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A 3D workflow

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Date Added: 20th November 2015

The talented Zhiji Zhang talks us through how he made the thought provoking Fratricidal Strife Idiom in ZBrush


Hi, all! I am so glad to share with you my workflow of the image Fratricidal Strife Idiom. The initial idea for this work came from a booklet describing of the Chinese Civil War in 1945. I made many attempts to express an environment that was cold, dry, and showed the war-torn ruins. Okay, let me introduce this whole process step by step. There are seven characters in this picture and a more complex background scene. The most challenging aspect of this piece was to show each character's inner thoughts and body language. I achieved this through lots of patience and trial and error.

Project folder management

Before I begin any project I create a general folder which I use to manage the project and the source material. Classifying and labeling also ensures that I can find everything quickly.

My project folder management

Sketching and conceptual design

I began to draw a few quick sketching to capture the feeling of this subject that was inside my head onto paper. There is no need to be too accurate, it is important to establish the main direction and feeling. The detailed refinement will be done in later steps using this sketch as a base.

Sketching and conceptual design

Reference collecting

With the basic concepts done, I started to go further to determine the subject matter of the specific years, location, characters and events. Using the internet I looked for lots of source material and information about the Civil War, including text, pictures and movies.

Reference collecting

Raw modeling

I started making raw models based on the references. For each character, I used the DynaMesh tool of ZBrush for rapid sculpting. I needed to sculpt each character and show their individuality including basic height, ages, and temperament. Besides this step there is no need to think about making the scene, just focus on the characters.

Raw modeling

Refining the models

I did some further refinement each character in ZBrush using the references to accurately capture of each character's feeling. I used 3Ds Max for lighting test in order to check on the model this helps to ensure the accuracy of the models physique and anatomy.

Refining the models

Auto retopology and UVs

I process the all topology automatically and use this as a start and do any corrections manually. With this done I spilt the final model in to UV maps. I use Unfold3d and UV tools of Maya for UV mapping. Once the UVs are unfolded I export them back into ZBrush to project the detailed high-poly model using the Project-All tool of ZBrush; I also perform some detailed revision and reworking.

Auto retopology and UVs

Making the scene and character integration

When making a scene there will be lots of small objects that take up more workload of your work load and are very time-consuming, have patience and you will get through them. I used the same production methods for the scene as with modeling the characters; build a basic framework and move on to refining the specific features. Once everything was sculpted I integrated the characters into the scene and moved them about until I found a good composition. This is also a good time to work on the lighting and color tone of the picture.

Integrating the characters in to the scene

Materials and lighting

I made the textures and mapping for the characters in MARI. First of all, I use the real picture for projecting drawing, then using hand-make drawing for more color and texture variation. The size of the texture is between 1024px and 4096px. I made them appropriately exaggerated based on the property of real textures. I wanted to show the atmosphere of the environment as dry, cold and dirty so I adjusted the skin color of the characters to have a bit of a purple flush. I used V-Ray for rendering as well as its area lights for lighting.

Characters materials

Scene lighting

Characters close-up

Making hair

The amount of work I had to do making the hair in this project was relatively large and complex. The cut hair on the ground and fibers of the clothes were all made in ZBrush. The characters' hair was made using Hairtix in 3Ds Max.

The hair

Post production and final image

I do the post production step inside Photoshop. Several raw channels are exported by 3DsMax, including ID, AO, Z-depth, color and so on. Using these channels, I made the background combination and the overall atmosphere of the picture. I think that color correction is the most important step of the post production process followed by lighting and enhancing materials.

Post production

The final image

Related links

Head to Zhiji's website for more of his amazing work
Looking to for textures? Have a rummage through our free textures library
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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Arnab on Sat, 21 November 2015 4:28pm
Very good project overview , covers all the stages in a short but sweet fashion, its not a tutorial though.
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