Check out how Sudhan L. created his Crimson Pink character with ZBrush and Photoshop, offering some useful hints and tips...
Read along for a quick 10-step overview of how I combine 3D sculpts and digital painting to make a finished pinup-ish illustration! For this tutorial/overview you'll need ZBrush and Photoshop. (As much as the title and intro sound like a recipe for some exotic dessert, I promise it isn't!)
Step 1: The sculpt: phase 01
Start from a sphere, basemesh, kitbash, whatever works for you! Gather up those references and spend most of your time establishing the volumes and proportions at this phase of the sculpt. It's always a good idea to work from larger shapes and to let that trickle down into smaller shapes as you go. In this case I started from a low-res Dynamesh sphere.
Take the sculpt as far as you can before breaking symmetry
Step 2: The sculpt: phase 02
Once you have dialed in as much of the design as you can with symmetry, it's time to pose the model and refine any artifacts that might have produced. In this case she was posed with the help of Transpose Master. Also I was testing out the custom matcap I've now come to use for base-sculpts, but in this case with a super pronounced cavity transition and color bump to get those crisp edge definitions without spending time sculpting them. And it works!
It helps to keep in mind the camera view you want to have for the final image
Step 3: Render passes
This is one of my favorite parts of the process; setting up the lighting, BPR filters, etc., to get the base-sculpt closer to where I want to take the illustration. Sidenote, of course you could use other rendering solutions if you don't prefer ZBrush's rendering system! (Personally, I love it!) If you're not fully certain which passes you'd need, try them all out! It'd help understand how you can mix and match them, and if you don't need one you can always discard it later.
One other thing to check at this point is the document size (affects perspective distortion) inside ZBrush. For test renders I keep the document size at the default resolution but once the render parameters are dialed in, I'd resize the document to better present the illustration.
If you have not tried out the ZBrush to Photoshop CC plug-in yet, do it now!
Step 4: Compositing in Photoshop
Using the ZBrush to Photoshop CC plug-in will automate the process of rendering and exporting all the selected render passes, import them all as layers inside one document and organize them as groups. Like all the base color layers in one, the lighting passes in another, shadow/AO passes in yet another and so on! If you need any passes that aren't in the plug-in you could always render and export it manually and load that into the Photoshop document.
After that's done, it's time to start messing about with blending modes and comping the various passes to fine tune the render. Usually my focus here is to fine tune the colors to have a good starting point for when I begin the paintovers. As a general guide for comping passes use additive modes (Screen, Linear Dodge, etc) for lighting/specular passes, and multiply/darken (sometimes Soft Light works too) for shadowy passes!
Step 5: Liquefy time!
After fine tuning the colors, lights, and shadows in the render, duplicate the group with all the layers and merge down the group. This will make further manipulations on the render much simpler!
Once you have the model posed, framed and composited the way you want it, you may want to nudge around the shapes and proportions a little to better fit the needs of the illustration. The Liquify filter inside Photoshop is excellent for this purpose! Think sculpting but in a 2D image. Alternatively you might prefer to simply apply paint to make those changes. Me? I abuse the liquify tool, haha.
This may or may not be an optional step depending on how you prefer to work
Step 6: Let the paintovers begin!
Now you can let loose and paintover the render to tighten up areas, change shapes, add details, etc. Oh, and yup, I did decide to have the image flipped at the compositing stage. While the sculpt worked on its own the mirrored version looked more appropriate for the purposes of this illustration. And for most of the painting process I used the default brush with a square tip.
There we are, tweaking the leg, hand and hair shapes a bit
Step 7: Let's not forget the background
Ah, my arch-nemisis. Painting clouds is 80% therapeutic and 20% torturous. Working from abstract colors to progressively smaller and refined shapes really helped me in this step. Alternatively you could use photobashing or even image sampled brushes, but that's a personal preference! In my case I figured I might as well give it a go and see if I'd want to do more of it in the future. And I do!
Clouds can also be free composition/framing elements, use them wisely!
Step 8: More paintovers!
Flipping the canvas periodically helps refresh your perception to see more of the mistakes and areas that can be improved upon. It may also be worth it to take a break from the image for a day, work on something else and to come back to it! Getting the hair shapes to look appealing and still have it feel like flowing hair is what I spent a lot of time on at this point in the illustration. My reference here? Alphonse Mucha!
Step 9: Finalizing and tying things together
Refine things! We're almost there! Make sure all the areas in focus have nice tight shapes. Sprinkle in some details strategically to guide the image through the image. Also make sure to leave some well-placed resting spaces so the viewer's eyes don't wander off the edges of the image! (Haha, that's devious, I know.)
Step 10: Finishing up!
Now to tie up all the loose ends. Adding layers of lens FX, color dodging to make highlights pop, flyaways around hair, etc., now is the time to stack in all of those! I also like at the end to duplicate and flatten all the layers and run it through the sharpen and noise filters to wrap things up.
Check out Sudhan's ArtStation
Crimson Pink in the gallery
Grab a copy of Sculpting from the Imagination: ZBrush