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Creating a character concept and assets

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Date Added: 5th December 2017
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Santiago Betancur dives into the workflow behind the design of some of his awesome character concepts, exploring costume and asset creation in ZBrush, Keyshot, and Photoshop...


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In this making of I will talk about the creation of characters with a costume from scratch, mixing real life references to get a believable design in terms of anatomy, texture, costume/armor, props and so on, starting with a basic 2D sketch to the final render using 3D tools.

Step 1: Gathering references

This is one of the most important steps when you want to create something. I always try to get real life references, this helps a lot to achieve a realistic concept with great anatomy, textures, material separation, costume, armor, and props.

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Mood board with real life references

Step 2: 2D sketching

I?m not great at drawing, but in this case I start to explore with the design of the character, trying to solve the design as much as I can. When I?m happy with the overall look I jump in to ZBrush, and I do a base mesh of the body. After that I overpaint it in Photoshop and keep exploring with the costume and general shape of the design.

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1. Sketches created from the references
2. Sketch in two views of the chosen design
3. Overpaint on top of 3D base models to resolve the costume more

Step 3: Blocking out the character in ZBrush

After I?m happy with the 2D sketches I jump again into ZBrush to start blocking out the rest of the character, adding more details on the anatomy, skin texture and so on. In this stage I resolve new problems that I didn?t notice in the 2D part, this is one of the advantages of using 3D in the design process.

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3D blocking

Step 4: Prop creation

In this part I used a mix of several tools inside ZBrush like, Zmodeler, Dynamesh, Alphas and the amazing live Booleans that it is a great game changer to the workflow for this kind of stuff.

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Live Boolean process

Step 5: Texturing and Final Details

In this step I apply some Polypaint to the character and add the final details to the base mesh, like cut-lines to his armor, stitches on the cloth, straps, buttons, and so on.

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Step 6: Posing

In this process I use a mannequin to block out some possible poses for the character. Sometimes I combine some elements from the different poses and I can get a new improved pose that I can use for the character.

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Pose options and combined poses for the final result

Step 7: Render settings for the beauty shot

In this step I show you the render settings that I use for most of my projects. I don?t really mess too much with settings and stuff like that because with the standard configurations I get everything resolved and I can polish the rest of the render inside photoshop.

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Render settings

Step 8: Render passes

Here I show you some of the most common render passes that I use for my renders. I also use this method to apply material separation on his costume elements, rendering the regions that I need in different materials, then I use masks in Photoshop to paint this maps onto the costume ? this saves a lot of time too.

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Step 9: Material painting

In this process I use several render passes with different materials from Keyshot, using region render on the parts that I need the material. This way is much faster.

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Material painting

Step 10: Final touches

This is the final stage of my process. After I have everything resolved I start to add color corrections, mood and some visual effects to the images for the final presentation. I use the plugin for Photoshop called Magic Bullet Photolooks, this is a powerful tool for colorizing and making color gradients on your images. I also use some tricks inside Photoshop like adjustment layers, explore with fusion modes using flat colors over a solid layer, and so on.

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Related links

Santiago on LinkedIn
Santiago on ArtStation
Santiago on Facebook
Santiago on Instagram

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