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Bringing Martha to life

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Date Added: 2nd May 2016

The talented Ricardo Manso shows how he made the quirky Martha using Maya


In this making of I will show how I made "Martha". I will talk a little bit about my workflow and the different stages of the character. I also will show how it was modeled, textured, illuminated, shaded and the final composition.

Step 01: The concept

Martha was commission for martee - a start-up disseminating listings for individual and real-estate professionals. They asked me to create a female character called Martha, she is the official blogger of martee. They gave me a description of her personality, with a little history and background, and what they thought she should be. With all this information I started to block some shapes that translated all that information. It was collaboration between the client and me, and I think it came out very well.

Step 02: Modeling

The client old me that Martha is a 30 something, from France, Paris; upper-middle class and single. She also has a good education, is a positive person, funny, independent, little bit eccentric, dynamic, creative, and clever woman. With all this information I could get started on the modeling process, along with some reference images. She would not be a perfect woman; she should be a little bit chubby with great curves.

A collection of reference images to represent all of Martha's traits

Step 03: Blocking

With all that information I started to block in the shapes that best reflected all of her physical and psychological characteristics; I tried to keep it simple. I started with a clean topology and then just used the Move and Standard brushes to get the right proportion and shapes. We wanted her to be a little bit chubby, not too much. She isn't the perfect woman so to stylize her we increased the head and made the arms a little bit smaller. She is funny and cute so we made bigger eyes and a smaller nose. The hair was a very important element of the composition; the client wanted Martha to be curly redhead. I blocked the hair out in ZBrush with just simple shapes so I could use Geo Maya hair 2 Plug-in later on.

Blocking in Martha characteristics

Step 04: Clothing and props

The clothes and all the props were a very important part of the character's background; her history - who she is and what she wants. She also needed to have a girly look. She should also convey knowledge, modernity, and a little bit of eccentricity. The clothes were made in Marvelous Designer and the props in Maya; then all were given detail in ZBrush. As she will be seen on a website, which already has a set background color (purple) I had to carefully match the clothing and props as best I could to fit nicely with the existing colors.

Making the clothing and props

Step 05: Detailing

When I finish blocking out all the shapes, I started to add the details, followed by the texture; because she is young I did not need to go crazy with texturing the face, with those added I moved on to painting. I usually like to paint skin in at least three layers of color because for me it has more color variation and appears more realistic. Firstly I painted in some veins - reds, dark blue and some dark greens, this layer represents the hypodermis layer. The second layer represents dermis layer, and I used skin base color with the Spray brush (with an Alpha). The third layer, epidermis, is for accentuating the highlights and the shadowed areas, freckles, and small skin irregularities.

Painting Martha's face

The clothing work was mostly done because I used Marvelous Designer. I just had to create some wrinkles to make it more believable. For the finer details of the fabric, I used some Bump maps created from some images that I also use for the Diffuse map.

Adding believability to the clothing

Step 06: UV's and export

Because this was not for production, I made UV's in ZBrush. I just open the SubTool, go to ZPlugin > UV master, then click 'Work on Clone'. I made Polygroups in my geometry where I wanted to cut the UV's and it made quite good job. Then I used Multi Maps Exporter plug-in in ZBrush to bake all the maps that I needed and they were: AO, cavity, displacement (32bits), normal and color. With these ones, I went to Photoshop and created a few more maps every time I needed.

My UVs

Step 07: Import to Maya

I imported everything in to Maya and made the shaders. I used Arnold to render; for the skin I used aiSkin, aiStandard for the clothing and the props, and aiHair for the hairs. For the hair I used Geo Maya hair 2 Plug-in, and because I already had modeled the hair in ZBrush it was quite easy to get the right hairstyle.

Giving life to the hair

Step 08: Pose

To find the perfect pose for Martha I made a simple rig, this allowed me to test different poses to reflect the right attitude. For the face I used Blendshapes. I sculpted the different faces in ZBrush and imported to Maya.

Posing the face

Posing the body

Step 09: Light

The light was quite simple; I used mainly area light. Two back lights and one key light. I also used a card so it could bounce same light and SkyDome with HDR image.

Lighting setup

Step 10: Render

My final passes are rendered in 32bit exr file, so I could have more control and more of a color range to work with. For the final composition I mainly used the Beauty, Z-depth and AO passes. I usually render more passes just to make small retouches. I also made some color adjustments and some refinements.

Clay render

The wireframe

The final image

Related links

Have a look at more of Ricardo's work here
Check out Ricardo's other awesome redheaded making of - the twins
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