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Making of 'The Skipper'

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Date Added: 13th January 2017


CG artist João Ferreira gives us a brief look at his ZBrush workflow for creating cartoon characters...


In this making of I will briefly go through my workflow for creating a cartoon character. I want to make a short film using a character so I decided to make the jovial skipper. I used 3ds Max, ZBrush, V-Ray, and Photoshop to create the finished illustration.

Step 01: References

Before I begin modeling I look for suitable references; for this character I have chosen to go with a big body so I have researched other large characters from some of my favorite films, including Kung Fu Panda, Despicable Me, and Wall-E. I try to look for references that reflect how I envision my character will look like when finished. Once I have gathered the references I make notes and work out the key features.


Step 02: Modeling

I start modeling in ZBrush with the DynaMesh feature to build up the basic forms of my character - from a simple sphere to a fully formed body, including the clothing.


Step 03: Retopology

Once I am happy with the overall shape I send it over to 3ds Max to work on the retopology. I weld the vertices and cut the edges until the mesh is how I want it.


Step 04: UV mapping

With the topology of the mesh sorted, I am able to unwrap the character to get UV maps using the Unwrap Modifier in 3ds Max.

UV maps

Step 05: Modeling details

I send the mesh back in to ZBrush so I can add texture and details such as pores, wrinkles, and deformations using a variety of brushes and alphas.

Facial details

Step 06: Painting the maps

Still in ZBrush, I paint different maps including diffuse map, sss weight, hair density, glossiness, normal map, specular, displacement etc. Then I export them to 3ds Max to combine and create the shading.



Step 07: Lighting

To light the character I use a simple three light setup in V-Ray. I used a V-Ray Dome light with an HDRi as the main light and two V-Ray Planes.

Lighting setup

Step 08: Shading

I use the basic VRayMtl shader to make the shading of clothes. I also use some falloff maps to give the fabric texture. For the skin I used a VRayBlendMtl with VRayFastSSS2 on the base layer and combined with two VRayMtls to make the glossiness (additive shellac mode).

V-Ray settings

Step 09: Grooming

For the arm and facial hair I used the 3ds Max Hair and Fur modifier. To make the hair look more realistic I used some diffuse maps on the hairs.


Step 10: Rigging

As I intend to make an animation with this character. I rig the skipper with some features that will facilitate the animation process. You can check out this on my rigging reel on my website.

Rigging the character

Step 11: Post Production

I render this project at 10k pixels which took a long time to be complete. In Photoshop I compose the final render with some render passes such as normal map of the scene (getting the red, green, and blue channels inside curves), reflection, glossiness, subsurface, ambient occlusion, and ZDepth. With the render passes put together I am finished.

Render passes


Related links

To see more of João's work check out his website
Feeling inspired? Grab a copy of Sculpting from the Imagination: ZBrush today!
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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Vahid on Tue, 24 January 2017 8:53pm
very good. thanks for your tutorial
Joao Victor 3d on Sun, 22 January 2017 9:25pm
thanks man!!!
Ricardo Guimaraes on Thu, 19 January 2017 10:36am
That's awesome! Incredible work, Joao!
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