A middle-range pathfinder character
My sketching workflow is pretty simple. I begin with a base mesh with more or less clean topology made in 3ds Max. For me, a base mesh with clean topology makes for a clean sculpt. With the latest ZBrush version and ZRemesher and DynaMesh tools, there is no need to be aware of the topology as the program does the math for you. Everything can be made inside ZBrush with more or less no switching between different software, making things much quicker with the same quality. Once the sculpt is done, I use BPR render in ZBrush or KeyShot, then finish the composition and post-production in Photoshop.
Turntable views of a Taliban warrior
Uncle Sam high-poly model created for a ComiCon 2010 contest
Check out Costin Vladislav's website
Grab a copy of ZBrush Characters & Creatures