Freelance character artist David Rodriguez de la Orden takes us through his workflow for creating characters in ZBrush...
Hello everyone! I am David de la Orden and I am currently working as a freelance character artist. This is the workflow for my latest project based on one of Marko Djurdjevic's concepts. I used ZBrush, Maya, Photoshop, Substance Painter and Mudbox. I hope that you find useful tips and that it may help you somehow. Thanks for your time!
Step 01: Concept overview and gathering references
The first step for any project is to analyze the concept and try to understand how it will work in 3D, what materials the accessories are made of and how the character would use them. When I have a good idea of how I will approach the concept I start collecting references of all the relevant bits; in this case I looked for weapons, leather clothing, and images of female models and bodybuilders.
Image board I created for my references
Step 02: Blocking
I start blocking in the body from a ZSphere in ZBrush
using DynaMesh, I continue to build and refine the body and face until I find the right proportions and a silhouette that pleases me, then I start to model the hair, clothing, and accessories. I model most of them with Maya
which is especially good for hard surface items like the shovel and the knife.
Process of the character blocking
Step 03: Retopology and UVs
With the body and accessories modeled I move on to the retopology. For items that don't need edges flow or have any sharp forms, I just use ZRemesher - this is good for achieving a nice polycount in the lowest division without losing the main shape. This can be achieved by tweaking the ZRemesher controls in ZBrush, such as Target Polygons Count for lower number of polygons and Adaptive Size for a better looking topology. For things that require a refined topology and edge flow, such as the body, I use the Quad Draw in Maya.
With good topology sorted I can start to unwrap the UVs, I prefer to use Maya for this. I find it is a good idea to delete faces that will not appear as it makes things a lot easier. After I open every single item, I organize the UV sets; I made four of them.
Step 04: Detailing and baking maps
The UVs make the detailing process very easy. I use Noisemaker from ZBrush with brushes and alphas to emphasize details such as pores and wrinkles on the skin, leather fabric and fabric folds. Another cool trick is to use the layers for each feature you want to add to your detailing. When I'm done with the details, I bake the normal and displacement maps using the Multi Map Exporter. The image below shows my settings for baking.
Step 05: Posing and texturing
I use Transpose Master for posing, it's a very intuitive tool, but you should be careful not to distort your model while rotating or moving it. I always try to locate the joints of the bones when rotating; this gives a more natural look to the pose and the model.
For me adding texture is the most important step after sculpting. I use Photoshop
and Substance Painter
for all my texturing needs. For the skin I used the layer system inside Mudbox so I could control the skin tones more easily.
Step 06: Hair and rendering
To create the hair I use nHair in Maya. I made the overall shape of the hair with FiberMesh inside ZBrush and then export the curves to convert them into nHair. I use V-Ray
Mtl_Hair as the hair shader.
I use V-Ray for rendering. I use one front light, one back light and an HDRi for global illumination. The background is a bended plane that bounces a little bit of the light. With the rendering complete my take on the concept is finished.
To see more of David's work check out his blog
Looking for inspiration? Grab a copy of Sketching from the Imagination: Characters today!
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