First of all, let me first introduce myself: my name is Nicolas Collings, I was born and raised in Belgium, I'm 25 years old, and I'm a character modeller who has just been hired by Ubisoft MontrÃ©al. The 3D sculpture that I'm going to talk about in this article was initially created for the challenge "Real-Life Cartoon" Speed Sculpting Challenge on the 3DTotal forums.
The theme for this challenge was simply to try and re-create a real-life cartoon character. Â I completed the bust in 4 hours (which was the time allocated for the challenge!), but I later decided to turn it into a final image, in order to practice my texturing and rendering skills. Â So I grabbed my file and worked on it again, and it took me about 1 day to finalise the image. Â Altogether, it was a very fast work, but I actually really enjoyed that aspect of it. Â And if you're wondering why I chose to recreate Wolverine, well it was easy: he's simply one of my favourite comic book characters of all time!
I usually start by creating a base mesh very simply, composing it of just a few hundred polygons only, but in this case we had to specifically use a given base mesh for the challenge. Â This way, everybody had the same base to start from. Â The time allocated for the modelling process, as I've already mentioned, was only 4 hours, and so to start things off I had to study my references very carefully. Â When I was ready, I fired up ZBrush, imported the base mesh, and got started on the digital sculpt!
There were some simple rules to follow, as you might expect: blocking the main masses and forms in first, to get the overall form looking correct from as early as possible; always setting the brush to a low intensity to avoid 'blobby' effects; being sure to go as far as possible in the current level before subdividing the geometry a step further; and finally, not being afraid to smooth out details in order to refine or rework an area. Â
On a higher level of subdivision, I started to add details on other layers. Â The system of layers is really efficient as it enables you to manage multiple layers of detail individually. Â You can make different tests directly onto the same model and afterwards decide which one you want to keep, or tweak the intensity of the layer for instance (Fig.01).
As you can see from Fig.02, I sculpted the initial bust in full symmetry. Â In my mind, I wanted it to be a digital sculpt concept that another artist could use as a reference, instead of using a typical 2D drawing with front and side views.Â After second thoughts, I decided to push it a bit further by adding some textures to get a final illustration look to it. Â To do so, I had to prepare a few things, which is what I'm going to talk about in the following sections of this article.
At this point I had a clean symmetrical bust, but in order to put some textures on it I had to un-wrap the UVs. Â To do this, I used 3ds Max. Â I exported the first level of my sculpt in my 3D application, un-wrapped it (Fig.03), and then re-imported the mesh back into ZBrush. Â At this stage I had my model with clean UVs, and still had all the levels of subdivision available. Â I could therefore now start to create the texture.
For the skin area on the face, I used a combination of projection master and the image plane plug-in. Â This helped me to project some photos of real skin samples onto the model. Â This technique is a really efficient way of quickly achieving a realistic look (check this video out if you're interested: (http://www.zbrushcentral.com/zbc/showthread.php?t=33715&highlight=ZBrush+Learning+Series
The leather suit was nothing fancy; I simply used Photoshop with a couple of leather and dirt map images. Â Once my texture was complete I applied it to my model inside ZBrush, in order to catch all of the micro details from the diffuse map on my model. Â To do this, I used a little option in the tool palette called "Mask by Intensity" (Fig.04). Â I pressed this button to mask all of the deep micro details. Â I then stored a morph target (Fig.05), and on a new layer I applied a general inflate of 5, followed by a smooth of 10 - about 4 times successively (see Fig.06).Â Then, since all the information had been added on a separate layer and because I stored a morph target, I was able to tweak the general intensity of the details, and I used the morph brush to tone down the area which was too inflated.
The final render was done in 3ds Max, so I also baked a displacement map, a cavity map and a normal map inside ZBrush.